Some Alabamians plan the distribution of their property after death very carefully, leaving wills and/or trust agreements directing in detail how their heirs and successors acquire their property and in what shares. Others fail to plan and leave the laws of the State of Alabama to determine distribution of their assets.
When someone dies intestate or without a will in Alabama, the surviving spouse doesn’t automatically acquire all property that belonged to the decedent unless she is his only surviving heir. Several factors will determine the share she inherits. If the decedent left living parents but no children, the spouse gets the first $100,000.00 and inherits one-half of the remaining assets. The surviving parent or parents inherit the other half. If the surviving spouse and children that were also children of the decedent are the only heirs, the spouse only inherits the first $50,000.00 and half of the remainder, leaving the other half for the children. If the decedent left behind children that were not also children of the surviving spouse, she gets one-half of the estate and the children divide the remaining half.
If someone dies leaving no surviving spouse, their children divide the assets of their estate equally. Both natural born as well as adopted children inherit in Alabama. Stepchildren, however, would not be blood lineage of the deceased and would not inherit under Alabama’s intestacy laws.
If an Alabama resident dies leaving no surviving spouse or children, then his parents inherit his entire estate. If both parents survive, they divide the estate equally; however, if only one survives, she inherits the entire estate. If a child is born out of wedlock, his parents never marry and his father fails or refuses to acknowledge or support him during his lifetime, then the father receives no inheritance through that child.
If an Alabama resident dies without a surviving spouse, children or parents, then his siblings inherit his entire estate. If more than one, they divide the property equally and if one of his siblings dies before him, that sibling’s children inherit in his place.
If the deceased has no close relatives but leaves behind grandparents, uncles or the descendants of those relatives, they will inherit. Distant relatives may be oblivious to the fact that they are heirs to an estate and unless someone finds them and informs them of their inheritance, the property could escheat or become property of the state of Alabama. Further, Alabama’s intestacy laws govern disposition of real property or real estate located in Alabama even if the decedent was not a resident of the state when he died.
No Surviving Heirs
In the unlikely event there are no surviving relatives, then the property of the deceased Alabamian escheats to the state. The laws of the state govern procedures and processes for taking unclaimed property.
When survivorship language is included in a deed for jointly-owned Alabama property, and one of the owners dies, the property automatically conveys to the other owner without the necessity of probate. Vehicle titles and bank accounts may also be held with a joint owner in such a fashion that the asset passes outside of probate.
- Alabama Legislative Information System Online: Title 43, Chapter 8, Probate Code
- FortenberryLegal: Alabama Intestate Law, Intestacy, Intestate Succession, and Heirs at Law
- USA-Probate.com: Probate Information
- Money Quest Alabama: What Will You Discover?
- Alabama Legislative Information System Online: Title 35, Chapter 12, Property
- FortenberryLegal: Is Alabama Probate Necessary?
- California Legislative Information. "Chapter 1. Intestate Succession Generally [6400 - 6414]." Accessed Oct. 7, 2020.
Marie Murdock has been employed in the legal and title insurance industries for over 25 years. Murdock was first published in print in 1979 and has been writing online articles since mid-2010. Her articles have appeared on LegalZoom and various other websites.