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Probate & Property

Jan/Feb 2024

Uniform Laws Update—2023 Legislative Update

Benjamin Orzeske and Jane E Sternecky


  • In Real Property matters, Arkansas and Washington adopted the Uniform Easement Relocation Act.
  • Six states introduced bills to adopt the Uniform Real Property Transfer on Death Act (URPTODA), but none passed.
  • In Trust and Estate matters, Kansas and Maryland were the 14th and 15th states to adopt the Uniform Trust Decanting Act (UTDA). The District of Columbia and Massachusetts also considered the UTDA as this issue went to press.
Uniform Laws Update—2023 Legislative Update
Arvydas Lakacauskas via Getty Images

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Uniform Laws Update provides information on uniform and model state laws in development as they apply to property, trust, and estate matters. The editors of Probate & Property welcome information and suggestions from readers.

During 2023, state legislatures considered almost two hundred bills to adopt uniform laws recommended by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC). This column summarizes 2023 legislative activity involving uniform real property acts and uniform trust and estate acts.

Real Property

Arkansas and Washington adopted the Uniform Easement Relocation Act, which provides an exception to the common-law rule requiring the easement holder and the owner of the burdened estate to agree to the relocation of an easement. The uniform act allows the owner of a burdened estate unilaterally to relocate an easement under a court-supervised process if the owner proves that the relocation will not cause any material harm to the easement holder’s interests. Four states have now adopted this uniform law.

The District of Columbia and Washington both adopted the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA), bringing the total number of enactments to 23. Idaho, Kentucky, and North Carolina saw UPHPA bills introduced, but the bills did not pass in the 2023 session. Three other UPHPA bills (in Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Jersey) were still pending at press time.

Six states introduced bills to adopt the Uniform Real Property Transfer on Death Act (URPTODA), but none passed in 2023. Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Rhode Island will all likely carry over their bills to 2024 or reintroduce the act in a future legislative session. The total number of URPTODA enactments stands at 19, with another nine states allowing TOD transfers of real property under a non-uniform statute that predates the uniform act.

The Georgia legislature failed to pass the latest version of the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. A Maine bill to enact the 2021 amendments to the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act will be carried over to the 2024 session. A District of Columbia bill to enact the Uniform Commercial Real Estate Receivership Act and a Massachusetts bill to adopt the Uniform Real Property Electronic Recording Act were both pending at press time.

In 2024, the newly approved Uniform Unlawful Restrictions in Land Records Act will be available for states to consider. The act provides a uniform procedure for removing unlawful restrictions from the public land records while preserving each property’s chain of title and historical record. Drafted with significant input from the American Land Title Association and the Property Records Industry Association, this act will help bring uniformity to an area of the law where states have implemented highly variable procedures.

Trusts and Estates

Arkansas and Colorado were the first states to adopt the Uniform Community Property Disposition at Death Act. An update of a 1971 uniform law, this act provides rules and procedures for probate courts and trustees in common-law states to properly dispose of property that was acquired as community property in another jurisdiction. A similar bill is pending in the District of Columbia City Council, while bills in Nebraska and North Carolina failed to pass last year.

Kansas and Maryland were the 14th and 15th states to adopt the Uniform Trust Decanting Act (UTDA). The District of Columbia and Massachusetts also considered the UTDA as this issue went to press.

The District of Columbia and Vermont adopted the Uniform Power of Attorney Act (UPOAA) in 2023, and bills in Massachusetts and Michigan were awaiting a hearing. The UPOAA governs financial powers of attorney and has been adopted in 31 jurisdictions.

California became the seventh state to adopt the Uniform Fiduciary Income and Principal Act, the latest set of accounting standards for trusts. A similar bill passed both houses of the Missouri legislature with slight differences, but the versions were not reconciled before the session calendar ended.

Hawaii was the latest state to consider the Uniform Guardianship, Conservatorship, and Other Protective Arrangements Act (UGCOPAA), a comprehensive statute that brings guardianship law into the modern age. The bill did not pass but is being studied by an interim committee for a future legislative session. UGCOPAA was recommended for enactment in all states by the US Senate Special Committee on Aging and the 10 constituent organizations comprising the National Guardianship Network.

The Uniform Directed Trust Act (UDTA) was passed by both houses of the California legislature and was awaiting Governor Newsom’s signature at press time. Sixteen states have adopted the UDTA, and another bill is pending in the District of Columbia. A Vermont UDTA bill did not pass but will likely be reintroduced in 2024.

The District of Columbia, Idaho, and Minnesota adopted the Uniform Electronic Wills Act (UEWA) in 2023, while similar bills failed in Missouri and Texas. One UEWA bill remains under consideration in New Jersey. Meanwhile, Illinois became the first state to adopt the comprehensive Uniform Electronic Estate Planning Documents Act, also introduced in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. Taken together, these two acts authorize using electronic documents and signatures by estate planners and their clients.

In 2024, the newly revised Uniform Health-Care Decisions Act will offer states a comprehensive statute to govern advance directives, healthcare powers of attorney, and health-care surrogates. This act addresses several issues that most current state laws do not, including mental health-care directives, conflicting orders, and challenges to a determination that a patient lacks the capacity to make his own health-care decisions.

ULC legislative counsel can consult and assist with enactment efforts in any state. For more information about uniform real property acts, please contact ULC Legislative Counsel Jane Sternecky at (312) 450-6622 or [email protected]. For uniform trust and estate acts, contact ULC Chief Counsel Benjamin Orzeske at (312) 450-6621 or [email protected].