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WA-Probate > Probate Instructions > Opening the Estate > Appointing a Special Administrator


Washington Probate Instructions



Appointing a Special Administrator

  1. Nature of Special Administrator

  2. Purpose of Special Administrator

  3. Qualifications of Special Administrator

  4. Proof Required for Appointment of Special Administrator

  5. Bond of Special Administrator

  6. Nonintervention Powers of Special Administrator

  7. Eventual Appointment of Personal Representative

  8. Debts and Creditors

  9. Opening Decedent's Safety Deposit Box to Obtain Decedent's Will


Problem: If any official action regarding Decedent's estate needs to be taken before a Personal Representative can be appointed, a Special Administrator may need to be appointed in order to obtain the authority to take such action.  See RCW 11.32.010.



A.  Nature of Special Administrator    


A Special Administrator is a person:


B.  Purpose of Special Administrator    


The appointment of a Special Administrator may be necessary for reasons as innocuous as obtaining authority to:

or as serious as obtaining authority to collect and preserve Decedent's property in any of the following circumstances:


C.  Qualifications of Special Administrator    


RCW 11.32.010 provides for no specific qualifications for a Special Administrator except than he/she shall be "other than one of the parties."  Presumably, a Special Administrator is required to have all the qualifications of a Personal Representative under RCW 11.36.010.


Regarding the "other than one of the parties" issue, the only Washington case on point is Hartley v. Lord, 38 Wash. 432 (1905).  There, an Executor:

Decedent's surviving wife then petitioned for appointment of another as Special Administrator during the pendency of the appeal.  The Court appointed the Executor as Special Administrator, and the wife appealed that decision.  Held: During the pendency of a Will Contest, the Executor is "one of the parties" and, as such, is ineligible from serving as Special Administrator.


Whether a nominated but not yet appointed Personal Representative is "one of the parties" remains to be determined.  If so, then he/she would be ineligible to be appointed as Special Administrator.  On the one hand, it would appear as if Decedent's named Personal Representative would be the logical choice to serve in the absence of any contest involving him/her or the Will in which he/she is named.  On the other hand, if the named Personal Representative were appointed Special Administrator and later were appointed Personal Representative, then no one would be available to object to the Special Administrator's accounting to the Court upon the end of special administration and transfer of assets and liabilities to the Personal Representative.


King County appears to take the position that the "other than one of the parties" issue disqualifies only a person who is a party to a Will Contest in the matter.  2003 King County Probate Policy & Procedure Manual, 3.6.1.



D.  Proof Required in Petition for Appointment of Special Administrator    


Besides the usual basic proof requirements, such as showing jurisdictional facts and any Will, King County requires that the following also be shown:

  1. The necessity for the appointment;

  2. The qualifications of the proposed Special Administrator;

  3. The tasks to be performed;

  4. The proposed duration of the appointment; and

  5. The proposed date for the Court to review the file (following the appointment).

2003 King County Probate Policy & Procedure Manual, 3.6.2.



E.  Bond of Special Administrator    


An appointed Special Administrator (other than a bank or trust company) is required to post Bond in an amount determined by the Court before Letters of Special Administration may be issued.  RCW 11.32.020



F.  Nonintervention Powers of Special Administrator    


A Special Administrator is not eligible to be granted Nonintervention Powers.



G.  Eventual Appointment of Personal Representative    


Upon the eventual appointment of the Personal Representative, the Special Administrator is required to:


H.  Debts and Creditors    


Although under RCW 11.32.030 a Special Administrator has authority for dealing with Decedent's debts, Decedent's creditors cannot maintain a lawsuit against a Special Administrator, only the Personal Representative.  RCW 11.32.050



I.  Opening Decedent's Safety Deposit Box to Obtain Decedent's Will    


As discussed in Is a Probate Necessary? and Gaining Access to a Safety Deposit Box, if:

then you may need to open a probate to obtain the Letters to gain access to the box to get Decedent's Will.  As in most situations, there is a simple and a not so simple way of accomplishing this.  If you are in King County, there is a really simple way: Petitioning the Court for an Order granting you access to the box without having to actually file a Petition for Letters, as either Personal Representative or Special Administrator.  See King County LR 98.04(d) and


Petition for Order to Open Safety Box & Release Will form




Order Directing Bank to Open Safety Box & Release Will form.


If, however, you are in a county that does not allow such a Petition and Order, then you have two choices:


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