Grieving the loss of a loved one is never easy. Everyone deals with loss in their own unique way, but no one should have to endure a months-long legal ordeal while they attempt to move on. If you’ve recently lost a loved one and have been notified that their estate must go through the probate process, you may have a lot of questions – especially if they had a will. Why would their assets still need to go through court if the will clearly spelled out who should get what? How long will it take to get my inheritance? What do I have to do if I’ve been named the executor? What happens if there was no will at all – will our family get any of the assets left behind?
In this blog, we’ll be going over the 6 most important things you need to know about probate in Alabama so that you’ll be better informed throughout the process.
What Is Probate, Anyway?
Probate is a legal process that takes place after someone dies in order for a court to ensure that the deceased person’s will is valid. In addition, the property left behind will be identified, inventoried, and appraised. Then, any outstanding debts or taxes must be paid out of the estate before finally distributing the remaining property as the will calls for. If there was no will, the property will be distributed according to the intestate succession laws of Alabama. For example, if the decedent died with:
- Children but no spouse, then the children inherit everything
- A spouse but no children or parents, then the spouse inherits everything
- Parents but no children or spouse, the parents inherit everything
- Siblings but no children, spouse, or parents, the siblings inherit everything
Obviously, each family situation will be different, so it is impossible to list every scenario of intestate succession. Your probate attorney will be able to tell you the likely order of succession based on your unique family dynamic.
Now that you have a better understanding of what probate actually is, let’s discuss the 6 most important things you’ll need to know.
1. Even If There’s A Will, Probate Will Most Likely Still Be Necessary.
As already stated, even if your loved one died with a valid will, the assets will probably still have to go through probate. Now, there are a few exceptions to this, such as Alabama’s small estate statute, which allows for the estate to skip the probate process if it is valued below a certain amount. This number changes yearly – for example, in 2021 the estate value would have had to be under $30,608; in 2022, the value had to be under $32,047. The other exception is if there was no will, no outstanding debts, and the heirs all come to an agreement on how the property should be divided. In this case, the court could grant a request to skip probate.
In general, though, your loved one’s assets will most likely have to be probated. The will must be submitted to the court (if there was one), along with the death certificate and other documents. The executor or personal representative who will carry out all the steps of probate will then be named. We will cover their role later.
2. Probate Is Kind Of Expensive.
In any legal process, you can expect to have to pay an abundance of fees; probate is no different. It is estimated that you will pay close to $15,000 throughout the probate process in Alabama, but could vary depending on the size of the estate and several other factors. However, keep in mind that these fees will all be paid out of the estate – not your personal funds. Even so, that means that you and your relatives will inherit less. Working with a knowledgeable probate attorney can be beneficial in minimizing costs and fees.
3. Probate Lasts For A While.
By law, probate must last for 6 months, minimum. This is so that creditors and others with a claim on the estate have time to be notified and submit a claim if they feel the need. On average, you are looking at a window of six months to a year before probate will be fully resolved. However…
4. Family Disputes Could Make It Last Longer.
There are a variety of issues that could arise to make the probate process last even longer. Usually, this is due to tension or existing conflict within the family. Some relatives may even contest the will, especially if they’ve been disinherited. In the event that emotions become especially overwhelming, it is especially beneficial to have a probate attorney there to guide you with an objective voice. In many cases, they will also be able to achieve a resolution much faster than would be possible on your own.
5. If You’re The Executor, You Have A Lot Of Responsibilities.
If you are the executor or selected as the personal representative of the estate, the tasks that fall on you to complete may seem endless and impossible. You must:
- File a petition for probate to the court
- Manage and locate assets
- Value and appraise assets
- Pay any outstanding taxes on behalf of the estate
- Interpret the will
- Communicate and work with heirs
- Notifying creditors
- Meet legal deadlines
- Pay funeral costs
- File estate tax returns
- And more!
It goes without saying that…
6. It’s Probably In Your Best Interest To Let An Experienced Attorney Help You. The Ladd Firm Is Ready To Step In!
It’s asking a lot of you to juggle mourning, probate, planning a funeral, caring for your loved one’s estate, and dealing with everything going on in your own life all at the same time. Seeking the guidance of a qualified probate attorney will save you a great deal of time, money, and stress. The attorneys at The Ladd Firm have over 50 years of combined legal experience and have been serving the Mobile area for nearly 30 years. Call us to schedule your free phone consultation and let us answer your questions today!