Updated on September 19th, 2023
A Montana last will and testament allows the testator to instruct how their estate should be distributed after death. It names the parties inheriting the estate’s assets and funds, and ensures it is handled by a trusted individual of their choosing. The document may include instructions regarding the care of any dependents and their funeral.
One must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind to create a will.
Holographic Wills – A handwritten will is valid if signed and written by the testator, whether or not there are any witnesses.
Signing Requirements – Wills must be signed by the testator and two witnesses. The signing of an interested witness does not alter the will or their inheritance.
Probate Process in Montana (7 steps)
Probate must be initiated after 120 hours have elapsed since the testator’s death, and no later than three years following their passing., Furthermore, if an estate is not closed within two years after beginning probate, the judge will order that it be closed if no good cause is demonstrated.
- File for Probate
- Accept Letters Testamentary
- Notify Parties
- Create Inventory and Settle Estate
- File Closing Statement
- Petition for Settlement (Optional)
- File Verified Application (Optional)
The following is meant to be a general overview of the probate process. It is recommended that executors/personal representatives consult with an attorney if they’re unsure of any step.
The personal representative has the priority to initiate probate, though it may be done by any interested party. A will may be probated through informal or formal administration; the following guide only applies to informal administration, which is used to settle most estates. To admit the will into probate, the following must be provided to the court clerk of the county where the decedent last lived:
- Application for Informal Probate – This form includes a statement of interest and details on the decedent, their family, beneficiaries, and the personal representative.
- Acknowledgment of Fiduciary Relationship – This document allows a personal representative to be appointed by the court and must be notarized or subscribed to under oath.
- Last Will and Testament – The original will must accompany the Application for Informal Probate.
If the filings are approved, the court clerk will issue the personal representative a written statement of informal probate.
The personal representative must file a Statement of Acceptance of Duties with the court clerk, which will allow them to receive the Letters Testamentary. Once received, the personal representative is authorized to administer the estate. No bond is required in an informal administration unless demanded by an interested party.
Within 30 days of being appointed, the personal representative must mail a Notice of Appointment to all beneficiaries. A Notice to Creditors must also be published in a newspaper for three weeks to inform any creditors that claims against the decedent will be barred after four months. The personal representative is not required to mail any notice directly to creditors.
Once the notices are delivered and published, the personal representative must prepare and file an Inventory within nine months after their appointment. Copies of the Inventory should be sent to interested parties upon their request.
The personal representative is also responsible for resolving debts or obligations, collecting the estate’s assets, and distributing them to the rightful beneficiaries. However, creditors may recover assets from beneficiaries even after distribution.
Once the estate is fully administered, the period for creditors to submit claims has expired, and six months since the personal representative’s appointment has passed, a Closing Statement must be filed with the court. The Closing Statement must be given to beneficiaries with an Account of the administration and to any creditors with pending claims.
If no proceedings are pending against the personal representative after one year from the Closing Statement’s filing, they are relieved of any further duties.
Instead of filing a Closing Statement, an estate may be closed by petitioning for an order of complete settlement (once the period for submitting claims has passed). The personal representative must give a Notice of Hearing to interested parties at least 14 days before the hearing, and if any of their contact information is unknown, publish it in a newspaper for three weeks. Proof of delivering the notice must be filed before or during the hearing.
During the proceeding, the personal representative may request that the court approve an Account or propose a distribution schedule. The court will then issue orders for the estate’s distribution and discharge the personal representative.
If no actions against a personal representative are pending after their discharge, they may file a verified application with the court clerk. The clerk will issue a certificate demonstrating that the estate is fully administered and, if applicable, that any lien on property provided by the personal representative as a bond is discharged.