Uniform Laws

Uniform Laws in the United States

Introduction

Uniform Laws are carefully drafted model laws for potential enactment by state legislatures. State legislatures can reject them, enact them in entirety, or enact them with modifications.

Uniform Laws are authored by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (“NCCUSL”), a group that aims to promote uniformity of state law. Since its founding in 1892, NCCUSL has drafted over 200 Uniform Laws.

Model Acts and Model Codes are similar to Uniform Laws but may be proposed by any individual or organization including the American Bar Association, the American Law Institute, and NCCUSL. In comparison to Uniform Laws, Model Acts are generally used as a basis for designing state laws. They are rarely enacted in entirety.

Practical Information

Conflicting state statutes have led to the adoption, in many fields of business and commercial interest, of similar laws by the various states. The laws are known as uniform laws. Some of the more important uniform laws are the Uniform Negotiable Instruments Act, the Uniform Partnership Act, the Uniform Stock Transfer Act, and the Uniform Warehouse Receipt Act. In all states the uniform laws have been supplemented by the uniform commercial code (in U.S. law).(Revised by Ann De Vries).

Uniform Laws and Model Acts

In the United States, sometimes following civil law countries, there is a drive for the enactment of uniform laws by the states. The organization primarily responsible for drafting uniform laws is the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL). The NCCUSL is comprised of state appointed commissioners. State legislatures are encouraged to adopt uniform acts exactly as written by the NCCUSL to promote uniformity among the states. While the NCCUSL has also drafted some model acts, many model acts, including the Model Penal Code, are developed by the American Law Institute (ALI).

The American Law Institute, an organization comprised of prominent judges, law professors, and attorneys, is also well known as the group responsible for the Restatements of the Law. Perhaps the most notable example of a uniform law, the Uniform Commercial Code, was drafted as a joint project of NCCUSL and ALI. The American Bar Association (ABA) has also been responsible for drafting several and model acts and uniform laws. For example the Model Business Corporation Act was prepared by the ABA’s Business Law Section. In contrast to uniform laws, model acts are intended as guidelines, which states may adapt to best address the unique circumstances in that state.

Uniform laws and model laws/acts are compiled in the annotated set, the Uniform Laws Annotated, Master Edition. This set, currently composed of fifteen volumes has a green cover.

  • Volumes 1-5 of the set contain information related to the Uniform Commercial Code;
  • Volumes 6-6A contain business and nonprofit organization laws;
  • Volumes 7-7C address business and financial laws;
  • Volumes 8-8C include estate, probate and related laws;
  • Volumes 9-9C contain laws related to matrimony, family and health;
  • Volumes 10-11A include laws related to criminal law, criminal procedure and sentencing; and volumes 12-15A contain laws related to civil procedure, evidence, and remedies.

The topics addressed in that volume, as well as some of the uniform and model laws contained in that volume, appear on the spine of each volume. Additionally, each volume contains an alphabetical index for uniform or model acts contained in the volume.

Preceding most laws, the Uniform Laws Annoted sets forth:

  • a table of jurisdictions where the act has been adopted, which also provides citation of the state statutory provisions containing the adopted law;
  • prefatory notes and historical notes detailing the historical development of the law as well as the significant changes and the driving factors for change.
  • general statutory notes, which set forth repeal of previous state statutes addressing the issue and enactment of the current law;
  • information regarding jurisdictions adopting the uniform law in a manner precluding comparative notes; an
  • an outline of the act.

Additionally, each section of a uniform law or model act may provide:

  • the text of the law or act;
  • comments of the drafting body;
  • law review commentaries and library references, including West topic and key numbers as well as reference to secondary sources, including legal encyclopedia; and
  • notes of decisions

The ULA Masters Edition is also supplemented by an annual pamphlet designated as the Directory of Uniform Acts and Codes. This resource contains a Directory of Uniform Acts, which provides an alphabetical listing of uniform laws and model acts as well as information regarding the volume and page number where the act is included in the ULA. The pamphlet also contains a table of jurisdictions, listing uniform acts adopted in a particular jurisdiction, and an alphabetical cross reference index to the uniform laws and model acts.

Main Source: LibTour (http://libtour.classcaster.net/2011/03/08/uniform-laws-and-model-acts/)

Finding Uniform Laws and Model Acts

Some Uniform Laws are available via the NCCUSL Drafts and Final Acts page of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. The Legal Information Institute (LII), hosted by Cornell University, also provides information regarding state adoptions of some uniform laws.

