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A Basic Guide to the Probate Process for an Estate in Alabama


When a person passes away in Alabama possessed of assets that have not otherwise been distributed, their estate must go through a legal process known as probate. Probate ensures that the deceased’s assets are distributed according to their will (if one exists) or according to state law if there is no will. Here, we’ll outline the general steps involved in probating an estate in Alabama.

Filing the Will and Petition for Probate

The probate process begins by filing the deceased’s will and a petition for probate in the probate court of the county where the deceased lived. If there is no will, a petition for administration is filed instead. This must be done within five years of the decedent’s death (Ala. Code § 43-2-60). This can be done with or without consent of heirs at law or next of kin. Sometimes, a will-proving hearing is required.

Appointment of Personal Representative

The court will appoint a personal representative to manage the estate. If the deceased had a will, the personal representative will be appointed therein. If they did not have a will, the Alabama Code provides a priority of appointment for those that are qualified. The personal representative is responsible for overseeing the probate process, including collecting assets, paying debts, and distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries (Ala. Code § 43-2-42).

Notice to Creditors

Once appointed, the personal representative must notify creditors of the probate proceedings. This is done by publishing a notice in a local newspaper once a week for three consecutive weeks and/or by directly notifying known creditors. Creditors typically have six months from the date of the first publication to file claims against the estate. If they fail to do so, the claims are barred.

Inventory and Appraisal of Assets

The personal representative is required to file an inventory of the deceased’s assets with the court, unless the will relieves them of this responsibility (Ala. Code § 43-2-311). This inventory includes all real and personal property owned by the deceased at the time of death. The assets may also need to be appraised to determine their value.

Paying Debts and Taxes

Before distributing any assets to beneficiaries, the personal representative must pay the deceased’s debts and any applicable taxes. This includes funeral expenses, administration costs, and any outstanding debts and taxes owed by the estate. Alabama law prioritizes claims in a specific order, starting with administration expenses, followed by funeral costs, and so on (Ala. Code § 43-2-371).

Distribution of Remaining Assets

After debts and taxes are paid, the remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries as specified in the will or according to Alabama’s intestacy laws if there is no will. Intestate succession laws dictate how assets are distributed among surviving family members, such as the spouse and children (Ala. Code § 43-8-40 et seq.).

Closing the Estate

The final step in the probate process is closing the estate. As a practical matter, the distribution and closing of the estate usually happen contemporaneously. The personal representative must file a final accounting with the court, detailing all financial transactions related to the estate. Once the court approves the final accounting and verifies that all debts and taxes have been paid and assets distributed, the estate can be officially closed (Ala. Code § 43-2-502). This may also be done with or without consent of those involved. Unless the beneficiaries consent, a hearing is required.


Probating an estate in Alabama involves several key steps, each governed by specific statutes designed to ensure the orderly administration and distribution of the deceased’s assets. While this overview provides a general guide, it’s important to consult with a probate attorney to navigate the complexities of the process and ensure compliance with all legal requirements.

There can be many twists and turns in the probate process. Some are short and simple, while others are complex and require years of litigation. At Brackin Law Firm we have been handling estates of all shapes and sizes for many years. If you have concerns related to the probate of an estate in Baldwin County, Alabama, please contact us for a consultation.

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