How Probate Laws Work in Montana

If a family member has recently died, you have some decisions to make even as you go through the grieving process. You must take care of their estate and all the assets they owned. This can be a challenging task as you go through probate.

Probate is a necessary legal process to disperse the assets of a deceased person’s estate. It is often complicated and time-consuming. Heirs and other interested parties should know the basics about how probate works in Montana.

Is Probate Required in Montana?

Probate is required in Montana unless you have a named beneficiary in a trust or for other assets. However, there are different kinds of probate, which can determine how quickly the process will go.

How Do You Avoid Probate in Montana?

Avoiding probate in Montana isn’t always possible, but there are estates that don’t need to go through this legal process. One of the best ways to avoid probate is to plan before you pass away. If you put all assets of the estate in a revocable living trust, they will pass automatically to the named beneficiaries with no need to take it through probate.

Any assets that have a listed beneficiary will go to that person and won’t need to be included in probate. Some prime examples include bank accounts with payable on death beneficiaries, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts.

Can an Executor of an Estate in Montana be Compensated?

Montana allows for the executor of an estate to be compensated for their time and effort. The details of this compensation, along with a list of the duties of the executor, is found in Title 72 of the Montana Code in Chapter 3 Part 6.

How Much Does an Executor in Montana Get Paid?

The Montana Code doesn’t provide a direct amount or percentage of compensation for the executor. It does state that they are entitled to reasonable compensation for their services. If the will provides for the amount of compensation, that amount will be upheld. However, the executor also has the right to renounce the right to any compensation or the amount provided in the will in favor of reasonable compensation as listed in the statutes. The court would then decide what is reasonable. They would consider how much time and work went into performing the duties for the estate as well as what similar estates have paid for compensation. The executor is also entitled to reimbursement of any expenses incurred on behalf of the estate.

How Long Does Probate in Montana Take?

Probate timelines vary in Montana, depending on the size of the estate and if there are any disputes or other delays. In a small estate with no complications, it can be completed in as little as six months. Other probate cases will take up to a year. If the situation is complicated with a major dispute, it can last for several years.

Do All Estates Have to Go Through Probate in Montana?

Unless the estate is in a living trust, it will need to go through probate in Montana. However, it may be eligible for informal probate, which allows for the executor to handle all of the process without court intervention. All that is necessary is an affidavit to be presented to the court, but the estate must be worth less than $50,000. Formal probate is lengthier and more complex, but it also has two categories: supervised and unsupervised. With supervised probate, the court will oversee all actions of the executor.

Does a Will Have to Be Probated in Montana?

Yes, a will must be probated in Montana even if there is no need for the estate to go through probate. The will must be filed with the court, which allows them to determine if it is valid.

Settling an Estate in Montana

Settling an estate in probate is similar in Montana to any other state. The same basic steps are followed, but the timelines may be different. It’s important to know the laws in Montana if you are the executor or an heir.

The exact steps will vary slightly based on whether probate is supervised or unsupervised. For supervised probate, the court will need to approve each step before the executor can take action.

How Long Do You Have to File Probate After a Death in Montana?

According to the Montana Uniform Probate Code, probate must be filed and closed within two years of the person’s death. The exception to this rule is if the executor can show just cause why it hasn’t been closed. Probate cannot be opened before 120 hours after the person’s death.

Probate Court in Montana

Probate in Montana is handled by the district courts. There are 56 district courts in the state from 22 judicial districts. You can go online to the Montana Judicial Branch website and locate the court in the district where the decedent lived to know which court you would file the will and a petition for probate: Montana District Courts (

Probate Code in Montana

Montana follows the Uniform Probate Code, which is known as the Montana Uniform Probate Code or MUPC. These statutes are found on the state judicial website: