Dying Without a Will
Seventy percent of Montanans make no provisions for the management and distribution of their property after their deaths. Despite concern for families, friends and property during their lifetime, they fail to provide guidance when it is most needed – when they are no longer present to make decisions.
Dying without a will is called dying "intestate" and means that state and federal regulations will determine the distribution of assets. Many do not realize that if they die without a will, Montana Intestate Law provides for the disposition of their property.
Generally, when dying without a will Montana law states the following rules (any many more):
- An heir must survive the decedent for five days (120 hours) to inherit under intestate statutes. Otherwise, the heir is considered to have predeceased the decedent, and the decedent's heirs are determined accordingly.
- Stepchildren will not inherit.
- If the deceased does not have any living relatives, his/her estate will go to the Montana government.
- Without a surviving spouse, children or parents, estate will be transferred to the closest relatives, who can be someone the deceased has not spoken to in years or not even known.
A carefully written legal will, however, will provide for family and others in a manner consistent with a person's desires. Other estate planning options also exist, such as joint tenancy with right of survivorship, payable on death designations (PODs) or transfers on death registrations (TODs).
Montana State University Extension provides a wide array of information on estate planning, such as the MontGuides that can be downloaded at http://store.msuextension.org/. Free copies can also be picked up at Richland County Extension, located at 1499 N Central Ave, Sidney. MontGuide topics include letter of last instructions, dying without a will, probate in Montana, designating beneficiaries, transferring non-titled property, and many more.