Why States Should Adopt UIWA

The Uniform International Wills Act (UIWA) was drafted by the Uniform Law Commission in to implement the 1972 UNIDROIT “Convention Providing a Uniform Law on the Form of an International Will”.  The Convention is currently in force in the following twelve countries, not including the U.S.:  Belgium, Bosnia, Ecuador, Herzegovina, Canada, Cyprus, France, Italy, Libya, Niger, Portugal, and Slovenia.

The Convention provides safe harbor guidelines for a universal form of will that can be accepted in all countries despite variance with local requirements.  Consequently, a will that meets the requirements of the Convention that is executed in any country would be valid in any country in which the convention is in force.  However, the Convention is not effective without implementing legislation. The Uniform International Wills Act is designed to implement the convention in U.S. states and territories.

The UIWA is now enacted in 15 jurisdictions - either within the state’s Uniform Probate Code (Part 10 of Article II) or as a free-standing Act.  The UIWA states are: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon and Virginia. 

There are a number of important reasons why every state should adopt the Uniform International Wills Act including:

  • Currently, every U.S. State and Territory will recognize, probate, and enforce foreign wills in accordance with the law of the jurisdiction where it is executed.    The UIWA will help to level the playing field by allowing U.S. Citizens the same enforcement abroad.
  • The UIWA creates safe-harbor guidelines for the creation of an international will.   These guideline are designed to make the will enforceable in both common law and civil law countries.
  • Even if the United States does not ratify the underlying convention, signatory countries to the convention will recognize U.S. will executed in accordance with the safe-harbor guidelines of the UIWA – an important benefit to U.S. citizens who own property abroad.
  • Widespread adoption of the UIWA by U.S. States and Territories will encourage wider adoption by other countries, thereby magnifying the benefits to U.S. citizens.

The Uniform International Wills Act has been approved by the American Bar Association and endorsed by its Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law Section and International Law Section; it has also been endorsed by the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.   By enacting the UIWA, states and territories will provide their citizens with a helpful tool with the potential of avoiding significant costs and problems associated with execution of multiple wills in multiple countries.   The UIWA should be adopted in every state.