Duty of custodian of will — Liability.
Any person having the custody or control of any will shall, within thirty days after he or she shall have received knowledge of the death of the testator, deliver said will to the court having jurisdiction or to the person named in the will as executor, and any executor having in his or her custody or control any will shall within forty days after he or she received knowledge of the death of the testator deliver the same to the court having jurisdiction. Any person who shall wilfully violate any of the provisions of this section shall be liable to any party aggrieved for the damages which may be sustained by such violation.
Application for probate — Hearing — Order — Proof — Record of testimony — Affidavits of attesting witnesses.
(1) Applications for the probate of a will and for letters testamentary, or either, may be made to the judge of the court having jurisdiction and the court may immediately hear the proofs and either probate or reject such will as the testimony may justify. Upon such hearing the court shall make and cause to be entered a formal order, either establishing and probating such will, or refusing to establish and probate the same, and such order shall be conclusive except in the event of a contest of such will as hereinafter provided. All testimony in support of the will shall be reduced to writing, signed by the witnesses, and certified by the judge of the court. If the application for probate of a will does not request the appointment of a personal representative and the court enters an adjudication of testacy establishing such will no further administration shall be required except as commenced pursuant to RCW 11.28.330 or 11.28.340.
(2) In addition to the foregoing procedure for the proof of wills, any or all of the attesting witnesses to a will may, at the request of the testator or, after his or her decease, at the request of the executor or any person interested under it, make an affidavit before any person authorized to administer oaths, stating such facts as they would be required to testify to in court to prove such will, which affidavit may be written on the will or may be attached to the will or to a photographic copy of the will. The sworn statement of any witness so taken shall be accepted by the court as if it had been taken before the court.
Proof of lost or destroyed will.
(1) If a will has been lost or destroyed under circumstances such that the loss or destruction does not have the effect of revoking the will, the court may take proof of the execution and validity of the will and establish it, notice to all persons interested having been first given. The proof must be reduced to writing and signed by any witnesses who have testified as to the execution and validity, and must be filed with the clerk of the court.
(2) The provisions of a lost or destroyed will must be proved by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence, consisting at least in part of a witness to either its contents or the authenticity of a copy of the will.
(3) When a lost or destroyed will is established under subsections (1) and (2) of this section, its provisions must be distinctly stated in the judgment establishing it, and the judgment must be recorded as wills are required to be recorded. A personal representative may be appointed by the court in the same manner as is herein provided with reference to original wills presented to the court for probate.
Letters to executors — Refusal to serve — Disqualification.
After the entry of an order admitting a will to probate and appointing a personal representative, or personal representatives, letters testamentary shall be granted to the persons therein appointed executors. If a part of the persons thus appointed refuse to act, or be disqualified, the letters shall be granted to the other persons appointed therein. If all such persons refuse to act, letters of administration with the will annexed shall be granted to the person to whom administration would have been granted if there had been no will.
Community property — Who entitled to letters — Waiver.
A surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner shall be entitled to administer upon the community property, notwithstanding any provisions of the will to the contrary, if the court find such spouse or such domestic partner to be otherwise qualified; but if such surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner do not make application for such appointment within forty days immediately following the death of the deceased spouse or deceased domestic partner, he or she shall be considered as having waived his or her right to administer upon such community property. If any person, other than the surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner, make application for letters testamentary on such property, prior to the expiration of such forty days, then the court, before making any such appointment, shall require notice of such application to be given the said surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner, for such time and in such manner as the court may determine, unless such applicant show to the satisfaction of the court that there is no surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner or that he or she has in writing waived the right to administer upon such community property .
Application for letters of administration or adjudication of intestacy and heirship.
Application for letters of administration, or, application for an adjudication of intestacy and heirship without the issuance of letters of administration shall be made by petition in writing, signed and verified by the applicant or his or her attorney, and filed with the court, which petition shall set forth the facts essential to giving the court jurisdiction of the case, and state, if known, the names, ages and addresses of the heirs of the deceased and that the deceased died without a will. If the application for an adjudication of intestacy and heirship does not request the appointment of a personal representative and the court enters an adjudication of intestacy no further administration shall be required except as set forth in RCW 11.28.330 or 11.28.340.
Persons entitled to letters.
Administration of an estate if the decedent died intestate or if the personal representative or representatives named in the will declined or were unable to serve shall be granted to some one or more of the persons hereinafter mentioned, and they shall be respectively entitled in the following order:
(1) The surviving spouse or state registered domestic partner, or such person as he or she may request to have appointed.
(2) The next of kin in the following order: (a) Child or children; (b) father or mother; (c) brothers or sisters; (d) grandchildren; (e) nephews or nieces.
(3) The trustee named by the decedent in an inter vivos trust instrument, testamentary trustee named in the will, guardian of the person or estate of the decedent, or attorney-in-fact appointed by the decedent, if any such a fiduciary controlled or potentially controlled substantially all of the decedent’s probate and nonprobate assets.
(4) One or more of the beneficiaries or transferees of the decedent’s probate or nonprobate assets.