Print Sources

  • Uniform Laws Annotated (KF 165.A5). Most complete collection of Uniform and Model Acts, Codes, and Rules. Contains the text of Uniform and Model Laws adopted by at least one state. Includes comments from drafters, tables of adopting jurisdictions with citations and effective dates, variations in text as adopted, case annotations, and secondary source references. An index in pamphlet form sits at the end of the set. Updated annually.
  • Uniform Commercial Code (KF 890.W45). The UCC with analysis and case annotations. Treatise-style, multi-volume work.
  • Model Business Corporation Act Annotated (KF 1404.52.A654x). The Model Business Corporation Act with comments, case annotations, and secondary source references. 4 volume looseleaf.
  • Model Penal Code (KF 9219.A743). The Model Penal Code with explanatory notes. Updated by pocket parts.

In Westlaw

Uniform Laws Annotated. Online equivalent to the print set mentioned above. Contains, probably, the most complete set of Uniform and Model Acts, Codes and Rules. Updated after the annual meetings of NCCUSL in July and the American Law Institute in May.

Each section or rule is an individual document. It is not possible to view an entire Uniform Law or Model Act online at once, but using the Tables of Contents mode within this database allows browsing and the use of check boxes to “Retrieve & Print” entire acts or certain portions. (Use Retrieve & Print to email or download as well.)

Retrieving a specific section of a Uniform Law or Model Act with “Find” is problematic. Citation format varies widely. Consult “Citation Formats” in the scope note to determine the retrieving format for each.

In LexisNexis

Selected Uniform Laws and Model Acts as published by Martindale-Hubbell are available on LexisNexis. See this portion of the source directory to determine which are available. (LexisNexis Subscription) There are no annotations. Each section or rule is an individual document. It is not possible to view an entire Uniform Law or Model Act at once in this source. Updated annually.

Online

  • National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. Offers the text of uniform laws, summaries, related documents, previous drafts, as well as bill tracking for those states considering uniform laws. This page also offers the NCCUSL drafting manual, meeting information, proposed projects, and updates on state actions related to Uniform Laws. (Note that previous drafts are not always available. They can be found in the Archive Publications microfiche set mentioned below.)
  • NCCUSL Uniform Laws from the University of Pennsylvania. In conjunction with NCCUSL, the University of Pennsylvania offered the final versions of Uniform Laws, but not now. Most were available in pdf, WordPerfect, ASCII, and html. Prefatory notes were included.
  • Uniform Law Locators from the Legal Information Institute (see below)
  • NCCUSL: Use the pulldown menu to retrieve any act. Status information is provided as well as contact information for drafting Commissioners.
  • NCCUSL Drafts of Uniform and Model Acts. Drafts in progress are listed here, for both new Uniform Laws and amendments to existing ones. Previous drafts and related documents are usually available.

The Uniform Law Locators from the Legal Information Institute provide the text of Uniform Laws as originally promulgated along with links to corresponding state statutes:

  • Uniform Commercial Code
  • Uniform Probate Code
  • Uniform Rules of Evidence
  • Uniform Matrimonial and Family Laws (various)
  • Uniform Business and Financial Laws (various)
  • Draft Status of Uniform Laws and Model Acts

Drafting History of Uniform Laws and Model Acts

Note: Broader information about “Legislative History” in this Encyclopedia is available.

The drafting process for a Uniform Law takes at least two years; some have taken 15 years. There is usually a series of drafts before a final draft is adopted. These successive drafts, along with transcripts of proceedings from the annual meeting and the prefatory notes preceding the final act, provide something akin to a legislative history for uniform laws.

  • Archive Publications of NCCUSL (KF 165.A35). This set of microfiche contains the archives of NCCUSL since 1930. It includes successive drafts of each Uniform or Model Law, the proceedings of NCCUSL’s annual meeting since 1892, and transcripts of the discussions in the Committee of the Whole for each Uniform and Model Act. It is arranged alphabetically by act (ignoring Uniform) and within acts, chronologically.
  • Handbook of the National Conference of Commissioner on Uniform State Laws (KF 165.A2N38). This annual publication describes the drafting activities of NCCUSL and contains transcripts of the proceedings at its annual conference. There is a lag time of approximately 8-10 years between the annual meeting and publication of the proceedings.
  • NCCUSL Archives at Biddle Law Library, University of Pennsylvania. The University of Pennsylvania Law School Library was the holder of the NCCUSL archives including reports, correspondence, memoranda, and other documents related to the activities and drafting efforts of NCCUSL. Not now. Those doing in-depth research on drafting history whose questions are not answered by the Archive Publications materials used to consult this collection.

