If you have been named the executor of a will or you need to act as the representative of a decedent’s estate in Alabama, it is important that you not attempt to handle the responsibility on your own. There are a lot of ways you can go wrong, so you should at least speak with a probate attorney early in the process to make sure you are not accidentally waiving your own rights or making key mistakes in how you handle estate funds. Call Five Points Law Group today to get the guidance you need.
The Representative’s Job
First, make sure you understand your role in the estate. A probate estate is a formal court proceeding by which the court manages and oversees how the estate is administered. However, in most cases, the court will not directly “supervise” your behavior as the representative. Instead, the court will simply be available to resolve disputes and grant the authority you need to distribute funds and pay debts. Think of the job as a case manager. You will be responsible for:
- Finding possible assets that belonged to the deceased
- Collecting and gathering property, real estate, bank accounts, and retirement funds
- Making sure lawful claims and debts are paid
- Disputing invalid claims and debts
- Fighting off any will contests or disputes
- Distributing funds to heirs and legatees appropriately
- Managing the estate’s funds properly (you will be acting as a fiduciary)
- Paying final estate taxes and filing a final tax return with the IRS and State of Alabama
- Closing the estate once all administration is concluded
Administrator vs. Executor
When there is a will, the representative is known as an “executor,” because you are actually following the will’s instructions in order to achieve the purposes set for by the decedent. When there is no will, you will be called an “administrator.” The job is basically the same, but when there is no will, you will be guided by default rules under Alabama law.
Compensation for a Representative
It is not easy administering an estate – even a modest one. Family members may dispute distributions, you may need to deal with a disgruntled contractor who seeks payment of an unfair or illegitimate debt or mechanic’s lien, and you might need to work with banks, credit unions, life insurance carriers, and other institutions just to find all the assets. In some cases, you may even have to prosecute lawsuits where the decedent had legal matters needing to be handled prior to death.
For these reasons, many representatives find that they must spend personal money on things like postage, medical records, copying charges, and excessive mileage, and travel time. To be compensated for this, you will want to keep careful records of all expenses and time incurred. When it is time to distribute the remainder of the estate to heirs, you may be able to receive your share (if you are an heir or legatee under the law or the will) plus reasonable compensation for your services if this fee is allowed under the terms of the Will.
Additionally, where there is no Will, Administrator’s in Alabama are generally granted a fee of 2.5% of funds received by the estate and 2.5% of funds distributed by the estate. These fees are set by the Court at Final Settlement and should not be taken by the Administrator without prior Court approval.
An attorney from Five Points Law Group can help you determine the appropriate amount to charge, as well as assist you in gaining court approval where required. Give us a call today to speak with an experienced Birmingham probate lawyer.