Uniform Probate Code: A Helpful Beginner’s Guide
California isn’t a uniform probate code state. However, there are many other states that follow this code, which regulates how probate works. Whether or not you live in a UPC state can affect any probate process you’re tied up in, as well as your own estate planning.
Maybe you’d like to learn more about the states that are governed by the UPC because you’re a current resident of a UPC state, you’re moving, you have family in UPC states, or for another reason. Whatever your rationale, if you want to know more about UPC, this article is specifically crafted for you.
In this article, we’ll discuss what probate is, how it governs the financial assets of a deceased person, and why having a probate will is the best thing to do to avoid complications down the line. We’ll also cover in this article Uniform Probate Code, including:
- Who administers the estate
- How is the property distributed
- How one closes the estate
What Is the Purpose of the Uniform Probate Code (UPC)?
The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) originally drafted The Uniform Probate Code. This code was created to control the processes behind inheritance and estate administration in states that opted in.
The Act was drafted for multiple reasons. It is meant to reduce the inefficiencies in the probate process as well as ensure the codes were standardized and meet up to the modern requirements of probate. This covers the probate process and various state laws governing wills, trusts, and intestacy (deaths without a will).
Why One Uniform Probate Code?
One may ask: Why one code? Can’t we all have different codes? The answer is yes: the UPC is not compulsory. However, there is a good argument for it. Just look at the case of celebrity singer Prince as discussed in our previous article; when he died without a will, it led to a conflict of law and a delay in the administration of his estate. Article III of the UPC contains the provisions that guide supervised and unsupervised administration of probate, so if he’d passed away in a UPC state, things may have been easier.
The uniform probate code, although designed to make things easier via standardization and modernization of the probate procedure, has not been welcomed with open arms by everyone. Attorneys cast aside by unsupervised administration as well as bonding companies (probate does not require the posting of a bond) are two big opponents. Other states, such as California, choose to govern their own probate process for other reasons.
Contents of Uniform Probate Code (UPC)
The Uniform Probate Code has seven articles, each relating to a different aspect under probate.
Article 1: General provisions, definitions, and jurisdictional authority.
Article 2: Intestate succession (the procedure of administering the estate of a person who died without making a will).
Article 3: Probate of wills and decisions, or in other words, the procedure behind the entire probate process. This is where issues such as a personal representative, property distribution, and estate closure come into play.
If the beneficiaries (people set to inherit) have no disagreements on how things are to be handled, and the assets in question are not too many, then the procedure can be handled by a personal representative (executor). The executor will then file the appropriate court processes and forms.
Note that unsupervised administration makes things easier, faster, and cheaper avoiding issues that can otherwise make things very difficult. This is elaborated in our previous article, where we discussed how to avoid complications under Probate law in California. Skip ahead to the next section of this article for an overview.
Article 4: The rules governing probate in states outside of where the deceased was domiciled (resident).
Article 5: Power of attorney and rules for guardianship for disabled persons and minors.
Article 6: Non-probate transfers of property “on death.”
Article 7: Trust administration and contains all the necessary provisions.
Uniform Probate Code Unsupervised Administration
Before going on to which states use Uniform Probate Code, let’s address unsupervised administration. Unsupervised administration has a great impact in reducing probate charges. It also expedites the probate process and reduces the burden on probate courts. This lets the courts shift their focus to estates that contain substantial assets under contention and thus require supervised administration.
The Uniform Probate Code permits unsupervised administration under two criteria:
- The entire estate of the deceased is not a subject of controversy
- The assets to be inherited are relatively few
Under unsupervised administration of estates, the executor of the will (also known as the personal representative) handles the probate process of the estate without direct supervision by the probate court. The personal representative fills out a series of forms with the probate court to accomplish all probate matters.
States That Use the Entire Uniform Probate Code
As mentioned before, not every state has its own probate provisions and have therefore adopted the uniform probate code with the provisions enacted varying from state to state. The states that have adopted the Uniform probate code are Alaska, Nebraska, Arizona, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, South Carolina, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Florida, Utah, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, and Montana. The remaining states have only enacted parts of the UPC.
Uniform Probate Code (UPC) States’ Probate Process
The probate process in each state may differ slightly, but the general procedure behind probate processes in Uniform Probate Code is the same. UPC states are uniform in how to start the procedure, how probate is administered, how the property is distributed, and how to close the estate.
Starting The Probate Procedure
To start off, you need the permission of the probate court to serve as the personal representative of the estate. The process must be started within three years of the deceased person’s death. A probate registrar will approve or deny your application, giving you the authority to administer via a letter of administration.
Administering the Estate
The heirs, beneficiaries, and known creditors must be sent formal notices regarding the administering of the estate. In addition to this, a notice may be published in the local newspaper. This is a prerequisite to administering in some states, including California.
After the creditors have filed their claims and the estate is confirmed to be able to pay the expenses of administration, it’s time to settle claims. Debts, taxes and so on must be paid, then the remaining property can be distributed to the inheritors.
Unsupervised Formal Probate and Supervised Formal Probate
There is a divergence in process between unsupervised and supervised probate. The process behind the unsupervised administration of estates is similar to probates in other states. Keep in mind that you may need the permission of a court to distribute the property, pay yourself for the work done, or to sell the deceased’s property (real estate) if the will does not expressly state that you can do these things.
Formal probate issues are typically heard by a judge and may involve one or more court hearings. If the court deems it necessary, then the permission of the court must be granted before administration can take place. After that, the process is quite similar to unsupervised formal probate. The court must grant their permission before any property is distributed.
Uniform Probate Code, State Code—It’s All Probate
Most people do not like to think about wills because no one likes the concept of their own mortality, but when people realize how problematic dying intestate can be for the loved ones they leave behind, the importance of wills becomes obvious. It’s only natural to wonder if planning your estate is worth the cost, but it’s also fair to say that you can put a price on peace of mind. Your immediate heirs will have very few legal issues to worry about.
You may be tempted to postpone the process, but it’s never advisable to do so. In fact, many Americans do exactly that. According to a 2020 survey of American adults, only 46% of American adults have a will.
The probate process can be long and tricky, especially when dealing with estates that are large and therefore very valuable. You know how dividing personal property among heirs can be difficult sometimes. And if you or someone you know is grieving over a loved one, the probate process is not something you or anyone else should worry about, whether or not you live in a Uniform Probate Code state.
Thankfully, planning your estate though complex and doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. You don’t even need a lawyer to help you do it when you have professional legal document services like A People’s Choice. We at A People’s Choice are here to help you prepare any documentation you might need. Whether it be a last will, healthcare directive, living trust, or even a financial power of attorney, we can help—all for one flat affordable fee.
If you would be interested in any of such services as listed above, you can Contact A People’s Choice at 800-747-2780 for more information on how the California probate process works and how you can go around it. Our team of legal document assistants is available to answer any questions you might have and assist you in preparing your pre-death documents. Contact us today to get started!
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