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A recent opinion released by the Supreme Court of Alabama has caused this Court to evaluate its procedure in cases involving litigation pending in other courts. See Kirksey v. Johnson, et. al., 2014 WL 5311315 (Ala. Oct. 17, 2014). The Supreme Court has ruled that Alabama Circuit Courts have the responsibility to see that wrongful death litigation proceeds are properly distributed to the correct parties in interest. Alabama Probate Courts have jurisdiction to determine heirs in decedent estate cases. After consultation with several lawyers who are actively engaged in the litigation of wrongful death claims, the Court has revised its approach as follows: 

  1. NOTWITHSTANDING restrictions on current letters of administration and/or letters testamentary – the Court will NOT approve or exercise any oversight as to the distribution of wrongful death litigation proceeds. 
  2. Petitioners and/or the personal representative in ALL decedents estates (testate and intestate) are affirmatively required to IMMEDIATELY report to the Court if any litigation is commenced by a decedent’s personal representative. Upon receipt of such notice – the personal representative are affirmatively required to IMMEDIATELY petition the Court to determine the decedent’s heirs. 
  3. It is preferred that petitions to determine heirship be verified and that consents and waivers be furnished from all of the persons identified in the petition as being heirs. If such is furnished, the petition will be acted upon by the Court without an actual court hearing. If the petition is not verified or if all purported heirs to do not furnish a consent and waiver in regards to said petition, the petition will be set for hearing. 
  4. The Court’s orders granting petitions for letters of administration and letters testamentary will be modified to include the aforesaid requirements.

Please direct any questions regarding this procedure to Melissa King at 251-574-6008.