Alabama Estate Laws for Heirs

By Marie Murdock

Some Alabamians plan the distribution of their property after death very carefully, leaving wills and/or trust agreements directing in detail how their heirs and successors acquire their property and in what shares. Others fail to plan and leave the laws of the State of Alabama to determine distribution of their assets.

Surviving Spouse

When someone dies intestate or without a will in Alabama, the surviving spouse doesn’t automatically acquire all property that belonged to the decedent unless she is his only surviving heir. Several factors will determine the share she inherits. If the decedent left living parents but no children, the spouse gets the first $100,000.00 and inherits one-half of the remaining assets. The surviving parent or parents inherit the other half. If the surviving spouse and children that were also children of the decedent are the only heirs, the spouse only inherits the first $50,000.00 and half of the remainder, leaving the other half for the children. If the decedent left behind children that were not also children of the surviving spouse, she gets one-half of the estate and the children divide the remaining half.


If someone dies leaving no surviving spouse, their children divide the assets of their estate equally. Both natural born as well as adopted children inherit in Alabama. Stepchildren, however, would not be blood lineage of the deceased and would not inherit under Alabama’s intestacy laws.

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If an Alabama resident dies leaving no surviving spouse or children, then his parents inherit his entire estate. If both parents survive, they divide the estate equally; however, if only one survives, she inherits the entire estate. If a child is born out of wedlock, his parents never marry and his father fails or refuses to acknowledge or support him during his lifetime, then the father receives no inheritance through that child.


If an Alabama resident dies without a surviving spouse, children or parents, then his siblings inherit his entire estate. If more than one, they divide the property equally and if one of his siblings dies before him, that sibling’s children inherit in his place.

Other Relatives

If the deceased has no close relatives but leaves behind grandparents, uncles or the descendants of those relatives, they will inherit. Distant relatives may be oblivious to the fact that they are heirs to an estate and unless someone finds them and informs them of their inheritance, the property could escheat or become property of the state of Alabama. Further, Alabama’s intestacy laws govern disposition of real property or real estate located in Alabama even if the decedent was not a resident of the state when he died.

No Surviving Heirs

In the unlikely event there are no surviving relatives, then the property of the deceased Alabamian escheats to the state. The laws of the state govern procedures and processes for taking unclaimed property.

Survivorship Rights

When survivorship language is included in a deed for jointly-owned Alabama property, and one of the owners dies, the property automatically conveys to the other owner without the necessity of probate. Vehicle titles and bank accounts may also be held with a joint owner in such a fashion that the asset passes outside of probate.

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How Does Real Estate Pass Through Intestacy?



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The California Law When the Deceased Has No Will

If a person dies intestate, or without a will, in California, his estate is subject to California's intestacy laws. Unlike a will, which allows a person to name all those he wants to inherit from his estate, intestacy laws automatically consider his living family such as his spouse, children, parents and siblings.

Intestacy Rules in Colorado

Colorado's intestacy rules are similar to the rules found in other states but don't provide for inheritances by remote relatives, such as distant cousins. Colorado's laws allow inheritances by a birth parent who adopted out the deceased person or any birth children the deceased person put up for adoption, but only to prevent the estate from going to Colorado because of a lack of heirs. State laws set the inheritance rules for the estate of a person who died intestate; however, these rules don't take the financial needs of his heirs into consideration.

The Inheritance Hierarchy Without a Will in New York State

A person who dies without leaving a will is said to have died “intestate.” New York courts distribute intestate property according to a statutory scheme of succession and these laws apply only to property located in the state of New York. Laws of other states may apply to real property located outside of New York, even if the decedent had been a legal resident of the state. The intent of New York's intestate succession law is to distribute the estate in the manner in which the decedent likely would have had she left a will; the statutory scheme distributes the decedent's property to the closest surviving relatives first.

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