Alabama offers a probate shortcut for "small estates." This makes it easier for survivors to transfer property left by a person who has died. You may be able to transfer a large amount of property using the following probate shortcut -- saving time, money, and hassle.
Alabama has a simplified probate process for small estates. To use it, an inheritor files a written request with the local probate court asking to use the simplified procedure. The court may authorize the inheritor to distribute the assets without having to jump through the hoops of regular probate.
You can use the simplified small estate process in Alabama if the estate has no real estate and a value of no more than $25,000. This figure is adjusted for inflation. There is a 30-day waiting period.
The surviving spouse (if there is one) or an inheritor (if there isn't a surviving spouse) files the request with the court, along with the will, if there is one. No bond has to be paid with the filing. All funeral expenses must be paid or there must be arrangements for them to be paid by the surviving spouse or other inheritor.
The inheritor publishes notice of the request in a newspaper in the county where the deceased person lived at least once. The inheritor pays claims against the estate in the following order:
The personal representative then pays any remaining assets to the inheritors as the deceased person instructed in the will or under state intestate succession laws.
For help determining if an estate qualifies for one of these probate shortcuts, or handling an estate in general, see The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo), or Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).