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The probate judge handles a wide variety of judicial issues and has many administrative tasks. However, in Coosa County the probate judge no longer presides over the County Commission. That change began in November 2000 after passage of Alabama Act 1994-556.
Act 1994-556 also made other major changes that affected the Coosa County Commission but did not affect the jurisdiction of the probate court.
The probate court handles all matters related to the probating of an estate. Probating an estate includes the probating of wills. Once a petition and will has been filed in the court, the court normally holds a hearing to determine the validity of the will, determine if the will meets the Code of Alabama requirements, and hear any objections to admitting the will.
If the probate court admits the will to probate, appropriate orders admitting the will and letters testamentary are issued. The letters testamentary are issued appointing a personal representative who is normally referred to as the executor or executrix. Notice is placed in the local newspaper notifying creditors or others who may have a claim against the estate so the claims may be filed in the probate court.
In addition to probating an estate when there is a will, the probate court also handles the probate of an estate when there is no will, the will has been lost, or the will cannot be found. This type of estate is referred to as an administration.
When a petition is filed with the court to probate an estate without a will, if all requirements are met, a hearing is normally not required. In this case, the probate court issues letters of administration to a personal representative normally referred to as an administrator or administratrix. Notice is placed in the local newspaper notifying creditors or others who may have a claim against the estate so the claims can be filed with the probate court.
The probate court, for just cause shown, may repeal or revoke previously issued letters testamentary and letters of administration.
In addition to these matters, the probate court handles issues related to executorship or administration of estates such as the sale, disposition and distribution of real and personal property of a deceased person. If the deceased person left a will, each case depends greatly on the wishes of the deceased. If there is no will, each case depends upon the laws of intestate succession as listed in the Code of Alabama 1975 as amended.
The probate court is also responsible for the appointment and removal of guardians for minors and adult persons of unsound mind; mental health commitments, land transfers to spouse; partition of lands; change of name; establishment and operation of water management districts; eminent domain proceedings; adoptions; sale and redemption (along with the revenue commissioner) of lands for delinquent tax payments; garnishments; and administering of oaths.
People often come into the probate office wanting or needing to see the judge. While my door is always open to our citizens (I do enjoy visiting with people), I must be careful what I hear if it involves a judicial issue/case that is or will possibly be in my court.
Anytime someone asks to see me, Pam and/or Beth will ask some questions. They are not doing this to be nosy, but instead to make sure none of us violate any laws or judicial rules.
If it is just to visit, talk about things in the county, or discuss other non-court related items, the person will normally be invited into the office. If it involves a case that is or might appear before the court, the person will normally be advised to seek legal counsel. It is difficult for a person to talk about an issue that might appear before a court and not mention facts or details the judge is prohibited from hearing outside the courtroom.
In Coosa County, the probate office’s staff notarizes documents (free for citizens of Coosa County); issues and renews motor vehicle license plates, including trailers and boats; issues special motor vehicle permits; applies for vehicle titles and transfers; records certificates of marriage; renews driver’s licenses; renews non-driver identification (ID) cards; records land deeds; collects deed and mortgage taxes; maintains county and public records; issues and renews business licenses; records liens and judgments; and issues hunting and fishing licenses.
Most items presented to the probate offices for recording are recorded as presented. The probate office personnel are prohibited from attempting to determine the accuracy of items such as deeds, liens, etc. The accuracy and validity of such documents are the responsibility of the person recording the document.
The probate judge is also the chief elections officer for his/her county. In this position, the probate judge is responsible for managing and conducting all federal, state and county regular and special elections.
However, the probate judge is not responsible for conducting municipal elections. Municipal elections are the responsibility of the town clerks and mayors.
If you are unsure if your Coosa County Judge of Probate’s Office handles anything, please call us at 256-377-4919, option 1 or 2; for vehicle-related items select option 3. Please be aware and understand probate judges and their staffs are strictly prohibited by law from providing legal advice or assisting with completing legal documents.
However, we will gladly explain the court processes and possibly direct you to other government services. Short of legal advice, we are here to assist and service our residents, landowners, businesses, and other customers in any way possible and to make your visit to our offices pleasant and productive.
As always, the information above is meant to inform and not to advise. No person should ever apply or interpret any law without the aid of an attorney who analyzes the facts of the case. Until next month, stay safe!