Probate, trust, guardianship and inheritance litigation
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Who Can Serve As Personal Representative Washington State?

Washington state requires that a personal representative must be:

  1. At least 18 years old, and
  2. Of sound mind
  3. Have no felony convictions or convictions for a crime involving moral turpitude.

RCW § 11.28.040 and § 26.28.010, § 11.36.010.

Corporations May Only Serve As Personal Representatives In Washington Under Limited Circumstances

Corporations, limited liability companies, and limited liability partnerships are not qualified to act as personal representatives unless it is a:

  1. Trust company organized under Washington law and national banks when authorized to do so when appointed under the will, only if it or any of its salaried attorneys receive no fees for probating the estate
  2. Professional service corporations, professional limited liability companies, or limited liability partnerships, that are duly organized under the laws of Washington and whose shareholders, members, or partners, respectively, are exclusively attorneys, may act as personal representatives.
  3. Any nonprofit corporation may act as personal representative if the articles of incorporation or bylaws of that corporation permit the action and the corporation is in compliance with all applicable provisions of Title 24 RCW.

RCW § 11.36.010.

Can an Out-Of-State Resident Serve as Personal Representative In Washington?

Yes, an out-of-state resident can serve as a personal representative in Washington State.

The personal representative must post a bond and appoint a Washington resident who lives in the county where the estate is being probated to act as their agent and to accept legal documents on behalf of the estate.  RCW § 11.36.010.

What Is the Difference Between a Personal Representative, an Executor, and an Administrator in Washington?

“Personal representative,” “executor,” and “administrator” are all defined terms under the Washington Probate Code § 11.02.005.

“Personal representative” includes executor, administrator, special administrator, and conservator or limited conservator and special representative.

“Administrator” means a personal representative of the estate of a decedent and the term may be used in lieu of “personal representative” wherever required by context.

“Executor” means a personal representative of the estate of a decedent appointed by will and the term may be used in lieu of “personal representative” wherever required by context.

Who Has Priority To Serve As Personal Representative In Washington?

The person nominated in the decedent’s valid will has the priority to serve as personal representative of the estate, if they are qualified to do so.  RCW 11.28.10 states:

After the entry of an order admitting a will to probate and appointing a personal representative, or personal representatives, letters testamentary shall be granted to the persons therein appointed executors. If a part of the persons thus appointed refuse to act, or be disqualified, the letters shall be granted to the other persons appointed therein. If all such persons refuse to act, letters of administration with the will annexed shall be granted to the person to whom administration would have been granted if there had been no will.

Any person interested in a will may file objections in writing to the granting of letters testamentary to the persons named as executors, or any of them, and the objection shall be heard and determined by the court.  RCW 11.28.020

Who Has Priority To Serve As Personal Representative Of a Washington Estate With No Will?

If the decedent dies without a valid will, Washington law provides an order of priority for the people entitled to serve.  RCW 11.28.120.  The order of priority for those entitled to serve are:

(1) The surviving spouse or state registered domestic partner, or such person as he or she may request to have appointed.

(2) The next of kin in the following order: (a) Child or children; (b) father or mother; (c) brothers or sisters; (d) grandchildren; (e) nephews or nieces.

(3) The trustee named by the decedent in an inter vivos trust instrument, testamentary trustee named in the will, guardian of the decedent, conservator of the decedent, or an agent named in a durable power of attorney appointed by the decedent, if any such a fiduciary controlled or potentially controlled substantially all of the decedent’s probate and nonprobate assets.

(4) One or more of the beneficiaries or transferees of the decedent’s probate or nonprobate assets.

(5)(a) The director of revenue, or the director’s designee, for those estates having property subject to the provisions of chapter 11.08 RCW; however, the director may waive this right.

(b) The secretary of the department of social and health services for those estates owing debts for long-term care services as defined in *RCW 74.39A.008; however the secretary may waive this right.

(6) One or more of the principal creditors.

(7) If the persons so entitled shall fail for more than forty days after the death of the decedent to present a petition for letters of administration, or if it appears to the satisfaction of the court that there is no next of kin, as above specified eligible to appointment, or they waive their right, and there are no principal creditor or creditors, or such creditor or creditors waive their right, then the court may appoint a contract service provider with the office of public guardianship and conservatorship under chapter 2.72 RCW or any suitable person to administer such estate.

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