Laws concerning probate can vary significantly from state to state and are a source of confusion in the legal system of the United States because of it. Uniform probate codes were drafted to address this issue. They are contained in a single statute, consisting of seven articles, and are known collectively as the Uniform Probate Code (UPC). With the objective of simplifying the probate process, the seven articles deal with issues such as jurisdictional venues across states as well as wills, estates, trusts, probate court procedures and dying without a will.
Article I of the Uniform Probate Code addresses jurisdictional topics across state borders such as venue and the interpretation of statutes. Provisions concerning wills and dying intestate, which is when a person dies without leaving a will, are dealt with in Article II. Article III covers procedural rules for the probate of wills and the administration of the process. The probating of estates by executors residing in states other than where the deceased person lived is contained in Article IV.
Rules for powers of attorney and guardianship of minors and incapacitated persons are addressed in Article V. Article VI covers procedures governing non-probate transfer of property such as bank accounts and life insurance policies. Finally, Article VII contains provisions governing the management of trusts and the duties of trustees.
The uniform probate codes were drafted and approved in 1969 by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in conjunction with the American Bar Association. They represent the effort of these two bodies to bring about the standardization, clarification and modernization of various state laws concerning intestacy, wills and trusts. Since 1969, the uniform probate codes have been amended several times.
To establish consistency in the practice and administration of probate law in the United States, it was hoped the Uniform Probate Code would be adopted in all 50 states. This has not been the case; as of early 2010, only 16 states had approved the Uniform Probate Code in its entirety. The 34 other states have adopted some parts of it. Consequently, the UPC has not been successful in establishing uniform probate codes across the United States.
Complex and important legislative packages that are the size of the Uniform Probate Code can be difficult to enact. Some states are gradually aligning their state codes with the UPC through piecemeal legislation. In other states, both bonding companies and attorneys standing to lose business have actively fought the adoption of uniform probate codes.