Chances are, by reading the title of this blog post, you now have the chorus from the amazingly catchy song, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” in your head. If by chance you don’t spend time with children under the age of 12 or otherwise managed to miss out on the 2021 Disney animated file Encanto, you can listen online here. The song is about the many reasons why Bruno Madrigal is estranged from the rest of the Madrigal family. While the root cause of Bruno’s estrangement – a magical ability to see the future – is out of the ordinary, it is not at all unusual for a family to have one family member who is estranged.
It may be tempting to not mention your family’s Bruno, if you have not spoken about him – much less actually spoken to him – in more than a decade, when an estate planning attorney asks you to identify your spouse, children, parents, and siblings for purposes of drafting your estate planning documents. Why identify a sibling who you have no intention of leaving any portion of your estate in your Will, a person who may feel like a stranger to you, and who may be just too weird for you? For one, Bruno will be entitled to notice of the probate of your estate if he survives you. If you fail to identify him, your Personal Representative may not realize he is an heir at law who is entitled to notice of the probate under RCW 11.28.237. And this is a problem.
All heirs and beneficiaries of your estate (including Bruno) are entitled to notice when a Personal Representative is appointed by the court in a probate, and those same heirs and beneficiaries are entitled to notice when the estate is about to be closed under RCW 11.68.110. As Stacey wrote in this blog post, sending notice prevents an heir from raising claims against the estate unless the claims are raised within the statutory timelines.
In addition, sending notice of a probate of will starts the clock running on the statute of limitations for filing a petition with the court challenging the validity of a will. RCW 11.24.010 requires that a will contest be filed within four months of the date a will is admitted to probate. If Bruno does not receive notice of the probate when it is first opened, he may be able to argue that the statute of limitations for the will contest does not begin to run until he receives that notice. What does that mean? The window during which your family’s Bruno might interfere in your probate and bring a will contest – even if that will contest is without merit – is going to be open longer.
One thing that is evident in the song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” is that everyone actually spends a lot of time talking and thinking about Bruno while not wanting to talk about him. This may be true for your family’s Bruno as well. And, while the character Bruno in Encanto seems an unlikely candidate to cause chaos in a probate, your family’s Bruno may not turn out to be so considerate. Have concerns about a family member who might interfere in a probate? We’re happy to chat!
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.