Mortgages & Creative Financing

7 Ways Probate Investors Can Help Settle Estates

Expertise: Real Estate Marketing, Mortgages & Creative Financing, Real Estate Investing Basics, Real Estate News & Commentary, Personal Development, Business Management, Real Estate Wholesaling, Landlording & Rental Properties
145 Articles Written
Probate Investing

Settling an estate can be an overwhelming job for those left behind.

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The vast majority of the people involved in the probate process have to deal with all of this in what is undoubtedly a very emotional time their lives. They can be confused about the actual probate process and all of the tasks involved with settling the estate.

When you can step up as the expert, these folks are genuinely happy that you are able to offer solutions to their particular problems. Probate investors provide a valuable service to the executors and family members.

Here are 7 Common Roadblocks Probate Investors Can Remove

1. Sellers are often perplexed by the legal aspects of settling an estate, and they usually have no idea that you can help them navigate this process.

My closing attorney is one of the most valuable members of my team. Once I have a house under contract, his office will run the title and determine if everything is in order to close the sale of the house. If not, we know exactly what must be done early on; well before the time I have found my end buyer.

2. Most Executors and Personal Representatives don’t know the exact time they are able to sell the house.

These folks may not be responding to your direct mail pieces because they aren’t aware that they can sell the house early in the process of settling an estate. Part of your job as probate investors should be to educate them on how you can assist them.

Related: Probate Investing: The Basics and Tips for Success

3. Family members may take months and months sorting through paperwork, photographs and other personal items looking for things of importance.

One day they look up and realize that they haven’t actually made any progress cleaning out the interior and exterior of the house and they get discouraged.

4. The people settling the estate are often embarrassed by the appearance and condition of the property, and they hesitate to even call a probate investor for this reason.

In these cases they will often put off doing anything.  When a seller mentions the condition of the house when you first speak to them, if you can put their mind at ease by saying this is pretty typical (which it is) you can often remove the final stumbling block for the person settling an estate to move forward.

5. When they are nearing the end of the probate process and they still have a mess, they often lock the door and walk away.

You know the old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind”. They just can’t face having to finish the job of cleaning out the house. This is one of the most common problems you will find in probates and one of the easiest to solve. You should always offer to finish cleaning out the house as part of your offer.

6. They have no idea that probate investors can take care of liens, back taxes, house payments that are in arrears and other types of issues like these.

Once the Executor understands that these costs can be rolled into the closing, this is one more roadblock that you can remove.

7. Executors and Personal Representatives that are trying to save money with the probate attorney and do most of the work themselves, often miss one of the things that need to be done before the estate can be settled.

I send the contract over to my closing attorney immediately when I am purchasing a home so I don’t have any last minute surprises.

Related: Working with Probates: Overcoming the Challenges

We are in the Problem Solving Business

Whatever it is that is holding them up; preventing them from selling the property, that is the problem you need to solve.

After all, we are not really in the “house” business. We are in the problem solving business.  This is especially true for probate investors.

