If you are ever faced with the incapacity or passing of a loved one, it is important to have a basic understanding of what Probate law and the Probate Court require. Probate courts are often required to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. The Probate Code has set guidelines for the Courts to follow, with the first step being the appointment of a person to act on behalf of those who cannot act for themselves. The Court appoints Personal Representatives to oversee the assets of the deceased, Guardians to control the care of the incapacitated, and Conservators to oversee the assets of the incapacitated.
When a loved one passes away, his or her assets must go through a probate process in order to transfer the title. If the decedent has no Will, the title is passed under Alabama’s intestate laws. But, if there is a Last Will and Testament, then his or her Will is first proven valid by law and the estate is administered and distributed by a personal representative. An appointed personal representative, or executor, will take on probate administration tasks that will ultimately fulfill the requests your loved one made in the Will. These duties may include collecting the decedent’s assets, liquidating assets, paying necessary taxes and liabilities, distributing property to heirs, and other administrative or distributive tasks. Seeking the legal counsel of an experienced and qualified probate administration attorney, like Burton and Associates LLC, prior to beginning the probate process can save a family both time and money.
Another aspect of Probate Court that often confuses people is when and how to use guardianship and conservatorship appointments properly. If a loved one fails to plan for the possibility of their incompetency, families may find themselves struggling to assist their loved one with personal and financial decisions. Often the family will need the authority to make living arrangements, pay bills, or even sell a home, for a loved one suffering from incapacity. If there was no preplanning and therefore no Durable Power of Attorney or Health Care Power of Attorney signed by the incapacitated person, the family member must turn to the Courts to obtain authority to do these things on behalf of their loved one.
A guardianship can be set into place when a person is not capable of making his or her own medical or personal decisions. Guardianships are often sought for minors and adults who are mentally and physically disabled as well as people who are no longer competent to care for themselves due to illness or an accident. A guardian is court-appointed after a petition is made to the Court and the guardian’s actions will be overseen by the Court.
Conservatorships are set up to help protect the assets and finances of those who are not capable of handling these decisions. Just like a guardianship, an appointed conservator must report to the Court with timely updates, take direction from the Court and act in the best interest of the person who needs assistance. A conservatorship may also be used when a minor receives a settlement in a personal injury case and the funds need to be protected from frivolous spending.
Burton and Associates can help you make informed decisions regarding whether a guardianship or conservatorship would fit your situation and other probate matters. Throughout the process, we will be available to answer questions whenever they arise. Visit www.attorneyrichardburton.com for contact information and schedule your consultation.
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