Community

Nation creating process to determine heirship for Cobell settlements

There are still Osages who haven’t received their Cobell settlements due to heirship queries and the Nation is working on a process to get those funds distributed.

The Cobell settlement distributor, Garden City Group, is not accepting Osage Revocable Trust documents as proof of heirship to a deceased class member, for either the Historical Accounting or the Trust Administration Classes. The Special Master in the case is permitting Tribal Councils or Tribal Chairman’s to identify and issue a written determination of heirship for individuals who still have not received their settlement.

Principal Chief Standing Bear issued Executive Order No. 14-04 for Determination of Heirship Procedure on Dec. 16.

“The problem has been that since Garden City Group will only accept a Court Order, and the Revocable Trust avoids any court proceedings, many Osages have been left out of the settlement,” according to the Order. “Executive Order 14-04 does not compel Garden City Group to do anything and we are not yet sure this process will work. This is an attempt to assist in a manner acceptable to the Garden City Group.”

According to the Executive Order, the Executive Branch is working in conjunction with Osage Congresswoman Shannon Edwards who is also an attorney. Edwards, whose father passed away in 2012, still has not received her Cobell settlement and the Executive Branch is using her father’s Revocable Trust as a test case.

“It may be several months before we know if we are successful,” Standing Bear said in the order. “We will not process any requests until this test case is concluded.”

According to Special Master Order No. 4, issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Tribal Councils and Tribal Chairmans may determine heirship for individuals who are descendants to the class members at the time of their death and where:

-       GCG, at the time of distribution, has not been notified in writing by the heir or heirs of a deceased class member of the identity of a personal representative, executor or administrator of the class member’s estate, and has not been provided either a copy of the class member’s will which has been accepted for probate or a state or tribal probate order disposing of the assets of the class member.

-       The written determination by the Tribe states that the identification of heirs was based on an investigation by the Tribe and is a complete listing of those heirs to the best knowledge of the person or persons executing that document.

-       Any distribution pursuant to this order shall be based on the probate laws of such tribe at the time of the class member’s death and, if none, the laws of the state in which he or she resided at the time of death.

 

Standing Bear said in his executive order that if the process they are developing is cleared it will only be available to Osages who are listed heirs under a valid federally approved Revocable Trust and who qualify under the Cobell rules for a distribution.

“Furthermore, in accordance with the Special Master Order No. 4 in the Cobell case … you must be a Member of the Osage Nation, there must not be any probate proceeding determining heirs, and all heirs must be identified,” Standing Bear said. “We are not representing you as an attorney nor are we giving any legal advice on this matter. We are also not claiming this procedure will work or provide the results you expect or hope to have.”

“This effort is an attempt to provide you something to present to the Garden City Group which reflects the language in a valid federally approved Osage Revocable Trust document. The distribution decision is not with the Osage Nation but still with Garden City and the Judge in the Cobell case.”

For more information contact his assistant Sheryl Decker at sdecker@osagenation-nsn.gov, (918) 287-5594 or by mail at 627 Grandview, Pawhuska, OK 74056.