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In re Estate of Rakestraw

The Court of Appeals of Washington, Division One
Mar 9, 1981
624 P.2d 1175 (Wash. Ct. App. 1981)


No. 8284-1-I.

March 9, 1981.

[1] Attorney and Client — Executors and Administrators — Creditor's Claims — Attorney's Duty to Client — Conflict of Interest. An attorney who prepared a creditor's claim is not involved in a conflict of interest by subsequently representing the estate in an action to overturn the personal representative's allowance of the claim.

[2] Appeal and Error — Harmless Error — Cumulative Evidence. An error in the admission of evidence is harmless if its effect is merely cumulative and other more probative evidence substantially supports the finding.

Nature of Action: The widow of the decedent sought to overturn the approval of a claim submitted by the decedent's former wife for accrued alimony payments.

Superior Court: The Superior Court for King County, No. E-236235, Stephen M. Reilly, J., on December 7, 1979, disallowed the challenge. Court of Appeals: Holding that the attorney representing the administratrix did not represent conflicting interests and that testimony concerning the nonpayment of alimony was, at most, harmless error, the court affirms the judgment.

McIntosh Feldman and Phil McIntosh, for appellant.

Rodney G. Pierce, for respondent.

This is a contest over a creditor's claim in the estate of Harold Rakestraw. The testator at the time of his death left surviving him a spouse, Lois Rakestraw, and a daughter, Shirley Arnold. Viola Rakestraw, a former wife and the mother of Shirley Arnold, claims $6,714 from the estate for accrued alimony payments ordered in a modified decree of divorce between her and the decedent. Shirley Arnold was appointed administratrix with the will annexed and in that capacity approved the claim. Upon the motion of Lois Rakestraw to reject the claim, the cause was tried to the court without a jury and resulted in findings of fact, conclusions of law and judgment unfavorable to her. She then prosecuted this appeal.

[1] The first contention is that the attorney who prepared the creditor's claim for Viola Rakestraw should not have been permitted to represent the administratrix c.t.a. in the proceeding because of a conflict of interest. Kurbitz v. Kurbitz, 77 Wn.2d 943, 468 P.2d 673 (1970). The administratrix as the personal representative of the decedent was required to allow or reject the claim. RCW 11.40.030(2). In allowing it she took a position consonant with and not adverse to the claimant, therefore, the attorney did not represent conflicting interests. Lois Rakestraw was represented by independent counsel throughout. There was no error.

[2] The second contention is that Viola Rakestraw should not have been permitted to testify concerning nonpayment of alimony because of the deadman's statute, RCW 5.60.030, prohibiting testimony by an adverse party concerning transactions with a decedent. The basic "transaction" was the amended decree of divorce ordering payment of monthly support. As the installments accrued and were unpaid, they became judgments. Swanson v. Graham, 27 Wn.2d 590, 179 P.2d 288 (1947). The certified copy of the amended decree was the strongest possible evidence supporting the creditor's claim. Viola Rakestraw's testimony added nothing to the validity of the judgments. Even if it was error, which we do not decide, the error was harmless.

The judgment is affirmed.

CALLOW and ANDERSEN, JJ., concur.

Summaries of

In re Estate of Rakestraw

The Court of Appeals of Washington, Division One
Mar 9, 1981
624 P.2d 1175 (Wash. Ct. App. 1981)
Case details for

In re Estate of Rakestraw

Case Details

Full title:In the Matter of the Estate of HAROLD RAKESTRAW

Court:The Court of Appeals of Washington, Division One

Date published: Mar 9, 1981


624 P.2d 1175 (Wash. Ct. App. 1981)
624 P.2d 1175
28 Wash. App. 585

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