Last Will & Testament
The Alabama last will and testament is a document that a person may use to make sure loved ones are given certain real and personal property after their death. It directs the distribution of an individual’s estate upon their death. In order to be valid, the Will & Testament must be written when the person is of sound mind, must be signed by the Testator (the person making the will), be witnessed by two individuals (impartial and non-beneficiaries), and be notarized so that it cannot be contested during the estate or probate process.
A will must be probated after the death of an individual. It is necessary for the transfer of real property, or other titled property in order to maintain records and “clear” deeds. It is not necessary for property that may be passed through assignment of Beneficiary status such as bank accounts or life insurance policies.
A Codicil is a document that amends or supplements your existing Last Will and Testament. The advantage to using a Codicil to change your Will is that it allows you to make minor changes to your Will while still keeping your original Will in full force and effect, except for the changes expressly stated in your Codicil.
A person who dies without a Last Will & Testament is described as “Intestate.” In order for the distribution of an estate to occur, a petition for “administration” is made to the Probate court. Distribution of certain property is made on the basis of law and may not necessarily be in keeping with an individual’s wishes. Partial intestacy can also occur when a person has a will, but it does not dispose of all of his or her property. This is the result of poor drafting and comes up most often in wills prepared by non-lawyers.
Under Alabama’s laws of intestate distribution, any part of an estate that is not effectively disposed of through a valid Last Will and Testament is distributed to the decedent’s heirs as follows:
If the decedent is survived by a spouse, the following rules apply:
If the decedent didn’t leave parents or children, the spouse gets everything.
If the decedent was survived by parents but not by children, the spouse gets $100,000 and half of the balance of the decedent’s estate. The decedent’s parents get the remaining half.
If the decedent had children who are also children of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse gets $50,000 and one half of the balance of the decedent’s estate. The surviving children share the other half of the balance.
If the decedent had living children that are not the children of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse gets one half of the estate and the decedent’s children get the remaining half.
If the decedent is not survived by a spouse, the estate passes to decedent’s heirs at law in the following order of priority:
Children and their descendants;
Brothers and sisters, or, if all are deceased, nieces and nephews;
Grandparents, aunts, and uncles or, if all are deceased, to their descendants; and
The State of Alabama.