Among all the types of legal proceedings, the process of dissolving and distributing an individual’s estate after his or her death – commonly known as ‘probate’ – has developed a reputation for being particularly unpleasant, and with good reason. Although the process has been established by lawmakers with the best of intentions – namely, to create an equitable distribution of property and to ensure that the deceased’s wishes are being carried out, insofar as it is possible, in the estate distribution process – many people who have experienced the probate process regard it as unnecessarily drawn out, complex, and confusing. What’s more, because the probate process occurs in the aftermath of a loved one’s demise, the stringent demands for paperwork, documentation, and other administrative details can be particularly taxing for family members and loved ones who are still experiencing the grieving process.
Adding another layer of complexity to the issue is the fact that many states have vastly different probate codes and procedures. This can cause a number of problems if an estate includes property and assets in two or more jurisdictions.
In order to streamline the process of settling estates with interstate assets or properties, a number of states have adopted a common standard known as the Uniform Probate Code. The measure was drafted with help and oversight from an organization known as the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, with the intent that it would be adopted in its entirety by all U.S. states and territories. However, fewer than 20 states (including Alaska, Idaho, Arizona, North Dakota, South Carolina, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Utah) adopted the measure in its entirety. The remaining states have all adopted part of the Uniform Probate Code, or have adopted a modified version of the code.
If you are involved in the estate planning process and you have assets or property in one or more of the states that has adopted the Uniform Probate Code, consult with a qualified estate planning attorney to gain an in-depth understanding of how the Code with impact your estate planning strategy.