Probate of Native American Trust, Personal, and Real Property Under AIPRA

As is frequently the case with issues dealing with Tribal law, the question of what court has jurisdiction to probate a decedent’s assets -- and which law that court will apply -- is much more complicated for an Native American decedent than it is for non-Native citizens. Three different sovereigns may have jurisdiction and control over the property – a Tribe, a state, or the federal government. Which court will have jurisdiction, and which law will apply, depends on the nature of the property (personal, real, or trust), where the decedent lived and was domiciled, and where the property was located at the time of death. Trust property is handled exclusively by federal government under the American Indian Probate Reform Act (AIPRA), while a Native decedent’s personal and real property is distributed under either Tribal or state law.  Duncan Connelly's article provides an overview of how AIPRA governs the probate process for trust or restricted land, and describes the established, albeit complicated, system of probate for an Native American decedent’s non-trust land personal and real property. The issues discussed warrant careful consideration as Tribes and their members work to implement personal and collective priorities regarding the protection of cultural resources and Tribal assets.

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Curtis Young Bear - November 14, 2011 4:56 PM

I have a cousin who died on November 15, 2004. She was in the process of divorcing her husband, they didn't have any children. She had four children from two previous marriages. When her probate was settled, her existing husband received 100 percent of her trust land. Was this legal. My Uncle, who had no children, died 7/16/2005, and we received a portion of his estate. He had 8 siblings, who divided his share, and as such, we divided our mother's (his sister) 8 shares, or 1/64th of his estate.
My question is this, can my relatives contest their mother's estate? Their mother and step dad did not have any children and as such, the estate should have been divided as, one half to the spouse and the remaining half to the children.

I had the same situation with my deceased wife's estate, wherein, I received half her trust land, and the children recieved the other half.
I await your response.

Curtis Young Bear
Three Affiliated Tribes
Mandaree, North Dakota

patty bull bell - December 18, 2012 9:44 AM

i need a probate lawyer from okla. for my father who passed away on aug.1,2011 he has some land in okla. i have been trying to change the name and i stopped his royalty checks from comin in the mail to my home in mississippi, we are choctaws What can i do to change the names of his belongings. i need help i do not want to lose what he has in oklahoma

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