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What is estate settlement in Alabama?

Estate settlement, also known as probate, is the process of settling an estate after the death of a loved one. That includes distributing assets and, if available, following the wishes documented in the deceased's will. This can be a lengthy process, particularly for larger or more complicated estates. It can also be a particularly overwhelming experience with the loss of a loved one being compounded by legal issues and court visits.

An Alabama attorney experienced with estate settlement can help make the process an easier and more palatable one. Attorney William "Bill" F. Prosch Jr., Attorney and Counselor at Law, has worked with clients in Alabama for more than 40 years. He keeps his practice areas concise, too, mainly focusing on estate planning, elder law, and probate in order to make sure that he is able to levy his full expertise for the benefit of every client.

The Purpose of Estate Settlement

The main purpose behind probate, or estate settlement, is to help prevent fraud after someone dies. Whether there is a will in place or not, chances are good that the decedent has various assets and property that should be distributed to a few different people. Probate is designed to help ensure that this process is completed legally, with everyone receiving exactly that to which they are entitled.

Probate freezes an estate until its contents are appraised and identified.  This is done to ensure that anything that must be paid from it – things like taxes or creditors – are paid before the property is distributed and the estate closed.

Do all estates go through probate?

Not all estates are subject to probate, although the majority of them will still need to be legally settled in some way. Estates that fall below a particular threshold are considered "small estates". These don't require a trip to probate court to settle. Additionally, not all assets must be included in probate. Certain things, like joint tenancy assets, beneficiary designations, and accounts that are payable/transferable on death are often not subject to probate.

A Note About Taxes

Alabama law does not recognize inheritance taxes; however you should be aware that there are likely other tax obligations you'll need to meet in the course of settling the estate. These might include federal trust or estate income taxes, federal estate tax returns, and final federal and state individual income tax. An attorney can better help you move through the estate settlement process as smoothly as possible and make sure that you have met all the legal obligations necessary to close the estate and move on with your life.

Bill Prosch can help, and he's available to serve residents of Vestavia, Birmingham, Homewood, Hoover, Alabaster, Shelby County, and Pelham. He offers free initial consultations at his office. For more information about how Bill can help with your estate settlement and estate planning needs, call 205.795.2032 or reach out online today.


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