Sharon has been investing in real estate since 1998. She owned and operated a successful home inspection company for 17 years. In January of 2008 she took the leap of closing her business to become...
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    Matt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Hi Sharon, I have been targeting probates for over six months now with limited success and no deals yet. I have rotated between professional letters, yellow letters and postcards. I must be doing something wrong as my response rate is very low. If I could just get them on the phone I know I have a great shot, but I can’t get the phone to ring. I have had a lot of success on the other hand with absentee owners. Do you have any advice for marketing to probates?
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Hi Matt – You will pretty much get zero response from postcards and yellow letters with probates. You should only use white letters. What are you saying in your letter? The folks settling estates often don’t do anything for a year. It depends on the individual. I hear from a lot of people at around the 1 year mark. Each month you should be adding the new people, while you continue to mail to the others. Every 5 or 6 months you need to scrub your list and resume your direct mail campaign. I have written about probates and marketing in general both here and on my blog. Sharon
    Matt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Sharon, My letters usually acknowledge the loss of the family members and send condolences. Then they go into offering to help them by purchasing the home they inherited. When you say a white letter are you talking about just a printed professional letter, or handwritten letter. Any help is appreciated.
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Matt- I am talking about a personalized, computer generated white letter in a hand addressed white envelope. Just a regular professional letter. Sharon
    Shaun
    Replied over 6 years ago
    How much of this information do you include in your marketing or is this mostly saved for the direct contact after the mailings? Seems like there could be a delicate balance of making some of these points known but could also make the letter very long and intimidating if you give too much detail.
    Curt Smith
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Shaun, Call Lance at US Lead List, he’ll talk your ear off with how to talk to the older folks you’ll be negotiating with over estates. Different letter and talk per him. http://www.usleadlist.com 866.711.1688 (ask for Lance) He can email you a link to audio and letter examples. My problem with buying lists, is that they sell the same list to multiple investors AND agents. I gave that up. I got a few calls and they said they had a stack of cards and letters. The problem is ALSO what zip / county you buy. If you are buying the popular county that’s the problem, there’s 50 other folks mailing that same seller. We’ve moved to driving 1 hr for our deals / rehabs to move into counties where funds and lazier investors won’t work. Laughably my rentals that are now in popular counties that I bought at the bottom when there where few buyers are now getting post cards every month from different investors. Few ever re-mail (5-7 re-mailings) to get a call back. Just one post card then gone, then next month yet another investor, then gone!! There’s many reasons why we get few call backs from a direct mail campaign.
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Shaun and Curt – There are other investors mailing to them; that’s true. But here is the thing; most of those other investors will quit mailing after a few mailings. A whole lot of executors don’t even think about selling the house until around the 1 year mark. By that time, most of those other investors will be out of the picture. Sharon
    jacks
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Hi Sharon, -when u say “scrub you list after 5-6 months and resume marketing campaign” what is the best way to do this? do you look up each lead individually on the MLS or is there an easier way to do this? I have over 600 leads from 2013 that i would like begin marketing to again but seem very time consuming to figure which have sold. Is there an easier way?
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied about 6 years ago
    What type of leads are you talking about? Most of the time, you will have to look them up on the tax assessor’s site to see if they are sold.That is how you would scrub a probate list for instance. Now if they are AO’s, you can get your list provider to run a new list. Sharon
    jacks
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Sharon -I was referring to Probate leads. I also buy my list from a local investor but not sure what AO’s stand for? Thanks for the help
    jacks
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Sharon -I was referring to Probate leads. I also buy my list from a local investor but not sure what AO’s stand for? Thanks for the help
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied about 6 years ago
    AO’s are absentee owners. A great deal of my probate leads are never listed, so there would be no point in looking on the MLS. A much easier way that has information on all properties including if they have changed ownership, it to look on the tax assessor’s site. Yes it is very time consuming, but it is also very costly to keep mailing folks that have sold their house. This is a good job for a virtual assistant. Sharon
    jacks
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Gotcha! Thanks for the help! love your blog posts.
    Mario T. Banker from Glen Allen, Virginia
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    I have access to the executor/administrator phone number. Do you recommend me to call them or just use direct mail? I feel like calling would be better b/c they would have a better connection with me on the phone than through a letter, whether it be positive or negative. However, I see how mailing is more subtle. What do you suggest?
    Jason V.
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Executors or Personal Representatives and Administrators already have an enormous task on their plate. Most beneficiaries would rather have cash proceeds than joint ownership of property. That is a huge headache for them. When you provide a solution for them, they’re love you for it and even accept a less than favorable deal for them if it means a solution to their troubles.
    Sharon Vornholt from Goshen, KY
    Replied over 3 years ago
    @Mario T – I never call probates until they have contacted me. People hate it. You need to be mindful of their situation which is they have lost someone they love. They almost always want to sell the property, but they want to do it when they are mentally ready. Sharon
    Brandi Graham Specialist from Dallas/Ft Worth TX
    Replied 7 months ago
    Hi Sharron. Have you ever hear of or worked with someone who has exhausted all aspects of contacting the last person which is an heir to a property? What is another recourse to obtain control of a property if this "alleged" person can not be contacted to have them sign over their rights? My case is my mothers husband she married before I was born and she they never get a divorce. This was over 47 years ago, mother has passed away and last record of this man was in a halfway house in another state after leaving prison. He has disappeared, probably intentionally. We cannot find a residence which he actually lives in nor any phone numbers to contact him. I have 3 homes my mother left to me, which he has a stake in due to the lack of dissolution of their marriage. I want to renovate these homes and use the equity to build my portfolio, yet most title companies or mortgage banks are not comfortable moving forward with that until these are wholly in my name. Have you heard of any other options? I overheard on some podcast somewhere about marketing a property for 90 days, then you can obtain ownership of it, if no one debates it...? Or something like that...? Any ideas or options you might be aware of, please let me know. This has been in this condition for over 4 years since monther passed. There HAS to be some way. I look forward to hearing what you might have to say, soon. Thankful in Texas, Brandi Graham
    Sharon Vornholt from Goshen, KY
    Replied 7 months ago
    You need an attorney to figure this one out Brandi. You can’t just take a property , but an attorney would know the laws of your state and how to proceed. Good luck.
    Joshua Djieya
    Replied 14 days ago
    Hi Sharon, I just got into this niche and I wanted to know.. on my county website for probates what estate type should I be looking for, Non-Probate, Un-probated will only, Foreign proceeding, or regular estate? and should I also pull only open estates or closed estates?
    Sharon Vornholt from Goshen, KY
    Replied 13 days ago
    Regular estates. (Once they are closed it’s all over.) Probates happen in the state where the property is located. Non probate (in my area) would indicate it was a small estate and there was no property
    Mark Pedroza Real Estate Agent from Roseville CA ~ San Francisco, CA
    Replied 13 days ago
    In CA, open probates is where the administration process has already started. If there's a will (Un-probated) the probate process needs to be started if they're's property involved and the PR is needing to sell..