Real property in Montana is defined in the following way: as land; as that which is affixed to land, including a manufactured home declared an improvement to real property; as that which is incidental or appurtenant to land; and that which is immovable by law (MCA 70-1-106). An estate or interest in real property other than an estate at will or for a term of not more than one year cannot be created, granted, assigned, surrendered, or declared otherwise than by operation of law or by a conveyance or other instrument in writing, subscribed by the party granting, creating, assigning, surrendering, or declaring it or by the party's lawful agent authorized in writing (MCA 70-20-101). The Montana Annotated Code, section 70-20-103, provides a statutory form of a grant, which can be used in a conveyance of real property. Popular forms for a conveyance in this state are warranty deeds and quitclaim deeds. Forms can also be purchased online in the Montana Forms section.
Real property in Montana is acquired by occupancy, accession, transfer, will, or succession (MCA 70-1-110). The power to acquire and hold property or interest in property in Montana is given to citizens of lawful age and corporations who have the legal capacity to convey and receive property or interest therein. The only statutory limitations on alien land ownership appear in section 77-3-305 of the MCS, which provides that coal leases may not be issued to a citizen of another country unless like privileges are provided to U.S. citizens by such country. Real property can be conveyed to joint tenants, to several persons, or to a corporation. Ownership by several persons is either of joint interests, partnership interests, or interests in common (70-1-306). The way in which the owner holds title to real property will determine which method of conveyance is used.
Before a real estate deed is recorded in Montana, the execution of it must be acknowledged or proved. An instrument must be acknowledged by the person executing it according to the acknowledgments as defined in 1-5-602 of the Montana Code Annotated. If an instrument is not acknowledged, it must be proved by a subscribing witness, the proof of which must be notarized, as provided in 1-5-302 and 303 of the MCA. The word "instrument" includes an abstract of an instrument that must be executed and acknowledged or proved by all parties executing the abstracted document. The abstract of an instrument should follow the guidelines given in MCA 70-21-101. When an abstract of conveyance (which has been acknowledged or proved) is recorded, it will have the same effect as if the conveyance or encumbrance of real property had been acknowledged or proved and certified and recorded as prescribed by law (70-21-305). Additional requirements, such as formatting and auxiliary documents that may need to be submitted, apply to the recordation of real estate deeds.
An unrecorded real estate deed in Montana is valid as between the parties bound by the deed and those who have notice of it (MCA 70-21-102). Every conveyance of real property that is acknowledged or proved and certified and recorded as prescribed by law, from the time it is filed with the county clerk for recording, is constructive notice of the contents thereof to subsequent purchasers and mortgagees (70-21-302). A real estate deed must be recorded in the county where the property is situated. The priority of documents is determined by the order of recording. Every conveyance of real property, other than a lease for a term not exceeding one year, is void as against any subsequent purchaser or encumbrancer, including an assignee of a mortgage, lease, or other conditional estate, of the same real property or portion thereof in good faith and for a valuable consideration whose conveyance is first duly recorded (MCA 70-21-304).
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