Montana Department of Justice
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“Charitable organizations serve and strengthen Montana communities through their contributions to health, the environment, education, spiritual development, research, the arts and human services.”
The attorney general, as the state’s chief law enforcement officer, has authority to supervise charitable organizations and plays an important role in ensuring that all Montanans continue to benefit from the services they provide. Montana law does not require charities operating in the state to register with the Attorney General’s Office. However, charities that solicit contributions through telemarketing must comply with Montana’s telemarketing laws.

The following information is provided to help charities operating in Montana comply with state regulations.

Nonprofit Corporations

Nonprofit corporations are created to support charitable, religious, educational, scientific or artistic endeavors. Unlike for-profit corporations, nonprofits:

In Montana, the Montana Nonprofit Corporation Act governs the organization and operation of nonprofit corporations. Section 35-2-126 of the Montana Code Annotated (MCA) requires that an organization must be designated as a mutual benefit, public benefit or religious corporation, as determined by the articles of incorporation filed with the Secretary of State’s Office.

  • Public Benefit Corporations such as civic and community groups, foundations and other charities serve the public and may have members. A public benefit corporation operates for public or charitable purposes, and members may not sell their interests or receive dividends from the organization.
  • Mutual Benefit Corporations such as private clubs or associations serve their members. Examples include trade associations, social clubs and fraternal organizations. Members are not entitled to receive dividends while the organization is operating, but they are entitled to sell their memberships and receive income or assets should the organization dissolve. Section 35-2-725, MCA.
  • Religious Corporations such as some churches and religious orders, serve religious purposes and may not have members. The IRS provides useful tax-related information for religious organizations.
Important Provisions of the Montana Nonprofit Corporation Act

General Duties of Directors and Officers

The duties of nonprofit directors include:

  • acting in good faith, prudently and in the best interests of the corporation. Section 35-2-416, MCA.
  • avoiding conflicts of interest. In some instances, this may require taking specific steps to avoid a conflict, including obtaining the attorney general’s approval of a transaction when directors are unable to do so without a conflict. Section 35-2-418, MCA.

Officers also must act for the corporation in good faith, prudently and with the best interest of the corporation in mind. Section 35-2-441, MCA.

Disclosure of Corporate Records to Members

A nonprofit corporation must keep records of its meetings, finances and membership. Section 35-2-906, MCA. Upon request, a nonprofit corporation must make certain of those records available to members. Section 35-2-907, MCA.

Public Information

Nonprofit corporations with 501(c)(3) status must make their tax returns and tax exemption information available to the public in accordance with IRS public disclosure requirements. Nonprofit tax returns are available online through sites such as GuideStar.

Annual Report

All nonprofits, regardless of designation, must file an annual report with the Secretary of State’s Office. Annual reports need not be filed with the attorney general. Section 35-2-904, MCA.


Public benefit and religious corporations frequently determine that their interests and those of their beneficiaries are better served by merging with another similar corporation. In that event, they must notify the attorney general of the planned merger. Court approval is not required if the attorney general has been properly notified. Section 35-2-609, MCA. Nonprofit Health Corporation Conversions. Nonprofit health entities such as HMOs and insurers are subject to the provisions of Title 50, Chapter 4, Part 7, MCA. They may not convert their organization or their assets to for-profit status without prior approval from the attorney general and the insurance commissioner, and must take certain steps to protect public benefit assets

Disposal of Assets or Property

Public benefit and religious corporations must provide written notice to the attorney general 20 days before the organization in any way disposes of all or substantially all of its property. This allows the attorney general to review the proposed transfer or disposal, address any issues and commence any necessary court proceedings. Section 35-2-617(7)(a), MCA. Dissolution. Public benefit and religious corporations must submit a completed Notice of Dissolution form to the attorney general if the organization intends to dissolve. The Notice of Dissolution must:

  • be given to the attorney general at or before the time the company files articles of dissolution with the secretary of state, and
  • include a summary of the organization’s plan for dissolution, describing the organization’s assets and explaining where they will go upon dissolution.

The attorney general reviews the plan to ensure that company assets are transferred to another public benefit or religious corporation in accordance with Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Corporation assets cannot be transferred or conveyed for at least 20 days unless the attorney general has waived the notification requirements. Section 35-2-722, MCA. See Section 35-2-725, MCA or IRS exemption requirements for additional information.

Mutual benefit corporations that intend to dissolve should consult Section 35-2-725, MCA for important information about distributing or transferring assets.

