What Court Supervises Probate?

Superior courts, which are courts of plenary jurisdiction (which means they can hear any matter), supervise probate cases.  RCW 11.96A.020.  One files a probate in superior court.  RCW 11.96A.040.  One may file probate for a decedent in any county in Washington State.  RCW 11.96A.050(3).  If one files a probate in a county other than the decedent’s county of residence, one must publish notice to creditors in the county of decedent's residence. RCW 11.40.020(2).  Any party may ask the court to determine issues, declare rights, or establish relations with respect to probate matters.  RCW 11.96A.080.

There exist two different levels of court supervision of probates:

1. Nonintervention Probates.  When personal representative is granted nonintervention powers, after filing and the grant of nonintervention powers, the personal representative’s administration of the estate is no longer directly supervised by the court (RCW 11.68.011 unless a interested party brings a petition for a report on the affairs of the estate (RCW 11.68.065) or a citation (RCW 11.68.070) in which proceeding the court issues a show cause order to the personal representative to answer the well-documented allegations of the interested party.  The court may limit or revoke a personal representative’s non-intervention powers, under appropriate circumstances, or even replace the personal representative.  Adequate reasons for removing a personal representative are waste of estate assets, embezzlement, mismanagement of estate assets, or any other reason satisfactory to the court.  RCW 11.28.250.  A removed personal representative must account to the court for his management of financial assets during his tenure, and deliver all assets and paperwork of the estate to the successor personal representative.  RCW 11.28.290.  A non-intervention personal representative may close the nonintervention probate by declaration of completion with minimal reporting of facts to the heirs or legatees.  RCW 11.68.110.

At Lancaster Law Office, we encourage nonintervention personal representatives of probates to keep creditors, heirs, and legatees abreast of estate developments to the extent of their individual needs.  This reduces conflict among beneficiaries and with the personal representative.

2. In full intervention probate administrations, a personal representative seeks permission of the court for each of her actions.  These requests are usually brought before the court in batches, and most probates require two sets of requests.  A full intervention personal representative accounts annually to the court and heirs or legatees about the affairs of the estate.  RCW 11.76.010.  The full intervention probate is closed by accounting to the heirs and legatees (the final report), which must include the personal representative’s receipts and canceled checks (RCW 11.76.100) in the course of a final hearing, at which the court approves the personal representative’s accounting and plan of distributing the estate assets (decree of distribution).  RCW 11.76.030.