Summary Distributions

Alabama Small Estates

Alabama Summary Distributions

Summary Distribution in Alabama

A streamlined process is available for Alabama estates that consist only of personal property valued at $25,000 (indexed for inflation) or less.

To qualify for “summary distribution” the estate must be below the value threshold and:

  • The deceased person must have been an Alabama resident at the time of his or her death;
  • The decedent owned no “real property” (real estate) at the time of his death for which title does not pass by operation of law;
  • No other petition for letters testamentary or of administration is pending or granted; and
  • All funeral expenses and claims against the estate have been paid or arrangements have been made to pay them.

A petition for summary distribution will be filed by the surviving spouse, or if there is no spouse then by any distributee of the estate.  Notice of the filing of the petition will be published in a local newspaper.

If the decedent had a will then it will be filed with the probate judge with the petition for summary distribution. Otherwise, the court will determine how the laws of intestate succession apply to distribute the deceased person’s property.

One of the benefits of the summary distribution process is that no bond is required to be posted since a personal representative is not being appointed.

If all the statutory requirements are met, then thirty days after the notice is published the probate court will issue a decree distributing the estate property to the spouse or the distributee(s).

What Does “Personal Property” Mean?

The summary distribution process is only available for estates that consist of nothing other than personal property.  That means that if there is any “real property” (real estate) in the estate then summary distribution is probably unavailable.

So, if your loved one died owning a home, a farm, a lake house, a condo, etc., then you cannot petition for summary distribution unless that real estate passes to another person “by operation of law.”  For example, if the only real estate the decedent owned was a home, which he held “jointly with right of survivorship” with his wife, then his estate would still qualify for summary distribution because the house would pass by operation of law outside of probate.

A Probate Lawyer Can Help

A probate lawyer can determine whether your loved one’s estate qualifies for summary distribution and can prepare the required petition.

Call us at 205-553-5353 or come by our Tuscaloosa office to get started.