Reconfiguring Estate Settlement
By John H. Martin. Full text here.
Probate, the judicial process for settling a decedent’s estate, has been vilified and shunned for nearly five decades. Its cost, delay, and lack of privacy motivate the public and their advisors to utilize a multiplicity of title formats and alternative devices to transfer assets at death. For some time the Uniform Probate Code promised an avenue of reform. Modest adoptions, however, and the emphasis on court involvement restrict its ability to modernize estate settlement. This Article proposes a markedly different approach, an approach that would replace a thousand years of settling estates solely within a judicial system. The proposal is to remove probate from the courts and to substitute a registration system. This proposed nonjudicial approach validates a will by a simple recording, permits a fiduciary to take office by a statement of acceptance, and allows beneficiaries to transfer assets with simplicity and privacy.