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MSU Updates on Recording Livestock Brands in Montana

While ranchers were allowed to begin rerecording their Montana brands on January 1, Montana State University Extension recommends they wait until reading its updated MontGuide on the topic.

When a brand’s owner dies, a key factor in determining who inherits the brand — and livestock bearing it — is how the brand was recorded. Ranchers who have multiple owners on a brand need to be aware of the differences in inheritance between a brand recorded as “joint tenancy ownership with right of survivorship” and one recorded as “tenants in common,” said Marsha Goetting, MSU Extension family economics specialist. When one of the multiple owners dies, Goetting explained, the inheritance results may be different than expected.

“Joint ownership with right of survivorship — sometimes referred to as ‘joint tenancy’ or ‘joint tenancy with right of survivorship’ — is a form of co-ownership in which two or more persons own the same property,” Goetting said.

Under that arrangement, when one of the owners dies, their share passes to the surviving joint owner or owners who continue to own the brand and livestock bearing the brand. The last surviving joint tenant owns the brand and all the livestock on which it appears, Goetting explained.

For example, three siblings consider rerecording a brand in their names and indicate themselves as joint owners. If one dies, their ownership passes to the two surviving siblings. Each survivor would then own 50% interest in the brand and livestock. Similarly, if there was only one surviving sibling, that person would own the brand and all the livestock on which it appears. In this example, a sibling’s children would not inherit any interest in the brand or cattle because the title was between the three siblings.

If two or more people own a brand as tenants in common, however, there is no automatic right of survivorship for the remaining tenant or tenants in common, Goetting said. Instead, co-tenants may give away their undivided interest while living or as an inheritance under a written will.

So, in the example from above, if the three siblings instead recorded the brand as tenants in common, the deceased could leave their share of the brand and livestock to children in a will. The other two siblings would then keep their initial one-third interest intact.

“Brand owners should know exactly how their brand is recorded with the Department of Livestock before they automatically rerecord,” Goetting said. “An attorney can advise and assist a person in drafting a will to assure the brand and the livestock on which it appears pass to the persons wanted on death.”

Producers are encouraged to visit MSU’s website for more information

Thank you goes to Marsha A. Goetting, Montana State University

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