I don't have a Will and I am afraid the State will get everything after my death
I hope that everyone that reads this article will read past the first several lines to get the full story. If you have no Will, the State of Alabama has one for you and it may not be the one that you want.
If you die without a Will, the Code of Alabama provides a method of distribution of your assets via an Administration through the Probate Court in your County. ONLY if you literally have no heirs that can be found will your assets go to the State of Alabama. That term is that your estate “escheats” to the State. Even then there are some things that must be done in order to give any potential heirs the right to take under the Administration.
The Administrator of the Estate sells the personal assets of the decedent after all debts and costs are paid. Once notice has been made, then the Administrator has one year before he pays over the sum to the Judge of Probate. For real property, there is a two year wait before the Administrator pays over to the Judge of Probate. As you see, there is a pretty good amount of time before the assets actually go to the State. The Probate Judge, after receipt of the sum of personal assets and after receipt of the sum of real property assets then must pay it to the Alabama State Treasurer.
So if you die without a spouse or children and no Will, then which persons are sought as heirs? First the assets would go to a surviving spouse if only a spouse survives (there is a provision discussed below if a parent or parents survive the decedent). If no spouse then to children, which could include adopted children or even children out of wedlock (some exceptions apply). If all children are deceased then grandchildren or even great grandchildren can take under the Administration. If none exist then the search moves upward on the family tree to the parents. If the parents are deceased then there is a search for siblings of the decedents. If the siblings are all deceased then there is a search for nephews and nieces and maybe even great nephews and/ or nieces. Finally if there is no luck there then there is a search for grandparents, siblings of the decedents parents and their children, etc. As you can see there can be a very extensive search for heirs that can take under the Administration of an estate. I think only in the case of several generations of family remaining unmarried, having no children or some catastrophic event occurring that causes the deaths of much of the family, would the estate escheat to the State. But please keep reading because I want to explain the Will that the State of Alabama has for you if you die without a Will.
If you die without a Will, someone must go forward to be the Administrator of the Estate. That person will have to be bonded which cost the estate money and an inventory of the estate will have to be submitted within 60 days following issuance of Letters of Administration by the Judge of Probate. That can be a huge pain.
So what is the Will that the State of Alabama has for you?
If you die with no Will and only a spouse then they receive everything of yours. However, if you die with only a spouse and surviving parent(s), then your spouse get the first $100,000.00 and half after tha, the other half to your parent or parentst. If you die with a surviving spouse and children which are all children of you and your spouse then the spouse only gets $50,000.00 plus one half of the remainder of the estate. Finally if you die and there are children of yours that are not children of your spouse then the spouse only gets one half of everything. If you die with only children surviving you then it gets evenly split between the then living children.
If you want to make sure your spouse is provided for after your death or if you have individuals that you don’t want to leave an equal share to or you have irresponsible children that might take through an administration of your estate then you know the answer, HAVE A LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT DONE.
If you have no attorney, ask a trusted friend or call the Alabama State Bar for the Lawyer Referral Service. If you are of little means then there are resources for free Wills and the Alabama State Bar can help direct you.
This article is informative only and not meant to be all inclusive. Additionally this article does not serve as legal advice to the reader and does not constitute an attorney- client relationship. The reader should seek counsel from their attorney should any questions exist.
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