Probate Court Case Types

17 Replies

Hello

I am trying to better understand probate case types, as they are filed at the court house. If anyone can provide me with a brief summary of the case types it would be helpful.

1) Domestic relations custody support and parenting time

2) Domestic relations

3) Domestic relations/other

4) Equity  partition

5) Equity complaint

6) Equity Petition

7) Estates and Administration

8) Guardianship managed

9) Joint petition

10) paternity managed

11) paternity in equity

12) probate abuse / conservator managed

13) probate other

14) Wills for safekeeping

Granted I know most of these probably do not pertain to real property, however what underlying situations would warrant the filing of these different cases?

Thank you

Not trying to be snarky, but go to a library and check out a book.

I have searched my local library consortium however cannot find anything detailing these case types. Is it custom for there to be a legal library at the courthouse or registry?

Sounds like your local orphans court combines Probate, Family Law, Guardianship, Equity.

As a real estate investor/broker, you are only interested in 7) Estates and Administration and possibly 13) Probate other.

The rest are related to family law or dividing property (without a sale) and in my opinion are unlikely to produce real estate leads.

Yes, I agree with @Tom Gimer . You should focus on 7) Estates and Administration and 13) Probate Other.

Me, I'm only searching for the probate documents PW=Probate of Will and LA=Letters of Administration. 

Probate of Will would be the person named as the Executor to Administer the will.

Letters of Administrator is the person assigned by the court (where there's no will involved) to administer the estate. Usually next of kin(ship) or blood relative.

So, I would be dealing with the Personal Representative (executor and/or administrator).

Think of probate as the person that has not done proper estate planning. 

The document that settles the sale of the property is Letters Testamentary (will) or Letters of Administration (no will).

The PR will file this document which will have the county stamp (seal) that gives the PR legal capacity to sell.

The title company would need a certified copy of Letters Testamentary/Letters of Administration indicating Full Authority from the PR to sell the property without court confirmation. (probate auction).

I suggest you focus on "In Pro-Per" (Party without Attorney). People who try to do probate themselves can create huge nightmares and realize that they get in over their heads.

Wrong documents are filed. When correct documents are figured out they're filed out improperly and at the same time their life is put on hold. 

Mind you this is all CA based. So your going to have to adjust my answer to the probate court-mandated documents for Mass.

(This is not legal advise nor am I an attorney. But I was involved in my own family Petition for Probate)

Rich - there is usually a law library at the local district or superior court house. The probate court may or may not be located in the same building. There is a law library in Salem at the new super combined legal court center (or whatever they are calling it these days).

You probably will want to look at 4,5,6, as those are generally about a fight regarding the property ownership where one party wants to sell and the other doesn't or who owns what percentage of the property. 7 is straight probate. 12 may get you something where a person can't manage their affairs and some one is appointed over them. Example, elderly person with no immediate family has to go into the nursing home so the house will eventually be sold to pay for it.

Originally posted by @Douglas Snook :

Rich - there is usually a law library at the local district or superior court house. The probate court may or may not be located in the same building. There is a law library in Salem at the new super combined legal court center (or whatever they are calling it these days).

You probably will want to look at 4,5,6, as those are generally about a fight regarding the property ownership where one party wants to sell and the other doesn't or who owns what percentage of the property. 7 is straight probate. 12 may get you something where a person can't manage their affairs and some one is appointed over them. Example, elderly person with no immediate family has to go into the nursing home so the house will eventually be sold to pay for it.

I agree with your characterization but will add that, in my experience, once you have multiple owners fighting over ownership, at least one of them will have an unrealistic expectation of value. And once a fiduciary such as a guardian is appointed, because they are held to a higher standard and must account to the ward and the court, they can also make weak targets for investor acquisitions.

In terms of investing time and energy I would focus probate cases where the heirs (or most of the heirs) are out of state.

@Mark Pedroza   that is a great tip about the "in pro per"  cases. I have seen something similiar however here in MA they say "pro se"

While searching the court records I also see a column  called " initiating action" underneath that I see several types displayed:

1) Voluntary statement

2) filing of will of deceased no petition

3) Informal probate  of will with appointment of personal representative

4) Informal appointment of personal representative

5) Formal Probate of Will with Appointment of Personal Representative

6) Formal Appointment of Personal Representative

Do you know which one of these would be the best to focus on for buying real estate?