(5)(a) The director of revenue, or the director’s designee, for those estates having property subject to the provisions of chapter 11.08 RCW; however, the director may waive this right.
(b) The secretary of the department of social and health services for those estates owing debts for long-term care services as defined in *RCW 74.39A..008; however the secretary may waive this right.
(6) One or more of the principal creditors.
(7) If the persons so entitled shall fail for more than forty days after the death of the decedent to present a petition for letters of administration, or if it appears to the satisfaction of the court that there is no next of kin, as above specified eligible to appointment, or they waive their right, and there are no principal creditor or creditors, or such creditor or creditors waive their right, then the court may appoint any suitable person to administer such estate.
Hearing on petition — Appointment — Issuance of letters — Notice to surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner.
When a petition for general letters of administration or for letters of administration with the will annexed shall be filed, the matter may be heard forthwith, appointment made and letters of administration issued: PROVIDED, That if there be a surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner and a petition is presented by anyone other than the surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner, or any person designated by the surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner to serve as personal representative on his or her behalf, notice to the surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner shall be given of the time and place of such hearing at least ten days before the hearing, unless the surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner shall waive notice of the hearing in writing filed in the cause.
Oath of personal representative.
Before letters testamentary or of administration are issued, each personal representative or an officer of a bank or trust company qualified to act as a personal representative, must take and subscribe an oath, before some person authorized to administer oaths, that the duties of the trust as personal representative will be performed according to law, which oath must be filed in the cause.
Bond or other security of personal representative — When not required — Waiver — Corporate trustee — Additional bond — Reduction — Other security.
When the terms of the decedent’s will manifest an intent that the personal representative appointed to administer the estate shall not be required to furnish bond or other security, or when the personal representative is the surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner of the decedent and it appears to the court that the entire estate, after provision for expenses and claims of creditors, will be distributable to such spouse or surviving domestic partner, then such personal representative shall not be required to give bond or other security as a condition of appointment. In all cases where a bank or trust company authorized to act as personal representative is appointed as personal representative, no bond shall be required. In all other cases, unless waived by the court, the personal representative shall give such bond or other security, in such amount and with such surety or sureties, as the court may direct.
Every person required to furnish bond must, before receiving letters testamentary or of administration, execute a bond to the state of Washington conditioned that the personal representative shall faithfully execute the duty of the trust according to law.
The court may at any time after appointment of the personal representative require said personal representative to give a bond or additional bond, the same to be conditioned and to be approved as provided in this section; or the court may allow a reduction of the bond upon a proper showing.
In lieu of bond, the court may in its discretion, substitute other security or financial arrangements, such as provided under RCW 11.88.105, or as the court may deem adequate to protect the assets of the estate.
Notice of appointment as personal representative, pendency of probate — Proof by affidavit.
(1) Within twenty days after appointment, the personal representative of the estate of a decedent shall cause written notice of his or her appointment and the pendency of said probate proceedings, to be served personally or by mail to each heir, legatee and devisee of the estate and each beneficiary or transferee of a nonprobate asset of the decedent whose names and addresses are known to him or her, and proof of such mailing or service shall be made by affidavit and filed in the cause.
(2) If the personal representative does not otherwise give notice to creditors under chapter 11.40 RCW within thirty days after appointment, the personal representative shall cause written notice of his or her appointment and the pendency of the probate proceedings to be mailed to the state of Washington department of social and health services’ office of financial recovery, and proof of the mailing shall be made by affidavit and filed in the cause.
Parties disqualified — Result of disqualification after appointment.
The following persons are not qualified to act as personal representatives: Corporations, minors, persons of unsound mind, or persons who have been convicted of any felony or of a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude: PROVIDED, That trust companies regularly organized under the laws of this state and national banks when authorized so to do may act as the personal representative of decedents’ or incompetents’ estates upon petition of any person having a right to such appointment and may act as executors or guardians when so appointed by will: PROVIDED FURTHER, That professional service corporations regularly organized under the laws of this state whose shareholder or shareholders are exclusively attorneys may act as personal representatives. No trust company or national bank may qualify as such executor or guardian under any will hereafter drawn by it or its agents or employees, and no salaried attorney of any such company may be allowed any attorney fee for probating any such will or in relation to the administration or settlement of any such estate, and no part of any attorney fee may inure, directly or indirectly, to the benefit of any trust company or national bank. When any person to whom letters testamentary or of administration have been issued becomes disqualified to act because of becoming of unsound mind or being convicted of any crime or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, the court having jurisdiction shall revoke his or her letters. A nonresident may be appointed to act as personal representative if the nonresident appoints an agent who is a resident of the county where such estate is being probated or who is an attorney of record of the estate, upon whom service of all papers may be made; such appointment to be made in writing and filed by the clerk with other papers of such estate; and, unless bond has been waived as provided by RCW 11.28.185, such nonresident personal representative shall file a bond to be approved by the court.
Notice to creditors — Manner — Filings — Publication.
