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In re Estate of Stover

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

December 23, 2013

In the Matter of the Estate of T. Mark Stover . Teresa Vaux-Michel, Respondent,
v.
Anne Victoria Simmons, as Personal Representative, Appellant

Appeal from Skagit Superior Court. Docket No: 09-4-00411-1. Date filed: 10/18/2012. Judge signing: Honorable John M Meyer.

Philip A. Talmadge (of Talmadge / Fitzpatrick ), John F. Sherwood (of Peterson Russell Kelly PLLC ), and Gerald T. Osborn, for appellant.

Brian Fahling (of Law Office of Brian Fahling ), for respondent.

Authored by Linda Lau. Concurring: Mary Kay Becker, J. Robert Leach.

OPINION

Page 580

[178 Wn.App. 553]  Lau, J. --

¶ 1When a claim against an estate in probate is rejected by certified mail, RCW 11.40.100(1) requires the claimant to file suit against the estate within 30 days after the postmark date. Because Teresa Vaux-Michel failed to file suit against T. Mark Stover's estate within 30 days after the postmark on her rejected claim, and because CR 6 does not apply to extend this time limitation, we reverse and remand to the trial court with instructions to vacate the judgment and fees and costs award, determine the personal representative's request for trial fees and costs, and dismiss the action with prejudice. We decline to award the estate fees and costs on appeal.

FACTS

¶ 2 On September 16, 2011, Vaux-Michel filed a claim against Stover's estate. She alleged he had written a $150,000 check as a gift to her in anticipation of his death. When the personal representative failed to act on the claim, Vaux-Michel sent notice to the personal representative on October 19, 2011, that she intended to petition the court to allow the claim. On December 19, 2011, the personal representative rejected the claim. On January 23, 2012, Vaux-Michel petitioned the court to allow the claim. The trial court denied the personal representative's motion to dismiss the suit as untimely under RCW 11.40.100(1). A commissioner of this court denied the personal representative's motion for discretionary review. The case proceeded to a bench trial. After the close of evidence, the court ruled in Vaux-Michel's favor, entered judgment for $150,000, and awarded attorney fees and costs. The trial court entered the following unchallenged findings of fact and challenged conclusions of law relevant to the suit's timeliness:

[178 Wn.App. 554] [Unchallenged findings of fact:]
30. Ms. Vaux-Michel presented and filed her claim pursuant to RCW 11.40.070 on September 16, 2011.
31. Respondent did not allow or reject Ms. Vaux-Michel's claim within thirty days from presentation of the same as required by RCW 11.40.080[(1)] (" The personal representative shall allow or reject all claims presented in the manner provided in RCW 11.40.070" ).
32. On October 19, 2011, Ms. Vaux-Michel served, via certified mail, written notice on Respondent that she would petition the court to have the claim allowed. RCW 11.40.080(2).
33. Respondent did not notify Ms. Vaux-Michel, within twenty days after her receipt of written notice, that she was either allowing or rejecting her claim. Id.
. ...
[Challenged conclusions of law:]
2. Because Respondent failed to reject or allow, in part or in whole, Ms. Vaux-Michel's claim within thirty days of notice of the claim, RCW 11.40.100, and then failed to reject or allow, in part or in whole, Ms. Vaux-Michel's claim within twenty days after receiving notice that Ms. Vaux-Michel would petition the Court to allow the claim, RCW 11.40.080, Respondent no longer had statutory authority to reject Ms. Vaux-Michel's claim and, therefore, Ms. Vaux-Michel had a reasonable time within which to file her petition. RCW 11.40.080(2). The provisions of RCW 11.40.100 ceased to be applicable when Respondent failed to exercise her rights thereunder by her failure to reject or allow, in part or in whole, Ms. Vaux-Michel's

Page 581

claim within 20 days after receiving notice.
3. Ms. Vaux-Michel filed her petition within a reasonable time after notifying Respondent that she ...

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