Reviewing Decedent’s Files & Giving Actual Notice

The Issue: Identifying possible creditors of Decedent — so that you can send them actual notice of the same information as in the Nonprobate Notice to Creditors.

RCW 11.42.040 provides the guidelines for identifying and notifying Decedent’s creditors — First, with “reasonable diligence”:

  1. Review Decedent’s:
    • Correspondence, including correspondence received after date of death; and
    • Financial records, including personal financial statements, loan documents, checkbooks, bank statements, and income tax returns — that are in your possession or reasonably available to you; and
  2. Make a list of each possible creditor found in your review.

The Issue: Sending to the possible creditors of Decedent identified in your review actual notice of the same information as in the Nonprobate Notice to Creditorseffectively “inviting” them to make their claim or be barred.

Why Send Actual Notice?  Washington law does not require a Notice Agent to give actual notice to known creditors — the legislature has just made it highly advantageous to do so in most circumstances:

Giving actual notice (within the first 3 months after first publication) allows you to reduce the Statute of Limitations from 24 months after date of death to 4 months after the date of first publication for an important class of creditors — those with claims that would have been expected to have been found in a diligent review of Decedent’s correspondence and financial records.  See Statute of Limitations.

Then, to complete the identification and notification process:

  1. Complete the Header (top half of first page of pleading) to the Nonprobate Creditor’s Claim form.
  2. To each possible creditor found in your review, mail by Certified Mail – Return Receipt Requested:
    1. A copy of your Nonprobate Notice to Creditors form, and
    2. A Header-completed Nonprobate Creditor’s Claim form.

Nonprobate Creditor’s Claim form.

Timing: Within 3 months after first publication of your Nonprobate Notice to Creditors.  Strategically, you should send actual notice at the end of the 3rd month (ie, just before the 90th day) after first publication; by doing so, you:

  • Minimize the time that each creditor has to timely submit a Creditor’s Claim (ie, to one month), and
  • Do so at no sacrifice to the estate (eg, by extending the time that a Creditor has to timely submit a Creditor’s Claim past the statutory four month period).

Query: Is there any way that you can ensure the success of your having made a reasonable review and sent actual notice to the possible creditors found in your review?  See Evidencing Your Reasonable Review.