Informed Decisionmaking

It is important that landowners think strategically about whether or not to participate in the Program, and how to use the funds they receive from selling their land. Financial education, including budgeting, investing, and planning for the future, empowers beneficiaries to grow and sustain personal wealth.

Buy-Back Program outreach is focused on helping landowners understand the Program and make informed decisions about whether to sell their fractional interests. Landowners can make informed decisions in a number of ways as discussed below.

Understanding Your Land

There are several ways to learn about fractional land interests:

  • Call the Trust Beneficiary Call Center (Call Center) at 1-888-678-6836 with questions about your land.
  • Attend an outreach event. The Program’s event calendar is available online.
  • Visit a local Bureau of Trust Funds Administration (BTFA) office or Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) office to speak with staff and view maps of purchasable land. BTFA or BIA staff can assist by:
    • Providing and explaining the Individual Trust Interest (ITI) Report that includes a description of the land location (tract legal description), ownership type (e.g., surface, mineral, or both), probate code and tract ID information. BTFA can also provide and explain quarterly account statements (e.g. Individual Indian Money account statements) to help the landowner understand how much land they own and whether it produces income.
    • Using the ITI tract legal description to locate an individual’s land through either the (Township/Range) or (Latitude/Longitude). Landowners can access these sites on their own.
  • Review other pages on the Program’s website, including:
    • The Accept an Offer page to find information and resources for landowners to help them become familiar with the Offer Packet Documents.

Considering Financial Implications

Since Buy-Back payments can be sizeable, outreach staff also promote financial education and awareness to help owners think about what they will do with the money they receive if they choose to sell. The Program provides the following materials from the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to landowners regarding financial education: “My savings rule to live by” and “Consumer Tips for Managing Spending”

Landowners interested in learning more about financial awareness may contact the Call Center, their local Fiduciary Trust Officer, work with one of BTFA’s many partner organizations that provide financial education, or may visit the BTFA website supporting financial empowerment.

Lastly, landowners that returned their offer should refrain from making financial or other related decisions until they receive an acknowledgment notice confirming or declining the sale of their fractional interest(s). 

Reviewing all the Options

There are various other options for dealing with fractionated land beyond the Buy-Back Program.

Landowners who do not receive an offer or choose not to sell their land may wish to speak with staff from the BTFA or the BIA about planning to pass on their land to their intended beneficiaries in ways that are efficient and minimize future fractionation.

As discussed further below, there are certain Federal rules and Tribal codes that govern the estate planning options that may be available to landowners. Some of these options cannot be rescinded or changed after a landowner makes a decision.

It is important to get as much information as possible to make careful and informed decisions about land and estate planning options. The BTFA has partnered with a number of Tribal organizations, legal aid services, and law schools to help provide Indian trust beneficiaries with resources to assist with estate planning.  

Landowners may want to consider the following: 

  • Learning about the American Indian Probate Reform Act of 2004 (AIPRA) which created a nationwide Federal code for the probate of Indian trust estates.
  • Writing a will to leave their interests to an heir or Tribe.
  • Gifting interests to an heir or Tribe.
  • Selling or buying interests to or from co-owners.
  • Exchanging their interests with a Tribe (provide fractional interests to a Tribe in exchange for the right to occupy or use land under Tribal control or management).
  • Creating a joint tenancy for their interests by will or deed.

The BIA has prepared two online resources on Understanding Probate and Estate Planning to help landowners gather more information. 

Encouraging Review of Certain Rules Governing Fractional Interests**

The BIA and BTFA assist landowners with understanding AIPRA, which created a nationwide Federal code for the probate of Indian trust estates by the Department of the Interior’s Office of Hearings and Appeals. AIPRA changed the way trust estates may be distributed to heirs when there is no will. AIPRA affects inheritance of all Indian trust or restricted land, except for lands located in Alaska and lands held in restricted fee status for members of the Five Tribes of Oklahoma and The Osage Nation. AIPRA seeks to keep land in trust for enrolled members or individuals who are lineal descendants, but limits how distant those descendants can be from the landowner before the land goes to the Tribe with jurisdiction. Tribes have the authority to have land descend to enrolled Tribal members of their Tribe only if they provide for that in their own probate code or if provided in special statutes, which have been accepted by the Federal Government. The provisions of AIPRA are complex. Landowners should seek information for any questions they may have. 

The following three Tribes have Tribal probate codes that were approved by the Assistant Secretary Indian Affairs pursuant to AIPRA: Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Northern Cheyenne Tribe, and Fond du Lac Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa.

In addition, Tribes have specific Federal statutes that govern the disposition of trust or restricted lands, including at these locations:

  • The Creek Nation of Oklahoma Act of August 29, 1967 (Pub. L. 90-76 § 3, 81 Stat. 177, 25 U.S.C. § 788)
  • Yakima Reservation (or within the area ceded by the Treaty of June 9, 1855 (12 Stat. 1951)), The Act of December 31, 1970 (Pub. L. 91–627, 84 Stat. 1874, 25 U.S.C. § 607), amending section 7 of the Act of August 9, 1946 (60 Stat. 968).
  • Warm Springs Reservation (or within the area ceded by the Treaty of June 25, 1855 (12 Stat. 37)), Act of August 10, 1972 (Pub. L. 92–377, 86 Stat. 530).
  • Nez Perce Indian Reservation (or within the area ceded by the Treaty of June 11, 1855 (12 Stat. 957)) Act of September 29, 1972 (Pub. L. 92–443, 86 Stat. 744).
  • The Umatilla Indian Reservation, Act of April 18, 1978 (Pub. L. 95-264, 92 Stat. 202, 25 U.S.C. § 463d).
  • Osage Nation, of Oklahoma *** Act of October 21, 1978 (Pub. L. 95-496 § 5, 92 Stat 1660, 25 U.S.C. § 331 note, see also 25 C.F.R. part 17).
  • Standing Rock Reservation of North Dakota and South Dakota, Act of June 17, 1980 (Pub. L. 96-274, 94 Stat. 537).
  • Devils Lake Sioux Tribe of North Dakota (Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe) Act of January 12, 1983 (Pub. L. 97-459, 96 Stat. 2515).
  • Lake Traverse Indian Reservation (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate) Act of October 19, 1984 (Pub. L. 98-513, 98 Stat. 2411).

** Future changes in laws cannot be predicted. The information provided is based only on rules and laws in force as of November 7, 2016.

*** Probates of deceased members of the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma and The Osage Nation are conducted by the State Courts of Oklahoma rather than the Office of Hearings and Appeals. See generally Act of August 4, 1947 (Pub. L. 80-336, 61 Stat. 73); 25 U.S.C. §§ 375d, 331 note; 25 C.F.R. parts 16-17.

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