If your loved one has only recently died, leaving an estate — and therefore, assets — that have yet to be properly administered and distributed, then you may find yourself at the beginning of the estate administration process. Estate administration can be a bit overwhelming for those who are unfamiliar with estate planning and probate, so let’s explore the basics.
In Alabama, as in other states, when your loved one (the decedent) dies, their estate must be administered by a personal representative and — assuming that the assets have not been ordered in such a way so as to avoid probate — the entire process will be overseen by a probate court.
Estate administration involves a few key processes. The fundamental purpose of estate administration is to:
Pursuant to Alabama law, however, a personal representative must be appointed to oversee the estate administration process.
If the deceased executed a Will, then in all likelihood, they have named a person or entity (along with a few backups) to serve as their chosen personal representative in administering the estate. The probate court will assess the Will and if they find that the deceased has adequately named a personal representative, will appoint such party as the Executor. If the deceased did not name a personal representative, then the probate court will appoint an Administrator to serve.
Bear in mind that the personal representative may be required to pay the bond, depending on the circumstances.
Once the personal representative has been appointed, he is empowered to collect identify and assume control over the assets of the estate (absent some provision in the estate planning documents preventing him from doing so) for the purposes of estate administration.
With the aid of experienced estate administration attorneys, probate will be opened and the appointed personal representative will be guided through the process, from administration through the closing of the estate.
After a personal representative has been legally appointed, the representative must identify and appraise all the assets that belonged to the decedent (including debts owed). The results — known as the inventory of assets — must be filed with the probate court (unless the Will exempts the representative from having to file an inventory).
All assets must be secured and maintained, as necessary. For example, if the decedent owned a home, then the personal representative must ensure that the home is secured and maintained adequately until distribution is made.
The representative must pay all debts and obligations of the decedent. Certain exemptions may apply, of course. Pursuant to Alabama law, the representative must notify all creditors of the fact that the estate administration process has begun, thus giving the creditors an opportunity to file claims.
Once the estate has been closed, the probate court will direct the representative to distribute all the remaining assets to the legal beneficiaries, in accordance with the language of the Will (if a valid Will exists), or otherwise, in accordance with the default inheritance laws of the state of Alabama.
If your loved one has died and the estate has yet to be administered (or is in the process of being administered), you’ll want to work with an experienced estate administration attorney who can ensure that the process moves forward in an efficient manner, that the assets are not undervalued, and that no excess obligations are paid, thus preserving a greater portion of the assets for the intended beneficiaries.
Attorney Daniel Chambers has dedicated his career to helping clients successfully resolve their various family law, estate, and probate issues. He understands that estate administration issues can be complicated, and is personally available to answer any questions or concerns you may have throughout the process. To discuss your concerns with a skilled Birmingham estate administration lawyer, contact Daniel H. Chambers, Attorney-at-Law, PC by calling 205-913-4057. You can also schedule your initial consultation by contacting Attorney Chambers online.
We have used Daniel Chambers for legal services on several occasions since 2007 with excellent results. He has assisted our family in each matter with a professional yet tenacious manner. He has always been upfront about possible outcomes and honest about how to appropriately deal with challenging situations. I have recommended him several times over and will continue to do so. He has been an incredible asset to have on our legal team and we have always been satisfied with the results.
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