Montana Probate Lawyers & Estate Administration Attorneys
How Does the Firm Help with Probate and Estate Administration?
Probate and Estate Administration happen at a particularly difficult time; right after the loss of a loved one. Emotions are often high as a family is going through the grieving process.
Our role is to take on as much of the burden as possible so that probate administrators can focus on other aspects of their lives. We do this by helping administrators understand their duties, answering questions, completing the legal documents that need to be filed, advising about asset transfers in accordance with a will, trust, or intestate law, and assisting in resolving asset transfers in the event of ambiguity.
How Long Does Probate Take in Montana?
As experienced probate attorneys, we are often asked how long probate can take. The short answer is that it is going to take at least six months because the court requires probate to stay open that long. However, longer answers usually take between six months and two years.
What is Involved in the Montana Probate Process?
Probate is a six-step process in Montana.
Step 1 – Probate Administrator Appointment
The first step encompasses getting appointed by the court through the issuance of letters of administration. Those letters, as they’re often referred to, basically act as the power of attorney for the deceased, allowing an appointed representative to speak with the deceased’s voice.
Once appointed, the probate administrator can make decisions for the decedent. For example, the representative can talk to a bank or hospital and carry out all actions you would imagine a power of attorney could do for a living person. However, powers of attorney are void at the moment of death; as such, the only person who can speak for a decedent is the person who is appointed by the court as a personal representative.
Step 2 – Notifying Estate Beneficiaries
Step two of probate involves sending out notices. As experienced Montana probate administration attorneys, we can assist with sending out notices to all the legal areas. In the case of a will, a notification must be provided to all designated beneficiaries of the will. Conversely, if an individual dies intestate (i.e., without a will), the legal heirs (e.g., a surviving spouse, children, parents, etc.), usually determined by blood, would be entitled to receive a notification. And so, once we have determined who the heirs are, we would send notice to them to let them know, legally speaking, that their loved one is dead.
Step 3 – Newspaper Notification
The next step requires running a notice in the newspaper. It seems kind of archaic, and it probably is, but in many legal proceedings, you must run a notice in a newspaper for three consecutive weeks. And that is still true today in a Montana probate situation. That newspaper has to be a newspaper of what they call general circulation in the community. And unfortunately, those newspapers are getting rarer and rarer, and so the cost of that aspect of probate is only getting more expensive.
Step 4 – Inventory Estate Assets
By far, the most work we do, and the greatest assistance that we offer the personal representative, is helping them organize the inventory, a list of assets that the person owned at the time of their death. An inventory can consist of real estate, cars, boats, four-wheelers, or simply the cash in the bank. As experienced estate inventory attorneys, we can assist in making a detailed account of that asset list to provide to the court and all the heirs so they know what was owned at the time of death.
Step 5 – Accounting & Tax Filings
The next step is to conduct an accounting of all assets. Accounting basically requires telling the court what happened to all estate assets.
For example, the probate administrator may inform the court that one heir gets one piece of real property or that three children are entitled to a one-third interest in the real property. That said, it is very rare that you would want to own one-third of real property. As such, in those types of designations, the personal representative will almost always sell the asset and divide the money into thirds.
Step 6 – Closing Probate
And finally, you have to file an affidavit with the court to close the estate. It is important to remember that even after you close the estate with the court, a personal representative is still appointed for one year, allowing the personal representative to finish up any remaining business that needs to be completed.
As experienced Montana probate lawyers, we help you manage the probate process systematically so it doesn’t become overwhelming. And also, we make sure that the process is completed correctly in seeking to avoid costly and stressful probate contests.
If you need assistance probating an estate, we invite you to call our office to schedule a consultation with an experienced probate attorney.