Starting the probate process

| Jul 6, 2021 | Probate |

When Alabama residents pass away, their loved ones might need to open a probate estate. Estates with probate assets will need to go through the probate process to take care of the decedents’ final expenses and distribute their assets. The estates of people who die without wills and those who die with wills both need to go through probate if they include any probate assets.

What are probate assets?

Probate assets are assets that do not have named beneficiaries and must be probated. Some examples of probate assets include the following:

  • Real property solely owned by the decedent
  • Bank accounts without payable on death designations
  • Stocks and bonds without transfer on death designations
  • Motor vehicles owned by the decedents

These and other types of probate assets must go through the probate process to ensure that they are passed either according to the provisions of a will or according to Alabama’s intestacy laws.

How is a probate estate opened?

If the person died without a will, their family members will need to start by making a list of all of the decedent’s assets along with deeds, titles, stock certificates, life insurance policies, and bank statements. If the person died with a will, the first step should be to locate the original version and then to inventory the assets and collect important documents. Next, the family members or executor will need to list all of the decedent’s liabilities, including the names and contact information of the creditors. After compiling everything, the next step will be to meet with an estate lawyer to draft the documents needed to open the probate estate. If the person left a will, then the will, a petition to open a probate estate, and other documents will need to be filed with the probate court to initiate the process.

The probate process can be long and expensive. Some people can avoid this process through careful estate planning before death. However, family members of people who die and who cannot avoid probate might want to get help from experienced lawyers since the laws are complex.