Probate Office

The function of the Probate Office is to accept documents for filing and/or recording.We are not allowed to provide legal advice.The Probate office does not provide blank forms and we do not prepare or assist you in preparing the required documents for filing and/or recording.While an Attorney is not required, if you do not know the proper procedures required to file documents or you do not know how to properly prepare the required documents, it is highly recommended that you seek an Attorney to assist you.Any document that is not correctly prepared pursuant to the guidelines can be rejected for filing and/or recording.

CONSERVATORS AND GUARDIANS


A Conservator is a person appointed by the Court to handle the financial matters and property of a minor or adult person who is incapacitated. A Guardian is a person appointed by the Court to make decisions concerning a person’s physical needs. An incapacitated person is someone who is physically and/or mentally unable to care for himself or herself. In some cases the person has a chronic use of drugs or alcohol, is confined, or is being detained by a foreign power, or has disappeared.

A Conservator may be appointed when a person can no longer handle property or manage business affairs. A Guardian may be appointed when a person can no longer make decisions regarding their personal needs. The person might have property that will be wasted without a Conservator or be in need of funds to support them. In many cases, the person has entered a nursing home and has become incapacitated and needs his/her property to be sold in order to generate funds to support them while in a nursing home. In other cases, a Guardian might become necessary because the person might have suffered a stroke or other illness and be unable to respond or make medical decisions alone.

Once the petition for appointment of a Conservator or Guardian is filed for an adult, the Court will appoint a physician to examine the ward and render a report of his findings. In addition, the Court will appoint a Court Representative and a Guardian ad Litem. In the case of a minor, the Court will only appoint a Guardian ad Litem. If the petition is granted, the Court will set a bond for the Conservator and will set the first accounting period. The Conservator must file an inventory with the Court within 90 days of appointment. The Conservator must keep a record of all transactions, both incoming and outgoing, and give an accounting as the Court directs.

NAME CHANGES

Adult Name Changes:
  • Petitioner must be a legal resident of Conecuh County and age 18 or older.
  • Petitioner must present picture identification, i.e., driver’s license or military identification.
  • Petition should meet requirements pursuant to statute.

Minor Name Changes:
  • Minor children must be legal residents of Conecuh County.
  • Petitioner must present a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate. Certified copies may be obtained from the Center of Health Statistics at (334)206-5418 or the Conecuh County Health Department.
  • A person listed as the father on the birth certificate must petition jointly with the mother for a name change, or sign a consent form.
  • Petitioner(s) must present picture identification, i.e., driver’s license or military identification.
  • A minor child who is 14 or older must sign a consent form to have a legal name change.

Specific requirements vary from county to county. The requirements for Conecuh County are listed above. Conecuh County does not require the Petitioner to be represented by an attorney.

INVOLUNTARY MENTAL COMMITMENTS

Involuntary commitment is a legal procedure by which a person is placed in the custody of the State Department of Mental Health for long-term commitment. This is done only if necessary, and after every effort is made to provide treatment for the person on a voluntary basis. In order to meet the criteria for involuntary commitment, there must be clear and convincing evidence that the person is mentally ill and poses a real and present threat of substantial harm to self or others. Other required elements are that the person is unable to make a rational decision regarding the need for treatment, and that without such treatment, her or she will continue to suffer mental distress. The evidence brought forth by the Petitioner must include personal knowledge of specific acts or behavior which signifies a real or present danger.

The Petitioner is the individual who comes before the Probate Court and asks that measures be taken regarding a mentally ill person, of at least 19 years of age. This is done in the county where the respondent is currently located. The Petitioner is usually a family member, but any person may file a petition seeking commitment of another, provided that all the elements are met. Once the petition is filed and probable cause is determined, the patient may be involuntarily confined in a designated health facility. A hearing is then set, with notice given to all parties concerned, including the respondent. At the hearing, testimony is heard from all parties, and the Probate Judge determines whether the criteria for commitment have been met. Attorneys are appointed for both Petitioner and Respondent and all hearings are open to the public, unless otherwise requested by Respondent.

If the criteria for commitment are met, then the Court will order inpatient treatment. Any treatment ordered must be the least restrictive alternative available and will take place at a designated mental health facility. The length of treatment is determined by the treating physician, and may be up to 150 days before a subsequent hearing on the merits will be necessary. If the criteria for commitment is not met, then the petition will be dismissed. At no time may the Court order treatment for substance abuse alone, however there are occasions when a dual diagnosis of both substance dependence and mental illness is involved. In these cases, treatment for substance abuse must be voluntary, even if done simultaneously with psychiatric treatment.