Also I do not see letters of testamentary or administration however I do see letters of authority? Do you think these are the same thing?

I also have the option to select open or closed cases. I am guessing I should aim for recently closed cases where the letters have been given to the PR?

@Douglas Snook I actually called my local registry of deeds and found they do have a law library surprisingly. I am going to check that out.  maybe I will be able to find a book concerning probate.

@Tom Gimer Thanks tom I will definitely take that advice

Lots of property is sold by guardians, professional guardians more so.

If you want to track these properties down you would better do it by focusing on where they are funneled.  Find out which attorneys and guardians do the most sales in your area, then contact them and present your case as an agent or a buyer.

Chasing down one property and one personal representative at a time is not efficient.

@Tyler Mullen I am unfamiliar with professional guardians can you tell me what these are? Also I have been looking through hundreds of these cases and if there is an attorney involved it is not the same one over and over.

professional guardian is someone that provides fiduciary services as their profession. The big ones will have hundreds of clients under guardianship, trust, POA and probates, all of which routinely sell properties to fund clients housing and medical budgets or Medicaid spend down requirements.

the professional fiduciary world is a tight circle.  80/20 applies so 80% of the properties being sold by guardians are probably sold by 20% of the guardians.  Same with probates, I’m sure it’s the same attorneys over and over.  So maybe an RE agent or title rep can tell you who those people are in your counties that are selling the most properties on those kinds of deeds, bargain and sale deeds or PR deeds.

Other way to find out who are the big players, go to court every day and pay attention to who is also there every day representing clients, they be your big players.  A big fiduciary company will have 5, 10, 30 or more court appearance per week.

@Tyler Mullen thats great information thank you, I did not know that. 

@Douglas Snook I went to my the law library today. I had no idea it even existed and was surprised how much information was available to the public. I have a feeling I will be going back there often. Thanks for the tip.

@Rich Hupper

You should study up on 5) & 6). As well as Letters of Authority. Yes, it can probably be the same document here in CA.

For closed cases how far along in the administration process has the closed probate cases gone? Would you be able to buy out everyone's interest and start the probate process yourself? (you would have to file a Creditors Notice as well) When you contact the PR is everyone getting along? What can you do (attorney referral, buy out heir's partial interest, etc.) to help settle the estate.

You should definitely study up on transfer of property after death for your markets. In some markets, probates are the least used way to transfer property after death. Probate often indicates very little or no estate planning

What docs are used to transfer title after the death of a joint tenant or other part owner, or death of someone who owns property in a trust. What are the docs called, when and why are they typically recorded.

Also lookout for "Substitution of Attorney" doc/form. After much stress and frustration for the PR (representing the estate as "In Pro-Per) they would file this form and the probate process would star all over again.

Think of probate as a title problem.

(This is not legal advise nor am I an attorney. But I was involved in my own family Petition for Probate)


@Tyler Mullen you think like a detective, well done. It is another path to build that elusive team. Along with your comment on becoming efficient at it.

@Mark Pedroza , You make good sense. I am helping my parents form a living trust. It is just enough to bother with. And as exec of the Will, I am helping them cover all the bases with the Lawyer/estate planning. Siblings and family are up to date too.

Not been a bad experience at all. Just on BP, I read articles and blogs, to forums, and I have gleaned enough information to ask the right questions of both my P's and my siblings. Helping parents understand, as well as me digging to find out what they want to have happen after there passing.

So I will someday be the one selling. (if that's the final direction they give in the trust)

@Rich Hupper I will post when I find out how my parents papers file. Thinking, just maybe, I might want to know what rules I will be working under.

good thread.

@Rich Hupper  here in Louisiana my Parish (county) mixes successions (probate) with family court records too. We also use old French laws here so I have had to search a ton of the terminology over the last few years. Good questions though. Sounds like you’re on the right track. 

I’m interested in this thread as well. Great stuff

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