28 Jun

What is Probate?

Probate is a Process.

Probate is a process by which we settle the affairs (debts, assets, and property) of an estate before the court. The term probate comes from the Latin probare, “to test or prove.” Probate is simply how we determine who should be in charge of handling the winding up of an estate and where the assets should go.


When someone dies with a will in place the first thing you, as a potential beneficiary, will want to know is what it says. Hopefully, your loved one will tell you in advance that you are a beneficiary or whether you’re a personal representative (executor/trix), and where the will is located. After the will has been read the next step will be to start the probate process. As long as there aren’t any disputes as to the validity of the will nor disputes as to who should be the personal representative then this should be a fairly simple and straightforward process. Here, in Montana, probate normally is started through a filing process with the local clerk of court. This is called “informal probate.” Basically, your attorney will notify (send an “application” to) the clerk of the local district court that Jane Doe has been appointed as the personal representative of said estate and that Jane should be given letters of her appointment as personal representative. The clerk then signs an order appointing Jane Doe and issues letters of appointment. This is how most probates work.

24 May

Timeless Principles

Timeless Principles Are Like A Compass.

Abraham Lincoln said, “important principles may, and must, be inflexible.” In other words, they are timeless. Like a compass, these principles lead us in the right direction. I recently started reading Stephen Covey’s book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” To quote are quotable president, “it’s a really, really great book”. One point from the book that has resonated with me is Covey’s identification of the problem with a lot of personal management advice—most advice focuses on simple, quick-fix solutions.

24 Feb

Don’t Procrastinate Your Will.

A Visit to the ICU.

Two days ago I was visiting a friend in the ICU. He’s my age (in his early 30s), was in relatively good shape, yet there he lay in a hospital bed, strapped to all sorts of monitors. Fortunately for him, his wife had found him before it was too late. Now I won’t go into detail about him or what happened, but it was a serious wake-up call. I asked him if he had a will or anything planned for if he passed away. He didn’t and I suspect most of us are just like him. We procrastinate because we don’t think “it” whatever “it” is will ever happen to us or at least not for a long time.

20 Jan

A New Chapter in America.

I’m sitting in my office watching the inauguration of Donald Trump. I, like a lot of you, didn’t see this coming. Full disclosure, I didn’t vote for either of the front runners. However, despite all the animosity of an election year, I am pleased to see the peaceful transition of power in our amazing country. I’ve lived overseas and traveled a bit and I can honestly say this is the greatest country on earth (in my humble opinion).


1 Dec

You’re Sitting in Our Pew…and We Have an Easement!

That’s our pew!

I was sitting in church with my family a couple months back and my phone began to vibrate. I don’t usually check my phone during a service, but I glanced down and saw the message. “Hey Jim, you are sitting in our row.” I turned around to see Brother Smith (name changed) glaring at me in jest.

19 Nov

Elk Fever…it’s a Real Thing!

Elk Fever

Every fall hunters around the country get excited for the awesome privilege of participating in the great adventure of hunting. I used to get excited about the football season approaching, but I’ve probably only watched one complete game all year. The reason (or main reason)…ELK FEVER.

8 Nov

A Handshake is Good Enough for Me…

Handshake deals?

Can a handshake deal be enforceable? Sure. So can a spoken (oral) agreement when the terms are clear. We enter into countless oral agreements every day and we don’t even think twice about it. When you see that item at a garage sale that you can’t live without you might make an offer to the owner. Have you ever asked, “will you take $10 for this?” You just made an offer. And, when the owner says, “sure,” the deal is done—offer and acceptance.

1 Nov

Grateful to be Living in the Great State of Montana.

Choosing to be Grateful

Last night I started blogging (my first blog post) about how grateful I am to be in the state of Montana with my wife and three children. It seems that the more grateful you are the more you find to be grateful for. I don’t know if that makes total sense, but the more grateful I am in my attitude, despite the challenges I face at work, raising a family, or in the world around me, the more likely I am to be happy. Dieter Uchtdorf has said: