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WA-Probate > Probate-Litigation > Rights to Notice & to Be Heard

 

D.  Rights to Notice & to Be Heard

  1. Do I Have the Right to Be Heard in a Probate Case?  The Notion of "Standing" & Who Is "Any Person Interested in the Estate?"

  2. Am I Entitled to Notice of Hearing on a Petition to Admit Decedent's Will to Probate or a Petition for Appointment of Personal Representative?  May I Object to Either Petition?

  3. Am I Entitled to Notice of Hearing on a Petition for Nonintervention Powers?  May I Object to that Petition?

  4. How Can I Keep Track of the Progress of Decedent's Probate Estate?  A Request for Special Notice

 

1.  Do I Have the Right to Be Heard in a Probate Case?  The Notion of "Standing" & Who Is "Any Person Interested in the Estate?"   

 

A person has "standing" in a case if he/she has sufficient connection (what is known as "nexus") with it so that:

In probate matters, a recurring phrase in the relevant probate statutes is "Any person interested in the estate."  See, for example:

This phrase sets forth what the "standing requirement" in probate cases.

 

At first blush, a person is "interested in the estate" if he/she falls into any of the following categories:

And while a person may be "interested in the estate" when the estate opens (or, in the case of most creditors, upon filing and serving his/her Creditor's Claim), his/her interest may terminate as the administration of the estate proceeds, as follows:

Bottom-line: For you to have the right to involve yourself in a probate case, eg, to be heard in Court about it, you must be and remain "interested in the estate."

 

Exception: Anyone may call to the Court's attention an issue of estate negligence or abuse.  Estate of Peterson, 12 Wn. 2d 686 (1942); Estate of Fraser, 83 Wn. 2d 884 (1974):

 

[I]t  makes no difference whether or not the parties who brought this fact to the court's attention were legally entitled to complain ....  It is the court [that] takes the initiative ..., and the source of the information inducing the action is not material.  Estate of Peterson, at page 723.

 

 

2.  Am I Entitled to Notice of Hearing on a Petition to Admit Decedent's Will to Probate or a Petition for Appointment of Personal Representative?  May I Object to Either Petition?   

 

Query: What are these Petitions?  See: Petitioning for Letters.

 

Washington has remarkably liberal probate laws.  For example, the person Decedent names in his/her Will as his/her Personal Representative is entitled to have the Will admitted to probate and him/herself appointed as Personal Representative without Notice of Hearing to anyone except Decedent's surviving spouse.  Even there, Notice of Hearing is required to the surviving spouse only if the Petition is filed within forty days after Decedent's death.

 

Say, for example, that you believe Decedent's named Personal Representative induced Decedent to make the Will by fraud, and so you want to contest the Will's admission and object to the Personal Representative's appointment.  Unfortunately, under Washington law, as described in the foregoing paragraph, so long as the named Personal Representative waits forty days after Decedent's death, he/she is entitled to have the Will admitted and him/herself appointed without Notice of Hearing to anyone.  And while you might have some right to object to the admission and appointment, whatever right you may have to object is effectively moot, because, practically speaking, you will have no idea when the named Representative's Petition for Admission of Will to Probate & Appointment of Personal Representative will be heard.

 

The foregoing discussion concerned a testacy.  Regarding an intestacy, the only Notice of Hearing required is to Decedent's surviving spouse if Decedent was married at death and the Petition is filed within 40 days of death.  Consequently, so long as Decedent was unmarried at death or if married, either timely Notice of Hearing was sent to his/her surviving spouse or 40 days has passed since death, a proposed Personal Representative is entitled to have him/herself appointed as Personal Representative without Notice of Hearing to anyone else.  And as in the foregoing paragraph, while you might have some right to object to the appointment, whatever right you may have to object is effectively moot, because, practically speaking, you will have no idea when the proposed Personal Representative's Petition for Appointment of Personal Representative will be heard.

 

For a discussion on filing objections to the Personal Representative's appointment after his/her appointment, see May I Object to the Appointment of the Personal Representative After His/Her Appointment? below.

 

 

3.  Am I Entitled to Notice of Hearing on a Petition for Nonintervention Powers?  May I Object to that Petition?   

 

Query: What are Nonintervention Powers?  See: Ensuring That You Are Eligible for Nonintervention Powers.

 

This will depend on whether the named or proposed Personal Representative combines his/her Petition for Nonintervention Powers with his/her Petition for Appointment of Personal Representative and, in the case of an intestacy, if the petitioner is Decedent's surviving spouse or his/her nominee, all the property in the estate is community property, etc.  Assuming that the two Petitions are combined (as they are on this website), then Notice of Hearing is not required for either:

In either of these two "no Notice of Hearing" circumstances, while you might have some right to object to the grant of Nonintervention Powers, whatever right you may have to object is effectively moot, because, practically speaking, you will have no idea when the petitioner's Petition for Nonintervention Powers will be heard.

 

If, however, the two Petitions are not combined, here are some circumstances under which you might gain some rights that you could reasonably exercise:

  1. Petitioner will have been appointed as Personal Representative as a result of his/her Petition for Appointment.  As described in the next section, Petitioner's appointment now allows you to file and serve a Request for Special Notice.
     

  2. You promptly file and serve a Request for Special Notice.  As a consequence:
     

    1. The Personal Representative is now required to send you a copy of all future Petitions and give you timely Notice of Hearing of them.
       

    2. When the Personal Representative files his/her Petition for Nonintervention Powers, he/she is required to give you timely Notice of Hearing of it.  You now know when the Petition will be heard.
       

  3. You attend the hearing and object to the grant of Nonintervention Powers.

 

4.  How Can I Keep Track of the Progress of Decedent's Probate Estate?  A Request for Special Notice.   

 

If you qualify to do so, you may file a Request for Special Notice and serve a copy of it on the Personal Representative or his/her attorney.  RCW 11.28.240

 

To qualify to do so:

As a result of filing and serving a valid Request for Special Notice, you are entitled to receive:

Practically speaking, however, Requests for Special Notice are largely relevant only with traditional estates, ie, those in which the Personal Representative lacks Nonintervention Powers.  A Nonintervention Personal Representative has very limited reason to file anything with the Court except a Declaration of Completion of Probate at the conclusion of administration, making a Request for Special Notice largely moot in this circumstance (unless the Personal Representative files a Petition for Appointment of Personal Representative and after being so appointed files a Petition for Nonintervention Powers, as described in the foregoing section).

 

Bottom-line: File and serve a Request for Special Notice if you qualify and believe that it is in your interest to file one but, as long as the Personal Representative maintains his/her Nonintervention Powers, it is unlikely that anything significant will come from it.

 

To file and serve a Request for Special Notice:

Request for Special Notice & Declaration of Mailing form

 

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