The two elected Probate Judges in Jefferson County are required to be licensed attorneys, and have what is referred to as equity jurisdiction.
The jurisdiction of Probate Courts is outlined in Section 12-31-1 Code of Alabama 1975. The two elected probate judges have court dockets in the morning and afternoon virtually every day of the week at either the Bessemer or Birmingham courthouse. The Deputy Probate Judge in Bessemer also has dockets at the Bessemer courthouse.
In our Birmingham and Bessemer courthouses, our judges hear cases involving wills and decedent estates, guardianships and conservatorships, adoptions, name changes, legitimations, trusts, the settlement of estates, summary distribution of small estates, condemnations and the various issues inside of the cases, such as the sale of real and personal property, will contests, exemptions, ascertainments, claims against estates, and other matters that come before the court in the form of motions and other pleadings. We also hear adult mental health cases each day. These hearings are conducted at seven hospitals in Jefferson County in an effort to be compassionate and understanding for those persons suffering from a serious mental illness and their families.
In 2012, the three judges conducted approximately 5000 hearings.
Approximately 60% of our cases involve aging issues, so Probate Court, more than any other court in the Judicial System is at the forefront of being directly impacted by an aging population. In fact, the demographics are staggering. In 2010, there were 40,000,000 Americans who were age 65 or over. In 2020, it is estimated there will be 55,000,000, and in 2030, the number is estimated to be 71,000,000.
Whether it is bringing families together through adoption or resolving a will contest, our judicial duties are broad and affect every segment of our community.