Attorney General Enforcement Actions

Nonprofit corporations are required to notify the attorney general of any legal actions taken either against them or on their behalf under the Nonprofit Corporation Act. The act authorizes the attorney general to intervene in such legal proceedings or to initiate them to enforce Montana law. Section 35-2-131, MCA.

  • Dissolution by the Attorney General. The attorney general also can initiate legal action to dissolve a public benefit or religious corporation that breaks the law by, for example, wasting or misusing corporate funds. Section 35-2-728, MCA.

Charitable Trusts

Charitable trusts are created for a variety of charitable purposes that benefit the public, the relief of poverty, the advancement of education or religion, the promotion of health, governmental or municipal purposes, or other purposes that benefit the community.  Section 72-38-405, MCA.

State law relating to oversight of charitable trusts and prohibition of certain activities are included in Title 72, Chapter 38, MCA, and are summarized below.

General Duties of Trustees. Trustees have a duty to:

  • Administer the trust expeditiously and in good faith, in the interests of the beneficiaries.  Section 72-38-801, MCA.
  • Keep the beneficiaries with the most significant interests in the trust (“qualified beneficiaries”) reasonably informed of the trust and its administration, unless the trust instrument specifically provides to the contrary.  Section 72-38-813, MCA.

The Attorney General has authority to enforce a charitable beneficiary’s rights.  Sections 72-38-221, 72-38-110, and 72-38-405 MCA.

Prohibited Conduct. Trustees are prohibited from:

  • engaging in self-dealing
  • retaining excess business holdings
  • making any investments that would subject trust property to tax
  • making any taxable expenditure

For additional information on prohibited conduct see section 72-38-822, MCA.  For additional information on trustee duties, see sections 72-38-801 through 72-38-813, MCA.

Duty to Report.

Unless the Trust instrument specifically provides to the contrary, trustees must make reports annually to those beneficiaries with the most significant interests in the trust (“qualified beneficiaries”).  The reports must include:

  • A listing of trust assets
  • The fair market values of trust assets if those values are readily ascertainable or if the assets are traded on an established public market, such as stocks listed on an exchange
  • Trust liabilities
  • Trust receipts
  • Trust disbursements, including the source and amounts of trustee compensation.

Section 72-38-813, MCA.

Oversight Authority of Attorney General. As Montana’s chief law enforcement officer, the attorney general protects the interests of the state’s public beneficiaries.  The attorney general may bring legal action to insure that the trust assets are properly distributed and that the charitable purpose is carried out.  Sections 72-38-221, 72-38-110, and 72-38-405 MCA.

Change-of-Purpose Proceedings.  Modification or termination of an irrevocable, charitable trust under section 72-38-411, MCA, requires the attorney general’s consent.


Attorney General's Office & Legal Services Division

The Attorney General’s Office, headed by Attorney General Tim Fox, and the Legal Services Division function as the lawyers for the State of Montana. The attorneys in the Office have expertise in a wide range of legal topics and handle a broad range of legal cases involving the State of Montana and its people.


Children’s Justice Bureau

The Children’s Justice Bureau is an agency-wide initiative at the Montana Department of Justice dedicated to IMPROVING how we respond to child victims, DEVELOPING state-of-the-art approaches by keeping up with the newest research and, most importantly, HELPING child victims recover and move on with their lives.


Forensic Science Division & State Crime Lab

The mission of the Montana Forensic Science Division is to use operationally efficient and financially responsible practices as the laboratory provides accurate, objective, and timely forensic analyses to the criminal justice community in order to maximize value to the citizens of Montana.


Missing Persons Clearinghouse

The Missing Children Act of 1985 established a Montana Missing Persons Clearinghouse within the Department of Justice. In March 2008, the department implemented a searchable online database that, for the first time, is updated in real time and includes any photos provided by law enforcement.


Office of Victim Services

The goal of the Office of Victim Services is to provide tools and information to help crime victims recover from their experience and provide them with a range of services available. The criminal justice system can be confusing and intimidating for victims. To assist them as they go through the justice system, the Office of Victim Service is available to answer any questions they may have.


Central Services Division

The Montana Department of Justice’s Central Services Division provides financial and human resources support for the department. We make sure that everything works for the people Working for Justice. If you’re interested in a rewarding career helping protect the rights and safety of all Montanans, we invite you to join our team of over 800 dedicated employees working across the state.


Justice Information Technology Services Division

Our Justice Information Technology Services Division (JITSD) provides vital Information Technology (IT) infrastructure upon which Montanans and local and state law enforcement agencies rely for timely, accurate information. JITSD manages the IT systems, services, and interfaces to support nearly 800 DOJ employees, 325 statewide county motor vehicle system users, and over 3,000 Criminal Justice Information Network (CJIN) users across the state.


