FROM THE MBA PROBATE SECTION FALL MEETING
The Alabama Legislature recently passed the Revised Uniform
Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act.
The link below will take you directly to the ABA article that discusses
the terms and implications of the Uniform Act:
ABA Article on Uniform Act
New Policy Regarding Appointed Attorneys
Effective immediately, attorneys on the list receive
appointed cases will also be placed in the rotation to receive periodic
appointments to pro bono cases. If you
no longer want to receive appointed cases because of this policy change, please
contact Ginger Bedsole at (251) 574-6008 to be removed.
Court Costs and Fees
For many years, the Mobile County Probate Court had a policy
of bundling court costs and fees in limited types of cases. Effective immediately, Mobile County Probate
Court will no longer bundle court costs and fees in any cases. Instead, all court costs and fees will be
individually itemized on the cost bill.
We are very excited about the progress that we have made
regarding our e-filing system. Beginning
January 1st, all judicial notices and pleadings will be sent via email to
attorneys. If you have not already done
so, please fill out the form at the following link so that you will receive
notices and pleadings. Pro se parties
will continue to receive notices via U.S. mail.
TO ATTORNEY/VENDOR FORM
*This change does not affect items that must be sent via
U.S. mail, such as letters testamentary.
Appointed Lawyer Training Program
The Probate Court of Mobile County held an Appointed Lawyer Training Program on November 9, 2017. This course or a portion thereof
approved by the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Commission of Alabama
for a maximum of 4.5 hours' credit, including 0.5 hours of ethics.
Training materials are available via the
Looking to review training materials?
Appointed Lawyer Training Materials
& Property Articles
The following articles were printed in the
March/April 2017 issue of the Probate & Property magazine published by
the American Bar Association’s Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section.
I thought they might be of interest to you.
New IRS Release of Estate Tax Lien Requirements
Gun Trusts - What’s All The Fuss?
Don Davis, Judge of Probate
Small Estate Summary Distributions
Please be advised that the State Department
of Finance has increased the maximum amount/value for small estate
administration (summary distributions) to $28,417 for 2017.
Update - 02/01/17
An update to Benchmark WEB launched on
02/01/17. This update resolves compatibility issues with Internet
Explorer and addresses a number of other site issues; namely, (a)
printing the Docket Sheet Report for a case, (b) running the Print Summary on a
case, and (c) paying cost bills online. Users who access Benchmark WEB
using Internet Explorer (IE) will need to modify IE's compatibility view
settings by performing the steps noted below in order to properly view the
Compatibility View Settings in Internet Explorer
Open Internet Explorer > Click on Tools >
click on Compatibility View settings > REMOVE the entry for mobilecountyal.gov
> Choose Close
You may need to restart IE once these changes have been
made. This applies to Internet Explorer ONLY. Chrome and
Firefox browsers run without issue.
Technical/computer-related, non-Judicial questions may be directed
to the Court's IT Division via email at: email@example.com
or by phone at: (251) 574-6091.
Alabama Lawyer Article
to read the article entitled: "Representation of an Estate and Client
Identity" from the September 2016 issue of The Alabama Lawyer.
