[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 118 (Monday, June 20, 2016)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 39874-39875]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-14574]



Bureau of Indian Affairs

25 CFR Part 15

43 CFR Part 30

[167A2100DD/AAKC001030/A0A501010.999900 253G]

Probate Regulation Updates

AGENCY: Bureau of Indian Affairs, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Tribal consultation.


SUMMARY: The Department of the Interior (``Department'') plans to 
conduct two Tribal consultation sessions with federally recognized 
Tribes across the country. These meetings will provide a forum for 
Tribes to share insights and make recommendations related to the 
probate of Indian estates.

DATES: Written comments must be received by August 1, 2016. Please see 
the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this notice for dates of 
Tribal consultation sessions.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods:
     Email: [email protected].
     By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand delivery to: Ms. 
Elizabeth Appel, Office of Regulatory Affairs and Collaborative Action, 
U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW., MS-3071-MIB, 
Washington, DC 20240.
    Please see the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this notice for 
information on the Tribal consultation sessions.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Elizabeth Appel, Director, Office of 
Regulatory Affairs and Collaborative Action, Office of the Assistant 
Secretary--Indian Affairs; telephone (202) 273-4680, 
[email protected].


Tribal Consultation Sessions

    The Department will be hosting two Tribal consultation sessions by 
teleconference. Tribes were notified of these consultation sessions by 
letter on June 8, 2016. The sessions are:

                                     Time (eastern
              Date                       time)             Location
Tuesday, July 12, 2016..........  2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m  Call-in Number:
                                                       (800) 857-7479
                                                       Passcode: 6543434
Wednesday, July 13, 2016........  2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m  Call-in Number:
                                                       (800) 857-7479
                                                       Passcode: 6543434

    The Department will also be hosting a listening session on Monday, 
June 27, in Spokane, Washington, in conjunction with the National 
Congress of American Indians mid-year conference. The Department will 
accept written comments received by the date listed in the DATES 
section of this notice.
    As described below, we have identified three areas for modification 
that will have an immediate impact in streamlining the probate process. 
We are seeking comments with regard to the following topics, and 
welcome insight on other aspects of the probate regulatory framework 
that could be improved.

Probate Revisions Currently Under Consideration

1. Increasing the Monetary Limit for Distribution of IIM Account Funds 
to Pay for Funeral Services From $1,000 to $5,000

    The regulation, at 25 CFR 15.301 currently establishes a monetary 
limit of $1,000 for distribution of Individual Indian Money (IIM) 
account funds to pay for funeral expenses. There is an ongoing concern 
that $1,000 is not sufficient to pay for funeral expenses. While 
individuals may submit funeral related claims to be paid from estate 
account funds at any time before the conclusion of the first hearing by 
the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA), the Bureau of Indian Affairs 
(BIA) is aware that family members sometimes suffer financial hardship 
and lengthy delays as the estate is finalized and claims are approved.
    Revisions under consideration:
     The BIA is considering a modification to this subpart that 
would increase the amount of funds available to use for funeral 
expenses. One proposed modification would amend current regulations by 
increasing the amount an individual my request from the decedent's IIM 
to no more than $5,000 for funeral expenses. The account must still 
contain a minimum balance of $2,500 in order to approve an expense 
under this section.
     In the interests of preserving estate account funds for 
heirs and other claimants, an alternative option would be to likewise 
raise the maximum payout to $5,000, but with the limitation that the 
total payments could not exceed 40% of the available account balance.

2. Allowing BIA To Make Minor Estate Inventory Corrections

    The current regulation, at 43 CFR 30.126, requires a judge to issue 
a modification order if trust or restricted property belonging to a 
decedent is omitted from the inventory of an estate. As a result, it 
can take significant time to make minor estate inventory corrections to 
include omitted property.
    Revision under consideration:
     The BIA is considering a regulatory modification to grant 
the BIA the authority to make estate inventory modifications when 
heirship has already been determined by an OHA order. The BIA would 
notify all interested parties to an estate in the event property 
interests were to be added. As in this current regulatory section, any 
modification that would result in property taking a different line of 
descent would still require OHA issuing a decision to re-determine 
heirs. For example, if adding property to a decedent's estate would 
cause that interest to become 5% or more of the parcel, and thus no 
longer subject to the American Indian Probate Reform Act's highly 
fractionated interest provisions, OHA would need to issue a new

[[Page 39875]]

decision to re-determine descent and distribution of those interests. 
There would be no change to the requirement that any removal of 
property from a decedent's inventory would require action by OHA. See 
43 CFR 30.127.

3. Clarify OHA's Authority To Order Distribution of Trust Funds

    The current regulation at 43 CFR 30.254 governs how a judge 
distributes a decedent's trust or restricted property when the decedent 
died without a valid will and has no heirs. The rule establishes 
different distributions based on whether 25 U.S.C. 2206(a) applies, but 
does not identify trust personalty as a stand-alone category of trust 
property for distribution (where there are no land interests in the 
decedent's estate or within the jurisdiction of any tribe).
    Revision under consideration:
     A modification to this regulation would provide clear 
authority for OHA to order distribution of trust funds when there are 
either no land interests in a decedent's estate or no land interests 
within the jurisdiction of any tribe. Additionally, where the estate 
contains trust personalty associated with one tribe but interests in 
trust lands associated with another, OHA would order the trust 
personalty distributed to the tribe with sufficient nexus to the funds, 
as determined by the judge, and the land distributed to the tribe with 
jurisdiction over those interests.

    Dated: June 8, 2016.
Lawrence S. Roberts,
Acting Assistant Secretary--Indian Affairs.
[FR Doc. 2016-14574 Filed 6-17-16; 8:45 am]