What happens if you die without a will? Under Montana intestate succession laws, your property will go to your closest relatives.

Every year, a significant number of people die without a will in Montana. Their assets are usually divided by the state’s inheritance rules. But which assets pass by these rules, and who gets what? Keep reading to learn more about how Montana intestate succession could impact your family.

If a loved one recently died and did not leave a valid will, speak to an estate planning lawyer at Silverman Law Office. We can help answer your questions and inform you of your options.

Which Assets Are Affected by Montana Intestate Succession?

When someone dies without a valid will or estate plan, the courts will divide their property according to the rules of intestate succession. However, these rules only apply to property that is in your estate. This will not include:

  • Property that is owned with a joint tenant
  • Bank accounts and securities that automatically transfer ownership at the owner’s death
  • Property that your loved one transferred into a trust
  • Life insurance and other benefits paid to a designated beneficiary
  • Retirement and pension accounts

If you’re not sure whether a specific asset is part of an estate, consult with an experienced estate planning or probate attorney.

Which Family Members Get What?

Montana intestate succession laws divide the deceased’s property based on family relationships. For example, if you have:

  • A surviving spouse and do not have surviving descendants or parents: your spouse gets everything
  • Children but do not have a surviving spouse: your children receive everything
  • A surviving spouse and children, and your spouse has no other children: your spouse receives your entire estate
  • Children with your spouse and they also have children from another relationship: your spouse gets $150,000 of your estate, plus 50% of the remaining property. Your children get the rest.
  • A surviving spouse and parents, but no descendants: your spouse gets $200,000, plus ¾ of your remaining property. Your parents get the rest.
  • A surviving parents, but no descendants or spouse: your parent get your entire estate

Montana intestate succession laws set out a wide variety of other property distribution schedules, which vary based upon the family structure. If none of the inheritance rules apply in your case and you do not have a will, the state will claim your property.

It’s understandable if these rules make your head spin. Most people need a probate lawyer to help them understand intestate succession. This is especially true if you had a complicated family structure that involved separated spouses, stepchildren, or children that were born outside of a marriage. If you need help interpreting the Montana intestate succession rules, your best bet is contacting an experienced probate lawyer.

Can I Avoid Montana Intestate Succession?

Once someone dies, you typically must follow the intestate succession rules if they did leave a valid estate plan. Unfortunately, the Montana intestate succession laws can sometimes have unwanted consequences and can result in costly probate proceedings.

If you want to help your loved ones avoid all of these headaches, you should consult with a Montana estate planning lawyer and build a comprehensive estate plan that distributes your property according to your personal wishes. This is particularly important if you do not have a close family, a long-time, unmarried partner, or close friends that you want to include in your estate. You might also consider trusts and other estate planning tools that might minimize the probate court’s involvement in your estate.

Additionally, the rules of intestate succession do not name a guardian for your children or address your end-of-life wishes. When you work with an estate planning lawyer, they can educate you about options that give you more control over these matters, including guardianships and healthcare powers of attorney. At Silverman Law Office, we can also guide you through business succession issues if you are a small business owner.

Request a Consultation With a Montana Estate Planning Lawyer

If you’re struggling with Montana intestate succession issues or need help opening an estate or creating an estate plan, contact Silverman Law Office for advice. With offices in both Helena and Bozeman, we offer comprehensive estate planning and probate services to our clients. Simply complete our online contact form or call one of our offices to schedule a free, no-risk consultation.

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