Attorneys and judges now have more scholarly guidance on wills and other donation-related issues in civil law, after a national organization released its third and final volume of the Restatement (Third) of Property: Wills and Other Donative Transfers.
A set of treatises on legal subjects meant to inform lawyers and judges about general principles of common law, the Restatements of the Law series is published by the American Law Institute. This volume’s completion marks the end of a 20-year project to update the U.S. law of wills and succession. The last updates were in 1999 and 2003.
Courts throughout the world, as well as lawyers, legislators and law professors, regularly refer to the various volumes of the Restatements and judges frequently cite the text in their judicial opinions.
Specifically, the new 757-page hardbound text provides a detailed account of rules governing class gifts, powers of appointment, future interests and perpetuities.
The class-gift rules respond to legal problems that have arisen from recent scientific breakthroughs in reproductive technology, resolving the succession implications of posthumous conception, surrogate motherhood, and sperm and egg donations. The work provides a comprehensive treatment of the rules governing powers of appointment and concludes with a simplified formulation of the rule against perpetuities. The Restatement supplies a strongly principled explanation of the reasons for limiting dead-hand control of property.
Among the innovations endorsed in the new volume are rules excusing harmless errors in compliance with the formal requirements for wills and gifts and permitting a court to reform the text of a will or other donative document in a case of mistake, as when a drafter or typist accidentally deletes or misrenders an intended term.