The loss of a loved one is heartbreaking and can leave the family with a multitude of questions. Trying to figure out all of Alabama’s inheritance laws is the last thing you want to think about. This guide will walk you through the inheritance laws in Alabama and answer those pressing questions.
What are the next steps?
How do we manage the estate?
Who inherits what?
Alabama Inheritance Laws When a Will Is Involved The best scenario is to have a will drawn up with an attorney’s help to ensure that all assets are allocated according to the decedent’s wishes. It is recommended that the testator, the writer of the will, name an executor of the estate, the person who will see that the decedent’s wishes are followed after their passing. Once the will is drafted, it must be signed in front of two witnesses and a public notary. After the decedent’s passing, it is required by Alabama state law that the will be filed with the court in the county in which they passed away. These stipulations must be met for the will to be considered “testate” or valid.
Estate Value Determines If Probate Is Necessary If the decedent was the sole owner of real property or had more than $100,000 in personal property, a probate proceeding will most likely need to be filed.
A probate court proceeding is an administrative process where the decedent’s assets are transferred to the people who will inherit them. When an estate is valued at less than $100,000, an heir can submit an affidavit to the court stating that they’ve inherited a particular asset. The executor of the estate can also petition the court to manage the estate without supervision. The court may allow this if the estate has more assets than debts, also known as being “solvent.” In these cases, probate may be avoided.
Asset Allocation Exceptions In Alabama Typically, a decedent may divide their assets yet they wish in a will, but there are a few exceptions under Alabama state law. Because Alabama is a community property state, if a decedent was married to a spouse, they will inherit half of the community property assets such as a home or bank account.
The other half of the community property assets may be given to anyone the decedent chooses. A spouse or heir is still entitled to their share of the estate, even if the will does not specifically divide assets to them. This share of assets would be equal to what the spouse or heir would receive if the decedent did not have a will. The only time the court would grant an exception to this rule is if evidence shows the omission was not an error. If the heir dies without evidence that they survived the decedent by at least five days, they will not inherit their part of the estate.
Alabama Inheritance Laws When a Will Is NOT Involved When a decedent passes without making a will, the court will divide the assets through intestate succession. The court will appoint an executor who, ideally, has background knowledge of the family and the estate to divide assets to the appropriate parties. During this process, the decedent’s spouse will inherit all communal property. Depending on whether the decedent has surviving children or parents, the spouse can inherit one half or the entirety of the deceased’s separate property.
What Is Considered Separate Property? Separate property is property owned by only one spouse. Most married couples combine assets and don’t have individual property, but here is a list of what is generally considered separate property:
- Property that spouses agree in writing is individual through a post-nuptial agreement.
- Gifts received before or during the marriage by one spouse.
- Property owned by one spouse before marriage.
- Inheritances received by one spouse