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Friday, December 30, 2016

Probate in Alabama Examined

How can I avoid probate in Alabama?

Probate is the court process by which the assets of a deceased loved one are managed and distributed.  Probate can be a time consuming and expensive process, especially when the deceased individual dies without a will.  Generally, probate begins with a petition or application filed in the county in which the deceased person lived. The court will appoint an executor who is charged with keeping the estate property safe during the probate process and preparing a list of all assets.  Executors will need to obtain the assistance of an experienced Alabama probate and estate administration lawyer to assist them throughout the probate process. 

In a formal probate, distribution of assets cannot occur until several vital steps are performed, including publication of a notice to creditors and payments of outstanding debts.  Administration of an estate can take a year or more and may cost several thousand dollars.  Heirs may be left without much needed monetary proceeds while they await distribution of assets.  If the will is contested, the probate process will become even more complicated and time-consuming.

Avoiding Probate

Given the expense and stress involved, most people will want to take steps to spare their families from having to go through the probate process.  In Alabama, two viable options to avoid probate include:

Living Trusts:  In Alabama, you have the option to set up a living trust to avoid private for the vast majority, if not all, of your assets, including bank accounts, homes, cars, and more.  You will need to create a trust document with the help of your attorney and transfer ownership of your property to the trust.  At your death, your appointed successor trustee will be placed in control of the assets without the need for probate.

Joint Ownership:  Alabama law allows for joint ownership of property under the doctrine of joint tenancy.  When property is jointly owned, it will automatically pass to the surviving owners when one owner dies.  Probate is not necessary. 

These are just two of several ways in which you can pass your property on to your heirs without the need for probate.  Consult with an Alabama estate planning attorney for individualized assistance with your estate plan.  

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