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Terms to Know - Montana Probate

After the loss of a loved one, the last thing you want to do is deal with confusing legal arrangements. Being tasked to manage probate can seem overwhelming on its own, but paired with the unusual vocabulary, it’s easy to feel stuck. Understanding probate terminology will help you feel more confident in the organization and completion of the Montana probate process.

Not only can you reference these quick definitions but the representatives at Measure Law are always at your disposal for any questions or confusion you may face.

If you’re looking for additional resources regarding wills, trusts and the probate process as a whole, check out our Guide to Montana Probate.

Probate Terminology


The legal process of transferring property after an owner's death, acting out the wishes in a will, and if there isn’t a will in place, according to state law.


Children, spouses, legal partners, etc. who are named to inherit property (or not) in a will or trust.


All individuals and organizations named in a will to receive a distribution from the estate.


An individual named to receive a certain asset upon death.

Transfer on Death Beneficiary ownership of the asset transfers to the beneficiary upon death without the need for probate, typically used for a retirement account.

Payable on Death beneficiary funds held in the account are paid upon death to the beneficiary, typically used for a bank account.

Executor or Personal Representative

The person named to take care of all of this - most likely you, if you’re reading this. If there is no will, this will be determined by closest living relatives.


A court-appointed executor, if someone dies without leaving a will.


A case where someone dies without a will. This can be very simple or very messy. If you own anything at all, make everyone’s life easier and draft a simple will.


State laws that determine how to distribute the estate of someone without a will, and varies from state to state.

Letters of Administration

A document from a probate court authorizing the executor (defined above) to act on behalf of the estate.

Notice of Probate // Notice to Creditors

Notices the executor has to submit, in writing, to the heirs (“interested parties”) and creditors. These also must be published in a local newspaper and begins the creditor claim period.

Small Estate Affidavit // Summary Probate // Summary Administration

Documents or processes that can allow you to collect personal property or accounts small in value without a full probate proceeding. In Montana, estates with an overall value of $50,000.00 or less are eligible as a small estate.

Next Steps for My Montana Probate

So you’ve learned all the terminology, now what?

With a grasp of the terminology, we invite you to take a look through our other post, Guide to Montana Probate, to learn more about the in’s and out’s of the Montana probate process.

You don’t need to be an expert to manage a loved one’s probate but it helps to not have to do it alone. If at any time you feel overwhelmed and need more help, please call Measure Law, 406-752-6373. With the best Montana probate attorneys, we will guide you through the probate process.


This article is intended for educational and information purposes only, it is not intended to act as legal advice.


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