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Dying Without a Will in Alabama: What You Need to Know

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When a resident of Alabama dies without leaving behind a Last Will and Testament, the Alabama intestate succession laws layout clearly who shall inherit the deceased estate.

Unlike many states, Alabama has a specific plan within its code of laws that explains precisely what should happen when a person dies without leaving instructions on their post-death wishes.

However, these laws may mean that the deceased person’s wishes won’t be met if not clearly laid out in their will beforehand. If you have been considering creating a will but haven’t yet, your estate and your wishes are potentially at risk. Keep reading to see the ways that Alabama intestacy laws handle your estate.

Dying Without A Will In Alabama

Before looking at how an estate would pass under the code of Alabama, one must first have a basic understanding of what typically happens when someone dies without leaving behind their Last Will and Testament. Most people will put together their Testament during their lives because they want to ensure that their wishes are met after death.

However, there are many cases where people may simply forget to compose one. In other cases, a person may think their death is far on the horizon and a will is not needed yet. This is a risky game, and potentially puts the future of one’s family and their estate in the state’s hands.

Another common situation is when someone is too uncomfortable discussing the topic of death. It can feel overwhelming to consider what happens when you pass away, and so many people choose to avoid the uncomfortable altogether. 

Regardless, the person in question must be the one to create the will. According to the Alabama code, if they don’t actively create a will while living, their property will be dispersed according to intestate law.

What Property Is Considered

When it comes to Alabama law, only assets that would have been handed down through a will are affected. In essence, this means only things you own in your name are considered when a will is not present when you pass. 

Here are some examples of assets that won’t be affected by the intestate succession laws. 

  • The property you’ve placed into a living trust
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Funds in retirement accounts, IRA, or a 401(k) 
  • Securities held in a transfer-on-death account
  • Payable-on-death bank accounts
  • The property you own with someone else 

All of the above assets will pass to the outlined recipient(s), whether you have a will or not. 

How Property Is Split

According to Alabama Intestacy laws, property inheritance is decided upon based on what family members the person in question has.

Survived by a spouse and children, all of whom are children of the spouse: The surviving spouse will inherit the first $50,000 plus one-half of the balance of the probate estate, and the remainder will be split amongst the children.

Survived by a spouse and one or more children who are not descendants of the spouse: In this situation, consider that the deceased remarried, and his new wife had children from a previous marriage. If this were the case, the spouse would receive one-half of the probate, and the deceased person’s children would inherit the other one-half.

Survived by a spouse and no descendants or parents: The spouse will receive the entire estate.

Survived by descendants and no spouse: All descendants will share the estate.

Survived by a spouse and one or more parents and no descendants: The surviving spouse will inherit the first $100,000 of the estate, and the remainder will be distributed between the surviving parents and the spouse.

Survived only by parents: If this were the case, the parents would inherit the entire estate in equal shares, if both are living.

The Complication of Children

Alabama intestate law can be tricky to understand regarding adopted children or stepchildren. You need to understand how all family members will or could be affected by the lack of a Will. 

  • Foster children and stepchildren will not automatically inherit anything under Alabama law. 
  • Adopted children will receive a share equal to your biological children. 
  • Children placed up for adoption who were adopted legally by another family will not receive a share unless your spouse adopted them. 
  • Children born outside of marriage will inherit automatically if the mother or father can legally prove paternity before or after the decedent’s passing. 
  • Children born during your marriage will automatically be assumed to be your children. 
  • Posthumous children who are biologically yours yet born after your death will still share the intestate property. 
  • Grandchildren will only inherit a child’s property if their child is deceased before they die.  

What happens if there are no family members?

The Alabama intestacy laws specifically name parents, descendants, and spouses as the primary recipients of the estate when a person dies without a will. However, if none of these options are available, there are two possible outcomes.

Survived by a sibling or descendants of siblings: The deceased person’s siblings and the sibling’s children will inherit the entire estate.

Survived by no family: This event is improbable, but the entire probate estate will be surrendered to the State of Alabama if it does happen.

Things To Think About

If you’re even considering a will, it’s essential to meet with a lawyer to discuss your end-of-life plans. If you’re no longer close with a spouse yet are still legally married, and you die without a will, that spouse will inherit everything. Likewise, if you no longer have any family to leave your estate to, you may not wish to see your life’s work handed off to the state.

A will is an absolute must if you care about where your estate ends up when you pass away.

The experienced attorneys at Brackin & Johnson have been preparing estate planning documents of all kinds for decades. Whether your estate planning is simple or very complex, we will provide you with the estate planning solutions that you need to protect your family legacy.

Contact us today and let us assist you with all of your estate planning needs.

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