SECTION 3-312. UNIVERSAL SUCCESSION; IN GENERAL Uniform Probate Code. The heirs of an intestate or the residuary devisees under a will, excluding minors and incapacitated, protected, or unascertained persons, may become universal successors to the decedent’s estate by assuming personal liability for (i) taxes, (ii) debts of the decedent, (iii) claims against the decedent or the estate, and (iv) distributions due other heirs, devisees, and persons entitled to property of the decedent as provided in Sections 3-313 through 3-322.
This section states the general policy of the subpart to permit heirs or residuary legatees to take possession, control and title to a decedent’s estate by assuming a personal obligation to pay taxes, debts, claims and distributions due to others entitled to share in the decedent’s property by qualifying under the statute. Although the surviving spouse most often will be an heir or residuary devisee, he or she may also be a person otherwise entitled to property of the decedent as when a forced share is claimed.
This subpart does not contemplate that assignees of heirs or residuary devisees will have standing to apply for universal succession since this involves undertaking responsibility for obligations of the decedent. Of course, after the statement of universal succession has been issued, persons may assign their beneficial interests as any other asset.
The subpart excludes incapacitated and unascertained persons as universal successors because of the need for successors to deal with the property for various purposes. The procedure permits competent heirs and residuary devisees to proceed even where there are some others incompetent or unascertained. If any unascertained or incompetent heir or devisee wishes, they may require bonding or if unprotected they may force the estate into administration. Subsequent sections permit the conservator, guardian ad litem or other fiduciary of unascertained or incompetent heirs or devisees to object. The universal successors’ obligations may be enforced by appropriate remedy. In Louisiana the procedure is available even though there are incompetent heirs for whom a tutor or guardian is appointed to act.
In restricting universal succession to competent heirs and residuary legatees, the subpart makes them responsible to incompetent heirs and legatees. This restriction is deemed appropriate to avoid the problems in dealing with the estate assets vested in an incompetent. This is a variation from the Louisiana practice. The procedure also contemplates that all
competent heirs and residuary devisees join and does not permit only part of the heirs to petition for succession without administration. This position means that succession without administration is essentially a consent procedure available when family members are in agreement.
This subpart contemplates that known competent successors may proceed under it. Although all competent heirs are required to join in the informal process, the possibility of an unknown heir is not treated as jurisdictional. An unknown heir who appeared would be able to establish his or her rights as in administration unless barred by adjudication, estoppel or lapse of time.