Robert H. Sitkoff, the John L. Gray Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, has been appointed to the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) drafting committee for an Act on Electronic Wills.
The Drafting Committee on Electronic Wills will draft model legislation addressing the formation, validity, and recognition of electronic wills. It may seek expansion of its purpose to consider other end-of-life planning documents as well, such as advance medical directives and powers of attorney for health care and for property.
The project of drafting a uniform law to address the particular challenges posed by electronic wills originated with a proposal by Sitkoff and Yale Law Professor John Langbein ’68 to the Joint Editorial Board for Uniform Trusts and Estates. For Sitkoff, the need for such an initiative became apparent in the classroom. When he added electronic wills to his Fall 2016 course on Trusts and Estates, he says, he “was struck by the need for clarifying legislation. The case law is thin and in disarray, and the existing legislation on recognition of digital or electronic records and signatures does not speak to wills.”
As part of the HLS Last Lectures series last March, Sitkoff delivered a talk about the importance of private law in helping people organize their personal and business relationships (“private ordering”). The series, organized by the Class Marshals, asks popular HLS professors to give lectures addressing the graduating class.
An expert in wills, trusts, estates, and fiduciary administration, Sitkoff was the youngest tenured professor to receive a chair in the history of Harvard Law School. His work has been published in leading scholarly journals such as the Yale Law Journal, Stanford Law Review, Columbia Law Review, Journal of Law and Economics, and Journal of Empirical Legal Studies. He is the surviving co-author of Wills, Trusts, and Estates (Aspen 9th ed. 2013), the leading American coursebook on trusts and estates. He also is the editor of the Wills, Trusts, and Estates abstracting journal of the Social Science Research Network and is an Academic Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.
An active participant in trusts and estates law reform, Sitkoff serves under Massachusetts gubernatorial appointment as a Uniform Law Commissioner. Within the ULC, he is Chair of the Drafting Committee for an Act on Directed Trusts and a liaison member of the Joint Editorial Board for Uniform Trusts and Estates Acts, the principal oversight body for all uniform law activity pertaining to trusts and estates. He previously served as a member of several other drafting committees for uniform trusts and estates acts and as the Reporter for the Uniform Statutory Trust Entity Act (last revised 2013).
Within the American Law Institute, Sitkoff is a member of the Council, the governing body of the Institute, and he serves on the Council’s Projects Committee. He is currently an Adviser for the Restatement of Charitable Nonprofits and for the Restatement (Third) of Conflict of Laws. He previously was a member of the consultative groups for the Restatement (Third) of Trusts and the Restatement (Third) of Property: Wills and Other Donative Transfers.
Established in 1892, the Uniform Law Commission provides states with models for nonpartisan legislation that brings clarity and stability to critical areas of state statutory law. Among the commission’s many contributions are the Uniform Commercial Code, the Uniform Probate Code, and the Uniform Trust Code. Further information can be found at the ULC’s website at http://www.uniformlaws.org.