The purpose of involuntary commitment is to provide psychiatric treatment for mentally ill individuals who have become a danger to themselves or others, and are refusing voluntary treatment. However, the Court is ever mindful of the serious deprivation of liberty which this process necessarily involves. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution applies to all citizens, whether mentally ill or not, and every effort is made to ensure that rights are not compromised and unnecessary treatment is never tolerated. The Probate Judge will always take the least restrictive measures to get help for a person with mental illness.

WILLS AND ADMINISTRATION OF ESTATES

A Will is a document which discloses how a person wishes his or her property to be distributed after death. A Will must meet certain legal requirements. The law requires that a person making a Will must be 18 years of age or older, of sound mind, and under no undue influence. The Will must be signed by the maker and witnessed by at least two people. After a Will is written, it should be kept in a safe place and the executors or personal representatives should be notified where the will is being kept.

A Will should be probated within five (5) years after the person is deceased. Forms are available for the probate of a will in Conecuh County.

If a person dies without a Will, a Petition for Letter of Administration may be filed. The Petitioner must be a resident of the state and is required by law to acquire a bond that will cover the amount of the estate. After the Letters are issued, an inventory is required to be filed within 60 days after appointment.

RECORDING INSTRUMENTS

The Record Room of the Probate Office is where the Real Property, Personal Property, UCC’s, Corporations, and Plats are filed. The information is open to the public. Real Property consists of mortgages, deeds, liens, judgments, resolutions, death certificates, and anything that is pertaining to property in Conecuh County.

Personal Property consists of notary bonds, military discharges, limited partnerships, general partnerships, marriage and birth certificates that are from other counties or states, delegations, and acceptance of guardianships.

The UCC’s (Uniform Commercial Codes), which took the place of chattel mortgages, cover timber, cattle, boats, late model mobile homes, cars, and other personal property which have liens against them.

A person wanting to file a corporation must first check with the Secretary of State to reserve a name for the corporation then file in the Record Room. The filer must bring the articles of incorporation and the name reservation; these are reported to the Secretary of State. Corporations are always files in the county in which the registered agent is located. Non-profit corporations, limited liability companies, amendments, and dissolutions are also recorded here.

All the papers filed in the Record Room should be originals or certified copies. Book and page numbers are assigned to each instrument filed and the time of filing. Instruments are indexed by grantor and grantee, imaged and the original is returned to the filer.

For the best results, searches should be made in person to assure that the correct instrument is located.

NOTARIES PUBLIC

Notaries Public are commissioned by the Probate Judge of each County and hold office for four years from the date of commission.

The following requirements must be met to qualify to become a notary public in Conecuh County:
  • Applicant must be a resident of Conecuh County, registered voter of Conecuh County, or provide documentation establishing proof of residency.
  • Applicant must submit a notary bond in the amount of $25,000, State-At-Large, from an insurance or bonding company.
  • Each person must submit an Application for Appointment as Notary Public.
  • Upon approval of the notary application, the Probate Judge will mail the commission, along with a card certifying appointment as a Notary Public in Conecuh County.
  • Once appointed, a notary seal may be obtained from any office supply company.
  • The procedures for State Employees are different in that they are covered under a State Blanket Bond. The Probate Office requires an original letter from the employee’s supervisor or department head, substantiating the applicant’s status as a State Employee, and thereby covered under the State Blanket Bond to include the bond policy number.

ADOPTIONS

Adoption is the legal procedure through which a minor (18 years or younger) is recognized by law as becoming the son or daughter of the adopting adult(s), and as having all of the rights and duties of such relationship, including the right of inheritance. There are several different types of adoptions, which includes related, unrelated, agency-placed, or private-placement. Through adoption, the adoptive parent(s) have the same rights, duties, and responsibilities of a natural parent. In all cases, the adoptive parent needs to contact an attorney to file the Petition for adoption in the county where the minor lives, or where the agency is located.

Before an adoption is granted, the only people with access to the adoption records are the Petitioner, the Petitioner’s Attorney, any attorney appointed by the Court, and the investigator. After the adoption is granted, all documents pertaining to the adoption are recorded and sealed. An alternative for the adopted child who wishes to attempt to locate his/her parents, would be to contact the Alabama Department of Human Resources at (334)242-9500. After the adoption is granted, the adoptee’s name will be changed as requested by the Petitioner.