Montana Last Will and Testament Law

Wills and Estates – Last Will and Testament Law – Montana

Note: This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of the law of wills in Montana, but does contain basic and other provisions. This summary does not discuss hand written wills or the situation where the testator cannot sign his or her name.

Who may make a will: An individual 18 or more years of age who is of sound mind may make a will. 72-2-521.

Execution: A will must be in writing, signed by the testator or in the testator’s name by some other individual in the testator’s conscious presence and by the testator’s direction; and signed by at least two individuals, each of whom signed within a reasonable time after having witnessed the signing of the will. 72-2-522.

Self-proved will: A will may be simultaneously executed, attested, and made self-proved by acknowledgment by the testator and affidavits of the witnesses, each made before an officer authorized to administer oaths under the laws of the state in which execution occurs and evidenced by the officer’s certificate, under official seal.  72-2-524.

Who may witness: An individual generally competent to be a witness may act as a witness to a will. The signing of a will by an interested witness does not invalidate the will or any provision of it. 72-2-525.

Revocation by writing or act: A will or any part of a will is revoked:
(a)  by executing a subsequent will that revokes the previous will or part expressly or by inconsistency; or
(b)  by performing a revocatory act on the will if the testator performed the act with the intent and for the purpose of revoking the will or part of the will or if another individual performed the act in the testator’s conscious presence and by the testator’s direction. For purposes of this subsection
(b), “revocatory act on the will” includes burning, tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying the will or any part of it. A burning, tearing, or canceling is a revocatory act on the will, whether or not the burn, tear, or cancellation touched any of the words on the will. 72-2-527.

Revival of revoked will:If a subsequent will that wholly or partially revoked a previous will is thereafter revoked by a revocatory act, the previous will remains revoked unless it is revived. The previous will is revived if it is evident from the circumstances of the revocation of the subsequent will or from the testator’s contemporary or subsequent declarations that the testator intended the previous will to take effect as executed. 72-2-529.

Separate writing identifying disposition of tangible personal property.
(1) A will may refer to a written statement or list to dispose of items of tangible personal property not otherwise specifically disposed of by the will, other than money.
(2) To be admissible under this section as evidence of the intended disposition, the writing must be signed by the testator and must describe the items and the devisees with reasonable certainty.
(3)  The writing may be:

(a)  referred to as one to be in existence at the time of the testator’s death;
(b)  prepared before or after the execution of the will;
(c)  altered by the testator after its preparation; and
(d)  a writing that has no significance apart from its effect upon the dispositions made by the will. 72-2-533.

Contracts concerning succession:
(1) A contract to make a will or devise or not to revoke a will or devise or to die intestate, if executed after July 1, 1975, may be established only by:

(a)  provisions of a will stating material provisions of the contract;
(b)  an express reference in a will to a contract and extrinsic evidence proving the terms of the contract; or
(c)  a writing signed by the decedent evidencing the contract.

(2)  The execution of a joint will or mutual wills does not create a presumption of a contract not to revoke the will or wills. 72-2-534.

Deposit of will with court in testator’s lifetime: A will may be deposited by the testator or the testator’s agent with any court for safekeeping, under rules of the court. The will must be sealed and kept confidential. During the testator’s lifetime, a deposited will may be delivered only to the testator or to a person authorized in writing signed by the testator to receive the will. A conservator may be allowed to examine a deposited will of a protected testator under procedures designed to maintain the confidential character of the document to the extent possible and to ensure that it will be resealed and kept on deposit after the examination. Upon being informed of the testator’s death, the court shall notify any person designated to receive the will and deliver it to that person on request or the court may deliver the will to the appropriate court. 72-2-535.

Duty of custodian of will-liability: After the death of a testator and on request of an interested person, a person having custody of a will of the testator shall deliver it with reasonable promptness to a person able to secure its probate and, if none is known, to an appropriate court. A person who willfully fails to deliver a will is liable to any person aggrieved for any damages that may be sustained by the failure. A person who willfully refuses or fails to deliver a will after being ordered by the court in a proceeding brought for the purpose of compelling delivery is subject to penalty for contempt of court. 72-2-536.

Penalty clause for contest: A provision in a will purporting to penalize an interested person for contesting the will or instituting other proceedings relating to the estate is unenforceable if probable cause exists for instituting proceedings. 72-2-537.

Inside Montana Last Will and Testament Law