What Happens When I Die in Alabama Without A Will?

When a person dies in Alabama without having a will, this is referred to as dying intestate. Essentially, the decedent’s property is distributed according to a set of statutory default rules, which were created by the state legislature. The rules are designed to make a best guess at what the decedent would have intended to do with the property, but these rules often miss the mark due to the highly diverse group of people that end up dying without having first made a will. This is why it is always a good idea to make a will and avoid intestacy.

The intestacy statutes vary from state to state, but for the most part they follow a common pattern – if the decedent had no children (called “issue”) or parents, then the entire estate will go to the decedent’s spouse. The spouse must have formally married the decedent, although common law marriages suffice in some states. However, divorce ends the spousal relationship for purposes of intestacy. An ex-spouse cannot recover any part of an intestate estate. If the decedent did have children or parents, then the spouse’s share decreases by a fixed amount that is distributed to the children or parents. The intestacy system can get quite complicated when applied to families with multiple generations of children and grandchildren, and different jurisdictions use different systems. In Alabama, the intestacy hierarchy is as follows:

Spouse -> Issue -> Parents -> Issue of Parents -> Grandparents ->Issue of Grandparents -> In-laws if near simultaneous death -> State

As the end of the flowchart diagram shows, if a person dies intestate with no spouse or other relatives, then the person’s property goes to the State of Alabama.  This process is known as “escheat,” and is one of the biggest reasons to avoid intestacy by creating a will.  After paying taxes your entire life, surely you don’t want all your property to go to the State when you die! Even people with no spouse or family at all would probably rather distribute their assets to a beloved alumnus or charity.  To emphasize, these are the default rules for what happens if you die without a will – there is no reason to let them govern what happens to your property – make a will!

If a loved one has died without making a will, it is a good idea to retain the services of an experienced Dothan attorney with expertise in the area of probate law.  We can guide you through the process of administering the intestate estate, or help you get the property to which you are entitled.

The probate attorneys of Boles Holmes White offer a host of probate services, including representing potential beneficiaries in contested will matters. We have been helping clients for years in Dothan, Ozark, Enterprise, and Troy. If you need an intestate estate administered, or believe that you may be the rightful heir to the property of an intestate estate, email or call us today at 334-366-6086 for a consultation, and let us put our experience to work for you.


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Probate Attorneys in Dothan – The Team at Boles Holmes White, LLC

Dothan Attorneys For Estate Planning And Business Creation Knowledgeable In The Alabama Laws Of Probate

Dothan probate lawyers Boles Holmes White provide a wide range of services relating to probate law, including estate planning, will and trust drafting, estate administration, powers of attorney, advance directives, beneficiary representation, non-probate transfers, and business organization. When people think of estate planning, they typically think about making a will. In reality, there are several way to effect the wishes of clients in regards to what will happen to their property and/or minor children after they are gone. Let’s take a quick overview of some of these tools.

About half of all property in the United States passes through the probate system. This means the property either passes under a decedent’s (person who dies) will or through intestacy (where the decedent has no will). The other half is classified as non-probate property, and passes outside of the probate system under some instrument other than a will. Examples of non-probate transfers include joint tenancies, contracts with payable-on-death (POD) provisions, life insurance policies, and interests in trusts. Trusts have become an increasingly popular vehicle for administering estates, due to the greater flexibility and control they offer compared to traditional wills.

One of the most important reasons to consider making a Last Will & Testament in Alabama is to decide who gets custody of a minor child in the event both parents were to die or become unable to care for the child.  The death of both parents can be traumatic enough; a custody battle between surviving relatives can only make the transition more difficult.  A well-drafted Last Will & Testament resolves these concerns, with the hope they never arise, but with the confidence that the children will be taken care of in the event the unthinkable happens.

Another critical area of probate practice involves advance directives and health care proxies, which allow a person to make difficult medical decisions, such as whether to remove life support, in advance. Typically the client will have an advance directive specifying certain decisions, with a health care proxy to make any decisions not considered in the directive. Along with ensuring the client’s wishes are carried out, these tools also relieve loved ones of having to make difficult decisions at a traumatic time.

Our offices also provide services to people who want to start a business or dissolve an existing one. Our Dothan legal team consists of experienced attorneys who are knowledgeable in corporate creation as well as the formation of limited liability companies (LLCs), limited liability partnerships (LLPs), and professional corporations (PCs).  We can help you decide which corporate form is right for your new business, and guide you through the process of bringing it to life.

The Houston County probate attorneys at Boles Holmes White are here to offer their experience and unique expertise to assist you with all your estate planning and business creation needs. Email us or give us a call today at 334-366-6086, and let our Dothan legal team go to work for you.

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