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Richard Wellman was a national treasure. He was our most knowledgeable and influential authority on probate procedure, that is, on the processes for administering decedents' estates. By the middle decades of the twentieth century, when Wellman's career took shape, many American probate courts were a disgrace. Their rules, mostly embodied in state statutes, required court supervision of the most routine steps in the work of winding up the estate, paying the creditors, and transferring the remaining property to the heirs or devisees. Lawyers, probate judges, and court functionaries prospered doing makework at the expense of widows and orphans and charities. Wellman devoted his life to cleaning up American probate. He worked mainly through the Uniform Law Commission, which in the mid-1960s chose him to be the Reporter and chief architect for a reformed probate system, now known as the Uniform Probate Code (UPC). Wellman led a team of able co-Reporters, including William F. Fratcher, Edward C. Halbach, Jr., and Eugene F. Scoles. The Uniform Law Commission promulgated the Code in 1969.

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