Changes to the Alabama Rules of Civil
Procedure Effective July 1, 2016
Note: The excerpt below is from the Alabama State Bar's
Addendum Issue; April 2016
In two separate orders, the Alabama Supreme Court has amended Rule
4, "Process: General and Miscellaneous Provisions;' and Rule 45(b)(1), Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure. The amendment of
these rules is effective July 1, 2016. The orders amending Rules 4 and 45(b)(1) appear in an advance sheet of Southern Reporter dated
on or about March 3, 2016. The amendment to Rule 4 makes certain changes to
service of process, including, among others, providing that a judgment of
default is a possible consequence of a served defendant's failure to respond
rather than an automatic result; changing the age of a minor who must be served
personally, including an incarcerated minor, from over the age of 12 years to
over the age of 16 years; stating the manner for acceptance or waiver of
service of process; increasing the age of persons designated to serve process
to 19 years and providing that persons designated to serve process not be
related within the third degree by blood or marriage to the party seeking
service of process; setting out new, specific requirements as to how service of
process and the return of service is to be made; and increasing to 60 days the
timeframe for failure of service. The amendment to Rule 45(b)(1) increases to
19 years the age at which a person can serve a subpoena and to further provide
that such person shall not be related within the third degree by blood or
marriage to the person seeking service. The text of these rules can be found at
"Quick Links-Rule Changes:' -Bilee Cauley, reporter of decisions, Alabama
Abolishment Of Common
Law Marriage In Alabama Effective January 1, 2017
note that the Alabama Legislative enacted Ala. Act 2016-306 which abolishes
common law marriage in the State of Alabama prospectively on January 1, 2017. Any "otherwise valid
common-law marriage entered into before January 1, 2017 ,
shall continue to be valid in this state."
for a link to said Act.
Notice of Changes in Probate Court
Effective April 1, 2016
practicing before the Probate Court of Mobile County are hereby given notice of
the following changes in various procedures effective April 1, 2016.
Attorneys should note these changes and coordinate appropriate actions to
comply with each with their clients. Should there be any questions, please
do not hesitate to contact the Court.
To review the list of changes,
please click here: NOTICE
Davis, Judge of Probate
eFiling in Judicial
The Probate Court of Mobile County is pleased to
announce that EFFECTIVE JANUARY 4, 2016, LAWYERS will be able to file certain
judicial pleadings in the Court through electronic means. To
eFile, please visit the Court's BENCHMARK WEB portal, login with your
attorney-access account credentials, and follow the screen prompts in the
"e-File " portion of the Benchmark Web
Should you have any issues,
please contact the Court as noted below:
non-Judicial questions may be directed to the Court's IT Division via email
or by phone at: (251) 574-6091.
questions, pleading-specific matters and all other non-technical, non-computer
related inquiries should be directed to the Court's Judicial Division.
They may be contacted by phone via the Court's switchboard at: (251) 574-6001.
Card Service for Judicial Court Costs
Effective, December 7th, 2015, court costs may be
paid by credit card at the service/intake window on the first floor of the
Mobile County Government Center Annex. Please note that there will be a 3.5%
credit card fee added for each transaction.
Effective January 20th, 2016, you may now pay
court costs by telephone at 1-855-436-6812. When paying by phone, please note
that a 5% fee will be assessed in addition to the court cost amount.
January 21st, 2016, you may pay court
costs online through the Court's Benchmark WEB site. Instructions for
paying judicial court costs online are detailed below:
From the Probate
Court website, http://probate.mobilecountyal.gov,
navigate to the Judicial tab located on the site menu on the left side of the
home page. Once you have the Judicial page open, click on the option to search
the “Court Case/Calendar/Parties/Attorneys - Benchmark Web” link. This action
will take you to the Court’s Benchmark WEB site, where all Judicial-related
information can be found. Please note that you are required to register for
site access upon your first visit. Once you have registered
(or if you have previously registered), simply login using your email address
To make an online payment: Search for the case
number using the Case Search function and the correct case format, example:
2015-0515. Open the case to review the file. If there are any outstanding fees
on the case, a green “PAY Online” button will appear
in the case summary section. Click on the “PAY Online”
button to begin the payment transaction. The payment window will open and
display a list of the outstanding bills in the case. Please note that you must
select the bill you wish to pay, even if there is only one bill shown on the
screen. Once you have selected the bill you wish to pay, you will be prompted
to provide valid Name and Credit Card information. Follow the prompts on the
screen to complete the payment process and submit your payment once all
information has been entered. Upon completion of this step, the transaction
will be verified and a receipt will be displayed for you to print for your
Credit Card payments can only be made once a case AND cost bill have been
created by the Judicial Division.
