Estate Planning

The American Indian Probate Reform Act of 2004 (AIPRA) was signed into law on October 27, 2004. AIPRA made many changes to the way trust or restricted land and property is inherited, plus other changes about land management and purchases. AIPRA affects trust or restricted property owned by American Indians (AI). It does not affect trust or restricted lands located in Alaska or property owned by Indians if that property is not held as trust or restricted property.

There are numerous ways a family can decide what to do with their family home, as long as they can agree. The best recommendation is for the homeowner to determine who will inherit the home by including it in their will. Nez Perce Tribal Housing Authority (NPTHA) encourages people who own a home on trust land to make sure you have a current residential lease recorded with the BIA and that the homesite has a legal description if there is more than one landowner.

If you would like to make a will, or if you would like to change an existing will, we recommend speaking with an attorney. Attorneys and legal aid organizations may be willing to write wills and provide legal advice for Indian trust or restricted property owners and we recommend you discuss your legal issues with an attorney who is familiar with AIPRA and Indian trust or restricted property.

Estate Planning Tools

If you would like to talk with someone about your options, including the importance of creating a will, making gifts, creating life estates, or selling your property, contact your local BIA Agency to make an appointment. If you want to write a will or have a will written for you, you should contact a lawyer or a legal aid society. Also, the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians has set up a special toll-free telephone number for Indian trust beneficiaries to ask questions. To talk with the Trust Beneficiary Call Center, call: 1-888-678-6836, ext. 888.

Help with Your Will Preparation

Nimiipuu Fund has partnered with the Nez Perce Tribe Office of Legal Counsel and University of Idaho Native American Law Program since 2019. Our 2023 Nez Perce Tribe Summer Wills Intern is Emily Elkins from the University of Idaho who is scheduled to start on May 30, 2023 under the supervision of program coordinator, Christine Mellick and Aaron Roepke. Connect with her for assistance in creating your will and with any questions you may have.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: (208) 717-8797

Probate Process

When American Indians and Alaska Natives pass away whom owned trust or restricted lands and/or trust funds at the time of death, there must be a way of transferring the trust lands/funds to the deceased person's heirs or to whoever is to take ownership under the terms of a will. Office of Hearings and Appeals will determine what trust lands/funds the deceased person owned, determine the deceased person's legal heirs or devisees and order distribution of the trust or restricted lands or funds to the appropriate persons.