After you’ve spent years and even decades building your estate, you will of course want to preserve and protect what’s yours to pass on to your family, free from legal problems or other complications. Estate laws impacting the Navajo Nation are complicated and often confusing. Because there is a great societal interest in preserving the property and resources of Native Americans in the Navajo Nation, many laws have been created at the tribal, state and federal level, making estate planning for our people especially complex. It is critical that you navigate these processes correctly so that your family members and other heirs do not lose assets unnecessarily.
An experienced Navajo estate planning lawyer from CL Lee & Associates can help you through each step of the estate planning process. We have built our reputation on guiding Navajo people through the tribal, state and federal laws that apply to estate planning for the Navajo Nation, and we will do the same for you and your family.
Estate Planning for First Nation People: Important Points
- Drawing up a will and/or trust is often the foundation for most estate planning issues. Without a will or trust in place, some or all of your estate may pass back to the tribe.
- If you own trust land, restricted land, or fee status land, you must be very clear regarding your intentions for passing the title on to whom you choose.
- The Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) and the American Indian Probate Reform Act (AIPRA) require specific compliances to which you must adhere.
- Your real and personal assets that are not held in federal trust may require oversight by the tribal court in the jurisdiction where those assets are located.
- Dealing with the Bureau of Indian Affairs Division of Probate (BIA Probate) is not avoided by drafting a living trust.
- Separate tribal court systems do not necessarily operate on standardized laws and procedures. Your tribal court may use unique or even outdated laws for their determinations and requirements.
- BIA Probate can take many years from the time of the initial probate package to the completion of distribution — as long as eight years in some cases.
- Probate for Native Americans goes through three courts: tribal court, BIA Probate and state court. Each court has its own procedures.
Don’t Delay in Laying the Groundwork for Your Navajo Estate Planning
With all of the above factors in mind, it is easy to see that you can help create the most stable and secure future for your family and heirs by starting to lay the groundwork now for your estate planning. Part of this process is gathering together a full and detailed evaluation of your business interests, your property, all titles, deeds, trusts, contracts and other agreements. This is especially true for any restricted property in which you have an interest. Additionally, you will need documented proof of the eligibility of your heirs to own or control your estate that is held in trust or that is restricted. We will work with you through these early steps to make sure this is done comprehensively and accurately.
Overcome Navajo Estate Planning Challenges with the Right Team
Native American business interests and interest in the protection of trust lands have given rise to countless federal laws and regulations that significantly impact Navajo life. As a result, our people face unique challenges when it comes to estate planning. At C.J. Lee & Associates, P.C., we maintain the goal of helping the First Nation people to thrive and avoid entanglements in the multitude of complex regulatory issues. We have experience. We can help. Call us now for a consultation at 505-399-5022.