Closing a Washington Probate Estate

Overview of the Closing Process
Your administration of the estate is effectively done. Now, it is time to:

  1. Distribute the estate’s assets to Decedent’s Heirs or Beneficiaries, and
  2. File with the Court a report of your administration and distribution, bringing the estate and your administration of it to a close.

Are You Ready to Close the Probate Estate?

  1. If you have published a Probate Notice to Creditors, four months have passed since the date of its first publication
  2. If you have mailed a Probate Notice to Creditors to any potential creditor, thirty days have passed since the most recent date when you mailed such a Notice
  3. If you have received any valid Creditor’s Claims, they have been paid or agreeably disposed of.
  4. If the estate is subject to any Federal or Washington estate tax, those taxes have been settled and paid.
  5. If you desire to receive a fee for your services as Personal Representative, you have determined the amount of such fee, and that it is reasonable.
  6. If you have engaged any attorneys, appraisers, or accountants on behalf of the estate, you have determined the amount of all fees paid or to be paid to them and believe they are reasonable.

If you have completed ALL of the above, you are ready to close the estate. RCW 11.68.110(1)

Closing the Probate Estate – Simply

Simple closing requires that all Heirs and Beneficiaries entitled to receive property from the estate will execute a Receipt & Waiver upon receipt of their estate distribution.

On the one hand, the closing process is substantially simplified if you can obtain and file a statement from each Heir and Beneficiary entitled to receive property from the estate that he/she has received all property from the estate to which he/she is entitled. On the other hand, it makes little sense to attempt this process unless you can obtain such a statement from all the Heirs and Beneficiaries. Practically speaking, it is an “all or nothing” situation. If this is possible, then complete as many Receipt & Waiver by Heir or Beneficiary forms as there are Heirs and Beneficiaries and have each Heir or Beneficiary sign and deliver a copy of this form to you in receipt of his/her distribution.

Complete whichever of the following forms is appropriate:

File your completed Declaration of Completion and the signed Receipts & Waivers from all the Heirs and Beneficiaries with the Court (with a copy of each for conformation and return). RCW 11.68.110(3) The estate closes upon your filing. RCW 11.68.110(4)

That’s it — you’re done — Congratulations!

Closing the Probate Estate – Not So Simply

If any Heir or Beneficiary entitled to receive property from the estate is unable or unwilling to execute a Receipt & Waiver, then closing becomes more complicated — necessitating substantially more paperwork, mailing, and filing on your part and resulting in a delay of approximately a month to close the estate.

This process involves the use of two different forms having similar names:

  1. First Form: Declaration of Completion of Probate
    Complete whichever of the following two forms is appropriate:

    File it with the Court (with copy for conformation and return). RCW 11.68.110(1)

  2. Second Form: Notice of Filing of Declaration of Completion of Probate & Declaration of Mailing
    Complete a Notice of Filing of Declaration of Completion of Probate & Declaration of Mailing form.

    Attach a copy of your filed Declaration of Completion to your Notice of Filing & Declaration of Mailing

    Mail a copy of that combined document to each Heir or Beneficiary listed in your Declaration of Completion.

    File the original Notice of Filing & Declaration of Mailing with the Court (with copy for conformation and return). RCW 11.68.110(3)

    Timing: Within 5 days of filing your Declaration of Completion.

    So long as no Objection to your Declaration of Completion is timely filed at the Court and served on you, the estate will effectively close 30 days after filing your Declaration of Completion (the “Effective Date”). You will retain authority for 5 business days thereafter solely to make and complete Final Distribution. RCW 11.68.110(2) & 11.68.112.

  3. Final Distribution

    “Final Distribution” is the transfer of all the remaining assets (of whatever nature) in the estate to its Heirs and Beneficiaries. Assuming that no Objection to your Declaration of Completion was timely filed and served, then during the 5-business day period beginning on the first business day after the Effective Date, make Final Distribution by distributing to each Heir or Beneficiary at least as much property as was specified to be distributed to him/her in your Declaration of Completion, at which time the estate will close. RCW 11.68.112

    Timing: Within 5 business days after the Effective Date.

    For forms to use upon distribution or sale of property from or by the estate, see: Forms for Distribution or Sale of Property.

    For instructions and the Excise Tax Affidavit form for recording a Deed, see: Recording a Deed.

    CAUTION: Distributing to an Incapacitated Heir or Beneficiary

  4. Receipt by Heir or Beneficiary

    Although not required by law, it would be prudent to have each Heir or Beneficiary, in receipt of his/her distribution, sign and deliver to you a copy of a: Receipt by Heir or Beneficiary form.

    File all such signed Receipts with the Court (with copy for conformation and return).

    Caution:

    • The Receipt & Waiver by Heir or Beneficiary form is used before the filing of a Declaration of Completion.
    • The Receipt by Heir or Beneficiary form is used after the expiration of the 30-day notice period following the filing of a Declaration of Completion.

    Make sure that you use the correct form for your intended purpose.

  5. Advantage of Using the “Not So Simple” Method to Close the Estate

    One of your primary goals in closing the estate is likely to close it without having anyone object to your Declaration of Completion, necessitating further interaction with the Court. If you believe that any likelihood exists that any interested party might file an Objection (eg, because one or more heirs or beneficiaries have been troublesome during your administration), WASHINGTON PROBATE suggests that you:

    • Distribute little or no property during administration,
    • Avoid putting yourself in the awkward position of not obtaining all the necessary Receipts & Waivers,
    • Use the “not so simple” method to close the estate,
    • Send Notice of Filing of Declaration of Completion,
    • Wait until the expiration of the 30-day notice period, and
    • THEN MAKE DISTRIBUTION — AFTER your Declaration of Completion has become final and the time for filing any Objection has expired.

    At least then you will have put any disgruntled heir or beneficiary to the election of whether he/she would rather:

    • Receive promptly the property proposed to be distributed to him/her during the 5-day period following the Effective Date, or
    • Postpone its receipt for who knows how long while his/her potential Objection is heard by the Court.

    Congratulations! You’re done!


  6. Probate Closing “Problems”

    1. You Can’t Close within 12 Months of Obtaining Your Letters — Filing a Status Report

      You may need longer than 12 months to probate the estate.

      See: Your Probate Won’t Likely Close Within 12 Months.

    2. Someone Timely Files & Serves an Objection to Your Declaration of Completion

      If someone properly objects to your Declaration of Completion.

      If an eligible party files an Objection to your Declaration of Completion with the Court and serves a copy of it on you within the 30-day notice period, then you will need to set a hearing on the Objection with the Court, send Notice of Hearing to all the interested parties, file an appropriate Response to the Objection, and attend the hearing and make your best case.

    3. You’ve Closed but Need to Re-Open the Estate

      After closing it, you may need to re-open the estate, for example, to deal with newly discovered property.

      Occasionally, it becomes necessary to re-open a previously closed estate, for example, upon the discovery of new property belonging to the estate. The procedure for doing so is essentially the same as for initially opening the estate and obtaining one’s Letters. See: Re-Opening the Estate.

    4. Is Your Liability as Personal Representative Over Once Your Declaration of Completion Becomes Final?

      Generally, yes.
      Exceptions:

      • Fraud (eg, you intentionally hid assets or misstated their value to the detriment of the complaining heir or beneficiary),
      • Lack of required notice to the complaining heir or beneficiary to his/her detriment, etc.