In May 2012, the EPTL-SCPA Legislative Advisory Committee sent its Sixth Report to the legislature. The Sixth Report recommended that the legislature enact a New York version of the Uniform Trust Code (UTC), as modified, by adding Article 7-A to the Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL). The UTC has been adopted by 25 states and provides a comprehensive model for codifying the law on trusts.
In anticipation of the final Sixth Report, Ilene S. Cooper, the Chair of the New York State Bar Association’s Trusts and Estates Law Section, recommended, and the section’s Executive Committee approved, the formation of the New York Uniform Trust Code (NYUTC) Committee to study and evaluate the Sixth Report. Professor Ira Bloom, former chair of the section and a Distinguished Professor at Albany Law School, was appointed Committee Chair.
The Sixth Report was submitted to the legislature with the understanding that the Trusts and Estates Law Section, along with Committees of the New York City Bar (City Bar) and the Surrogate’s Court Advisory Committee to the Office of Court Administration (OCA), would comment on the proposed legislation before any legislative action was taken. Towards that end, an early and important decision was made to form a NYUTC-Legislative Advisory Group (NYUTC-LAG) comprised of members of each of the foregoing organizations, led by a Steering Committee consisting of Bloom, two City Bar Committee Chairs and Professor William LaPiana from OCA. As its first task, the Steering Committee divided the Sixth Report, which essentially included the UTC with modifications, into five functional subcommittees: General Trustee Issues, Judicial and Procedural Matters, Trustee Duties and Powers, Estate Planning and Litigation. Thereafter, members from the section, the City Bar, and OCA, were recruited to work on the different functional subcommittees. Beginning in June, weekly conference calls began for the General Trustee Issues, Judicial and Procedural Matters and Trustee Duties and Powers Subcommittees. This past fall the Estate Planning Subcommittee began its work.
As these subcommittees worked over the summer, it became clear to the Steering Committee that the NYUTC-LAG should propose a New York Trust Code as the vehicle to modernize New York’s trust laws. Starting with the Sixth Report, as modified by the NYUTC-LAG, relevant sections of EPTL Article 7 would be consolidated, into a new Article 7-A of the EPTL. This approach will avoid a division of New York’s trust provisions between EPTL Articles 7 and 7-A.
In September 2012, the General Trustees Issues Subcommittee finished its deliberations and prepared its report for consideration by the constituent bodies. The General Trustee Issues Report was approved, with minor revisions, by the Executive Committee of the Trusts and Estates Law Section at its December meeting.
Much work remains to be done by the NYUTC Committee, in conjunction with the other constituent organizations, and we thank each of the committee members and interest groups for their commitment to this task. Ultimately, we are hopeful that the Trusts and Estates Law Section will have played an instrumental role in modernizing and improving New York’s trust laws.
Ilene S. Cooper, Chair of the Trusts and Estates Law Section, is a partner with Farrell Fritz. Ira Mark Bloom, Chair of the N.Y. Uniform Trust Code Committee, is the Justice David Josiah Brewer Distinguished Professor of Law at Albany Law School.