Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 30, 1972 · Page 123
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July 30, 1972

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 123

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Charleston, West Virginia
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Sunday, July 30, 1972
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Page 123
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Page 123 article text (OCR)

A Pntte I* Refn 1UWMB by Murray Teigh Bloom BOISE, IDAHO. I n ihe spring of 1971 Rep. Mel Hammond helped persuade the Idaho Legislature to be first in adopting the most thorough probate-reform legislation ever devised in the United Stales. He gave details of two outrageous Idaho estate settlements he had investigated: · The McCutchen estate started out as a simple $181,000 bequest by a man to his widow. Before it was finally settled, it had been nicked for 13 percent of its value--some $24,000--in quite legal attorney and bank-executor fees and other expenses. · After 11 years the Spencer estate still wasn't settled. And in that time the lawyers and bank-executors had managed to extract more than $48,000 in fees--with no settlerneni in sight. Partly as a result of these cases--and many more described at hearings by angry Idaho voters--the Legislature voted to adopt the new Uniform Probate Code. It simplifies, hastens and drastically reduces the cost of passing on estates from husband to widow, or from one generation to the next. After eight years of thorough deliberation and drafting by many of the nation's leading probate authorities, the new Code has recently been put into effect by Alaska and is now getting favorable consideration by legislatures in several other states, including Arizona, Hawaii, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Washing.- ton. Probate reform is long overdue. "There is now increasing evidence," says Professor Richard V. Wellman of the University of Michigan Law School who helped draft the new Code, "thai most Americans distrust our rules for inheritance and are suspicious of courts and lawyers who must deal with probate law. Public support for law suffers when law supports useless institutions." Our present probate laws differ greatly from state to state. What they do have in common are inbuilt factors of long delay, uncertainty, voluminous red tape and high legal costs. They haven't been changed because they have a sizable group of staunch supporters, including (1) lawyers who fear a sharp cut in their probate-law income; (2) probate judges who foresee a loss of power because under the new Code they will have littli: to do with most estates; (3) bonding companies, because expensive bonds will no longer have to be posted in most estate cases, particularly where the money goes mainly from husband to widow. And (4) legal and weekly newspapers because the new probate Code makes it possible to reduce the need for the presently mandatory legal notices in connection with the probate of a will and the notification of creditors. With such a powerful group of lobbying antagonists the passage of the new probate Code by the Idaho Legislature in 1971 was all the more remarkable. Behind it were the persuasive powers and political savvy of Edith Miller Klein, Idaho's only woman senator and chairman of ihe judiciary committee. An attractive, coppery-haired Boise widow, Mrs. Klein knew probate problems from her 25 years of law practice. Lawyers warned When she sponsored the Uniform Probate Code for adoption in the State Senate she knew there would be opposition from many lawyers throughout the state. "As lawyers, we have to quit kidding ourselves," she said. "A new approach to probate and probate costs is necessary. As a profession we have a duty to work in the public interest to improve the law." She enlisted the help of Philip E. Peterson, a 49-year-old professor of law Ma HAMMOND EDITH MILLER KLEIN RICHARD NELLMAN fin»17 ·»··»· 12 ng. ·9.1*00* n. pr cigntt. Fit Runt JApr.72). n , ° 1 thes \ three ' «P«entalive, senator a n d professor, Idaho h a s adopted the most thorough probate-reform legislation ever devised in the U.S. PARADE · JULY 30,1972

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