The proposed Uniform Probate Code This article appeared in the July 1999 issue of the
© 1999 Massachusetts Bar Association
John G. Dugan is a partner in the Medfield firm of Dugan& Canon. He is engaged in the general practice of law.
Is it possible for a murderer to inherit property from the murdered victim? Does a criminal conviction settle the inheritance question, or must there be a separate civil action?
In Massachusetts, there is only a loose and sometimesunclear framework of decisional law on point. Section 2-803 of the proposedUniform Probate Code establishes a clear and rational process to determine theeffect of homicide on intestate succession, wills, trusts, joint assets, lifeinsurance and beneficiary designation. This is only one of the many problemareas addressed by the proposed UPC.
Eighteen states have adopted the Uniform Probate Code inpart or in whole. The UPC provides for simplified probate of many estates, moreprotections for persons under disability, and codification of rules concerningtrust administration and non-probate transfers.
The proposed UPC is contained in House Bill No. 3691. TheHouse Judiciary Committee conducted hearings on March 15 and has not (as ofthis writing) voted to take any specific action. As the hearing season draws toa close, we hope to see movement on this bill.
Probate practitioners should familiarize themselves withthis bill. After passage, the UPC will not take effect for several years,allowing for attorneys and court personnel to conduct and attend seminars, todraft and review new forms and for all concerned to study, discuss and learnthe new law. The UPC will clarify and update probate practice and procedure inMassachusetts, and it merits our support.
Copies of the the Uniform Probate Code can be found on theMBA Web site at www.massbar.org in our members only area under legislation asH-3691.