Julie Witt and Danny Merle Young had a “long-term, committed, intimate relationship,” which was a “stable, marital-like relationship where both parties cohabit with knowledge that a lawful marriage between them does not exist.” The two began living together in 1992 “at a point when neither had any real property or significant personal property.” They “held themselves out to the public as a married couple.”
Young died without a will in September 2009. Witt filed a claim with the Estate in March 2010, asserting that she was entitled to a portion of the Estate based on her relationship with Young. The Estate (through its personal representative, Young’s brother) rejected Witt’s claim, and informed her “that, unless suit was brought on the claim within thirty days of service of the Rejection, the Claim would be forever barred.” Of course, Witt challenged the rejection in court — but not until thirty days had already passed.
In Julie Witt v. Ronald D. Young (Division 2, May 8, 2012), the Court of Appeals disagreed with the Estate and held that, contrary to the notice, Witt’s claims were not barred. The Estate’s assertion of a time bar was based on RCW 11.40.100, which provides a thirty-day deadline for claims “against the decedent,” as set forth in RCW 11.40.010.
Well, the Court of Appeals concluded that Witt’s claim was not a claim “against the decedent.” Such claims, reasoned the Court, are claims of creditors based on alleged debts of the Estate. But that is not the basis of Witt’s claim. Rather, Witt’s claim is just a request that property to which she is entitled not be included in the Estate’s inventory. In other words, she’s not saying “the Estate owes me”; she’s saying “that is mine to begin with!” Accordingly, the time bar which applies to creditor claims does not apply to Witt’s claim.
In reaching that conclusion, the Court noted numerous cases (cited by the Estate) in which persons in Witt’s position brought a claim as a creditor. However, the Court properly noted that “none of these cases discusses whether the claims were properly filed as creditor claims.” Accordingly, none of the cases controlled the relevant question on Witt’s claim.