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In re Estate of Lyle G. Bobbitt

March 8, 1991

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF LYLE G. BOBBITT


Worswick, C.j. Petrich and Morgan, JJ., concur.

Author: Worswick

We are asked to decide whether, after the personal representatives have filed a declaration of completion, the superior court may reassert jurisdiction over a nonintervention probate to review the personal representatives' fees and expenses. We hold that the court may do so.

Richard and Kenneth Bobbitt, personal representatives under the nonintervention will of their father, procured an order of solvency in the usual course of the probate proceedings. In due course, they filed a declaration of completion (RCW 11.68.110), which disclosed the attorneys fees paid,*fn1 that the Bobbitts had each received $4,500 for services, and that Kenneth claimed reimbursement for certain expenses.

On receiving notice of the declaration of completion, two heirs filed a timely petition, pursuant to RCW 11.68.110, for court review of the fees and expenses. At the hearing, the Bobbitts contended that the court had no authority to reassume jurisdiction. The court disagreed; it readjusted

the fees, rejected the expense claim, and awarded the challengers attorneys fees for benefiting the estate. RCW 11.76.070.

Relying heavily on In re Estate of Coates, 55 Wash. 2d 250, 347 P.2d 875 (1959), the Bobbitts contend that the court may not reassume jurisdiction over a nonintervention probate after an order of solvency unless faithlessness in the estate administration can be shown. They are incorrect; the statutes upon which Coates was based have been changed.*fn2

[1] Plainly, the superior court's jurisdiction over nonintervention probate proceedings depends wholly on the legislative scheme. See In re Estate of Aaberg, 25 Wash. App. 336, 342, 607 P.2d 1227 (1980). In re Estate of Peabody, 169 Wash. 65, 13 P.2d 431 (1932) explained the process with charming simplicity.

To make this clear, let us illustrate: (a) Mr. Peabody in his lifetime made a non-intervention will, but no court then had jurisdiction of his estate. (b) Mr. Peabody died. Still no court had jurisdiction of his estate until, after his death, by proper petition setting up the jurisdictional facts, filed in the superior court of the proper county, that court, by reason of that application to it, obtained jurisdiction of the estate. (c) When the order of solvency was properly entered, the further administration of the estate was by the statute relegated exclusively to the executors, and the probate court, which had before had jurisdiction, then lost its jurisdiction of the estate. (d) Thereafter, in order for the court to regain jurisdiction of the estate, its jurisdiction must be again invoked by a proper application made by someone authorized by the statute so to do. . . .

(Italics ours.) Peabody, 169 Wash. at 70.

In re Estate of Coates, supra, turned on the application of former RCW 11.68.030 (Laws of 1917, ch. 156, ยง 92), which provided in relevant part:

If the person named in the will fails to execute the trust faithfully and to take care and promote the interest of all parties, then, upon petition of a creditor of the estate, or of any of the heirs, or of any person on behalf of any minor ...


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