Like many states, Alabama has a small estates act that provides an alternative to full probate for people who die with small estates (less than $25,000.00 in 2009, indexed for inflation). This procedure applies regardless of whether the decedent left a valid Last Will and Testament or died intestate.
Summary Distribution of Small Estates
The following conditions must be met to qualify for disposition under Alabama’s Small Estates Act:
- The decedent must have owned Alabama probate assets that do not include real property (i.e., the Alabama Small Estates Act will not apply if the decedent owned real property);
- The total value of the assets must be less than $25,000 (indexed for inflation in 2009); and
- All debts of the estate must have been paid.
You should let the Alabama estate attorney know whether the estate meets these requirements. If so, the surviving spouse (or other interested person) can file a Petition for Summary Distribution with the court in the county where the decedent lived. This Petition must describe the decedent’s assets. If there is a will, it must be attached.
Once the petition is filed, the attorney will publish notice once in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the deceased person lived. When 30 days pass from the date that the notice of the filing of the Petition for Summary Distribution was first published, the attorney will see the judge for an Order granting the Petition for Summary Distribution. Alternatively, a person with notice that all requirements of the Summary Distribution Proceeding have been satisfied can make an affidavit so stating.
In prior years, the total value of the decedent’s estate had to total less than $3,000 for the estate to qualify for Alabama’s small estate procedure. Because of this low value threshold, Summary Distribution was of little practical use to most people. In 2009, the law was amended to increase this threshold to $25,000 (indexed for inflation), making it of more value for small estates. More information about the 2009 amendment is available at Alabama Small Estate Procedure Amended.