Are Probated Wills Public Record in the State of Alabama?

By Marie Murdock

Alabama's law regarding public access may pose a challenge if you want to keep your estate matters private after your death. According to Alabama Code Section 36-12-40, government officials in charge of public records have a duty to provide access to those records. If you are determined to keep your postmortem affairs private, you may have to resort to alternate estate planning methods that bypass the probate process.

Alabama's law regarding public access may pose a challenge if you want to keep your estate matters private after your death. According to Alabama Code Section 36-12-40, government officials in charge of public records have a duty to provide access to those records. If you are determined to keep your postmortem affairs private, you may have to resort to alternate estate planning methods that bypass the probate process.

Probate Records

Once your estate has been probated, your will and all documents contained within the probate file are generally viewable by everyone upon request. These records are of particular interest to title researchers if real estate is involved. A title researcher must verify by reviewing the estate documents that the real estate has been or is being conveyed according to the terms of the will. She may need to verify whether or not the personal representative is authorized to sell the property. To the title researcher, the availability of estate records is just as important as the availability of deed and mortgage records. In some counties, public estate information may even be available online.

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now

Trusts

You may choose to establish a trust prior to your death setting out the terms and conditions under which your property may pass to others. All your property may be deeded to the trust prior to your death so that there is no property left to be included in a will. Trust agreements, unless recorded in the deed records, are not available for public view. If all the property does not pass to the trust before your death, you may will your property so that it passes into the trust after you die. The public will not be able to view the names of the individual beneficiaries who acquire your property under the trust agreement by viewing the estate documents.

Unprobated Will

Your personal representative may be tempted to try to settle your estate without probate in an attempt to maintain privacy. A personal representative or executor, however, has little or no authority to act on behalf of a decedent’s estate until he has received authorization from the court in the form of Letters Testamentary. If a will is not probated, a personal representative cannot convey property that belonged to the decedent. Also if a will is not probated within five years in the state of Alabama, it may be considered invalid in court.

Sealed Records

Generally probate records are not sealed by the courts. The courts have a duty to weigh the laws regarding public information against the laws protecting individual privacy before sealing court records. According to Alabama law, some records that may be sealed by the court are “ongoing criminal investigations, library circulation records, juvenile court records, probation reports, tax returns and financial statements, and records of suspected cases of certain diseases.”

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now
How to Search for Wills Online

References

Resources

Related articles

Are Wills in Ohio Public Record?

Many people are concerned when they make a last will and testament that their wishes remain private. Generally, only you and your attorney -- as well as persons you authorize to view its contents -- will ever see the will prior to your death. After your death, however, your will generally becomes public record when it is recorded or filed for probate in an Ohio probate court.

Where Are Last Will & Testaments Recorded?

Whether you're looking for a deceased relative’s last will or are just curious as to when wills become public record, most states have similar procedures for filing wills for probate after death, even though the names of the public offices may differ slightly.

Are Wills Made Public?

Before they reach the probate court, wills are private documents that present the final wishes of deceased individuals regarding distribution of their assets. On submission to probate, however, the courts take wills and make them a matter of public record in the interests of justice.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Can a Judge Open a Sealed Divorce in Michigan?

Due to the private and personal information that may be revealed during the course of a divorce, an individual may ...

How to Remove a Trustee From a Deed

When property is held in a trust estate, the appointed trustee generally holds title as representative of the trust for ...

How to Seal a Divorce Record

Most court records, including divorce records and other lawsuits, are public. As public records, anyone can access them ...

Trusts & Last Wills in the State of Oklahoma

Estate planning helps individuals who own assets control how those assets are disposed of upon their death. There are ...

Browse by category