Probate courts must decide which wills are valid and which are not. The traditional law provides courts a straightforward process to make these decisions. If the court determines that a will complies with certain formalities, then the will is valid, but if the court determines that a will does not comply, then it is invalid. This decisionmaking process has been criticized for being overly formalistic. While the traditional law is relatively easy to apply, it places greater importance on the process by which a testator executes a will than on the substance of the testator's intent. Consequently, the traditional wills adjudication process invalidates noncompliant wills that are authentic expressions of testators' intended estate plans. This criticism has led to major reforms being incorporated into the Uniform Probate Code that are designed to make the wills adjudication process more accurate in distinguishing authentic wills from inauthentic wills. Although no state has fully adopted the UPC's comprehensive reform package, few states still cling wholeheartedly to the traditional law. Instead, policymakers in many states have implemented changes that take incremental steps away from the traditional law's formalistic approach to wills adjudication. While the preference of state policymakers for incremental change, rather than for comprehensive reform, is clear, questions remain regarding the merits of these more modest approaches to reform. This Article seeks to better understand why state policymakers might favor partial rather than wholesale change to the wills adjudication process. More importantly, it analyzes whether some incremental changes are preferable to others. Ultimately, by providing a better understanding of the merits and possibilities of incremental change, this Article provides guidance to state policymakers who are wary of comprehensive reform.
Incremental Change in Wills Adjudication,
49 Fla. St. U. L. Rev.