Probate Attorneys in Daphne, AL
Planning for one’s estate should be focused on the testator’s wishes and intent. It is important to construct all testamentary documents with the subject’s vision in mind. In order to ensure that the estate plan is followed, it is best to retain the services of a probate attorney. The process of carrying out an estate is often referred to as probate and takes place in the Surrogate’s Court of the county where the decedent resided. Stone Crosby, P.C. provides effective and compassionate legal support to executors, beneficiaries, and those with an interest in an estate. If you need quality legal support through the probate process or believe that an estate has been compromised, contact Stone Crosby, P.C. to discuss your legal matter.
What is probate and how does it relate to an estate?
Probate is the process of validating a decedent’s last will and testament, assigning an executor to an estate, carrying out the wishes of the deceased, and closing the estate. The process is quite detailed. For an executor, the responsibility is substantial and deserves the attention of an attorney.
Filing a will for probate
The executor’s obligation to the estate starts with filing a will for probate. In addition, the executor will need to provide a death certificate, probate petition, and other supporting documents, including a list of heirs and the executor’s identification. The heirs should be served a citation naming the Surrogate Court with jurisdiction and authority to determine the rights of interested parties to the estate and the executor’s actions, including filing the will and becoming the executor. If there is no issue, the executor may carry out the decedent’s wishes and follow through with the probate process.
Closing an estate
In order for the executor to close an estate, he or she will need to go through some steps that are time-consuming and complicated. These steps deserve the attention of an experienced attorney. The executor must collect and preserve assets, pay all taxes and debts of the decedent, allocate asset to beneficiaries, and provide a detailed accounting to the court.
Legal issues that can arise
Even the most comprehensive estate plan is vulnerable to legal issues during probate. Some wills are contested by interested parties, including people not in the will and/or beneficiaries who believe that they are not getting their fair share or that the estate was compromised. An executor can face legal issues if an interested party believes that he or she violated their fiduciary duty. With so much at stake, these parties need an estate litigation attorney to protect their rights and interests.
Passing with a will (testate)
Having a will is essential to a comprehensive estate plan. When you pass with a will in place, it is said that you passed “testate.” In your will, you should choose an Executor that will carry out your wishes and satisfy the obligations of the estate. Generally speaking, your executor will offer the will for probate, a process in Surrogate’s Court to establish the validity of the will and provide the authority to the executor to carry out the estate. When successful, the executor will be obligated to do the following:
- Collect & preserve assets
- Pay taxes and debts incurred by the estate
- Distribute assets to beneficiaries
- Provide an accounting to the court
- Close the estate
An executor should not, and most likely cannot, take on this task alone. An executor may coordinate with accountants, other attorneys, trustees, financial planners, banks, and beneficiaries. With so much at stake, it is important for your executor to have legal guidance through the estate administration process.
Passing without a will (Intestate)
Passing without a will subjects your estate to the laws of Alabama, loosely known as intestate succession or laws of intestacy. An administrator would act as the executor and accomplish much of the same obligations to close an estate. For the most part, one’s right to a piece of an estate depends on the relationship to the decedent. If a spouse survives and no children are present, they are entitled to the whole estate. If children survive a parent and no spouse is present, they are entitled to split the whole estate. If a spouse and children are present, Alabama law has a percentage in place. As things progress down the line, others become entitled to some, if not all, of the estate, including the parents and siblings of the deceased.
When are assets distributed to beneficiaries?
The distribution of someone’s estate is an important part of the process. In their will, they have named beneficiaries to collect assets. They could have given their house to their child. They may have named a sentimental item to a close friend. Whatever the case is, these beneficiaries are entitled to that piece of property. When all the proper documents are filed with the Surrogate’s Court, the heirs of the estate should receive a citation that establishes the Surrogate’s Court where probate will occur. This citation will also include a list of the rights of all interested parties and the responsibilities that the executor must complete. When no issues are present, the executor can then carry out the wishes outlined by the testator and administer the will.
Contact our experienced Daphne probate attorneys
If you are involved in the probate of an estate, contact Stone Crosby, P.C. Our firm has decades of experience acting as counsel to testators, beneficiaries, those who have an interest in a will, and those acting as executors. We are dedicated professionals ready to assess your legal matter, guide you through your legal matter, and zealously represent you in and out of court. Contact Stone Crosby, P.C. to discuss your legal matter with our firm.