Giving Proper Notice
Once you are appointed personal representative (or administrator) with nonintervention powers, the court will not supervise your actions. In return for this freedom, however, you must make sure everyone interested in the estate can protect their rights. Washington’s probate system does this, in part, by requiring you to give proper notices to all of the heirs and beneficiaries. This is accomplished primarily through mailing a notice that you’ve been appointed, mailing a copy of the inventory of the estate if someone requests it, and mailing a notice of your intention to close the probate. A couple of state agencies also require notice. These requirements are discussed below.
20 days after appointment
Within 20 days after your appointment, you must mail a Notice of Appointment and Pendency of Probate (PDF) (Word) to everyone who is a beneficiary in the will, everyone who would receive a portion of the estate if there were no will, and all beneficiaries of nonprobate assets. RCW 11.28.237. You don’t have to send a copy of the will, but that would be a nice thing to do. You can personally serve them with the Notice or mail it to them. In addition to the Notice of Appointment, you should also include the Notice Re Probate Case, which the King County Clerk requires you to mail to everyone.
To prove that you have mailed everyone the Notice of Appointment and Notice Re Probate Case, you should file a Declaration of Mailing (PDF) (Word) with the Court swearing under penalty of perjury that you have done this. It's important to note that if you have a will, you still must send your Notice of Appointment to those who are disinherited in the will (i.e., those who would have taken a portion of the estate under RCW 11.04.015 had there been no will). They need to know you've been appointed and the will has been admitted to probate so they can defend their rights if necessary, including challenging the will.
30 days after appointment
If you have chosen not to file a Notice to Creditors (which would have required you to mail a copy of that Notice to the Office of Financial Recovery at DSHS), you must send a Notice of Appointment and Pendency of Probate (PDF) (Word) to DSHS. RCW 11.28.237(2). You should include the decedent's social security number in a cover letter to DSHS. The address to that agency is currently: PO Box 9501, Olympia, WA 98507-9501. Then you must file a Declaration of Mailing with the Court swearing under penalty of perjury that you have done this (PDF) (Word).
60 days after appointment
Within 60 days after your appointment, you must send a copy of the Notice of Appointment and Pendency of Probate (PDF) (Word) to the Washington State Department of Revenue. RCW 82.32.240. This notice, however, is required only if the decedent was “engaging in business” at time of death. I interpret this to mean that the decedent was a sole proprietor, member of an LLC, shareholder of a corporation, or otherwise engaged in business where the decedent may have had a business-related tax liability to Washington State. The address to send the Notice to is currently: PO Box 47476, Olympia, WA 98504-7476. Then you should file a Declaration of Mailing with the Court swearing under penalty of perjury that you have done this (PDF) (Word).
Three months after appointment
Within three months after your appointment, you are required to have prepared and verified as correct an inventory and appraisement of the estate. RCW 11.44.015. An inventory is a list of assets that the decedent left behind with each item valued as of the date of death. The property on the inventory should be separated by (1) real property, (2) stocks and bonds, (3) mortgages, notes and other written evidence of indebtedness owed to the decedent, (4) bank accounts and money, (5) furniture and household goods, and (6) all other personal property. If there are any mortgages or encumbrances on any of the property, that should be listed too. You need not file this with the Court or mail it to anyone. However, if anyone asks for it, you must provide it within 10 days of the request. RCW 11.44.015 describes the requirements for the inventory.
One year after appointment
Most probates should be finished within one year after appointment. For various reasons, however, some probates can’t be finished within that time period by no fault of the personal representative or administrator. Under RCW 11.48.010, you are required to administer the estate as “rapidly and quickly as possible.” How long that takes depends on the specific circumstances of each case. However, if you have not concluded your probate within a year, the King County Clerk wants you to file a Statement of Case Status (PDF) (Word) explaining why it isn’t closed. You should then mail that Statement to all of the parties.
One year after the original appointment, RCW 11.68.065 also permits a beneficiary to petition the Court to demand that you create and deliver a report containing various information, including an inventory of the assets that have been collected, the bills, taxes and distributions that might have been paid, and any other information the court might want to require. This statute however does not prevent the court from demanding this information before the end of the first year, especially if a beneficiary shows that there are some concerns regarding the proper administration of the estate. If you have not been granted nonintervention powers, the law requires you to file a report of the affairs of the estate, containing the information in RCW 11.76.010.
At time of closing
When you intend to close the probate, you must mail or personally serve all heirs and beneficiaries with a copy of the Declaration of Completion of Probate and the Notice of Filing of the Declaration of Completion. You can avoid this by having heirs and beneficiaries waive their rights to receive these documents. For more information on closing the probate and the notices required, you should visit the Closing the Probate page.
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