NOTICE OF ABILITY OF LAWYERS TO
FILE CERTAIN JUDICIAL PLEADINGS ELECTRONICALLY
IN THE PROBATE COURT OF MOBILE COUNTY AND NOTICE OF TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES
On June 23, 2015 the Supreme Court of Alabama
entered an order authorizing a group of Alabama probate courts to serve as
participants in a test - pilot program that would permit the electronic filing
of judicial pleadings in Alabama probate courts. Mobile County was one of
the designated participants in this program.
The Probate Court of Mobile County is
pleased to announce that EFFECTIVE JANUARY 4, 2016, LAWYERS will be able
to file certain judicial pleadings in the Court through electronic
Rules approved by AOC pursuant to the
Administrative Order of the Alabama Supreme Court dated June 23, 2015 regarding
e-filing of pleadings in certain probate courts may be found below.
County eFiling Administrative Policies and Procedures
CLAIMING EXEMPTIONS AND ALLOWANCES PRIOR TO ADMINISTRATION
You will recall that certain
family members of a decedent can claim exemptions and allowances prior to
(and practically speaking in lieu of) the commencement of an estate
administration proceeding. The Alabama Legislature increased the
amounts that can be claimed exempt. We have updated the form requesting
exemptions and allowances. The revised form is now included in the
Court’s form bank. If you have any questions concerning this, please contact Ginger
Bedsole, Judicial Division Chief.
Judge of Probate
NOTICE TO LAWYERS OF
RECENT ALABAMA APPELLATE DECISION REGARDING SERVICE OF PROCESS BY PUBLICATION
As a result of Duane Graham’s research (printed
in the December 2015 issue of the Mobile Bar Bulletin, I became informed
of the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals’ decision dated July 10, 2015
entitled Lovell v. Costigan (docket number 2140522). This appellate
decision caught my attention because we have NUMEROUS requests for service by
publication when an effort to serve by the Sheriff’s Dept and/or U. S.
Certified Mail has failed. Prior to today – when we receive a motion
for service by publication and the necessary affidavit is attached – we
processed it and once we received proof of publication - we entered in
the appropriate docket that service on the person in question was
perfected. Heretofore, our clerks have NOT been reading the affidavits
submitted in support of publication requests as to content. If you
aren’t familiar with the Lovell case – I
encourage you to become familiar with it quickly. None of us want to
have situations to arise where the Court’s rulings are later declared null
and void because of the lack of service on an interested
parties – for obvious reasons.
case arose out of the Baldwin County Circuit Court – but would have
application to all Alabama trial courts – including Alabama probate courts
where service of process must be perfected upon a party in interest. In
this case an effort to serve a defendant by United States Certified Mail,
Return Receipt Requested FAILED with the Postal Service noting “FORWARDING
ORDER EXPIRED”. The Circuit Court’s docket sheet also reflected that
personal service FAILED with the notation “return not found”.
Thereafter, the plaintiff’s lawyer filed an affidavit in support of a motion
for service by publication. In the affidavit, the plaintiff’s lawyer
stated in pertinent part as follows:
“The address used [to attempt to serve the
defendant] was the only address known by [the plaintiff] and it was the last
one used in correspondence to [the defendant]. In the ensuing months,
attempts have been made to ascertain [the defendant’s] place of residence
through telephone and internet. It is known that [the defendant] still
lives in this area.”
The Baldwin County Circuit Court issued a
default judgment against the defendant after service by publication was
deemed to have been perfected IN 2006. IN MARCH 2015 (note the time
lapse) , the Defendant filed a motion to set aside the default judgment for failure
to properly serve him and argued that in the absence of proper service of
process, the Baldwin County Circuit Court never obtained personal
jurisdiction over the Defendant. The Baldwin County Circuit Court
denied the motion and an appeal was made.
The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals AGREED WITH
THE DEFENDANT and declared the Baldwin County Circuit Court judgment VOID and
ordered that the judgment be VACATED. The Court of Civil Appeals stated
that the above quoted language from the plaintiff’s lawyer’s affidavit did
NOT show that the defendant was avoiding service.
