Can I Get Information About the Estate From the Personal Representative?
A nonintervention personal representative has little duty to keep beneficiaries abreast of developments in the estate administration. Though a non-intervention personal representative has limited duties to report to the beneficiaries about the status of an estate, he should nevertheless do so. Lack of information causes uninformed parties to speculate and fret, which often leads to litigation. The PR has a duty not to waste estate assets. Estate litigation wastes estate assets.
An interested party has five approaches to acquire information from a non-intervention PR.
First, one may politely ask for information regarding the estate. I encourage all personal representatives whom I represent to distribute estate information regularly and thoroughly to beneficiaries, unless I believe the inquiring beneficiary acts from some improper motive. A wealth of information douses distrust and encourages good faith. If you are having trouble getting information from the personal representative of an estate of which you are a beneficiary, consider calling the attorney for the personal representative. Often, such an attorney can bridge the communication gap between you and the personal representative, and get you the information you seek.
Second, one may file and serve a request for special notice. RCW 11.28.240, 11.96A.130. A personal representative who has received a request for special notice must notify the person requesting special notice of specified estate events: real estate actions, solvency or insolvency of the estate. for non-intervention powers, accountings, distribution schemes, family support allowances or homesteads, declaration of completion, inventory, personal representative's claim against the estate, continuing an ongoing business, borrowing against the estate, TEDRA mediation or arbitration proceedings, distributions, attorney's fees or personal representative's fees. One may also request an inventory of estate assets, which the personal representative is obligated to provide on ten days notice, after ninety days have elapsed since her appointment. RCW 11.44.015.
Third, one may seek a court-ordered report on the assets, debts, taxes, and affairs of an estate one year after the personal representative was appointed, and annually thereafter. RCW 11.68.065. In the same vein, one may ask the court to determine any matter in a full administration probate. RCW 11.96A.030, 7.24.110. Bruce R. Moen has written a concise article on fiduciary accountings, which I republish with his permission. Bruce R. Moen, "Accountings In FidLaw (Moen) 2015."
Fourth, one may, for good cause shown, cite a non-intervention personal representative before the court to tell the court why she should not be removed as personal representative or have her powers limited, based on the allegations of the citing party. RCW 11.68.070. Causes for removal of a personal representative are stated at RCW 11.28.250. Litigating probate matters is an expensive, inefficient, and relationally-disruptive approach to conflict resolution. But when a personal representative or trustee remains obstinate in misbehaviors, neglecting or breaching fiduciary duties, few alternatives remain open. Bruce Moen, who frequently litigates matters involving errant fiduciaries, has written on this subject. Click here to read Mr. Moen's: "Cleaning Up After the Rogue Fiduciary." I link Mr. Moen's article with his permission.
Fifth, one may bring a TEDRA action to mediate or arbitrate issues in an estate. RCW 11.96A.090.
A full intervention personal representative may be approached in any of these four ways also, but a full intervention personal representative owes the beneficiaries an annual report on the affairs of the estate. RCW 11.76.010.