(1) Subject to subsection (2) of this section, a personal representative may give notice to the creditors of the decedent, in substantially the form set forth in RCW 11.40.030, announcing the personal representative’s appointment and requiring that persons having claims against the decedent present their claims within the time specified in RCW 11.40.051 or be forever barred as to claims against the decedent’s probate and nonprobate assets. If notice is given:
(a) The personal representative shall file the notice with the court;
(b) The personal representative shall cause the notice to be published once each week for three successive weeks in a legal newspaper in the county in which the estate is being administered;
(c) The personal representative may, at any time during the probate proceeding, give actual notice to creditors who become known to the personal representative by serving the notice on the creditor or mailing the notice to the creditor at the creditor’s last known address, by regular first-class mail, postage prepaid; and
(d) The personal representative shall also mail a copy of the notice, including the decedent’s social security number, to the state of Washington department of social and health services office of financial recovery.
The personal representative shall file with the court proof by affidavit of the giving and publication of the notice.
(2) If the decedent was a resident of the state of Washington at the time of death and probate proceedings are commenced in a county other than the county of the decedent’s residence, then instead of the requirements under subsection (1)(a) and (b) of this section, the personal representative shall cause the notice to creditors in substantially the form set forth in RCW 11.40.030 to be published once each week for three successive weeks in a legal newspaper in the county of the decedent’s residence and shall file the notice with the superior court of the county in which the probate proceedings were commenced.
“Reasonably ascertainable” creditor — Definition — Reasonable diligence — Presumptions — Petition for order.
(1) For purposes of RCW 11.40.051, a “reasonably ascertainable” creditor of the decedent is one that the personal representative would discover upon exercise of reasonable diligence. The personal representative is deemed to have exercised reasonable diligence upon conducting a reasonable review of the decedent’s correspondence, including correspondence received after the date of death, and financial records, including personal financial statements, loan documents, checkbooks, bank statements, and income tax returns, that are in the possession of or reasonably available to the personal representative.
(2) If the personal representative conducts the review, the personal representative is presumed to have exercised reasonable diligence to ascertain creditors of the decedent and any creditor not ascertained in the review is presumed not reasonably ascertainable within the meaning of RCW 11.40.051. These presumptions may be rebutted only by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence.
(3) The personal representative may evidence the review and resulting presumption by filing with the court an affidavit regarding the facts referred to in this section. The personal representative may petition the court for an order declaring that the personal representative has made a review and that any creditors not known to the personal representative are not reasonably ascertainable. The petition must be filed under RCW 11.96A..080 and the notice specified under RCW 11.96A..110 must also be given by publication.
Inventory and appraisement — Filing — Copy distribution.
(1) Within three months after appointment, unless a longer time shall be granted by the court, every personal representative shall make and verify by affidavit a true inventory and appraisement of all of the property of the estate passing under the will or by laws of intestacy and which shall have come to the personal representative’s possession or knowledge, including a statement of all encumbrances, liens, or other secured charges against any item. The personal representative shall determine the fair net value, as of the date of the decedent’s death, of each item contained in the inventory after deducting the encumbrances, liens, and other secured charges on the item. Such property shall be classified as follows:
(a) Real property, by legal description;
(b) Stocks and bonds;
(c) Mortgages, notes, and other written evidences of debt;
(d) Bank accounts and money;
(e) Furniture and household goods;
(f) All other personal property accurately identified, including the decedent’s proportionate share in any partnership, but no inventory of the partnership property shall be required of the personal representative.
(2) The inventory and appraisement may, but need not be, filed in the probate cause, but upon receipt of a written request for a copy of the inventory and appraisement from any heir, legatee, devisee, unpaid creditor who has filed a claim, or beneficiary of a nonprobate asset from whom contribution is sought under RCW 11.18.200, or from the department of revenue, the personal representative shall furnish to the person, within ten days of receipt of a request, a true and correct copy of the inventory and appraisement.
Additional inventory and appraisement — Copy distribution.
Whenever any property of the estate not mentioned in the inventory and appraisement comes to the knowledge of a personal representative, the personal representative shall cause the property to be inventoried and appraised and shall make and verify by affidavit a true inventory and appraisement of the property within thirty days after the discovery thereof, unless a longer time shall be granted by the court, and shall provide a copy of the inventory and appraisement to every person who has properly requested a copy of the inventory and appraisement under RCW 11.44.015(2).
Order of payment of debts.
After payment of costs of administration the debts of the estate shall be paid in the following order:
(1) Funeral expenses in such amount as the court shall order.
(2) Expenses of the last sickness, in such amount as the court shall order.
(3) Wages due for labor performed within sixty days immediately preceding the death of decedent.
(4) Debts having preference by the laws of the United States.
(5) Taxes, or any debts or dues owing to the state.
(6) Judgments rendered against the deceased in his or her lifetime which are liens upon real estate on which executions might have been issued at the time of his or her death, and debts secured by mortgages in the order of their priority.
(7) All other demands against the estate.
This post is for informational purposes and does not contain or convey legal advice. The information herein should not be used or relied upon in regard to any particular facts or circumstances without first consulting with an attorney.