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Working with Probates: Overcoming the Challenges

Sharon Vornholt
3 min read
Working with Probates: Overcoming the Challenges

I love the niche of probates, but there are definitely some challenges when working with probates. I can tell you this; if you are willing to do the work to get the leads you will have a great source of business. Unlike some of the other niches and lead sources that tend to dry up from time to time, this will never be a problem with probates (No pun intended).

How do I Get a List?

Getting a list can be challenging to say the least. I am really lucky to be in a state where that isn’t a problem. But that isn’t the case in most areas. Sadly, there is no “one answer that fits everyone”.

Why Is It Such a Problem?

There are over 3300 counties in the United States and each one of those counties has a different procedure for getting the information that you need to work in this niche. When I was first starting out, I just picked up the phone and called my local probate court and asked the question, “How can I get a list of probates for my county”? The person I spoke with was able to give me that information.

If you are just getting started working with probates this is exactly what I would encourage you to do. Just make the call. I have a little disclaimer to make here; you may not get the person that knows the answer on your first call, so be prepared to try again or to ask to speak with someone else in the department.

Also, be sure you have called the probate court. I have had folks email me on numerous occasions to tell me that no one knew what they were talking about only to figure out they had called circuit court, family court or even the county clerk’s office. You must specifically call the probate court.

What Information Do I Need?

There are just 4 pieces of information that you need. They are:

  • The name and address of the deceased
  • The name and address of the Executor or PR (Personal Representative)

That’s it. Once you have these four things you are good to go.

Be Prepared To Do Some “Legwork”

You might find that a list is printed in a legal publication or even your local newspaper. These are the easy ways of getting the information. At the other end of the spectrum there are counties that require you to come to the courthouse and pull the files. This is probably the hardest way of all to get the leads.

You will find many different procedures across the country in all the different counties, but I can promise you that it will be worth the work. These folks are some of the most motivated sellers of all.

They don’t want the house; they just want the money sitting in the house.

One thing that I found out about my area when I first got started is that after the initial publication of the names they are transferred to microfiche that is located at the public library. That might be worth looking into in your area.

How Do I Know If They Own Real Property?

This is where most of the legwork comes in. You are going to have to look each one of them up to be sure if there is real property in the estate.

You can find that information on your local tax assessor’s site. Some information is free on our site. But to get all of the information I generally want I need a subscription which costs $30 a month I can tell you that it’s worth every penny of it. I use that site just about every day.

Look up the address of the deceased first. If nothing comes up under the address then search by name. I mention doing this only if the property doesn’t come up when searching by address, because the name of the deceased could be listed many ways. For instance Charles Warren Smith could be listed as:

  • Charles Warren Smith
  • Charles W. Smith
  • C.W. Smith
  • C. Warren Smith

There are also times when the name has just been put in completely wrong and it can’t be found by the name. Be prepared to do a little detective work.

The Payoff

The payoff is that once you get your system in place, you will have a steady stream of leads forever. It doesn’t matter which niches you currently work in or the strategies you have chosen, probates will fit perfectly into any business.

Sound off; are you currently working in the niche of probates? What special challenges do you have in your area?

Photo Credit: MyTudut

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.