TN 14 (10-14)
GN 02315.036 Alabama — Small Estates
A. Policy — Alabama court procedures in general
Small estates and the rights of persons claiming payment under them are defined in Title 43 of the Alabama Small Estates Act of 1975 (Ala. Code §§ 43-2-690 to 43-2-696 (2014)). A “distributee” of a small estate is defined in § 43-2-691 as any person entitled to the personal property of a decedent (i.e., the underpayment) under a will or under an Alabama descent and distribution statute (such as this section). A distributee may claim his or her rights under § 43-2-692 without awaiting the appointment of a personal representative whenever the conditions of § 43-2-692(b) below are met, by filing a verified petition for summary distribution of the estate.
NOTE: The verified petition must describe the decedent’s estate and allege satisfaction of all conditions of § 43-2-692(b), showing that the distributee is entitled to the decedent’s personal property without administration, see POMS GN 02315.036C in this section. The distributee files the verified petition for summary distribution in the county probate judge’s office in which the decedent was domiciled at death.
When the distributee’s verified petition demonstrates satisfaction of all the applicable conditions in § 43-2-692(b), the judge of the Probate Court will issue an order of summary distribution (§ 43-2-693). Presentation of a copy of the order of summary distribution, together with a copy of the decedent’s will if the claim is under such will, will entitle a distributee to have the decedent’s personal property transferred to him or her by any person owing money to the decedent’s estate (§43-2-694).
B. Policy – Alabama affidavit method
As an alternative to delivering a copy of the judge’s order for summary distribution, as described above, section 43-2-694 states that upon delivery of an affidavit executed by any person having knowledge of the facts and alleging the concurrence of the conditions listed in § 43-2-692(b), together with a copy of the decedent’s will if the claim is under such will, a distributee will be entitled to receive the decedent’s property from any person owing any money to the decedent’s estate.
C. Section 43-2-692(b) conditions
The verified petition or the affidavit noted above must state that all the following conditions have occurred:
The value of the entire estate does not exceed $25,000. This figure is adjusted annually for changes in the Consumer Price Index by the State Finance Director, who shall notify each judge of probate of the newly adjusted figure;
The decedent died a resident of Alabama;
No petition for the appointment of a personal representative is pending or has been granted;
At least 30 days have elapsed since the notice of the filing of the petition was published as provided herein;
All funeral expenses have been paid, or alternatively, the surviving spouse or other distributee has arranged to pay all unpaid funeral expenses out of the decedent’s estate;
If the decedent died without a will, the rights of the surviving spouse and children have been determined by the probate judge;
If the decedent died with a will, a copy of the will, which on its face, is properly executed, witnessed, and attested in compliance with Alabama law, has been filed with the probate office;
Notice of the filing of a petition for summary administration has been published in a newspaper in the county in which the decedent was domiciled, or if none, the notice must be posted at the county courthouse for one week; and
The surviving spouse or other distributee has paid all debts of the estate or has arranged for their payment.
D. Policy — Alabama good acquittance
Section 43-2-696 provides that a transfer made pursuant to the presentation of the above affidavit will effectively discharge the debtor to the same extent as if payment were made to a court-designated personal representative of the decedent. Therefore, SSA is not required to inquire into the truth of any statement in the affidavit, or to see to the proper disposition of the underpayment once the distributee takes possession of it.