SECTION 3-317. UNIVERSAL SUCCESSION; UNIVERSAL SUCCESSORS’ LIABILITY TO CREDITORS, OTHER HEIRS, DEVISEES AND PERSONS ENTITLED TO DECEDENT’S PROPERTY; LIABILITY OF OTHER PERSONS ENTITLED TO PROPERTY Uniform Probate Code
(a) In the proportions and subject to the limits expressed in Section 3-321, universal successors assume all liabilities of the decedent that were not discharged by reason of death and liability for all taxes, claims against the decedent or the estate, and charges properly incurred after death for the preservation of the estate, to the extent those items, if duly presented, would be valid claims against the decedent’s estate.
(b) In the proportions and subject to the limits expressed in Section 3-321, universal
successors are personally liable to other heirs, devisees, and persons entitled to property of the decedent for the assets or amounts that would be due those heirs, were the estate administered, but no allowance having priority over devisees may be claimed for attorney’s fees or charges for preservation of the estate in excess of reasonable amounts properly incurred.
(c) Universal successors are entitled to their interests in the estate as heirs or devisees subject to priority and abatement pursuant to Section 3-902 and to agreement pursuant to Section 3-912.
(d) Other heirs, devisees, and persons to whom assets have been distributed have the same powers and liabilities as distributees under Sections 3-908, 3-909, and 3-910.
(e) Absent breach of fiduciary obligations or express undertaking, a fiduciary’s liability is limited to the assets received by the fiduciary.
The purpose of succession without administration is not to alter the relative property interests of the parties but only to facilitate the family’s expeditious settlement of the estate. Consistent with this, the liability arising from the assumption of obligations is stated explicitly here to assist in understanding the coupling of power and liability. Subsection (b) includes an abatement reference that recognizes the possible adjustment that may be necessary by reason of excess claims under UPC Section 3-902.
In succession without administration, there being no personal representative’s notice to creditors, the short non-claim period under UPC Section 3-803(a)(1) does not apply and creditors are subject to the statutes of limitations and the limitation of three years on decedent’s creditors when no notice is published under UPC Section 3-803(a)(2). The general statutes of limitation are suspended for four months following the decedent’s death but resume thereafter under UPC Section 3-802. The assumption of liability by the universal successors upon the issuance of the Statement of Universal Succession is deemed to be by operation of law and does not operate to extend or renew any statute of limitations that had begun to run against the decedent. The result is that creditors are barred by the general statutes of limitation or 3 years whichever is the shorter.
The obligation of the universal successors to other heirs, devisees and distributees is based on the promise to perform in return for the direct distribution of property and any limitation or laches begins to run on issuance of the statement of universal succession unless otherwise extended by action or assurance of the universal successor.
It should be noted that this statute does not deal with the consequences or obligations that arise under either federal or state tax laws. The universal successors will be subject to obligations for the return and payment of both income and estate taxes in many situations depending upon the tax law and the circumstances of the decedent and the estate. These tax consequences should be determined before electing to utilize succession without administration.