Your Probate Won’t Likely Close Within 12 Months

RCW 11.48.010 requires a Personal Representative to administer, settle, and close a probate estate “as rapidly and as quickly as possible, without sacrifice to the … estate.”  As a general rule, most probates are able to be closed within 12 months, although exceptions abound, such as a probate having any of the following circumstances:

  • A federal or state estate tax return to be filed;
  • Substantial or significant assets to be sold;
  • Substantial creditor problems to be resolved;
  • Pending litigation (eg, a Will Contest, an income or estate tax dispute, a wrongful death action, etc.);
  • A pending ancillary probate (eg, in another state for real property in that state);
  • And so forth.

For good cause, King County will approve a request for an extension of time of up to 36 months to close a probate estate; the request may be made as early as upon the initial filing of the case.  2003 King County Probate Policy & Procedure Manual § 1.3.  Consequently, if you believe there is any reasonable likelihood that circumstances may prevent you from closing your probate within 12 months, you should request from the Clerk upon your initial filing an extension of time of up to 36 months.

Many probate courts, including King County’s, review probate cases that remain open longer than 12 months.  If the probate’s Court file shows no apparent recent action, King County will mail the Personal Representative an Order on Case Review (an OCR) requesting the Personal Representative to either:

  • Promptly file the documents necessary to close the estate, or
  • File with the Court an Interim Report (also known as a Report of Affairs of Estate or a Status Report) under RCW 11.68.065 (for nonintervention estates) and RCW 11.76.010 (for intervention estates):
    • Describing the progress of the estate’s administration,
    • Explaining the necessity for keeping the estate open, and
    • Estimating when it will likely be ready to be closed.

To review a typical Status Report, see:

Status Report (With Will) (ie, Report of Affairs of Estate) & Declaration of Mailing form.


Status Report (Without Will) (ie, Report of Affairs of Estate) & Declaration of Mailing  form.

In King County, Personal Representatives who fail to satisfactorily respond to an OCR are sent an Order to Show Cause (an “OSC“) requiring them to appear before the Court on its biweekly Probate Contempt Calendar.  At that hearing, in the absence of an acceptable response, the Court may:

  • Find the Personal Representative in contempt,
  • Impose a fine (“sanctions”) on the Personal Representative,
  • Remove the Personal Representative, and either
    • Replace the Personal Representative, or
    • Close the probate case administratively.
Since September, 2002, your author has voluntarily served as the intake attorney for King County’s biweekly Probate Contempt Calendar, assisting recipients of Orders to Show Cause with whatever they need to do to avoid being held in contempt and receiving a fine.  In his experience, the great majority of the cases on the King County Probate Contempt Calendar falls into one of two categories:

  • Personal Representatives who fail to timely file a Declaration of Completion of Probate and close their probate estate, and
  • Guardians who fail to timely file a periodic (usually annual) Guardianship Accounting.

Bottom-line: As a Personal Representative, you need to either:

  • Close your probate estate within 12 months, or
  • Obtain from the Court an extension of time to close it.