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In re Estate of Little

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

June 24, 2019

In the Matter of the Estate of CONSTANCE ELAINE LITTLE, Deceased.
RENAE K. ROBERSON, Appellant. ROXANNE L. TREES, Individually and as the Personal Representative of the Estate of Constance Little, Respondent,

          SCHINDLER, J.

         A separate document in existence at the time a will is executed may qualify both for incorporation by reference under RCW 11.12.255 as to distribution of the estate and as a "gift list" for tangible personal property under RCW 11.12.260. The terms of the will of Constance Elaine Little and the undisputed record establish the intent of Little to incorporate by reference a separate document that directs distribution of the estate and tangible personal property. We affirm the superior court order.

         The Last Will and Testament of Constance E. Little

         The facts are undisputed. Renae Roberson and Roxanne Trees are the adult daughters of Constance Elaine Little and Royal Little. Royal Little died in 2008.

         On July 20, 2011, Constance executed her will that incorporated by reference a separate gift list. The July 20, 2011 "Last Will and Testament of Constance E. Little" states, in pertinent part:

KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS: That I, CONSTANCE E. LITTLE, a/k/a CONNIE E. LITTLE, a resident of the State of Washington, of legal age, declare this to be my last Will and hereby revoke all former Wills and Codicils by me made.
FIRST: I declare that I am a widow and that I have two children, namely; ROXANNE LAREE TREES, whose birth date is September 6, 1945, and RENAE KAY ROBERSON, whose birth date is November 30, 1946.
SECOND: I do hereby state that it is my intent to prepare a gift list separate from this Will for the purpose of disposition of tangible personal property, mementos and family heirlooms pursuant to RCW 11.12.260. . . .
THIRD: Except as provided in the list described in Paragraph SECOND above . . ., after the payment of all just claims against my Estate, I make the following special bequests:
A. Unto my sister, JUDITH LAREE FJELLMAN, born June 26, 1943, I hereby give, devise and bequeath ONE PERCENT (1 %) of the residue of my estate ....
B. All of the rest, residue and remainder of my property I give, devise and bequeath equally unto my children, ROXANNE LAREE TREES and RENAE KAY ROBERSON, share and share alike ....
FOURTH: I hereby nominate and appoint my daughter, ROXANNE L. TREES, as Personal Representative of my Estate, to serve without bond and I direct that this Will be probated as a nonintervention Will. I further authorize and direct said Personal Representative to sell, mortgage, lease or convey or otherwise deal with the property of my Estate in the same manner as I could do were I then living and whether or not it be necessary to do so in order to pay claims against my Estate or expenses of administration.

         Little also executed the "Gift List" on July 20, 2011. Little's handwritten note on the Gift List states, "Attach to my will at Yakima County Court House." The Gift List expressly provides, "I do hereby state that this is a separate gift list that accompanies my last will and testament dated July 20, 2011." Little unequivocally directs "my Executor, Roxanne Trees," to "first reduce Renae Kay Roberson's half of my estate using the bolded amount values listed below and for the reasons provided in I, II, III, and thence to distribute the remaining items in the order listed." Sections I, II, and III of the Gift List state:

I. Since Renae Roberson has already received or taken these items. I wish to acknowledge the following reduction from her 1/2 portion designated in my estate, and add it to Roxanne Trees Portion, in the following amounts:
1. My husband, Royal's Diamond Ring - Renae received in Spring 2011 - ($6000 - Deduct 1/2 value @ $3000)
2. My husband, Royal's Chevy vehicle signed over to Renae in Fall 2008, then sold by her ($27, 000 - Deduct 1/2 value @ $13, 500)
II. Renae Roberson has taken charge of these items without complete permission by me and/or through documentation to me of their current whereabouts and dispensation, as of this date. I wish to acknowledge the following reductions from her 1/2 portion of my estate and accountability measures of re-instatement. Within (15) fifteen business days after the reading of this will, if Renae Roberson has not satisfactorily acknowledged return, replacement, the whereabouts, or accountability of these items of my estate that she handled, prior to my death, I direct my executor to reduce Renae's portion of my estate proportionally and accordingly, using the itemized reductions. . . . Bolded reductions include the following items and transactions:
1. My husband, Royal Little's gun collection given to Renae for safekeeping 2005-2008, and not accounted for since then ($6000).
2. Government Bonds for Royal Little/Constance E. Little totaling (up to $60, 000) which were misplaced or lost by me and recovery actions were instituted and taken by Renae in July 2011 per the managers at the Yakima Valley Credit Union, Yakima, WA where I cashed other bonds.
3. My personal collection of coins in blue/green collection folders, including: (i.e. pennies, dimes, nickels, or quarters) which Renae took without permission or for safekeeping, and were noted as missing in early September 2011 ($5000).
III. Renae acguired these documented funds from me for her own purposes over time, and I wish to acknowledge these as reductions from her V2 portion of my estate.
Personal funds and loans made to Renae by me include: $3000 (in 2010) and $12, 000 @ $500 per month (during 2010-2011) to pay off Renae's personal loan of $55, 000 to Margie Buchholz. (Total: $15, 000).[1]

         The Gift List also states that "$10, 000 shall be deducted first, and provided to each of my grandchildren, Ryan Trees and Stacey Fataua," and "$500 each to the Meridian School Foundation (Bellingham, WA); YCTV, [2] and Parker Youth Foundation, (Yakima, WA)." The Gift List directs distribution of "tangible personal property, mementos and family heirlooms pursuant to RCW 11.12.260" as follows:

Identified Historical items to the Yakima Valley Agriculture Museum, Union Gap, WA; to Perry Institute, Yakima, WA; to the Yakima Valley Museum, Yakima, WA[.]
Identified Historical items to the Meridian School Foundation, Bellingham, WA[.]
Renae Roberson, my camera equipment and videos, her paintings and items given by her will be returned to her.
Roxanne Trees, all books, costumes, jewelry and coin collections, Indian items and items given by her will be returned to her.
Ryan Trees, his Grandfather Royal's car tools and Great Grandfather Merrel's tools and the red trailer or its equal value.
All mementos and items of family history (Little, Fjellman families) and all those I possess, including all photos, videos, documents, family movies, scrapbooks, letters and genealogy items will all be returned to Roxanne Trees for safekeeping.[3]

         On August 4, 2011, Little executed a new will. The August 4, 2011 will directs distribution of $10, 000 to each of her two grandchildren and $104, 000 to Trees, "all to be her sole and separate estate per stirpes." The will states the "residue and remainder" of the estate is bequeathed 1 percent to her sister and 48.5 percent to each of her two daughters, Roxanne Trees and Renae Roberson.

         On September 16, 2011, Little revoked the August 4, 2011 will and reinstated the July 20, 2011 will:


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