Nobody looks forward to the legal proceedings and tying up loose ends after a loved one dies. Soon after the funeral, the survivors of the decedent must initiate the process in probate court (unless the decedent legitimately had no assets that must pass through probate court).
Depending on an estate’s overall value, the process of probating an estate can get quite complicated. In Alabama, though, there is a way for estates under a certain threshold to avoid the full probate court process. This simplified, expedited process is referred to as “summary administration” and is distinct from full probate administration. While the latter involves potentially multiple appearances in probate court, a successful summary administration only involves filling out forms and satisfying a post-filing waiting period.
Summary Administration Eligibility
As long as the decedent’s probate estate contains no real property and is valued at less than $30,245. The limit is raised each year; the $30,245 limit is applicable until Feb. 28, 2021. Additionally, there is a required 30-day waiting period before filing for summary administration.
Either the decedent’s surviving spouse or other loved one who is otherwise eligible for an inheritance may file the Alabama Petition for Summary Administration. If the decedent left a Last Will and Testament, it must be filed along with the petition. Generally, all funeral expenses must be paid off before filing the petition. Once that’s been verified, all other debts must be paid off with the estate’s funds in order of priority (unsecured debt, like unpaid medical expenses and credit card debt, are last).
Some Assets are Not Considered Part of an Estate
You must also include, with the summary administration probate, an inventory of the decedent’s assets. Each item needs to be listed, along with its value. However, not every single thing the decedent owned needs to be included in the inventory. Assets owned in these manners are exempt from the probate estate:
- Personal and real property held in a trust
- Assets owned jointly with a spouse and with a right-of-survivorship designation (this is common with homes)
- Payable-on-death bank accounts
- Life insurance policies for which the decedent designated a beneficiary
- Certain other assets that were not owned outright by the decedent
If all goes well, the county probate court will issue a final order and decree that allows the decedent’s assets to flow to beneficiaries who were either named in the Will or stand to inherit under Alabama intestate laws.
Even with a simplified probate process like summary administration, you need experienced legal counsel to ensure you have complied with legal requirements. No matter the process you are facing in probate court, Attorney Tanika L. Finney would be happy to help you settle your legal needs in an efficient and respectful manner. Our firm can also help you or a loved one with any estate planning needs. Book your consultation today!