Do Not Wait Too Long To Protect Your Rights In Washington State

By: Washington State Litigation Lawyer Per E. Oscarsson

If you think your rights have been violated in Washington State, then don’t wait too long to protect them.  The case of Anderson v. Dussault, et al helps illustrate this point.  How much time is “too long” will vary depending upon the situation and the rights involved.   This case is specific to trusts, however, other laws can lead to the same result in a variety of situations.

Anderson v. Dussault, et al., a recent case from Division II of the Washington Court of Appeals, illustrates the dangers of waiting too long to protect rights you think may have been violated.  In that case, Anderson had been injured as a little girl and a “special needs” trust was established to hold proceeds from the settlement of her case.  The settlement agreement and the creation of the trust were approved by the superior court.  The settlement agreement required that annual reports of the trust’s transactions, assets, and financial activities be filed with the court.  The first two reports were approved by the court.

An attorney representing the girl’s father and grandmother wrote to the trustees and others involved with the trust raising questions about the accounting in the reports, but took no action in court to object to the reports.  Five additional reports, covering a period of seven subsequent years, were approved by the court and no objections were raised by any interested party and/or no appeal was made of the court’s approval of the reports.  Shortly before the young woman’s 21st birthday, she sued the trustees and others alleging that they failed to discharge their fiduciary duties to her as the beneficiary of the trust.  Her claims related to actions that were reflected in the reports approved by the court.  The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the trustees and the other defendants; the young woman appealed.

The Court of Appeals held that Washington’s Trustees’ Accounting Act, RCW 11.106, barred the young woman’s claims.  The Act provides that a trustee may file in the superior court an intermediate account under oath that sets forth certain required information.  If the trustee files such an account, the court is required to determine the correctness of the accounting and the validity and propriety of the trustee’s actions set forth in the accounting.  If the court enters a decree approving the accounting, the Act provides that it “shall be deemed final, conclusive, and binding upon all the parties interested including all incompetent, unborn, and unascertained beneficiaries of the trust….”  RCW 11.106.080.  Under applicable case law, when the trial court’s decree is final and the time to appeal expires, a complaining party in interest loses their right to recover losses.  The young woman waited too long.

If you believe your rights have been violated and require legal assistance protecting them, contact Beresford Booth PLLC.

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