In Alabama, the Probate Court may seem confusing if you are unfamiliar with it. This confusion may stem from the fact that the Probate Court has multiple and varying functions. The most well-known function of the Alabama Probate Court relates to a deceased person’s estate. After a person has passed away, either with or without a last will and testament, a family member may elect to “open the estate.” Opening an estate is one method through which the deceased family member’s assets and possessions legally pass to the family members of the deceased.
In addition to this, the Alabama Probate courts function as the gatekeeper for people who want to change their names and for people who want to adopt a child. People who want to change their name can submit a Petition with the Probate court and the judge must determine whether that person will be allowed to change their name. Often times, people seek to have their name changed after they receive a divorce decree. Furthermore, if a person wants to adopt a child, then they must go through the Probate court as well.
Probate Courts in Alabama also have the power to grant conservatorships, guardianships, and involuntary commitments. A conservatorship occurs when the Probate Judge puts someone in place to manage another person’s property. The person who is being looked after is referred to as the ward. A conservatorship is different from a guardianship. In a guardianship, the Probate Judge deems that the ward is incapable of caring for himself as it relates to his or her total welfare.
Like conservatorships and guardianships, involuntary commitments are also controlled by the Probate Court. If a family member (or friend) is concerned about a loved one’s mental health, then they may file a petition to have that person placed in the care of the State Department of Mental Health. The Probate Judge will then hold a hearing to determine whether they are involuntarily committed to the welfare of the State of Alabama or not.
Alabama Probate courts also are the guardians of land and property records. These records include, but are not limited to, mortgages, deeds, and liens on real property. Real property refers to land and buildings. You can usually look up the land records of each county on that particular county’s Probate Court website. For example, Jefferson County land records can be located at the Jefferson County Probate Court’s website or in person at the Probate Court of Jefferson County in Birmingham, Alabama.
Attorney Steven A. Harris regularly blogs in the areas of family law, bankruptcy, probate, and real estate closings on this website. Mr. Harris tries to provide informative information to the public in easily digestible formats. Hopefully you enjoyed this article and feel free to supply feedback. We appreciate our readers & love to hear from you!