Creditor’s Claims of the Personal Representative
The Issue: Being Decedent’s Personal Representative doesn’t disqualify you from making a claim against the estate yourself, but due to the inherent conflict of interest, you can’t approve your own claim on behalf of the estate — the Court must do so after notice to all persons interested in the estate.
RCW 11.40.140 provides for strict provisions if you are a creditor of Decedent and wish to present a Creditor’s Claim against the estate yourself:
- You must prepare, file, and serve a written Creditor’s Claim, and
- You must set a noticed hearing and have the Court determine whether your claim should be allowed.
Caution: By simultaneously wearing the two hats of creditor and Personal Representative, you are in an inherent conflict of interest (unless you are the the sole Beneficiary/Heir and the estate has sufficient funds to pay all other creditors). Being in a conflict of interest, every action you take regarding your Creditor’s Claim will be assumed to have been taken out of self-interest and will be subject to strict scrutiny with you bearing the burden of proof as to its fairness to the estate and its beneficiaries, heirs, and other creditors. Follow the letter of the law.
RCW 11.40.070, which sets forth the requirements for the lawful presentation of Creditor’s Claims, includes as one of those requirements: “Serving on or mailing to, by regular first class mail, the personal representative or the personal representative’s attorney a copy of the signed claim….” Does this mean that if you, in your individual capacity, want to present a Creditor’s Claim to yourself, in your capacity as Personal Representative, you are required to mail a copy of the Claim to yourself for the Claim to be lawfully presented? WASHINGTON PROBATE suggests prudence: Mail it, especially if there is any possibility that a third party (eg, a Beneficiary or Heir — or in the case of insolvency, another creditor) might later complain or object — mail yourself a copy and save the envelope including the postmark, so that you can evidence that the copy of your Claim was timely mailed.
A secure way of mailing yourself a document to prove that it was timely mailed is to mail it but, upon receiving it, not to unseal the envelope; you just file among your records the unopened envelope, knowing that it is readily available, has the postmark on the outside, and the document on the inside. The quiet unsealing of the envelope and production of the document in Court has the desired effect.
To obtain the allowance:
- Complete a Petition for Order Allowing Creditor’s Claim of Personal Representative form.
Timing: Soon after 4 months after first publication of your Probate Notice to Creditors. Waiting this long allows you to show the Court that no more Creditor’s Claims can be lawfully presented, eliminating the possibility that a huge Creditor’s Claim may be lawfully presented in the future whose payment would force the estate into insolvency — after your Creditor’s Claim has already been paid. If potential insolvency is not an issue, there is no reason not to file your Petition promptly (although by doing so, you will need to delete Paragraphs 3-5 from the Petition form and Finding 2 from the proposed Order form).
- Determine when probate petitions are heard at your Courthouse.
- Select a suitable date and time for the hearing on your Petition, making sure that your proposed hearing date is at least 20 (+3) days into the future.
- Complete a Notice on Hearing on Petition for Order Allowing Creditor’s Claim, of Personal Representative & Declaration of Mailing form.
- Attach to your Notice a copy of your Petition and make sufficient copies of that combined document (Notice + Petition).
- Mail a copy of that combined document (Notice + Petition) to each person entitled to notice:
- Decedent’s heirs,
- Decedent’s beneficiaries, and
- Anyone from whom you have received a Request for Special Notice under RCW 11.28.240.
Timing: At least 20 days (+3 more days for giving notice by mail; total = 23 days) before the hearing
- At Court, file and obtain a conformed copy of your:
- Petition and
- Notice of Hearing & Declaration of Mailing.
Timing: At least 20 days before the hearing.
- At least in King County: File Working Copies including a proposed Order with the Probate Department at least 7 days before the hearing.
- Complete an Order Allowing Creditor’s Claim of Personal Representative form.
- Before the hearing, make sure that either:
- The newspaper in which you published your Probate Notice to Creditors has filed with the Court its Proof of Publication, or
- You have received from the newspaper its Proof of Publication, so that you can file it with the Court.
- Attend the hearing on your Petition. Assuming no one objects to your Petition, the Judge will likely ask you for a proposed Order. Hand it to the Judge (or to the clerk for the Judge) for his/her review and signature and return to you. It would be better practice for you to return the file and the signed Order to the Clerk’s Office and obtain a copy of the signed Order for your records.