An Alabama small estate affidavit form (typically referred to as a “Petition for Summary Distribution”), provides the family of a recently deceased person the ability to collect said person’s property outside of probate court. However, the value of the estate must be under $32,047 (as of 2022); the amount is adjusted annually by the State Finance Director.
The form provides a “shortcut” that bypasses the time-intensive and costly probate process. The form must be completed and recorded with the office of the judge of probate in the county where the decedent died. Once the requirements have been met (see below) and the petition is approved, the decedent’s assets will be distributed accordingly as per the court’s order.
How to File (4 Steps)
- Step 1 – Qualifications
- Step 2 – File Petition
- Step 3 – Publish Notice
- Step 4 – Summary Distribution
Before a spouse or distributee can file a Petition for Summary Distribution (Small Estate Affidavit), the decedent and the estate being distributed must meet the following requirements:
- The decedent was a resident of Alabama at the time of their death.
- There is no pending or granted petition for the appointment of a personal representative.
- All claims against the decedent have been paid (or will be paid) in accordance with the order of priority outlined in § 43-2-692(9).
- All expenses relating to the funeral have been paid (or are arranged to be paid).
- The decedent did not own real property at the time of their death, or the real property was automatically passed to another person by operation of law (e.g., the decedent’s home was held jointly with right of survivorship with their spouse).
Once the abovementioned requirements have been met, the spouse can complete the Petition for Summary Distribution and file it with the probate court in the county in which the decedent died. (If the decedent did not have a spouse, any distributee can file the petition.) A copy of the death certificate and the will (if applicable) must be attached to the petition. A Summary Distribution date will be set by the court.
After filing the petition, the spouse/distributee must publish a notice in a county newspaper stating that the Petition for Summary Distribution was filed with the probate court judge. Alternatively, the notice can be posted at the courthouse for one (1) week. The notice must include the name of the decedent and the petitioner, the date and time of the summary distribution settlement, and the courthouse where summary distribution will take place.
If all above requirements have been met, and thirty (30) days have passed since the notice was published (or posted), the summary distribution proceedings will take place on the date established by probate court. The judge assigned to the case will issue an order (decree) stating that the estate assets will be distributed in accordance with the appropriate distribution laws. The decree can be used by the distributees to distribute the assets and settle the estate. The settlement must be made in the following order of priority:
- Reasonable funeral expenses
- Court fees
- Expenses of the last illness
- Secured creditors
- Unsecured creditors
- Distributions to heirs