Estate Administration – Exclusive Jurisdiction

Barnett v. Hull, [Ms. 1200333; 1200437, Sep. 2, 2022] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2022). Concluding that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction, the Court (Shaw, J.; Parker, C.J., and Bolin, Wise, Bryan, Sellers, Mendheim, Stewart, and Mitchell, JJ., concur) reverses orders entered in a tort action filed by the beneficiary of his father Robert Lee Hull, Sr.’s estate seeking to collect and preserve estate’s assets and asserting that the personal representative in her “individual capacity” had exerted undue influence over the deceased during his lifetime. The Court first explains “‘the administration and settlement of a decedent’s estate ... is a single and continuous proceeding; and when the administration of an estate is once removed from the probate court into a [circuit court], its jurisdiction becomes exclusive and efficient, and the court must operate to a final settlement governed by its own procedure.’” Ms. *10, quoting Segrest v. Segrest, 328 So. 3d 256, 269 (Ala. 2020), some internal quotation marks omitted). The Court concludes that if as the tort action alleges “the personal representative of Robert’s estate was responsible for any alleged misappropriation, the appropriate remedy would be her removal as personal representative and the entry of an order from the court overseeing the administration of Robert’s estate requiring her to make reparations to the estate for any established misconduct.” Ms. *13.

Accordingly, the Court “reverse(s) all orders entered by the trial court in the tort action and remand the matter for that court to enter an order dismissing Hull’s complaint. See Taylor v. Paradise Missionary Baptist Church, 242 So. 3d 979, 997 (Ala. 2017) (Murdock, J., concurring specially) (“Because the trial court had jurisdiction [to decide whether it had jurisdiction over the dispute before it], its decision addressing that issue is not void for lack of jurisdiction. Likewise, because the trial court had jurisdiction over that issue, this Court has jurisdiction over the appeal of its judgment as to that issue ….” Ms. **15-16.

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