Uniform Probate Code (UPC)

The Uniform Probate Code (UPC) is the probate code that most states have adopted. It allows beneficiaries to easily transfer property to them after an estate has been opened, without having to file court documents in every jurisdiction where the decedent owned property. Because of this convenience, using the UPC can save beneficiaries time and money, and it may be the best choice in many cases. However, some beneficiaries choose not to use the UPC because they want more control over how much property is transferred to them than probate law allows.

Contents of the UPC

There are seven parts to the Uniform Probate Code, each of which contains specific probate code provisions: Part I covers definitions and general requirements such as how an estate is opened. Parts II through VII cover particular types of property with different rules depending on what kind of property is at issue. For example, part III applies to personal property with special rules for real estate, and part V covers trusts.

Who Can Use This Code?

Only certain people can actually use this code. Anyone who is a “transferor” (the person transferring the property) can use this code, but that means different things depending on whether you are acting as the personal representative of the decedent’s estate or as an heir/beneficiary. The requirements for using this code may be different for each situation:

Personal Representative

If you are the Personal Representative of the estate, you must try to transfer property according to this code. To do this, you will need to make sure that all of the property was titled in the name of the decedent. If any property was titled in someone else’s name, then it may be impossible to use the UPC. If that is the case, you should consider transferring that property using another method instead.

Heir/Beneficiary

If you are an heir or beneficiary, the requirements for using the UPC are more straightforward. You must be able to show your relationship with the decedent and your interest in his property. For example, if you are named in a Will, then you can use this code as long as that document meets all of its requirements.

How Does It Help Beneficiaries?

Using the UPC helps beneficiaries avoid probate, a process whereby a court determines how property should be distributed after someone dies. Probate can be time consuming and expensive—for both the estate and its heirs. Even more importantly, it can cause disputes among heirs. Many states have special courts for probate cases and almost all of them charge high fees to administer the process. In addition, even if an estate is small enough to avoid probate by using a simple procedure such as a small-estate affidavit, filing those documents still requires time and attorney’s fees. The UPC allows beneficiaries to transfer property without probate, and without even filing a Will, provided the decedent left valid beneficiary designations for all of the property involved. This advantage is enormous; it saves time and money and helps prevent disputes among heirs. If the decedent died intestate (meaning he didn’t leave a Will), the UPC also makes sure that assets pass to beneficiaries according to their intestacy rights, which can help prevent disputes or other problems.

How to Transfer Property Under the UPC?

The UPC has its own special language and procedures for transferring property, and they can be a bit confusing. Before you use the code, make sure that you understand how it works and whether your situation will allow you to use it. When using this code, follow these steps: 1) Determine the value of all the property you intend to transfer. 2) Choose the method of distribution, which determines how much goes to each person and where it goes. 3) Distribute the appropriate amount of money or property to the appropriate people. 4) Sign an affidavit (a simple written statement that can be signed in front of a notary public) showing that you transferred the property according to this Uniform Probate Code.

What Happens if You Don’t Use This Code?

If you choose not to use this code, the Personal Representative will probably have to file a separate document in every county where the decedent owned real estate. The Personal Representative will also have to notify the court in every county where the decedent owned real estate that all of the property has been transferred. Furthermore, recording fees may have to be paid for each document filed and recorded. This can result in probate costs being incurred twice, once at a state level and again at a local level. It can also prejudice the rights of future beneficiaries, if they are unaware that their interests have been transferred to others.

Summary

The Uniform Probate Code is a set of probate laws that most states have adopted. When you use the UPC, you don’t need to file separate court documents in every county where the decedent owned property. Instead, you can file one affidavit of heirship in the county where the Personal Representative lives. If you are a beneficiary who wants to transfer real estate, motor vehicles, or other valuable property that was owned by the decedent, you may be able to use the UPC. If you are the Personal Representative of the estate, you will have to follow this code in order to transfer any property in an informal probate proceeding.

The UPC sets out a series of procedures that can be used to transfer property after someone dies without having to go through court.
If you are a beneficiary of an estate, you can use the UPC to transfer property. If you are the Personal Representative of an estate, then you must use this code if you want to transfer any property in an informal probate proceeding.
The UPC can simplify the probate process and reduce its costs. If you are a beneficiary, using this code can ensure that your interest in property will be protected when all of the decedent's creditors have been paid off and any taxes or other debts have been paid.
If the decedent left a valid Will or named you as a beneficiary in a trust or life insurance policy, this code can be used to transfer all of the property left by the decedent without having probate court proceedings for each item.
If you don't use the UPC to transfer real estate, either by filing an affidavit in each county where the decedent owned real estate or by using a form of local recording, you may end up having to pay taxes on the land again if it is sold. If you don't use this UPC procedure to transfer motor vehicles, you will probably end up paying more in taxes on the vehicle if it has been transferred to someone else after probate court proceedings.

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

About the Author
True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website, view his author profile on Amazon, or check out his speaker profile on the CFA Institute website.