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You need specialized help for American Indian wills

If you are an American Indian, then one thing you need to be informed about is how your property would be distributed if you did not have a will at the time of your death. The American Indian Probate Reform Act has been enacted and has changed the way your ownership rights in trust or restricted land works unless it's in the State of Alaska. The Act changes how your property is distributed if you don't have a will, which makes having one even more important than in the past.

The new law protects your right to transfer property by will. You can designate who will receive the land, even if that person isn't a tribal member. If you don't have a will, the property will pass under the new codes. It won't be distributed under any present state laws. What that means is that the land will be distributed in accordance to current tribal or federal laws, which state that your closest immediate family members should benefit first.

The catch is that the immediate family members must be eligible to inherit your trust property. They must be co-owners of the parcel, be descendants within two generations of Indian or meet the definition of an American Indian. Failing to do so could result in your property passing to the tribe where the land is located instead of to your family members.

American Indian-related laws vary from other elder laws, so it's important to get the right legal advice. Make your will early, and you can guarantee your estate will be handled in the way you want it to be. Our website has more information on the steps you can take.

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