Jodi Rave: Indian probate conference in Montana
"It's typically not hard to figure who owns land and how to pass it on to the next generation - except when it comes to individual land ownership in Indian Country.

Some of the country's leading experts on individual Indian trust lands are scheduled to meet at Montana State University in Bozeman on April 12-13 to discuss how a recently enacted federal law, the American Indian Probate Reform Act, affects land inheritance, ownership and land consolidation.

Native trust lands have been managed by the Interior Department and its Bureau of Indian Affairs for more than a century.

“The process is slow and burdensome,” said Doug Nash, director of The Institute for Indian Estate Planning and Probate at Seattle University School of Law. “It begins with the BIA compiling a file once they are notified of someone's death.”

In some cases, the process of determining ownership and inheritance matters is backlogged in federal courts by as much as a decade, said Nash.

And now, the new probate reform act is changing the rules of inheritance since it went into affect last June. The act is supposed to help monitor Indian land holdings and to simplify land ownership issues. Ernestine Werelus, a co-manager of the Fort Hall Landowners Alliance in Fort Hall, Idaho, said the act remains misunderstood by those who should know it best, including federal judges, Bureau of Indian Affairs clerks and individual landowners."

Get the Story:
Jodi Rave: Experts to discuss ownership (The Missoulian 3/30)

Relevant Links:
Office of Special Trustee - http://www.doi.gov/ost
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice - http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell/index.htm

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