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COVINGTON COUNTY PROBATE OFFICE
1K N Court Square
Andalusia, AL 36420

 

CALL US TODAY!
Tag & Titles Questions: 334-428-2510

Recording Questions: 334-428-2518/2519

Probate Court Questions: 334-428-2512

 

WILLS & ESTATES

WHAT IS A WILL?


A will is a document which provides the manner in which a person’s property will be distributed when he dies. A person who dies after writing a Will is said to have died testate.


WHO MAY MAKE A WILL?


In Alabama, the maker of a Will must be: (1) at least 18 years old; (2) of sound mind; and (3) free from improper influences by other people.


HOW DO I MAKE A WILL?


A Will must meet certain requirements set by the State to be considered valid. The Will must be written, signed by the maker, and witnessed by two people in the manner required by the law.


WHAT HAPPENS TO MY PROPERTY IF I DO NOT WRITE A WILL?


If someone dies without writing a Will, they have died intestate. Each state has specific laws governing the distribution of property when a person dies intestate, and most laws are generally the same.


STEPS IN PROBATE OF AN ESTATE:
 

  1. File petition

  2. Take immediate control of the estate

  3. *Inventory of the estate within 2 months

  4. *Bond

  5. Notice must be given to all heirs

  6. Letters of Testamentary (administration) granted

  7. Notice to file claims must be published and individual notice given to anyone known to have a claim against the deceased

  8. Claims must be filed generally within 6 months

  9. Generally the estate cannot be divided until all claims and expenses have been paid which is at least six months

  10. Court must approve administrator's fees



A MEMBER OF MY FAMILY PASSED AWAY WITH A SAFE DEPOSIT BOX AT A BANK SOLEY IN HIS/HER NAME. THE BANK WILL NOT ALLOW THE FAMILY TO REMOVE THE ITEMS AND CLOSE THE BOX OR EVEN ACCESS THE BOX TO SEE WHAT IS IN IT. WHAT CAN WE DO?

 

Unfortunately, the only way to force the bank to allow you access to the box is to hire an attorney who will seek a court order for you.  Sometimes you can convince the bank to just open the box and let you see what is in it (without removing anything) so you can decide if it is worth the cost of hiring a lawyer.  This is more an issue of bank policy rather than probate law, so the first step in solving this problem is to work with your bank and try and convince them to assist you.  

After a certain number of years of inactivity, the bank will likely send the contents of the box to the State Treasurer’s Office’s Unclaimed Property Division.  Heirs of the original box renter can claim the contents through the claims process established by the State Treasurer. 

This scenario highlights two estate planning points.  First, it is generally not a good idea to put your Last Will and Testament, Living Will, or Power of Attorney in a safe deposit box.  Second, you should designate a person you trust to be able to access the box along with you.