Special Master Authorizes Additional Procedures For Payment Of Cobell v. Salazar Settlement Funds To Class Members' Heirs

Jul 24, 2013, 18:39 ET from GCG

SEATTLE, July 24, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The following statement is being issued by The Garden City Group, Inc. (GCG) regarding the Cobell v. Salazar Settlement.

Changes have been approved in the way payments can be distributed for deceased Class Members in the Cobell v. Salazar Settlement.  The changes now allow the use of added procedures for payment to the heirs of deceased Class Members. In December 2012, the Court appointed the Honorable Richard A. Levie (Ret.) as Special Master. In orders issued on July 16, 2013, the Special Master authorized GCG to use additional payment procedures. GCG will now be allowed to use federal probate orders, and in some states, small estate procedures to distribute to the heirs of deceased Class Members. This is authorized when no state or tribal probate order, no probated will, and no legally-appointed executor or administrator exists.

Since December 2012, and in accordance with Orders of the District Court, GCG has worked hard to distribute settlement funds to the estates or heirs of deceased Class Members based on state and tribal probate orders. However, these probate orders do not exist in many cases and it can be costly and time consuming to start state or tribal probate proceedings. Given these difficulties, Counsel for the Cobell Class filed motions to allow GCG to use additional procedures to help with the distribution of settlement funds.

In certain states, GCG is now allowed to distribute funds to the heirs of deceased Class Members based on state small estate procedures.   The states are: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.   

In some cases, the Special Master's orders allow GCG to use federal or Bureau of Indian Affairs probate orders as a guide for finding and getting funds to heirs of Class Members.   Because using a federal probate order may lead to different results than state or tribal probate law, federal probate orders can only be used when no other approved documents have been given to GCG.

Copies of the Special Master's orders can be found at www.IndianTrust.com.  Individuals are strongly encouraged to contact GCG at 1-800-961-6109; or by email at info@indiantrust.com. They are encouraged to provide copies of state, tribal or federal probate orders for deceased Class Members. This will help GCG make distributions. Copies of these documents can be mailed to GCG at: Indian Trust Settlement, P.O. Box 9577, Dublin, Ohio 43017-4877.

Cobell v. Salazar is a class action filed in 1996 against the government for mismanaging their individual trust lands and the money from those lands. The action was led by the late Elouise Cobell and the class is currently represented by David Smith and Bill Dorris of the law firm of Kilpatrick, Townsend & Stockton LLP.  After years of intense litigation, a $3.4 billion settlement was reached in 2009. It was approved by Congress in 2010 and held to be fair by Judge Hogan in 2011. All of the appeals were dismissed or withdrawn by late November 2012. The government has since funded the Settlement.

More information on the Settlement can be found at the website: www.IndianTrust.com.