In support of its ruling the
Court of Civil Appeals noted that in Wagner v. White, 985 So.2d 458
(Ala.Civ.App. 2007), the Court held that the fact that a defendant had
changed residences twice and the plaintiff’s inability to serve the plaintiff
because of the moves did NOT constitute avoidance of service. The
Lovell Court stated:
the present case … [the plaintiff’s] attorney’s affidavit states that he
attempted to serve [the defendant] with process at [the defendant’s] only
known address and that he had made attempts to ascertain [the defendant’s]
residence via telephone and the Internet. It may be, thought we cannot
know with certainty, that [the plaintiff’s] attorney … went to great lengths
to locate [the defendant]. However, even if he did, there is simply no
allegation that Lovell attempted to avoid service
of process, nor are there any facts set forth in [the plaintiff’s] attorney’s
affidavit that would support such a finding. Our caselaw and Rule 4.3
are clear that an affidavit submitted in support of a motion requesting
service of process by publication must set forth facts showing that the
defendant has avoided service (emphasis in opinion – not added).
Service of process by publication is not proper simply because
the defendant may be difficult to locate; there must be some element of
culpability on the part of the defendant, and that culpability must be shown
by facts set forth in an affidavit submitted in support of a motion
requesting service of process by publication.”
I would note that in the Adoption Code there is a notice statute that addresses service by
publication. It is a little different from the procedure outlined in
the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure.
Division Clerk’s Office will be reviewing all affidavits submitted in support
of a motion to serve by publication to insure
compliance with Lovell.
If a clerk does
not believe a submitted affidavit complies with the Lovell decision, it will
be forwarded to Ginger Bedsole, the Judicial Division Chief (and a lawyer)
for review. If Ginger concurs with said assessment, the lawyer will be
notified by United States Mail and/or electronic mail that the affidavit does
not support the motion.
No action will
be taken on the motion until an affidavit with the appropriate supporting
statements is submitted to the Court.
prepared two revised form affidavits. One is for use in ADOPTION CASES
ONLY. The second one is for use in ALL OTHER CASES.
- Affidavit for Service by Publication - ADOPTIONS
- Affidavit for Service by Publication - ALL OTHER CASES
If you have any questions concerning the
aforesaid or the new revised affidavit forms, please contact Ginger Bedsole
at 251.574.6008 or at
for Judicial Forms?
If you are an attorney and have Attorney Access to Benchmark
WEB, you can find the Judicial Forms in the LINKS section of the Benchmark
Web portal. Login to Benchmark WEB by accessing the Court's
"Judicial" main page and following the instructions provided there.
Judicial Case File
Probate Court's Judicial case file copy request procedure
has been changed effective 01/02/15. The Court's Records Division will
now process any request for case file information or copies of same.
The link below will provide you with an online request form to easily submit
your request to the Court's Records Division supervisors. Please
complete all fields applicable to your request and use the "Submit by
e-mail" button to send the completed form. You will be contacted
once your request has been completed with instructions and costs associated
with your request.
Copies are $1.00 per page. Certified copies are
$2.00 and Acts of Congress are an additional $6.00 added to the total.
Judicial Case File Request Form
Attorney Request Form For Attorney/Vendor Information Change
Please use this substitute W-9
form to make any changes to your attorney/vendor information. Please make
sure that you are specific in your remittance information and include your
appropriate tax identification number for 1099 purposes. This information
will be updated in our computer system and will be used in all departments.
The information provided will be used to process future payments and
correspondence sent to you or your firm. Please make sure the form is
signed. When any change is needed, you
must fill out a new form and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to 251-574-6100.
Request Form For Attorney/Vendor Information Change
Instructions On Accessing Estate Claims
If the Judicial
case in question was opened prior to August 1st, 2013, you must check the
Records Search ROAM site and
the Court's Judicial Benchmark WEB site.
Claims and or claim cancellations filed in Judicial after August 1st,
2013 will not be viewable online.
Information on viewing claims filed after August 1st, 2013 is noted in
point 2c below.
