On the death of a person, the ownership of that person’s estate has to be legally passed on to the rightful beneficiaries according to the wishes of the deceased person and in line with the existing laws.
This is usually effected through a will which is a document is drawn out during the deceased in their lifetime, stating how they want their estate to be distributed. Sometimes, a person dies intestate, which means without leaving a will. In this case, the assets are distributed according to state law. This process is known as probate.
In the United States, probate law is governed by the Uniform Probate Code, UPC. This is formulated by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL), which concerns itself with all matters pertaining to the estates of deceased persons in the U.S.
The Uniform Probate Code consists of 7 articles. Each article covers a particular aspect of the law.
General Provisions and Definitions: This sets out the general rules and guidelines and defines terms which will be used while interpreting the code.
Intestacy, Wills and Donative Transfers: It deals with the passing down of property, including sections on revoking of wills and perpetuities. This section is written in line with the Uniform Simultaneous Death Act.
Probate of Wills and Administration: The entire rules for how probate law is to be practiced are outlined in this section.
Foreign Personal Representatives and Ancillary Administration: Here the situations where persons who are domiciles of another state are dealt with.
Protection of Persons under Disability and their Property: Here is a section dealing entirely with roles and responsibilities of guardians who represent incapacitated people and minors.
Nonprobate Transfers on Death: Nonprobate transfers are assets such as life insurance policies, joint bank accounts and transfer-on-death policies where there is a clear title involved. How this category of assets has to be administered is outlined in this section.
Trust Administration: The role of trusts in probate matters is dealt with in detail here.
The above features of the UPC are generic and interpretation may vary from state to state when dealing with probate law in different states in the United States.