Wednesday, August 15, 2007

FindLaw Offers Estate & Trust Law Resources

FindLaw, an Internet resource project of the Thompson company, offers a helpful online list of State Laws: Estates & Probate as a public resource.

But, after July 13, 2007, when the Pennsylvania Legislature posted PA's Consolidated Statutes online in an official form, with comments, FindLaw's list should be updated as to this Commonwealth's estate & probate laws. The current link relates to an "unofficial" source. [Note: As of 08/20/07, this link was updated, so that it leads to the official PA Consolidated Statutes. See: Update (below)]

FindLaw's list should make reference to the most reliable online source for Pennsylvania's "Probate, Estates & Fiduciaries Code" (Title 20), which now is found here. For an explanation as to why this is, see: PA EE&F Law Blog posting "Official PA Statutes Finally Online!" (07/13/07).

Still, the FindLaw list of state laws on estate & probate matters should be bookmarked.

In one form or another, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws governing most aspects of estate planning and probate -- legal validity of wills, creation of trusts, the probate process, and more. These laws can fall under various names, often as collections of laws called "codes." The different estate and probate codes that can be found from state to state include "Decedents' Estates," "Trust and Fiduciaries," "Estate Administration," and the "Uniform Probate Code."

In the table below, you will find links and citations to estate and probate laws for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

[Note on the "Uniform Probate Code": As shown on the chart below, a number of states have adopted the Uniform Probate Code. The Code represents an all-inclusive standard meant to simplify understanding of the probate process, and to encourage similarity of laws among different states. It has been adopted, in whole or in part, by about 20 states.] * * *
Note that Pennsylvania is not a "Uniform Probate Code" state. Although the trend here grows to incorporate some principles of various proposed "uniform laws" and even to adopt customized versions of some proposed uniform laws, you must consult PA's distinctive statutes on estate, trust & related matters.

This list is only one of many resources that
FindLaw offers free to the public on its "Estate Planning Center" in the two areas of "Estate Planning, Wills & Trusts" and "Probate and Estate Administration".

And that Estate Planning Center is only one aspect of the massive information provided by FindLaw, as self-described here.

Other than those references clearly noted by FindLaw as state-specific -- such as the state law links mentioned above -- its overviews & explanations remain generic.

Since each state differs in its laws & procedures, and since most situations require analysis of specific facts, FindLaw wisely posts a disclaimer that addresses both its purpose & its limitations:
The information contained in this web site, and its associated web sites, * * * is provided as a service to the Internet community, and does not constitute legal advice.

We try to provide quality information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this web site and its associated sites.

As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel.
I agree: No website -- not even this Blog -- is a substitute for the advice of competent counsel.

Update: 08/21/07:

After posting this entry, I sent the link to
FindLaw's email address identified for site updates.

This afternoon, I received the following message:

Dear Neil,

Thanks for using FindLaw.

PA link on this page has now been updated.

We really appreciate your online communication!

--The FindLaw Team