How Does One Close a Probate?

When a full intervention personal representative wishes to close the probate, she files with the court and serves on all interested parties her final report and petition for distribution, which includes a statement of the condition of the estate since the personal representative’s last annual report (RCW 11.76.010), and an accounting to the court for estate assets.  Her petition asks the court to approve her actions to date, and her plan of distribution to the heirs or legatees, her payment of creditor claims, her payment of personal representative’s fees, attorney’s fees, accountant’s fees, and appraisal fees.  RCW 11.76.030.  This hearing must be set on twenty days notice to interested parties, and one-time publication in the county’s legal newspaper.  RCW 11.76.040.  The court then, if convinced, issues a decree of distribution indicating that the full intervention personal representative has properly paid claims against the estate and properly plans to distribute to the heirs or legatees. RCW 11.68.100, 11.76.050.  The personal representative may be required pay the statutory costs and attorney’s fees of another  party if the party must bring an action to compel an accounting or if, upon challenging her report, that party prevails against her report.  RCW 11.76.070

A nonintervention personal representative may also close his probate in the manner described above.  Another alternative, which is both less expensive and cumbersome, lies open to the nonintervention personal representative.  A declaration of completion states certain relevant information about the probate, including the amount of personal representative’s fees, attorney’s fees, accountant’s fees, and appraisal fees paid or proposed to be paid.  This declaration is filed with the court.  It must be served within five days of filing on all interested parties.  Thirty days after such filing and service, the powers of the personal representative terminate, and the declaration of completion has the same effect as a decree of distribution.  If any heir, legatee, or devisee has concerns he wishes to bring before the court regarding the probate, he must do so within this thirty day window.  If all interested parties waive notice of declaration of completion, the personal representative is automatically discharged from his duties, and his bond exonerated.  RCW 11.68.110.  Even after discharge, a nonintervention personal representative may retain powers and funds (<$3,000) to deal with taxing authorities, provided he notified interested parties of such in his declaration of completion.  RCW 11.68.114.