Montana offers some probate shortcuts for "small estates." These procedures make it easier for survivors to transfer property left by a person who has died. You may be able to transfer a large amount of property using simplified probate procedures or without any probate court proceedings at all -- by using an affidavit. And that saves time, money, and hassle.
Here are the ways you can skip or speed up probate in Montana. (If the affidavit procedure is used, there's no need to use the simplified probate procedure.)
Montana has a procedure that allows inheritors to skip probate altogether when the value of all the assets left behind is less than a certain amount. All an inheritor has to do is prepare a short document, stating that he or she is entitled to a certain asset. This document, signed under oath, is called an affidavit. When the person or institution holding the property -- for example, a bank where the deceased person had an account -- gets the affidavit and a copy of the death certificate, it releases the asset.
The out-of-court affidavit procedure is available in Montana if the value of the entire estate, wherever located, less liens and encumbrances, is $50,000 or less. There is a 30-day waiting period. Mont. Code Ann. § 72-3-1101.
This procedure is available regardless of the value of all the assets left behind for an inheritor to get unclaimed property from the department of revenue if its value is $5,000 or less. It is also available to get a security (like a stock or bond) changed into the inheritor's name.
Montana has a simplified probate process for small estates. To use it, an executor files a written request with the local probate court asking to use the simplified procedure. The court may authorize the executor to distribute the assets without having to jump through the hoops of regular probate.
You can use the simplified small estate process in Montana if the value of the entire estate, less liens and encumbrances, doesn't exceed homestead allowance, exempt property, family allowance, costs of administration, reasonable funeral expenses, and medical expenses of the last illness. Mont. Code Ann. § 72-3-1103.
The executor is required to complete a closing statement that says:
The executor must give a copy of this statement to the inheritors and known creditors who might have claims against the estate. Mont. Code Ann. § 72-3-1104.
For help determining if an estate qualifies for one of these probate shortcuts, or handling an estate in general, see The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo), or Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).