For the Records Search ROAM site:
a. Use the “Advanced Search” Field, enter the Last Name space First Name
of the deceased. Be sure to select the
“Contains” button. In the “Doc Type” field, select ESTATE
CLAIM, and SEARCH.
results displayed will include all estate claims and cancellations for said
party that were
recorded prior to August 1st, 2013.
To view each
claim and/or cancellation you can click on the “View Image” or “View Details”
For the Judicial Benchmark WEB site:
a. Use the Case Number search option or the Name search option
to search claims for a specific party or case number. You may opt to
filter the results by selecting the "Claim Filed" option under the
"Causes of Action/Case Type" drop-down. Either option will
load a list of cases for review. You can review a specific case
by clicking on the case number link.
reviewing the summary for a specific case, you will find a CLAIMS section
which will include information on any claim or any claim cancellation filed
after August 1st, 2013.
“Active” refers to outstanding claims and “Inactive” refers to
claim cancellations filed in the Judicial Division after August 1st, 2013
will not be viewable online. You will be
able to view these in the Court’s Records Room located on the 2nd
Floor of the Mobile County Government Center Annex at 151 Government Street
in downtown Mobile.
If the Judicial case was opened August 1st,
2013 or after, please follow the procedure as outlined in point 2 above.
To All Lawyers Handling Estate Administration Matters
will recall that approximately two (2) months ago we advised that creditor
notices in estate administration cases could no longer be printed in the Press
Register because of various unresolved, ongoing problems. I would
like to share with you that the Court’s administrative team met with the
leadership of AL.COM and the Press Register last week and based on the
presentation made, we are going to give AL.COM and the Press Register another
opportunity to publish said notices, with the understanding that if the same
problems are encountered, as before, said notices would not be accepted from
AL.COM or the Press Register and there wouldn’t be another opportunity
to correct the problem. Notices can also still be printed in the Call News
and Mobile Beacon. The protocol for these publications remains the
same as in past years.
and the Press Register, at
our request, confirmed their new protocol for processing legal notices from
the Court in writing. The protocol is as follows:
County Probate legal notices published in the Mobile Press-Register may be
submitted via USPS mail or e-mail.
Mailed legal notices should be mailed Att:
Mobile Press-Register Legals, 18 South Royal St., Mobile, AL 36602.
Notices emailed should be sent to email@example.com with
an inventory list and ads, noting check numbers for each.
Process for handling legal
Checks and legal notices will be scanned and
An email receipt will be sent to the Mobile County
Probate Court and the Attorney for the legal notice (if provided) within two
(2) business days of receiving.
Example of Email Receipt:
TO: Probate Court
CC: [Attorney listed email address]
RE: Probate Legal Advertisement submitted – [name] –
Ad received postmark date:
Ad Received date:
[name] Legal Advertisement:
Check Received: [No or Yes and if Yes, will include
Beginning April 15, 2015, affidavits will be mailed
within five (5) business days of final publication.
Legals Team and Contact Information
Primary contact is Christine Bevins: 251-219-5010
and secondary contact is Amanda Phillips: 251-219-5424. The office is 18
Royal Street, Mobile, AL 36602. Christine and Amanda can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org
Primary Finance contact is Leah Ferguson:
251-219-5421 and Margaret Blossom: 251-219-5420 as a secondary contact. Their
office is at 401 N. Water St., Mobile, AL 36602. Leah and Margaret can be
reached through email@example.com.
Please note: personnel subject to change. For most
current information, please visit
If you have any questions
concerning the aforesaid, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Judge of Probate
Notice To All
Appointed Lawyers Assigned to Mental Health Cases
Please refer to these two
attachments for important information concerning the Court’s mental health
commitment docket. If you have any questions, please contact Ginger
Bedsole at 251.574.6008 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
to All Appointed Lawyers Regarding PC Docket - Status Report
Letter with Attachments
Don Davis, Judge of Probate
To view the Real Estate Sales Validation
Form or to fill out and download a copy, please click here.