About the Probate Hearings Division

The Probate Hearings Division serves as the Department's administrative trial court for Indian probate cases. Through formal hearings conducted by administrative law judges and Indian probate judges, and informal proceedings conducted by attorney decision makers, the Division determines the rightful heirs and beneficiaries of decedents who owned property held in trust by the United States on their behalf. The Division determines the validity of wills, decides what claims against the estate will be allowed, and orders distribution of the trust property to those entitled to receive it.

The Division is headed by a Chief Administrative Law Judge located in OHA's Albuquerque office. Its other judges and attorney decision makers are located in seven field offices throughout the West. Its decisions may be appealed to the Interior Board of Indian Appeals.

Contact Information

Probate Hearings Division
Office of Hearings and Appeals
U.S. Department of the Interior
BIA Building II
1011 Indian School Rd. NW, Room 322
Albuquerque, NM 87104

505-563-5330 (voice)
505-563-5341 (facsimile)

Field Offices Contact Information

Key Personnel

Earl J. Waits, Chief Administrative Law Judge
Robert S. Chester, Administrative Law Judge
Larry M. Donovan, Administrative Law Judge
Richard D. Hines, Administrative Law Judge
James L. Yellowtail, Administrative Law Judge
John R. Payne, Supervisory Indian Probate Judge
Thomas K. Pfister, Supervisory Indian Probate Judge
Albert C. Jones, Indian Probate Judge
Janet A. Yazzie, Indian Probate Judge
Leah H. Ware, Indian Probate Judge
Janette C. Elliott, Attorney Decision Maker
Christine Kelly, Supervisory Paralegal Specialist


Procedural Regulations for Cases before the Probate Hearings Division