December 2014 Bar Bulletin
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December 2014 Bar Bulletin

Talking TEDRA

By Karolyn Hicks


TEDRA is the Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution Act, found at RCW Ch. 11.96A. TEDRA is a statute, but the acronym is used to mean so much more than that in practice.

The initial, if not most common, use of the term, beyond simply referring to the statute, is a "TEDRA Petition." In King County, this means filing a petition to be heard in the Ex Parte Department related to any dispute or issue requiring clarification in an estate/probate and/or during the administration of a trust.

To a general civil litigator, a "TEDRA Petition" may look like a cross between a complaint and a summary judgment motion. After the petition is filed and the initial hearing held in ex parte, which is permitted to be "on the merits" and to resolve the dispute entirely (but rarely is), the terminology may shift to a pending "TEDRA Action," when it is then assigned to a trial judge and placed on an abbreviated trial calendar.

Less common, but still often used, is the simple phrase "TEDRAs" in the context of settlement agreements negotiated during a trust or estate dispute. These used to be called "NJBAs" or "NBAs" because RCW 11.96A.220 was titled "Nonjudicial Binding Agreements" before it was amended. Luckily, practitioners in this field knew better than to say "NJBA" aloud, they just wrote it, which I am speculating may be the origins of the term "TEDRAs" in reference to settlement agreements.

TEDRA rolls off the tongue, as opposed to NJBA, which sounds more like something my Polish grandmother would say. Some lawyers still title their draft agreements after the former title, but the section does now read "Binding Agreement," so we more often see "TEDRA Agreement" or "Binding Agreement Pursuant to RCW 11.96A.220" as the title of the document and in the caption of the pleading. When filed, TEDRA Agreements have the effect of a court order, so are usually drafted in pleading format.

My personal least favorite use of the acronym is when attorneys say "let's TEDRA it" and really mean let's settle using a binding agreement pursuant to RCW 11.96A.220. To further confuse everyone, the phrase "let's TEDRA it" can also mean "let's take it to court for the commissioner (or judge) to decide since we can't seem to agree on how to resolve the issue ourselves." What would be better is if people would just say what they mean - do you want to settle or do you want to take it to court?

Just because an acronym exists, doesn't mean you have to overuse it.


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