Estate planning can be a difficult and extremely stressful process for anyone. Hiring a lawyer to manage estate planning in Alabama can be expensive and confusing. Before scheduling an appointment to have a lawyer start your estate planning process it is important to know the basics of estate planning in the state of Alabama.
Many people state the estate planning process by creating a will. This can be done by anyone over the age of 18 who is in good mental health and has two witnesses ready to sign the will once it is completed and signed by the creator. Depending on the person a will can be a simple document disposing of a few assets or a confusing list of goods, property, and cash that need to be distributed to a great many people.
In order to properly prepare a will all assets must be accounted for and all possible beneficiaries identified. It is important that nothing and no one is overlooked. The smallest error in creating a will can render the entire will invalid causing problems that may have long lasting effects.
A way to be sure that a will be considered valid is to have an attorney go over a draft, make corrections, and file the will. Filing and validating a will, also known as “Probate”, needs to be done if real estate or vehicles are being passed on. This process ensures that all debts and taxes are paid after death and the assets are being divided in accordance to Alabama state law.
If you live in the state of Alabama and want to pass assets onto an heir without leaving a will there are several alternatives. The first one is naming a specific person, or persons, beneficiary to a life insurance policy, Individual Retirement Account, or trust. The second is to create bank accounts that are to be Transferred on Death or Payable on Death. Thirdly, gifts of cash or property can be made to beneficiaries before death and assets can also be held jointly with rights of survivorship. Lastly, revocable living trusts can be created giving assets to a trustee that will manage them after your death.
Dying before making a will is very common since many people do not take the time to sit down and handle their estate planning. In the state of Alabama the assets of anyone who dies without a will are divided among immediate family. If the deceased has no children or parents living but is married the surviving spouse becomes sole beneficiary. In the event that the deceased has children that are also the children of the surviving spouse the spouse receives the first $50,000 of the estate and one-half of the remaining estate. The children only receive what is left.
If the deceased is married and has children that are not the children of the surviving spouse then the spouse gets one-half of the estate with the remaining balance going to the spouse. When the deceased is married with parents who are living but no children the surviving spouse receives the first $100,000 of the estate along with one-half of the remaining estate with the final balance going to the parents.
For more information about your particular situation, consult with an estate planning attorney.