Process of Estate Administration
Estate administration and the process of probating a will can sometimes be confusing to persons unfamiliar with Alabama probate courts. Lindsey Eastwood is an experienced probate attorney, and she prides herself on demystifying the probate process. Lindsey provides her clients a straightforward road map of what to expect in estate administration.
Estate administration begins when a probate estate is opened in the probate court.
It easiest to think about estate administration in three main categories: (1) obtaining and managing estate assets, (2) paying estate debts and liabilities, and (3) ensuring the correct beneficiaries receive the remainder of assets after debts are paid.
A personal representative, also known as the executor of the estate, usually has the right and responsibility to collect the assets of the Alabama probate estate and assume control of the decedent’s property. Inventory is also an important part of estate administration. An inventory is essentially a detailed listing of the decedent’s property at the time of death. The inventory will include each asset’s fair market value on the date of the decedent’s death and any debts attached to the asset. Within two months of appointment, the personal representative must file the inventory with the probate court. Sometimes a decedent's will may waive the requirement of an inventory filed with the probate court, and the probate court will typically recognize such a waiver unless it is necessary to protect the estate’s assets. Notice to the decedent’s creditors and debtors is also crucially important and must be given six months after the appointment of the personal representative. Notice by publication for three successive weeks in a county newspaper where the letters were granted is also necessary to ensure unknown creditors are notified.
Within six months of the court’s grant of letters testamentary or letters of administration, all claims against the estate must be filed, as long as each person with a claim against the estate was provided 30-days personal notice. However, a creditor's failure to submit a claim would not prevent a secured creditor (such as a bank with a mortgage on a home) from exercising its rights against the estate. Claims against the estate are paid in order of preference categories: (1) funeral expenses, (2) fees and estate administration charges, (3) illness expenses (such as medical bills), (4) taxes on the decedent’s estate prior to death, (5) debts to employees for services rendered the year the decedent died, and (6) all other debts.
After the personal representative completes all of the requirements of estate administration (outlined briefly above), the attorney may proceed with closing the estate. Estate administration can be a complex process. If you have questions about estate administration or need a probate attorney, please call Lindsey Eastwood Law to schedule a consultation.