Sunday, March 15, 2015

SECTION 2-404. FAMILY ALLOWANCE. Uniform Probate Code

SECTION 2-404. FAMILY ALLOWANCE. Uniform Probate Code
(a) In addition to the right to homestead allowance and exempt property, the decedent’s surviving spouse and minor children whom the decedent was obligated to support and children who were in fact being supported by the decedent are entitled to a reasonable allowance in money out of the estate for their maintenance during the period of administration, which allowance may not continue for longer than one year if the estate is inadequate to discharge allowed claims. The allowance may be paid as a lump sum or in periodic installments. It is payable to the surviving spouse, if living, for the use of the surviving spouse and minor and dependent children; otherwise to the children, or persons having their care and custody. If a minor child or dependent child is not living with the surviving spouse, the allowance may be made partially to the child or his [or her] guardian or other person having the child’s care and custody, and partially to the spouse, as their needs may appear. The family allowance is exempt from and has priority over all claims except the homestead allowance.
(b) The family allowance is not chargeable against any benefit or share passing to the surviving spouse or children by the will of the decedent, unless otherwise provided, by intestate succession, or by way of elective share. The death of any person entitled to family allowance terminates the right to allowances not yet paid.
The allowance provided by this section does not qualify for the marital deduction under the federal estate tax because the interest is a non-deductible terminable interest. A broad code must be drafted to provide the best possible protection for the family in all cases, even though this may not provide desired tax advantages for certain larger estates. In the estates falling in the federal estate tax bracket where careful planning may be expected, it is important to the operation of formula clauses that the family allowance be clearly deductible or clearly nondeductible. With the section clearly creating a non-deductible interest, estate planners can create a plan that will operate with certainty. Finally, in order to facilitate administration of this allowance without court supervision it is necessary to provide a fairly simple and definite framework.

In determining the amount of the family allowance, account should be taken of both the previous standard of living and the nature of other resources available to the family to meet current living expenses until the estate can be administered and assets distributed. While the death of the principal income producer may necessitate some change in the standard of living, there must also be a period of adjustment. If the surviving spouse has a substantial income, this may be taken into account. Whether life insurance proceeds payable in a lump sum or periodic installments were intended by the decedent to be used for the period of adjustment or to be conserved as capital may be considered. A living trust may provide the needed income without resorting to the probate estate.
Obviously, need is relative to the circumstances, and what is reasonable must be decided on the basis of the facts of each individual case. Note, however, that under the next section the personal representative may not determine an allowance of more than $2,250 per month for one year; a court order would be necessary if a greater allowance is reasonably necessary.
Historical Note. This Comment was revised in 2010 to reflect the increase in the amount of the allowance. 

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