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WA-Probate > Probate Court Practice > Appearing in Probate Court
A. In the Appropriate Courtroom ñ
Hand your original documents, including your
proposed Order, to the Judge's clerk, who will be
at a desk next to the Judge, where the Judge and the clerk can
easily pass files and papers back and forth between them. The Court may already
be in session, some other party may then be appearing before the Court, and
if so, the Judge will be hearing that party's case; nevertheless, proceed,
quietly, with your business with the clerk (clerks uniformly have a
remarkable ability to keep dozens of balls up in the air without letting any
of them hit the ground).
As you hand the clerk your documents, tell the clerk
what you have and what you want, for example, "I have a Petition for Letters and
am here to be appointed as
a Personal Representative." The clerk will process your
documents, pass them to the Judge, and will likely give you some idea
of how long you will need to wait before your case is called. Cases
are usually called on a "first come, first served" basis, but some
cases may receive priority over others.
Wait nearby, where you can hear the clerk or Judge when he/she calls your case. If you're lucky, the Judge will be available to hear your case immediately, and you'll be done in a few minutes. Otherwise, it might take 15-30 minutes, an hour, or more, all depending on how many people are there before you and the complexity of their cases, and particularly if any of them have any contested issues to be heard. In King County, the ex parte Judges (those who hear probate cases among others) attempt to limit contested matters to 10-15 minutes; if it appears that more time is needed, a contested case will usually be transferred ("continued") to a later trial calendar.
B. When Your Case Is Called ñ
Acknowledge it immediately by announcing
"Ready, your Honor" and then walking to the area in front of the Judge where
people present their cases before the Court.
In most Courts, the clerk will have taken your
documents and handed them to the Judge, who
will now be reviewing them while you walk up before the Court.
Whatever the procedure of the particular Court
(and every Court has its own procedure),
after walking up before the Court, say, for example, "Good morning (or afternoon), your
Honor --- My name is [...], and I am here requesting appointment as a
Resist the urge to say any more.
Let the Judge make the first call. Every Judge has his/her own way of doing things and eliciting what is important to him/her --- let the Judge do what he/she has been elected or appointed to do and does all day. Rest assured, if the Judge has any questions, he/she will ask. Support the Judge by being quietly attentive.
C. It's Now "Showtime"
Your author suggests taking a deep breath and, in your mind, turning the matter over to the Judge and letting him/her "run the show." ñ
The Judge will likely ask you some questions.
Respond as simply, directly, and concisely as
Minimize the detours, stories, explanations,
etc.; and whatever you do,
Tell the unvarnished truth --- not what you
think the Judge wants to hear, but the truth, the whole truth, and nothing
but the truth as you know it.
While you are responding to a question, the
Judge may interrupt you and ask something else.
Take a deep breath, pause, shift gears,
re-engage mind, turn your attention to the new question, ... and
Respond to it as simply, directly, and concisely
Sooner or later, the Judge will
Review your proposed Order,
Sign it and either:
Hand it and your other documents back to you directly, or
Hand them to his/her clerk.
If you are required to post Bond,
hand your proposed Bond to the Judge for his/her:
Review of it,
Signature on it, and
Return to you for filing.
Say, "Thank you, your Honor."
Get the signed Order and other
from the Judge or his/her clerk.
Take them back to the Superior Court Clerk's Office.
D. Back at the Superior Court Clerk's Office ñ
At the Clerk's Office:
Hand the filing clerk the signed Order and
the other original documents.
Obtain a certified copy of the signed Order.
If you have just been appointed Personal Representative or Guardian, hand to the clerk:
Your notarized Oath of Personal
Representative or Oath of Guardian.
Any Bond that was required (which
you may have obtained before going to Court and had the Judge review and
sign it --- if not, then you'll need to obtain one now and return to the
Courtroom for the Judge's review of it and signature on it).
If you're in a county
that requires you to submit Letters, your Letters.
Obtain a certified copy of your Letters.
Make a conformed copy of every original document filed. At the King County Courthouse, the stamps for conforming documents are located on the shelf to the left of the Drop Box, on the other side of the aisle from the filing windows.
E. If You Have Just Been Appointed Decedent's Personal Representative: Congratulations, It's Now Official. ñ
Now that you have been appointed:
File any additional pleadings to begin your
administration of the estate.
If you have brought one, now is the time to file your Probate Notice to Creditors and, if you do so, get a conformed copy of it.
Filing a Probate Notice to Creditors.