Will Contest – Subject Matter Jurisdiction of Circuit Court

Branch, et al. v. Branch, [Ms. 1200007, Aug. 20, 2021] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2021). The Court (Stewart, J.; Parker, C.J., and Bolin, Wise, and Sellers, JJ., concur) affirms the Walker Circuit Court’s dismissal of will contest for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court holds “[f]or the circuit court in this case to acquire jurisdiction over the omitted children’s will contest pursuant to § 43-8-199, the omitted children were required to file a petition in the circuit court after, and within six months of, the admission of the will to probate. However, the omitted children’s petition was filed in the circuit court on April 24, 2020, which was before the will was admitted to probate on June 17, 2020. Moreover, to maintain a will contest in circuit court under § 43-8-199, the omitted children must not have already contested the will. However, the omitted children had already commenced a will contest in the probate court on March 6, 2020.” Ms. *10. The circuit court could have obtained jurisdiction over the will contest under § 43-8-198, Ala. Code 1975, permitting the transfer of a will contest from a probate court to a circuit court under certain circumstances. However, the Court explains that jurisdiction could not be predicated on § 43-8-198 because “[t]he omitted children did not file in the probate court a request to transfer the will contest with their initial filing, and the probate court never entered an order transferring the will contest to the circuit court. Accordingly, the omitted children did not invoke the circuit court’s jurisdiction to entertain their will contest pursuant to § 43-8-198.” Ms. **11-12.

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