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In re Estate of Baird

April 3, 1997

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF PHYLLIS LEE BAIRD


Appeal from Superior Court of Whatcom County. Docket No: 95-4-00011-1. Date filed: 03/25/96.

As Amended June 18, 1997. Reconsideration Granted June 18, 1997,

Authored by Charles W. Johnson. Concurring: Barbara Durham, James M. Dolliver, Charles Z. Smith, Richard P. Guy, Barbara A. Madsen, Gerry L. Alexander, Philip A. Talmadge, Richard B. Sanders.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Johnson

En Banc

JOHNSON, J. -- The question presented is whether an anticipatory disclaimer of an expectancy interest in an intestate estate is valid and effective under RCW 11.86. We hold the plain language of the statute does not authorize an anticipatory disclaimer of an expectancy interest created by intestacy, and affirm the order of the probate court declaring this disclaimer invalid.

FACTS

Phyllis Baird died intestate on December 29, 1994. She was survived by two children, James Thomas Baird and Julie A. Breckenridge. James Baird has two children, Jayme Baird and Hunter Baird, from his first marriage to Cheryl Kern.

During the later stages of her life, Phyllis Baird suffered from Alzheimer's disease and, as a result, was mentally incapacitated. Susan K. (Saulsbury) Baird was appointed guardian for Phyllis Baird on November 29, 1988, in a guardianship proceeding in Whatcom County. James Baird married Susan (Saulsbury) Baird on November 10, 1992.

On February 9, 1993, James Baird brutally assaulted Susan Baird. *fn1 As a result of this attack, Susan Baird was permanently disfigured and suffered permanent cognitive defects preventing meaningful employment. Susan Baird filed a personal injury action against James Baird in Whatcom County Superior Court on February 26, 1993, for the injuries suffered in the assault.

James Baird was convicted of first degree assault on March 8, 1994. He received an exceptional sentence of 20 years on June 3, 1994. *fn2 On March 8, 1994, the same day as his conviction, James Baird executed an instrument purporting to disclaim "any and all interest" he "may have" in his mother's estate. This instrument was filed in his mother's guardianship proceeding that same day.

On October 19, 1994, Susan Baird was awarded a judgment of $2.75 million in her personal injury action against James Baird. One week later, on October 26, 1994, James Baird filed a petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Susan Baird's judgment constitutes approximately 95 percent of the outstanding creditor claims in the bankruptcy proceeding.

As previously stated, Phyllis Baird died intestate on December 29, 1994. Her estate is valued in excess of $500,000. James Baird's share of his mother's estate represents approximately 60 percent of his potential assets available in the bankruptcy proceeding.

On January 26, 1996, Jayme Baird and James Degel, guardian ad litem for Hunter Baird, petitioned the probate court for an order declaring James Baird's disclaimer valid. The bankruptcy trustee opposed the petition. At the same time, Susan Baird filed a motion to intervene in the probate proceeding. On February 14, 1996, the bankruptcy court entered an order abstaining from determining the issue of the validity of the disclaimer pending the resolution of this same issue in the probate proceeding.

On March 25, 1996, the probate court entered orders granting Susan Baird's motion to intervene, and denying the petition to declare the disclaimer valid. Rather, the court declared the instrument invalid without ...


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