Estate Lawyers in Missoula

Experienced Estate Lawyers Helping Families in Missoula, Ravalli County, and Throughout Montana

Navigating the complicated administrative duties associated with managing an estate can be overwhelming for those that are not trained in the estate and gift area of law. At Jones & Cook Attorneys at Law, we offer guidance to ensure a successful and smooth transition for those that assume the duty of Executor or Trustee of an estate. We make it our priority to protect both the assets and family relationships of my clients. Call one of our Missoula Estate Administration lawyers to learn about the services we offer to administrators, trustees and beneficiaries. Call Jones & Cook Attorneys at Law at (406) 543-3800 for a Free Consultation.

Losing a loved one is never easy and the stress of administering an estate can quickly become overwhelming. Jones & Cook Attorneys at Law can guide you through the complicated Probate court system, and we stand ready to do what it takes to settle the estate, whether it involves a simple transfer of property or complex litigation. Effective Estate Administration involves many factors, including any potential international implications of a particular plan’s provisions as well as federal and state income and estate tax laws. Time and again, our Montana Probate lawyers have been trusted to ensure the efficient and orderly administration of estates of all sizes.

In Montana, there are clear, step-by-step procedures for administering a person’s final affairs, whether he or she died with or without a Will. The process of administering a person’s Will is known as Probate, while implementing the terms of a Revocable Living Trust, Irrevocable Trust, and other alternative Estate Planning tools is referred to more broadly as Estate Administration.

In Montana, it is common for personal representatives, beneficiaries, heirs, and other interested parties to run into issues during the process. From choosing the correct form of Probate to dealing with will Contests and other disputes in Probate Litigation, there are a number of reasons why those preparing for Probate or Estate Administration may need the help of an experienced licensed attorney.

If you have been named personal representative of someone’s estate, or if you have recently lost a loved one and want to make sure that his or her final wishes are carried through, Jones & Cook can help. We are compassionate advocates who takes a diligent and thorough approach to protecting the interests of our clients, both in and out of court.

At Jones & Cook Attorneys at Law, we offer Estate Administration services to personal representatives, trustees, beneficiaries and creditors of an estate. If you have lost a loved one, our Missoula Estate Administration lawyers will be sensitive to your personal and legal needs as we handle the final affairs of your loved one’s estate. Our lawyers are fluent in the complexities of Montana Probate laws, estate taxes and other issues that often arise during estate and Trust Administration. To schedule a Free Consultation to learn how we can help, please call Jones & Cook at (406) 543-3800.

Guiding You Through Montana Estate Administration

Experienced Lawyers Jones and Cook Help you Navigate the Estate Administration Process

As Montana Estate Administration attorneys, we know that it is important at the beginning of an Estate Administration to obtain as much information concerning the decedent as possible. Typically we ask a clients who are applying to become the estate fiduciary to bring for review all the papers that are available regarding the estate. These papers include past income tax returns, bank statements, brokerage account reports, bills such as credit card debts and medical bills, mortgage bills, deeds, retirement fund items and life insurance papers. The preparation of the appropriate forms for the Surrogate’s Court is expedited and made more complete for having all of these items available for review.

We typically prepare all of the Court papers for the proposed Executor or Administrator to review and then file them with the Court after they are approved and signed by our client. This process can be expedited if all of the necessary information is quickly located. The Surrogate’s Court review of complete and accurate papers can then lead to the probate of a Will or grant an appointment of an administrator in an intestate estate. In estate cases, the court wants to have an original certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate. Also, in Probate matters and Intestate Administration filings, there needs to be a petition. The petition, whether it is a Probate Petition or Petition for Letters of Administration, needs to contain information such as the names and addresses of the decedent’s next of kin. Also, the petition must specify the established value of the property which constitutes the estate. There are additional papers that may be needed. These can include a Kinship Affidavit or a Bond Affidavit that list the various outstanding debts such as funeral expenses, medical bills and credit card bills.

We will then continue to represent the Executor or Administrator with respect to such duties as collecting assets and obtaining appraisals as required, filing inventories in a timely manner; paying creditors; filing estate and income tax returns and paying taxes, if any; distributing remaining assets to beneficiaries and finally closing the estate by filing a final account. Many of these tasks require that we provide third parties with documents and authorizations properly signed by the fiduciary as well as certified copies of Letters of Testamentary and Letters of Administration.

