When a decedent has more assets than debts, Washington law permits the personal representative to petition the court for “nonintervention powers” for use as the personal representative administers the decedent’s probate estate.
When nonintervention powers are granted in a probate, the personal representative may take many actions in winding up the decedent’s estate without obtaining advance approval from the court. Examples of things the personal representative can do without the supervision of the probate judge include selling the decedent’s real estate, liquidating the decedent’s other assets, and paying the decedent’s debts. If the personal representative is granted nonintervention powers by the probate judge, it helps simplify the probate process and helps lessen the cost of completing the probate.
In most cases, if there is no will (or if someone other than the person named in the will to serve as personal representative petitions the probate court to be appointed personal representative), then advance notice of the hearing before the judge on the petition for nonintervention powers is required by statute. The notice is given to all of the beneficiaries named in the will, and to all persons who would have received the decedent’s estate if the decedent had died without a will. However, notice of the hearing is not required if everyone involved waives the need for notice in writing.
If a personal representative has nonintervention powers and if all beneficiaries of the estate agree, the personal representative has the option of closing the estate in a semi-formal process using a Declaration of Completion of Probate. The advantage of using a Declaration of Completion of Probate to close a probate is that the personal representative does not have to participate in a court hearing and present a formal accounting to the probate court of all actions the personal representative engaged in while performing personal representative duties. The estate avoids a large expense if it is able to use the simpler process of a Declaration of Completion of Probate to close a probate estate.
Washington State has been a leader in simplifying the probate process, and the availability of nonintervention powers has been a key part of that simplification process.
Elizabeth A. Perry, a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, has been helping Clark County residents with their estate planning needs for over 20 years. Her practice emphasizes wills, trusts, probate and Medicaid planning. You are invited to call her to schedule an appointment or sign up for a class at (360) 816-2485. ©2016 Elizabeth A. Perry
(The above should not be construed as specific legal advice and is intended for general information purposes only)