"Let us endeavor to live so that when we die even the undertaker will be sorry." - Mark Twain.
Upon the death of an individual it will be necessary to open an estate only if significant property has been left by the deceased. Not to be considered are assets which pass immediately at the time of death such as life insurance benefits, survivor interests in real property and other such assets.
In Alabama two basic kinds of estates opened in Probate Court: Testate and Intestate. A Testate Estate may be opened where the decedent has left a Will. Typically, such estates involve far less expense, delay and court oversight than cases in which no Will exists.
An Intestate Estate is one in which the deceased left no Will. In such estates the Probate Court will always carefully review the appropriateness and status of the petitioner (looking at their relationship to the deceased) and also require that the petitioner be creditworthy enough to post a bond sufficient to cover 150% of the estimated value of the estate. Beyond that, the court periodically supervises the administration of the estate requiring various interim and final settlements and reports for court approval.
In all Probate estates a key role is played by the Personal Representative (previously known as the Executor or Administrator of the estate). That person becomes the legal representative of the estate and receives authority to bring in and protect the assets of the estate, identify and pay debts of the estate and, ultimately, distribute the assets to the heirs and/or beneficiaries, settle and close the estate with Court permission. The Personal Representative acts under a strict duty of trust and must respect not only the rights and entitlements of the heirs and beneficiaries but the legitimate rights of creditors.
If either a Testate or Intestate estate involves $25,000.00 or less in property, under Alabama law the estate may be brought as a "Small Estate". Small Estates are subject to somewhat fewer procedures, court costs and reporting requirements.
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Mobile, AL, 36606