Division of Criminal Investigation

The Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) at the Montana Department of Justice is involved in many aspects of Montana law enforcement and is integral to the Department of Justice’s mission of promoting public safety.


Montana Highway Patrol

Montana is rich in natural beauty and history. From Glacier Park in the west to Makoshika Park in the east, the men and women of the Montana Highway Patrol are working hard to make your travels safe and enjoyable. The Highway Patrol’s core values are “Service, Integrity and Respect.” These values are reflected in our commitment to public safety through diligent and fair enforcement of our traffic codes.


Montana Law Enforcement Academy

The Montana Law Enforcement Academy is the premier law enforcement and public safety educational and training institution for state, county, city and tribal officers throughout the state. The Academy offers entry-level programs referred to as Basic Programs and advanced training through an array of Professional Development Programs.


Public Safety Officer Standards & Training

The Council was formed in 2007 under 2-15-2029, MCA as an independent Quasi-judicial board. And as allowed by statute the Council adopted Administrative Rules in order to implement the provisions of Title 44, chapter 4, part 4, MCA. Per 44-4-403, MCA the Council is required to set employment and training standards for all Public Safety Officers as defined in 44-4-401, MCA and in addition the Council shall provide for the certification or recertification of public safety officers and for the suspension or revocation of certification of public safety officers.


Motor Vehicle Division

The mission of the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) is to identify and promote efficient, cost-effective programs that benefit the interests, safety, and well-being of Montana citizens through licensing, registering, and regulating the motoring activities of the public. The MVD continuously strives for excellence in customer service. Streamlining the way we do business has allowed us to improve our efficiency and make our services more convenient for our customers.


Natural Resource Damage Program

The Natural Resource Damage Program (NRDP) was created in 1990 to prepare the state’s lawsuit against the Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO) for injuries to the natural resources in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin (UCFRB). Decades of mining and mineral processing operations in and around Butte and Anaconda released substantial quantities of hazardous substances into the Upper Clark Fork River Basin between Butte and Milltown. These hazardous substances extensively degraded the area’s natural resources.


Office of Consumer Protection

Enforce consumer laws designed to protect the consumer from unfair or deceptive business practices. Enforce statutes relating to telephone solicitation and telemarketing. Provide information to consumers about the Consumer Protection Act. Assist consumers by distributing consumer education materials including scam and consumer alerts. Investigate false, misleading, or deceptive trade practices.


Gambling Control Division

Through the Gambling Control Division, the Department of Justice regulates all forms of gambling in Montana, except for the Montana Lottery and horse racing. The legislature has charged the division with maintaining a uniform regulatory climate that is fair and free of corrupt influences. The division is also responsible for collecting gambling revenue for state and local governments.


Human Trafficking

The Montana Department of Justice has a continued commitment to victims of human trafficking. In partnership with federal authorities, our agency plays a key role in the investigation, enforcement, and prosecution of crimes related to human trafficking in Montana. This form of modern day slavery does happen here in Big Sky Country.


Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness Program

Montana’s deadliest drugs aren’t made in secret labs and they don’t always come from dealers on the corner. They’re in our own medicine cabinets. Each year, prescription drug abuse contributes to the deaths of more than 300 Montanans — making prescription drug abuse 15 times more deadly than meth, heroin and cocaine combined. Our kids report the third-highest rate of prescription drug abuse in the country and more than half of them say prescription drugs are easier to get than street drugs.


Safe in Your Space

When it comes to embracing new technology, kids have rapidly outpaced their parents and teachers. By their early school years, many children are already more comfortable on the Internet than their parents. But just because children are smart enough to know how to navigate the Internet, doesn’t mean they have the experience to make good decisions about some of the possibilities they may face online.


Montana Sexual or Violent Offender Registry

Created by the Montana Department of Justice in 1989, the Sexual or Violent Offender Registry is a valuable resource for Montanans to protect their families against sexual or violent offenders.


Montana 24/7 Sobriety Program

Drinking and driving has been a chronic – and deadly — problem on Montana’s roadways for decades. In 2008, Montana was ranked as the deadliest state in the nation when it came to per capita DUI-related traffic fatalities.


Work for Justice

Everyday at The Montana Department of Justice, our employees are dedicated to ensuring the well-being and rights of the people of our great state. We’re passionate about what we do because it’s more than a job or a career. It’s about who we are as people. If this sounds like you, your unique experiences, knowledge, and values may be just what the Montana Department of Justice is looking for and needs. In return we can offer a culture that promotes fairness and growth opportunities.