[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 233 (Monday, December 5, 2016)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 87501-87502]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-28751]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Bureau of Indian Affairs

25 CFR Part 15

43 CFR Part 30

[178A2100DD/AAKC001030/A0A501010.999900 253G]


Probate Regulation Updates

AGENCY: Bureau of Indian Affairs, Interior.

ACTION: Tribal consultation; reopening of comment period.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: On June 20, 2016, the Bureau of Indian Affairs announced 
Tribal consultation on potential updates to probate regulations and 
announced that it would accept written comments until August 1, 2016. 
We are reopening the comment period to allow additional time for Tribal 
and public comment and will accept all comments received before January 
4, 2017.

DATES: The comment period announced on June 20, 2016 (81 FR 39874) is 
reopened. Written comments must be received by January 4, 2017.

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.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 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 may 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 
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

[[Page 87502]]

decedent's inventory would require action by OHA. See 43 CFR 30.127.
    3. Clarifying 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: November 18, 2016.
Lawrence S. Roberts,
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary--Indian Affairs.
[FR Doc. 2016-28751 Filed 12-2-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4337-15-P