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Baldwin County Probate Estate Attorney – Summary Distribution under the Alabama Small Estates Act

Summary Distribution under the Alabama Small Estates Act is a streamlined probate process designed to be faster and less expensive than a normal estate administration. Summary distribution is available for smaller estates that do not include real estate. The Alabama Small Estates Act places a cap on the maximum value of the estate to qualify for summary distribution. The maximum value is adjusted or inflation annually. In 2020, to qualify for summary distribution the value of the estate cannot exceed $30,245. If all other requirements are met, summary distribution is available for both testate (estates with a will) and intestate estates. If the estate includes real estate or the total value of the assets of the estate exceeds $30,245 (in 2020), the estate will not qualify for summary distribution under the Alabama Small Estates Act.  

In contrast to the typical probate estate administration, a personal representative for the estate is not appointed in a summary distribution under the Alabama Small Estates Act. Instead after all qualifications are met, the probate court will enter an order for any individual or business holding estate funds or estate assets to pay the estate funds or assets directly to the distributees as defined by the statute. By removing the need for the appointment of a personal representative, summary distribution avoids both the additional expense of paying an executor or administrator compensation for administrating the estate and the additional work on the part of the executor or administrator to settle the estate.

Compared to a typical probate estate administration, the timeline for a summary distribution is designed to move faster. In the petition to the probate court, the surviving spouse or distributees of the estate must represent to the probate court, under oath, that there are no claims against the estate or that any claims against the estate have been paid or arranged to be paid. Claims include costs of funeral expenses, costs of expenses of the deceased’s last illness, taxes, court costs and fees in connection with the summary distribution proceeding, and debts owed to creditors. With all of the claims either paid or arranged to be paid, there is no need for the typical six month waiting period for notice to creditors. Instead of the six month notice and waiting period for creditor claims, the notice requirement for a summary distribution under the Alabama Small Estates Act is a 30 day time period from the time of one notice published in the local newspaper.

The Law Office of Brenton C. McWilliams is an Estate Planning, Elder Law and Probate Law Firm serving clients in Baldwin County including our local cities of Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Foley, Elberta, Summerdale and Robertsdale. For a consultation please call (251) 215-9275

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