Uniform Trusts and Estate Laws

This covers acts relating to the field of trusts and estates, including the Uniform Probate Code, Uniform Trust Code, the Uniform Powers of Appointment Act, Uniform Principal and Income Act, Uniform Prudent Investor Act, Uniform Custodial Trust Act, Revised Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act, Uniform Parentage Act, Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act, Uniform Health-Care Decisions Act, Uniform Simultaneous Death Act, Uniform Transfers to Minors Act, Model Marital Property Act, the Model Protection of Charitable Assets Act, the Uniform Trust Decanting Act, and the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. The Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act which was later renamed the Uniform Voidable Transactions Act. The topic also includes relevant provisions of the Restatement Third of Trusts and Restatement Third of Property.

Probate Statutes

Note: see the UK Inheritance Act 1975, as amended by the FAMILY LAW ACT 1996 and the CIVIL
PARTNERSHIP ACT 2004.

The topics covered by the Uniform Probate Code (1969, with Subsequent Amendments) are the following:

  • Probate Jurisdiction of Court
  • Intestacy, Wills, and Donative Transfers
  • Probate of Wills and Administration
  • Foreign Personal Representatives; Ancillary Administration
  • Guardianship and Protective Proceedings (1997/1998)
  • Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction (2007)
  • Power of Attorney (2006)
  • Nonprobate Transfers on Death
  • Trust Administration
  • Effective Date and Repealer

Probate Statutes

  • UNIFORM TRUST CODE (2000, with Subsequent Amendments; including Representation;  Creation, Validity, Modification, and Termination of Trust; Spendthrift and Discretionary Trusts; Revocable Trusts; Office of Trustee; Duties and Powers of Trustee; Uniform Prudent Investor Act;  and Liability of Trustees and Rights of Persons Dealing with Trustee)
  • UNIFORM TRUST DECANTING ACT (2015)
  • UNIFORM PRINCIPAL AND INCOME ACT (1997, with Subsequent Amendments)
  • UNIFORM PRUDENT INVESTOR ACT (1994)
  • UNIFORM CUSTODIAL TRUST ACT (1987)

Other Uniform Acts

  • REVISED UNIFORM FIDUCIARY ACCESS TO DIGITAL ASSETS ACT (2015)
  • UNIFORM POWERS OF APPOINTMENT ACT (2013)
  • UNIFORM PREMARITAL AND MARITAL AGREEMENTS ACT (2012)
  • MODEL PROTECTION OF CHARITABLE ASSETS ACT (2011)
  • REVISED UNIFORM ANATOMICAL GIFT ACT (2006, with 2007 Amendments)
  • UNIFORM PRUDENT MANAGEMENT OF INSTITUTIONAL FUNDS ACT (2006)
  • UNIFORM PARENTAGE ACT (2000, with 2002 Amendments)
  • UNIFORM HEALTH-CARE DECISIONS ACT (1993)
  • UNIFORM SIMULTANEOUS DEATH ACT (1993)
  • UNIFORM FRAUDULENT TRANSFER / VOIDABLE TRANSACTIONS ACT (1984/2014)
  • UNIFORM TRANSFERS TO MINORS ACT (1983, with 1986 Amendments)
  • MODEL MARITAL PROPERTY ACT (1983)

More about Uniform Law

Resources

See Also

  • Researching Uniform and Model Laws
  • Model Law
  • Uniform Laws Annotated
  • American Law Institute
  • National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL)

Further Reading

  • Uniform Laws, Model Laws and Limited Liability Companies.LE Ribstein, BH Kobayashi – U. Colo. L. Rev., 1994
  • History of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. A Dunham – Law & Contemp. Probs., 1965
  • Economic Analysis of Uniform State Laws. LE Ribstein, BH Kobayshi – J. Legal Stud., 1996.
  • Information about Uniform Laws in the Gale Encyclopedia of American Law.

Uniform Laws: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Uniform Laws. This part provides references, in relation to Uniform Laws, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Uniform Laws by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Uniform Laws and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Uniform Laws or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Uniform Laws and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Uniform Laws. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Uniform Laws should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Uniform Laws when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

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