How to Probate a Will in Alabama: Phase One
When an Alabama resident dies and leaves a Last Will and Testament, the person named as the Executor in the will should consult with a probate lawyer to decide whether to probate the will (see my other blog post on how to decide whether to probate a will). “Probating a will” simply means establishing that a will is valid and then administering the deceased’s estate through Probate Court to ensure that all property is disposed of in accordance with the will and Alabama law. Ideally, the executor will bring the original will and an original Certificate of Death to the consultation about probating the will. Here are the basic steps to probate a will in Alabama through the beginning of the claims period (my other posts will cover the post-claims period process):
1. Prepare a Petition. Ask the Probate Court of the county where the deceased individual lived to admit the will (e.g. establish its validity) and to appoint the executor as personal representative of the estate in the Probate Court of the county where the deceased individual lived.
2. Provide Notice to All Next-of-Kin or Obtain Waivers. Section 43-8-164 of the Code of Alabama requires that 10 days’ notice of the petition to probate the will be provided to the surviving spouse and next-of-kin unless they waive such notice. Special rules apply for minor or incompetent next-of-kin.
3. Judge Enters an Order Admitting the Will to Probate Court & Granting Letters Testamentary. This gives the executor (now known as the personal representative) the authority to conduct the affairs of the estate.
4. Take Control of the Estate. Most wills waive the requirement for the personal representative to file a formal inventory or obtain a bond (insurance policy), so the next step is usually the personal representative identifying and controlling all assets and identifying debts in order to properly handle the estate.
5. Provide Legal Notice to Creditors of the Personal Representative’s Appointment and of the Six-Month Claims Period. Known creditors must receive actual notice and other creditors must receive notice by publication in a newspaper of general circulation published in the county where letters were granted. Ala. Code § 43-2-61.
6. The Six-Month Claims Period Begins. Creditors generally have six months to file a claim against the estate. Alabama law gives priority to certain types of claims over others when it comes to payment. See Ala. Code § 43-2-350, et. seq.
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