HOW ARE WRONGFUL DEATH PROCEEDS DISTRIBUTED IN ALABAMA
by: Mark Wolfe, Attorney at Law
In Alabama, proceeds (settlement funds or judgment funds) from a wrongful death claim or lawsuit are distributed to the deceased’s heirs in accordance with our laws for intestate succession (dying without a will). This method for distribution occurs even if the deceased had a will. Also the wrongful death proceeds can not be used to satisfy or pay debts or liabilities of the deceased.
I. ALABAMA CODE SECTION RE: WRONGFUL DEATH ACTION
Wrongful act, omission, or negligence causing death.
(a) A personal representative may commence an action and recover such damages as the jury may assess in a court of competent jurisdiction within the State of Alabama, and not elsewhere, for the wrongful act, omission, or negligence of any person, persons, or corporation, his or their servants or agents, whereby the death of his testator or intestate was caused, provided the testator or intestate could have commenced an action for such wrongful act, omission, or negligence if it had not caused death.
(b) Such action shall not abate by the death of the defendant, but may be revived against his personal representative and may be maintained though there has not been prosecution, conviction or acquittal of the defendant for the wrongful act, omission, or negligence.
(c) The damages recovered are not subject to the payment of the debts or liabilities of the testator or intestate, but must be distributed according to the statute of distributions.
(d) Such action must be commenced within two years from and after the death of the testator or intestate.
II. ALABAMA CODE SECTION RE: INTESTATE SUCCESSION
Article 3: Intestate Succession Section 43-8-41 Share of the spouse. The intestate share of the surviving spouse is as follows: (1) If there is no surviving issue or parent of the decedent, the entire intestate estate; (2) If there is no surviving issue but the decedent is survived by a parent or parents, the first $100,000.00 in value, plus one-half of the balance of the intestate estate; (3) If there are surviving issue all of whom are issue of the surviving spouse also, the first $50,000.00 in value, plus one-half of the balance of the intestate estate; (4) If there are surviving issue one or more of whom are not issue of the surviving spouse, one-half of the intestate estate; (5) If the estate is located in two or more states, the share shall not exceed in the aggregate the allowable amounts under this chapter. (Acts 1982, No. 82-399, §2-102.) Section 43-8-42 Share of heirs other than surviving spouse. The part of the intestate estate not passing to the surviving spouse under section 43-8-41, or the entire intestate estate if there is no surviving spouse, passes as follows: (1) To the issue of the decedent; if they are all of the same degree of kinship to the decedent they take equally, but if of unequal degree, then those of more remote degree take by representation; (2) If there is no surviving issue, to his parent or parents equally; (3) If there is no surviving issue or parent, to the issue of the parents or either of them by representation; (4) If there is no surviving issue, parent or issue of a parent, but the decedent is survived by one or more grandparents or issue of grandparents, half of the estate passes to the paternal grandparents if both survive, or to the surviving paternal grandparent, or to the issue of the paternal grandparents if both are deceased, the issue taking equally if they are all of the same degree of kinship to the decedent, but if of unequal degree those of more remote degree take by representation; and the other half passes to the maternal relatives in the same manner; but if there be no surviving grandparent or issue of grandparent on either the paternal or the maternal side, the entire estate passes to the relatives on the other side in the same manner as the other half. (Acts 1982, No. 82-399, §2-103.)
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