When you create your comprehensive estate plan you will need to take into account various state and federal laws that will impact different aspects of your overall plan. This has historically created a significant amount of confusion for those creating an estate plan because the individual states have the option to make their own laws governing wills, trusts, and the states. In an effort to clear up much of the confusion and streamline issues involved in estate planning the Uniform Probate Code, or UPC, was created.
In order to understand where the UPC fits and it helps to understand some basics about the American legal system. In the United States both the federal government and the individual state governments may pass legislation and create laws. While both the federal government and the individual state governments must answer to the U.S. Constitution and the rights and protections found therein, the individual states do not answer directly to the federal government. In practice what this means is that there can be a significant amount of difference between federal laws and individual state laws relating to the same topic. One method used to resolve conflicts in the law is to create a uniform code that is aimed at unifying the various state and federal laws. The UPC is an example of an attempt at unifying the laws relating to wills, trusts, and estates.
The UPC was originally approved by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association back in 1969. Adoption of the UPC by the individual states is voluntary. To date only 16 states have adopted the UPC in its entirety. Missouri is not one of those states. The remaining 34 states have elected to adopt parts of the UPC but not the code in its entirety. Unfortunately, this means that the goal of the UPC, which was to unify probate law and administration, has not been achieved.
For purposes of estate planning the failed attempt at unifying probate law means that you may need to take into account the laws of another state when creating your estate plan. For example, if you previously lived in Nebraska, where the UPC has been adopted in its entirety, and created an estate plan while living there and have now moved to Missouri you may need to make some significant changes to your estate plan. If you previously lived in another state, plan to move to another state, own property and another state, or have beneficiaries or heirs who are residents of another state there is a good chance that your estate plan will need to take into account the probate laws from more than one state. Be sure to consult with your estate planning attorney about how the UPC and the conflict of laws may affect your estate plan.