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WA-Probate > Probate Court Practice > Satisfying Notice Requirements
There are two types of Notice:
"Pre-Hearing Notice." You want some matter to be heard and determined by the Court, resulting in the Court's issuing an Order, establishing some rights or liabilities between you, the estate, and other interested persons. In the absence of an emergency, in order for the Court to issue such an Order, our Federal and State Constitutions require that all such persons be given adequate notice of the hearing and an opportunity to object to what you are asking the Court to do.
"Post-Hearing Notice." In other situations, you may have already obtained an Order from the Court, establishing some rights or liabilities between you, the estate, and other interested persons. For that Order to be binding on them, our Federal and State Constitutions require that all such persons be given adequate notice of the Court's having made the Order and an opportunity to object to it within a specified period of time.
The "Notice Problem": You Must Attempt to Get Everybody Before the Court
The Easiest Way to Solve the Notice Problem Is to Avoid It Altogether
Avoiding the Notice Problem Allows You to "Walk a Matter Through Court" in an Ex Parte Hearing
Requests that Do Not Require Notice to Be Given
Requests that Require Notice to Be Given, But Which May Be Avoided by Obtaining Consents & Waivers
Requests that Truly Require Notice to Be Given
Completion of Notice
Proof of Notice
A. The "Notice Problem": You Must Attempt to Get Everybody Before the Court ñ
In a prior page, we saw that Probate Courts are responsive --- that its parties must ask the Court for what they want. Another consequence of Probate Courts being responsive is that when they are asked to respond, they will do so only when everyone who may have any lawful interest in the matter has had a reasonable opportunity to "give his/her side of the story" to the Court. What Courts want to avoid is taking their time to respond, making a response, and then have someone critical "come out of the woodwork" and say "I didn't get a chance to tell my story and be heard about the matter." This issue boils down to what is known as satisfying notice requirements, the procedures of:
Setting a Court hearing, and
Giving Notice of Hearing to all the interested parties, so that each interested party has the opportunity to attend the hearing and be heard on the matter before the Court.
Pro se litigants (parties without lawyers), with their understandable unfamiliarity of the law and its practice, often focus on satisfying the law's substance and overlook its process. This is most often evident in pro se litigants' failing to satisfy notice requirements.
Without a doubt, satisfying the legal requirements for giving proper Notice is tedious, generates a monumental amount of paper, and can result in substantial mailing charges. Nonetheless, if you do not meet the "black or white" legal requirements for proper Notice, well, as they say in the Garden State, "Fuhgeddaboudid !!!" You will have to go back to the beginning and start all over again:
Reschedule another hearing,
Wait out the pertinent Notice period,
Re-appear in Court, etc.
For all of the above reasons, we need to address the issues in satisfying Notice requirements in greater detail --- and will do so in reverse order.
B. The Easiest Way to Solve the Notice Problem Is to Avoid It Altogether ñ
The fundamental rule about setting hearings and satisfying Notice requirements is:
avoid having to set a hearing and satisfy notice requirements if at all possible.
(It is hard to emphasize this too much.)
This may be accomplished in either of two ways:
Asking the Court to approve a request that
does not require Notice to be given, or
Asking the Court to approve a request that (at
does require Notice to be given but obtaining from all of the parties
to whom Notice is required to be given either:
A written Consent for whatever
it is that you are asking the Court to approve, or
A written Waiver of Notice of the Court's hearing on your request (this website combines both into a Consent & Waiver).
"Ex parte" literally means "on behalf of" and connotes that the hearing involves only one party --- that you are asking the Court for its approval without Notice to any other party.
Source of Confusion: Probate matters are generally heard in the Ex Parte Department of the Superior Court (an "Ex Parte Court"). Ex Parte Courts were created to conduct "true" ex parte hearings, ie, hearings that don't require Notice of the hearing to be given to any other party. Over time, their range of cases expanded, so now Ex Parte Courts are assigned to hear most matters that can be heard in no more than 5 to 10 minutes, regardless of whether or not Notice is required to be given. In fact, most matters now heard by Ex Parte Courts require Notice to be given to all parties. Practically speaking, however, Ex Parte Courts handle the workload they do not because of the lack of Notice requirements in a "true" ex parte hearing but because although Notice is required to be given, the parties either:
C. Avoiding the Notice Problem Allows You to "Walk a Matter through Court" in a True Ex Parte Hearing ñ
In either of the two foregoing situations, you may ask the Court to approve your requests at an ex parte hearing, without your having to have set a hearing and given actual Notice of Hearing, using a procedure that is informally known as "Walking a Matter through Court."
D. Requests that Do Not Require Notice to Be Given ñ
As you might suspect, these are few and far between, but in our case, they are especially pertinent. Usually the only requests that you will make of the Court is for it to:
Appoint you as Decedent's Personal
Representative (through your Petition for Letters), and simultaneously
Grant you Nonintervention Powers (through your simultaneous Petition for Nonintervention Powers), so that you can administer the estate without further Court supervision.
