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In re Estate of Harder

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2

January 6, 2015

In the Matter of the Estate of Michael K. Harder . Phillip Harder, as Personal Representative, Respondent ,
v.
Christopher Harder et al., Appellants

Appeal from Clark Superior Court. Docket No: 07-4-00949-4. Judge signing: Honorable Barbara D Johnson. Judgment or order under review. Date filed: 06/14/2013.

David Harder, pro se.

Christopher Harder, pro se.

Steven E. Turner (of Steven Turner Law PLLC ), for respondent.

Authored by Lisa Sutton. Concurring: Lisa Worswick, Linda Cj Lee.

OPINION

Page 343

[185 Wn.App. 380] Lisa Sutton, J.

[¶1] Christopher (Chris) and David Harder,[1] two of four heirs[2] of the estate of Michael K. Harder, appeal the superior court's finding tat it lacked jurisdiction to hear the issue of the reasonableness of the personal representative Phillip Harder's fees in the settlement of their father's estate because none of the heirs properly invoked the superior court's jurisdiction within the required time limit. Chris and David argue that their notice to mediate was the equivalent of a

Page 344

petition for accounting under the probate statute, RCW 11.68.110. We affirm.

[185 Wn.App. 381] FACTS

[¶2] Michael K. Harder died testate on November 28, 2007. His nonintervention will left his estate to his four children, Michael J., Janet, David, and Chris, and named his brother, Phillip, personal representative of his estate. The superior court ordered that the estate was solvent and would be administered without court intervention. On August 13, 2012, Phillip filed a declaration of completion of probate, listing his personal representative fees. On the same day, he also provided notice to the heirs. This notice informed the heirs that unless one of them petitioned the superior court under RCW 11.68.110 to " approve the reasonableness of the fees, or for an accounting" within 30 days of the filing, Phillip's fees would be deemed reasonable and the declaration would be the equivalent of a final decree of distribution of the estate.[3] Clerk's Papers (CP) at 34. No heir filed a petition within 30 days of August 13, 2012.

[¶3] On September 12, 2012, Janet filed a " Notice of Mediation" in the matter of her father's estate, requesting that Phillip's fees be resolved by mediation under RCW 11.96A.300.[4] CP at 4. The notice did not petition or otherwise [185 Wn.App. 382] ask the superior court to take any action. The notice listed Janet's two choices for mediator, but it did not notify Phillip of the process to nominate his own proposed mediators or how to object to mediation. The superior court took no action on this notice.[5]

[¶4] Six months later, all four heirs filed a notice of arbitration as to Phillip's fees, citing RCW 11.96A.310, but again they did not ask the superior court to take any action. Phillip objected to arbitration, arguing the superior court had no jurisdiction to hear the heirs' argument about the reasonableness of his fees because the heirs did not file a petition within 30 days of the date he notified them that probate had been completed. At the hearing on Phillip's objection to the arbitration, the superior court ruled that it lacked jurisdiction over the issue of the reasonableness of Phillip's fees because the heirs did not properly invoke the superior court's jurisdiction by filing a ...


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