Frequently Asked Questions About Probate in Montana

Probate is the legal process of administering a deceased person’s estate, ensuring that their assets are distributed according to their wishes or the state’s laws. Understanding probate laws and procedures can help individuals navigate the process more effectively. This article aims to provide answers to frequently asked questions about probate in Montana.

1. What is the threshold for probate in Montana?

In Montana, the threshold for when an estate must go through probate is determined by the total value of the assets. If the estate’s gross value is $50,000 or less, it may qualify for a simplified probate process called a “small estate administration.” This process typically involves less court supervision and may be less time-consuming and costly compared to a regular probate process.

2. What triggers probate in Montana?

Probate in Montana is triggered when the estate’s gross value exceeds $50,000 or if the deceased owned real estate solely or as tenants in common. Additionally, if the deceased person left a will, it must be filed with the court for probate.

3. What is considered a small estate in Montana?

In Montana, a small estate is one that has a gross value of $50,000 or less. If the estate meets this criterion, it may qualify for the simplified probate process known as “small estate administration.”

4. How do you avoid probate in Montana?

There are several strategies to avoid probate in Montana. One common approach is establishing a revocable living trust and transferring assets into the trust during one’s lifetime. By doing so, the assets held in the trust will pass directly to the designated beneficiaries without going through probate. Joint ownership with rights of survivorship, beneficiary designations on certain accounts (such as life insurance policies or retirement accounts), and gifting assets during one’s lifetime are other methods to potentially bypass probate.

5. What is the cost of probate in Montana?

The cost of probate in Montana can vary depending on the complexity of the estate and the services provided by attorneys and other professionals involved. Common expenses may include court filing fees, attorney fees, executor fees, appraisal fees, and accounting fees. Generally, the total cost of probate is typically a percentage of the estate’s gross value.

6. What are the inheritance laws in Montana?

In Montana, inheritance laws determine how an estate is distributed when there is no valid will. The state follows the principles of intestate succession, which means that the deceased person’s assets will pass to their closest relatives in a predetermined order. Generally, the surviving spouse and children are given priority, followed by more distant relatives if there are no immediate family members.

7. How do you settle an estate in Montana?

To settle an estate in Montana, the executor or personal representative named in the will (or appointed by the court if there is no will) is responsible for gathering and inventorying the deceased person’s assets. They are also responsible for paying off debts, taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. This should be done according to the terms of the will or the state’s intestate succession laws. The executor must follow the probate process, including filing necessary documents with the court and notifying interested parties.

8. Do you have to pay taxes on inheritance in Montana?

Montana does not have an inheritance tax or estate tax. However, it’s essential to consider federal tax implications, such as estate taxes, which may apply to larger estates. Consulting with a qualified tax professional is advisable to understand the current tax laws and obligations.

9. What is the executor fee in Montana?

The fee for the executor, or personal representative, in Montana is usually determined based on reasonable compensation for their services. The specific amount can vary depending on factors such as the size and complexity of the estate, the time and effort involved, and any extraordinary circumstances. It is recommended that the executor and the beneficiaries come to an agreement on the fee or, if necessary, seek guidance from the court to determine fair compensation.

10. What is the most an executor can charge?

In Montana, there is no fixed statutory limit on the maximum amount an executor can charge for their services. The compensation for an executor is typically determined on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the factors mentioned earlier. It is important for the executor and the beneficiaries to communicate and reach a mutual understanding regarding the compensation. If there is a disagreement or uncertainty, seeking guidance from the court can provide clarity.

11. Do executor fees get reported to the IRS?

Executor fees or compensation received by the personal representative are generally considered taxable income and should be reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The executor is responsible for reporting the fees as income on their personal tax return. It is advisable for the executor to consult with a tax professional to ensure compliance with federal tax laws and reporting requirements.


Navigating the probate process in Montana involves understanding the thresholds for probate, strategies to avoid it, the cost implications, and the responsibilities of the executor. Knowing the inheritance laws and tax considerations can also be essential. However, it is important to keep in mind that laws can change over time. For this reason, it is recommended to consult with a qualified attorney or professional for the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding probate in Montana.