What happens to my property if I do not write a will?

If someone dies without writing a Will, they have died intestate.
Each state has specific laws governing the distribution of property
when a person dies intestate, and most laws are generally the same.
The laws of Alabama are shown below, but you should remember that
these laws may not apply if the deceased was not a resident of
Alabama, or if the property is located in another state. In this
list, “issue” means all of the people who have descended from the
decedent. This includes children (both natural and adopted),
grandchildren (both natural and adopted), great grandchildren, and
so on.

  1. Property going to the surviving spouse:
    • entire estate if no surviving issue or parents of
    • first $100,000, plus ½ of balance of estate if
      there is no surviving issue but there is surviving parent(s);
    • first $50,000, plus ½ of balance of estate if there
      are surviving issue all of whom are also issue of surviving
      spouse; or
    • ½ of estate if there are surviving issue who are
      not issue of the surviving spouse.
  2. Property not going to surviving spouse:If there is no surviving spouse, or there is property left after
    the spouse receives his or her share, it passes under the
    following priority: All of the property passes to the issue,
    unless there are none. If none, all passes to the parents. If
    neither parent is living, the estate passes to siblings, and so on
    under this priority:

    • issue
    • parents
    • brothers and sisters
    • grandparents
    • aunts and uncles
    • cousins

Steps in Probate of an Estate:

  1. File petition
  2. Take immediate control of the estate
  3. Inventory of the estate within 2 months
  4. Bond
  5. Notice must be given to all heirs
  6. Letters of Testamentary granted
  7. Notice to file claims must be published and individual notice
    given to anyone known to have a claim against the deceased
  8. Claims must be filed generally within 6 months
  9. Generally the estate cannot be divided until all claims and
    expenses have been paid which is at least six months
  10. Court must approve administrator’s fees

What are the powers and duties of a personal representative?

  1. Without court authorization the personal representative may:
    • retain assets
    • receive assets
    • perform deceased contracts
    • satisfy written charitable pledges
    • deposit funds in financial institutions
    • abandon valueless personal property
    • allocate expenses to income
    • pay assessments
    • hold securities
    • insure assets
    • borrow to protect estate
    • settle with debtors
    • settle claims
    • pay taxes and expenses
    • sell or exercise stock options
    • enter leases up to one year
    • vote stocks
    • employ attorney, auditors
    • prosecute or defend claims,
    • continue unincorporated business
    • incorporate the business
    • limit liability
  2. (Court may limit powers of personal representative)
  3. With prior court authorization the personal representative

    • abandon an estate asset
    • make repairs or demolish improvements
    • subdivide, dedicate land
    • leases greater than on year
    • enter mineral leases
    • sell real estate
    • pay compensation of person representatives