Petition for summary distribution; when surviving spouse or distributee entitled to personal property without administration.
(a) The surviving spouse, if there is one, otherwise the distributees of an estate of personal property only, may initiate a proceeding for summary distribution of the estate by filing a verified petition in the office of the judge of probate of the county in which the decedent was domiciled at death alleging the conditions provided in subsection (b). The petition shall include a description of the estate of the decedent. No bond shall be required to be filed with the petition.
(b) The surviving spouse or distributee shall have a defeasible right to the personal property of the decedent without awaiting the appointment of a personal representative or the probate of a will if all of the following conditions exist:
(1) The value of the entire estate does not exceed twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000). This figure shall be 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.
(2) The decedent died a resident of this state.
(3) No petition for the appointment of a personal representative is pending or has been granted.
(4) At least 30 days have elapsed since the notice of the filing of the petition was published as hereinafter provided.
(5) All funeral expenses of the decedent have been paid, or alternatively, that arrangements for the payment out of the estate of the decedent of all unpaid funeral expenses have been made by the surviving spouse or other distributee.
(6) If the decedent died intestate, the awards due under Alabama descent and distribution statutes to the surviving spouse and to the child or children have been determined by the judge of probate.
(7) If the decedent died testate, a document purporting to be his or her will, which on its face, is properly executed, witnessed, and attested in compliance with Alabama law, has been duly filed in the office of the judge of probate.
(8) Notice of the filing of a petition for a summary distribution under this division shall be published once in a newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the decedent was domiciled, or if there is no newspaper of general circulation in the county, then notice thereof shall be posted at the county courthouse for one week.
(9) All claims against the decedent's estate have been paid or arrangements for the payment out of the estate of the decedent have been made by the surviving spouse or other distributee according to the following priority:
a. First, to each person entitled to payment for any funeral expenses owed by the decedent or his or her estate.
b. To the judge of probate for fees and charges incurred in the proceedings for summary distribution.
c. To any person entitled to payment for expenses incurred in the decedent's last illness.
d. To the State of Alabama, the county, and any municipality therein for taxes assessed on the estate of the decedent previous to his or her death.
e. To each secured creditor.
f. To each unsecured lienholder.
g. To each remaining general unsecured creditor of the decedent.
h. To each surviving spouse, child, or other distributee who is entitled to take under Alabama's descent and distribution laws, or, alternatively, to each devisee entitled to take under any testamentary disposition of the decedent.
(Acts 1975, 3rd Ex. Sess., No. 145, §3; Act 2009-399, p. 724, §1.)