People sometimes ask me if it is a good idea to probate the estate of a loved one who didn’t own a home or had only a small amount of assets. They have heard that the probate process can be lengthy and expensive and wonder if it is worth it. Fortunately, the State of Alabama provides for a quicker resolution of estates that have no real property (generally land and/or homes) and have personal property (cars, furniture, clothing, money, etc.) less than a certain value, which at the present date is $28,417.00. The process is called a Summary Distribution of Small Estates. In short, an estate may be eligible to be probated as a Summary Distribution of a Small Estate if the following conditions exist:
- The decedent (the person who passed) owned no real property;
- The value of all personal property of the estate is not greater than $28,417.00;
- The petitioner (the person filing for the estate to be probated) is the surviving spouse or a distributee of the decedent;
- No one else has filed a petition to probate the estate;
- The petitioner is a resident of the county that the petition is filed;
- All funeral expenses have been paid or arrangements have been made for their payment; and
- All claims against the estate have been paid arrangements have been made for their payment.
After the petition is filed, a notice will be published in a local newspaper and, after 30 days with no objection, the Probate Court can order that the personal property of the estate be distributed. Unlike a typical probating an estate, a Summary Distribution of a Small Estate does not require a six-month waiting time for creditors of the estate to file claims. So, if all of the conditions are met, the petitioner is able to open and close the estate within a short period of time, usually not much longer than a month. Summary distributions are possible whether the decedent had a will or died intestate. A lawyer who works on this type of case can advise you whether you should attempt to file such a petition and let you know of any new or additional requirements that may be necessary. For example, the dollar limit for Summary Distribution of a Small Estate changes regularly based upon the Consumer Price Index. If you have any questions about Summary Distributions of Small Estates, I will be glad to talk with you. You may reach me at 256-254-5525.