In the Matter of the Estate of KATHRYN JOYCE RATHBONE, Deceased.
ESTATE OF KATHRYN JOYCE RATHBONE, TODD RATHBONE, Personal Representative, Petitioner. GLEN L. RATHBONE, Respondent,
case involves the issue of whether and to what extent
superior courts have authority to intervene in the
administration of nonintervention estates. Todd Rathbone was
named personal representative of his mother's estate in
her nonintervention will. Glen Rathbone,
Todd's brother and beneficiary of the will, took
issue with Todd's administration of the estate and filed
a petition requesting an accountancy under RCW 11.68.110. He
then filed an action under chapter 11.96A RCW, the Trust and
Estate Dispute Resolution Act (TEDRA), requesting the trial
court construe the will in his favor. The trial court held it
had the authority to construe the will under RCW 11.68.070
and, in the alternative, TEDRA itself gave the trial court
authority to construe the will. The court ruled in favor of
Glen's construction of the will and overrode the
interpretation of Todd, the personal representative. The
Court of Appeals affirmed that the trial court had authority
to construe the will but on the separate basis that Glen had
invoked authority under RCW 11.68.110 when he filed his
petition for an accounting. We reverse and hold that the
statutory provisions under TEDRA did not give the trial court
authority to construe the will in this case. We also hold
that the authority invoked under the nonintervention
statutes, such as RCW 11.68.110 and .070, is limited to
resolving issues provided under each statute.
Joyce Rathbone died on January 31, 2013. She named her three
sons, Glen, Todd, and Douglas Rathbone, as residuary
beneficiaries in her nonintervention will. The will was
admitted to probate, and Todd was designated as personal
representative of the estate per the will's instructions.
Grant County Superior Court found the estate solvent and
ordered it to be administered without court intervention.
will contained a broadly worded no contest provision stating
5.4 NO CONTEST PROVISION. My Personal Representative
and Trustee shall have the authority to construe this Will
and trusts and to resolve all matters pertaining to disputed
issues or controverted claims. I do not want to burden my
Estate or any trust with the cost of a litigated proceeding
to resolve questions of law or fact.
. . . [A]ny person, agency or organization who has, or who
may have, a present, future, or contingent interest in this
Will or any trust set forth herein or in the trust property,
will by his contest (i.e., a contest, dispute or other legal
proceeding commenced without the consent of my Personal
Representative or Trustee) forfeit any interest which he, his
issue has or may have. My Estate shall be distributed and any
trust will continue thereafter as if the person, agency, or
organization were deceased or dissolved. I specifically
desire that my son, Glen, and his children, do not contest,
challenge, or harass my Personal Representative and Trustees.
Clerk's Papers (CP) at 58-59.
section of the will sparking this case deals with a piece of
property in Moses Lake, Washington (Road K Property). The
section reads as follows:
4.1.3 Real Property - Road K NE. I own approximately
1.88 acres of land which includes a home at 4982 Road K NE,
Moses Lake, Washington. In addition, there is a contiguous
parcel of pasture with a barn, which is approximately 38
acres. These two parcels together shall be referred to herein
as the Road K Property. Provided that he satisfies the
conditions set forth in Section 1.3.2,  I leave the Road
K Property to Glen, subject however to an option in favor of
Todd to purchase the same from my estate for the sum of $350,
000 in cash, or for a portion of his share of the estate of
equal value, paid at closing. Said option must be exercised
no later than nine months after the date of my death, and the
resulting purchase closed, no later than twenty four months
after the date of my death.
CP at 54.
exercised his option to purchase the Road K Property and paid
$350, 000 to the estate. The will instructed the residue be
divided evenly between the three brothers. On December 23,
2014, Todd filed a declaration of completion of probate with
the court. He notified the beneficiaries he had submitted the
declaration of completion of probate and informed them they
could petition the court to determine the reasonableness of
the proposed fees or for an accounting within 30 days of the
filing of the declaration of completion of probate.
January 20, 2015, under a separate cause number, Glen filed a
petition under RCW 11.68.110 to obtain court approval of fees
and order an accounting. Two days later, Glen filed a
petition for order construing will under TEDRA and RCW
11.12.230, alleging Todd's distribution of the estate
contradicted Ms. Rathbone's intent, constituted
self-dealing, and was a breach of Todd's fiduciary duties
as personal representative. Glen argued that Ms. Rathbone
intended to give him either the Road K Property or $350, 000.
Thus, according to Glen, Todd's decision to allocate the
sale proceeds to the estate residue reduced Glen's
portion of the estate.
hearing on Glen's petition, the superior court held it
had authority under RCW 11.68.070 and TEDRA to construe the
will. In the event that RCW 11.68.070 did not apply, the
court held that TEDRA itself gave it authority under the
plain language of RCW 11.96A.080. The court granted Glen's
petition for order construing will and held Glen was entitled
to the $350, 000 in sale proceeds from Todd's purchase of
the Road K Property. The court also awarded Glen attorney
fees and costs of $15, 769.21 to be paid by the estate.
appealed, arguing the superior court did not have authority
to construe the will. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding
Glen's filing of the petition requesting approval of fees
and an accounting under RCW 11.68.110 was sufficient to
invoke the superior court's authority. Once that
authority was invoked, TEDRA acted as a supplement to allow
the superior court to construe the will. In re Estate of
Rathbone, No. 34051-1-III, slip op. at 5 (Wash.Ct.App.
Feb. 9, 2017) (unpublished),
The Court of Appeals denied attorney fees and denied
Todd's motion for reconsideration.
Whether RCW 11.68.110 gives trial courts authority to