Additional services that the estate fiduciary can benefit from is assistance with obtaining a proper tax identification number and opening an estate bank account for the deposit of estate assets.

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Helping Families in Hamilton, Choteau, Polson and Helena

As Montana Estate Administration lawyers, we have many years of experience serving clients throughout Missoula, Bozeman, Great Falls and Helena. We have represented many clients in matters of Probate, Fiduciary Appointment and Estate Administration. We work closely with my clients to efficiently perform and complete the entire Estate Administration process. To contact Jones & Cook Attorneys at Law regarding any questions or concerns call (406) 543-3800 for a Free Consultation with an Estate Administration lawyer in Missoula.

Frequently Asked Questions

We suggest that you meet us as soon as you are ready. You should bring the original Will and Codicil (if available), the original Trust document, the original death certificate, a copy of the paid funeral bill, fee for Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration, fee for the Court filing (the amount of which depends upon the value of the estate), and separation agreement or divorce decree (if applicable). It is helpful if you have the names and addresses of the estate beneficiaries and have a sense of the value and location of assets. After the meeting, our attorneys will prepare the filing to be made with the Court, arrange to have the proposed executor or administrator sign it and file it with the Court.

A Personal Representative is responsible for collecting and inventorying your assets when you pass away, arranging for disposition of your body, settling or challenging the your debts, paying from your estate any income or estate taxes you owe, distributing your personal property, transferring or selling your real estate, and then distributing your net estate to your heirs.

No. There is extensive consultation with the beneficiaries before any asset is sold. Most estate’s assets are not sold but are transferred directly to the beneficiaries. In cases where the beneficiaries request that any real estate be sold, a valuation is obtained and there is ample opportunity to set the reserve price and negotiate acceptable offers.

Usually one or some of the beneficiaries of the estate, must apply to be the administrator of an Intestate Estate. If all the beneficiaries are agreeable, they can apply to the Public Trustee to take on the administration.

A Grant of Probate is what is obtained when the executor named in the Will makes the application to prove and register a Will and obtains formal authority to administer it. Letters of Administration is a similar document, but is obtained when someone other than an executor named in the Will makes the application. Letters of Administration is also what is obtained in the case of an Intestate Estate (an estate for which there is no Will).

If a Will is unable to be found, then the deceased’s next of kin would need to satisfy the court of their entitlement and apply for a grant of letters of administration on intestacy. There is an order for who qualifies as next of kin in the legislation.

If a person dies without a will, they will be considered to have died intestate. In this case, the Probate court will appoint a personal representative and the remaining property after any creditors have been paid will be distributed by state law.

Our attorneys will meet you to discuss your intentions and your assets. After the meeting, we draft the documents and send them to you for review. Revisions, if suggested by you, will be made. Then, we will schedule a meeting for you to sign your documents according to Montana’s statutory requirements. Our attorneys conduct all will execution ceremonies with the proper number of witnesses and will notarize the documents requiring same. We also attach the proper affidavit to the will so that witnesses will probably not be required to be located in the future, although we maintain contact information for said witnesses.

It is not uncommon for disputes to surround estates, as most estates involve family members, some of whom may be estranged. Our attorneys are experienced in litigation concerning estates. Of course, we will make all reasonable attempts to resolve the dispute through negotiation, with the family member and their attorney.

The personal representative or the surviving trustee should pay these from the decedent’s assets before such assets are distributed to the beneficiaries.

Special care should be taken by the personal representative to seek legal advice prior to incurring any funeral expenses.

There are various ways of dealing with this aspect. We will discuss this in detail at an initial meeting.

There is no strict timeframe imposed on an executor as to when they must distribute assets to beneficiaries. However, we recommend that executors do not make any distributions until at least six months from the date of death. The reason for this is any person who wants to bring a family provision application against the estate must give notice within six months of the date of death. If an executor distributes estate assets before the six month date and a family provision claim is then notified and made within the time limits, the executor could be held personally liable to that applicant. Waiting the six months, and advertising of the intention to distribute if you have not advertised for your application for a Grant, gives the executor protection against that personal liability if a claim is notified outside the time limit and there is nothing to claim against.

A number of avenues are open to the personal representative in cases where the beneficiaries cannot be located after the usual enquiries, advertisements and investigations have proved unsuccessful.

If a specific gift has been provided in the Will and that item has ceased to exist or has been sold or otherwise disposed of by the deceased then that gift may fail. There are a number of issues that will need to be considered before any decision can be made about whether it is as simple as that.