Uniform Law Commission Update

Uniform Law Commission Update

A summary of the recent Uniform Law Commission annual meeting, which addressed proposed acts and amendments which impact our Section members, has been prepared by Benjamin Orzeske, Chief Counsel, The Uniform Law Commission.

Benjamin Orzeske

The Uniform Law Commission recently held its 128th Annual Meeting in Anchorage Alaska from July 12-17, 2019.  At the meeting, five new or amended uniform acts were approved:

1.     Uniform Automated Operation of Vehicles Act
2.     Uniform Electronic Wills Act
3.     Uniform Registration of Canadian Money Judgments Act
4.     Amendments to the Uniform Athlete Agents Act
5.     Amendments to the Uniform Probate Code

Each newly approved act is undergoing a final technical review by the ULC Committee on Style and will be published this fall at www.uniformlaws.org.  The Tort Law Relating to Drones Act was scheduled to be approved but was ultimately withdrawn due to policy objections from commissioners.  No decision has yet been made with respect to the future of this project.

Five more uniform acts were read for comment and could be approved as soon as the next ULC Annual Meeting in July 2020:

1.     Alternatives to Bail Act
2.     Easement Relocation Act
3.     Fundraising through Public Appeals Act
4.     Public Participation Protection Act
5.     Unregulated Transfers of Adopted Children Act

The drafting committees for these five acts will continue meeting to solicit input and revise the draft uniform laws over the coming year.

Three new drafting committees were approved:

1.     Drafting Committee on Collection and Use of Personally Identifiable Data
2.     Drafting Committee on Registration and Licensing of Direct-to-Consumer Sales of Wine and Prevention of Illegal Sales
3.     Drafting Committee to Revise the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act and the Uniform Condominium Act

These committees will be appointed soon and begin meeting over the next twelve months.  The ABA has been asked to provide an Advisor to each committee, and any interested observers are encouraged to join the committee and participate in the drafting process.

Finally, four new study committees were also approved:

1.     Study Committee on Default Judgments in Debt Collection Cases
2.     Study Committee on Fines and Fees
3.     Study Committee on Third-Party Funding of Litigation
4.     Study Committee on Special Deposits

ULC study committees examine whether a topic meets the threshold criteria for drafting a new uniform law.  Each committee will ultimately draft a report of its findings with a recommendation as to whether the project should proceed to the drafting stage.

A short description of the new acts and projects that involve the law of real property or trusts and estates follows.  More information about all uniform law projects is available at www.uniformlaws.org.

New Uniform RP/TE Acts

The Uniform Electronic Wills Act permits testators to execute an electronic will and allows probate courts to give electronic wills legal effect.  Most documents that were traditionally printed on paper can now be created, transferred, signed, and recorded in electronic form.  Since 2000 the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) and a similar federal law, E-SIGN have provided that a transaction is not invalid solely because the terms of the contract and the signatures of the parties are in an electronic format.  But UETA and E-SIGN both contain an express exception for wills, which, because the testator is deceased at the time the document must be interpreted, are subject to special execution requirements to ensure validity and must still be executed on paper in most states.  Under the new Electronic Wills Act, the testator's electronic signature must be witnessed contemporaneously (or notarized contemporaneously in states that allow notarized wills) and the document must be stored in a tamper-evident file.  States will have the option to include language that allows remote witnessing.  The act will also address recognition of electronic wills executed under the law of another state.  For a generation that is used to banking, communicating, and transacting business online, the Uniform Electronic Wills Act will allow online estate planning while maintaining safeguards to help prevent fraud and coercion.

The promulgation of the Uniform Parentage Act (2017) has necessitated amendments to the Uniform Probate Code's intestacy and class-gift provisions.  The 2019 Amendments to the Uniform Probate Code provide a more consistent formula for determining intestate shares within blended families, remove outdated terminology, and incorporate the concept of de facto parentage.  The intestacy formulae will also account for the possibility that a child may have more than two parents, and therefore more than two sets of grandparents.

New RP Drafting Committee

Drafting Committee to Amend or Revise the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act and the Uniform Condominium Act.  This drafting committee will develop revisions to the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act (UCIOA) and the Uniform Condominium Act (UCA).  UCIOA deals comprehensively with the complex issues posed in condominiums, cooperatives, and planned communities – the three forms of real estate ownership in which multiple persons each own a separate parcel of real estate, and all those persons collectively own other parcels of real estate in common.  The ULC has devoted substantial resources for more than 50 years to the regulation of these forms of shared real estate ownership and has a significant interest in making sure that both UCIOA and UCA are kept up to date.

Ongoing RP/TE Drafting Projects

Amendments to the Uniform Disposition of Community Property Rights at Death Act.  The committee will update this 1971 act that has been adopted in 16 common law states to address the disposition of community property acquired in a community-property state when the record owner’s estate is probated in a common-law state.  The amendments will address recent changes to the law, including same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships.

Easement Relocation Act. The committee is drafting a law to address whether, and with what conditions, a servient estate owner may unilaterally relocate an easement if the relocation will not materially harm the dominant estate owner.

Fundraising Through Public Appeals Act.  Crowdfunding is the practice of raising funds via the internet, through web sites designed for that purpose.  When the amount of funds raised is large, certain legal issues can arise involving the management and use of funds, particularly when the total funding exceeds the amount needed to accomplish the stated goal.  The committee is drafting an act to address these issues.

Economic Rights of Unmarried Cohabitants Act.  The Drafting Committee will draft a uniform or model law to standardize the economic rights of unmarried cohabitants.  The rate of nonmarital cohabitation within the U.S. is increasing, but there is no consistent legal doctrine among the states for division of jointly acquired property when cohabitants break up or when one cohabitant dies. Instead, courts must resolve disputes on a case-by-case basis.

Benjamin Orzeske
Chief Counsel
The Uniform Law Commission
111 N. Wabash Ave., Suite 1010
Chicago, Illinois 60602
(312) 450-6621