Montana State University

Native Americans have new probate options and information

July 27, 2007

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Native Americans, who have new probate options under recent federal law, can learn more about those options through a new Web site and series of free fact sheets from Montana State University Extension.

The American Indian Probate Reform Act created a uniform probate code for most reservations across the United States. The act applies to all individually owned trust lands unless a tribe has its own probate code that has been approved by the U.S. Department of Interior.

Marsha Goetting, MSU Extension family economics specialist and Kristin Ruppel of MSU's Department of Native American Studies have developed 14 fact sheets that both describe the new federal law and explain many issues associated with it. Among other topics, the fact sheets highlight the problem of fractional land ownership on reservations, the typical ways individuals own reservation land; the meaning of some of the numbers and terms on Individual Trust Interest reports, the act's definition of "eligible heirs" and "Indian" and the rules for the division of Individual Indian Money accounts to heirs.

The fact sheets can be viewed at Or, if you would like to have the packet of fact sheets mailed to you, you can email or call (406) 994-5695 or write Goetting, PO Box 172800, MSU, Bozeman, MT 59717. A series of Power Point slides to accompany some of the fact sheets are also available for downloading at The materials were developed with funding from the Community Outreach and Assistance Partnership program of the Risk Management Agency of USDA.

Contact: Marsha Goetting (406) 994-5695 or