What Is the Probate Process in Montana?
When someone passes away, their assets and properties must be converted into an estate before they can be distributed. This legal process is called probate. In Montana, probate courts review and monitor the distribution of estates, and help resolve disputes involving the validity of wills and estate plans, the appointment of a personal representative, identification and valuation of property, payment and identification of debts, tax debt, and distribution of property according to the deceased's wishes or Montana law. With the potential for complications and delays, it's best to consult with a probate lawyer before opening an estate.
Is Probate Required in Montana?
In Montana, the district court of the county where the deceased person resided handles the probate process. However, property held in trust or joint tenancy with the right of survivorship with another person does not require probate. If the deceased owned real property in another state, an "ancillary administration" proceeding in that state may be necessary. At HagEstad Law Group, PLLC, our experienced attorneys can provide guidance and representation throughout the probate process to help ensure that your loved one's wishes are carried out and the transfer of assets is as smooth as possible.
Types Of Probate In Montana
There are several types of probate procedures available under Montana law, including informal proceedings, formal procedures, supervised administration, collection of personal property by affidavit, and small estate summary administrative procedures.
In Montana, an application for informal probate or informal appointment of a personal representative can be directed to the clerk of a district court no sooner than 120 hours after the decedent's death. If the clerk determines that all requirements of law have been met, they file the will and appoint the personal representative who can then proceed to settle the estate.
Formal probate may be necessary when no will exists, when the validity of a will may be questioned, or when parties disagree about the appointment of a personal representative or distribution of assets. With formal probate, proceedings are held before a district court judge after notice of the hearing is given to interested persons.
This proceeding secures the administration and settlement of a decedent's estate under the continuing authority of the court. Supervised administration can occur in formal or informal probate and extends until the entry of an order approving distribution of the estate, and discharging the personal representative, or other order terminating the proceeding.
Collection of Personal Property by Affidavit
This procedure may be initiated 30 days after a person dies if the value of the entire estate (less liens and encumbrances) does not exceed $50,000. Any devisee or heir may collect the personal property as well as money owed to the decedent by presenting an affidavit to individuals or institutions holding the decedent's real or personal property.
Small Estate Summary Administration
If it appears from an inventory and appraisal that the value of the entire estate (less liens and encumbrances) does not exceed certain thresholds, then a small-estate summary administrative procedure can be used. The personal representative, without giving notice to creditors, may immediately distribute the estate to the persons entitled and file a closing statement. The small estate administrative procedure can begin as soon as five days after the death of the decedent.
What is a Personal Representative In Montana Probate Law?
The personal representative named in your will has the responsibility of settling your estate according to its terms and provisions and Montana law. They may be a family member, friend, attorney, corporate entity, or combination of these. If you die without a will, the Montana Uniform Probate Code (UPC) lists the order in which eligible persons may apply for an appointment as a personal representative.
How Do I Avoid Probate In Montana?
In Montana, probate can be a complicated process, but there are ways to avoid it. Planning before your passing can be one of the best methods. By placing your assets in a revocable living trust, they will automatically transfer to the named beneficiaries without the need for probate. Additionally, assets with listed beneficiaries, such as bank accounts payable on death beneficiaries, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts, won't need to go through probate. Let our experienced Montana probate attorneys help guide you through the process and find the best solution for your unique situation.
Probate & Estate Settlement Forms in Montana
Probate is mostly about filling out forms. Here is a comprehensive list of forms you may encounter when going through probate in Montana:
- Certificate of Filing Will
- Petition of probate
- Notice to creditors
- Bond or Waiver of Bond
- List of Interested Persons
- Filing Inventory & Appraisal
- Ongoing/annual accounting
- Notice to beneficiaries (consent ‘all's good’ before close)
- Filing for the close of probate
- Release of liability & responsibility