Fortunately, most persons (specifically:
named Personal Representative in a testate estate who:
If Decedent is
survived by a spouse, files after the
40-day post-death waiting period, or
If Decedent had no surviving spouse, files
A surviving spouse in a community property intestate estate in which all of Decedent's children were also the children of the surviving spouse;) ...
qualify for being able to request the Court for both Letters and Nonintervention Powers without having to set a hearing or give Notice of Hearing. If you who don't fall within these exceptions, see Paragraph F below.
E. Requests that Require Notice to Be Given, But Which May Be Avoided by Obtaining Consents & Waivers ñ
By and large, anything else you may request of the Court will require, at first blush, a hearing to be set and Notice of Hearing to be given. Even then, however, these tasks may be avoided by obtaining a Consent & Waiver from everyone to whom Notice would otherwise be required to be given. If you can obtain a Consent & Waiver from ALL such persons, you may "Walk the Matter through Court" in an ex parte hearing. To do so, you will need to:
Complete the pertinent Consent & Waiver form. For example, the only person possibly requiring notice of a Petition for Letters (your request to be appointed Decedent's Personal Representative) is any surviving spouse of the Decedent. Consequently, if Decedent was survived by a spouse and you are required to give Notice to him/her, you would complete a Consent & Waiver form specific to your Petition for Letters. In some cases, you may be required to give Notice to obtain Nonintervention Powers. If you fall into this category, you would complete a Consent & Waiver form specific to your Petition for Nonintervention Powers.
Obtain ALL of the required signatures.
Problem: An incapacitated heir or beneficiary (eg, a minor).
F. Requests that Truly Require Notice to Be Given ñ
Here, you are unable to obtain all the necessary Consents & Waivers, for example:
Practically: Someone entitled to
Notice is unavailable physically or unwilling
temperamentally to sign a Consent & Waiver; or
Legally: Someone entitled to Notice is legally incapacitated, perhaps a minor, and you'll need to have the Court either appoint a Guardian ad Litem for that person or order that Notice to that person is not required, perhaps because he/she is already represented, for example, by a Guardian, Custodian, or Trustee.
Bottom-line: It's now unavoidable --- You will need to set a hearing and give Notice of Hearing to all interested parties. To do so:
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 the lawfully required number of days (+3 more days to
satisfy the legal mailing requirements) into the future.
Complete the pertinent Notice of Hearing & Declaration of Mailing form (specifically described in the website's instructions).
Attach to your
Notice & Declaration 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
Timing: At least the statutorily required number of days (+3 more days for sending Notice by mail) before the hearing.
At Court, file and obtain a conformed copy of your:
Notice of Hearing & Declaration of Mailing.
Timing: At least the statutorily required number of 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. [This is most conveniently done by mailing your Working Copies to the Probate Department when you mail your Notice + Petition to all interested parties.]
Attend the hearing on your Petition. Assuming no one objects to your Petition, the Judge will likely ask you for your 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 signed Order to the Clerk's Office and obtain a certified copy of the signed Order for your records.
G. Notice Periods & King County Exception ñ
The general rule in probate is that any matter requiring Notice requires 20 days notice unless another Notice period is specified by statute. RCW 11.96A.100 Most statutes that specify another Notice period specify a 10 day Notice period, resulting in Notice periods in probate usually being of either 10 or 20 days. King County, however, extends the 10-day Notice period to 14 days, resulting in Notice periods there being of either 14 or 20 days. King County LR 98.04(b)(6)
Side-bar: See: Probate Notice Periods.
H. Completion of Notice ñ
Caution: Notice is considered to be completed when received, not when deposited for delivery. CR5(b)(1)
Exception: If Notice is deposited with the US Postal Service, service by mail is considered to be completed on the third day following its deposit, regardless of delivery. CR5(b)(2)(A); Jankelson v. Lynn Construction, Inc., 72 Wn. App. 232 (1993). If the third day following deposit is a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, service is completed on the next business day. CR5(b)(2)(A)
If Notice is deposited with delivery system other than the Postal Service, for example UPS or FedEx, service is made only upon its actual receipt, as if it had been personally served.
Caution: Remember to add 3 days to any Notice period specified in this website if you make service by mail.
I. Proof of Notice ñ
Lastly, not only must Notice be given but it must also be proven in a writing filed with the Court. This website calls such a proof, in the case of service by mail, a Declaration of Mailing, and usually combines a Notice of Hearing with a Declaration of Mailing into one document, called a Notice of Hearing & Declaration of Mailing, whose original you will file with the Court, generally by handing it to the Judge's clerk at the beginning of the hearing on your Petition.