Probate Marketing Help

17 Replies

Question for my Southeast Michigan members or anyone else with similar circumstances.  I've been direct mailing probates for a few months now and it's been going relatively well.  But as my list grows it's making me more and more uncomfortable with the nasty phone calls and social media posts I'm getting.  And to be honest I feel terrible about it because 95% of the negative feedback is coming from widows who just lost their partner and have no desire to sell their house.  I don't want to mail to them obviously but the problem I'm having is that I don't know how to accurately remove these people from my list.  

Here's what I get. Detroit Legal News publishes the list of new probates which I put onto an excel file. I get the name of the decedent, the attorney and the personal rep's name & address. I don't know if these estates have real estate or what relationship the PR has with the decedent. Since I don't have the address of the decedent I can't cross reference with the PR name. So I'm at a loss.

Going to the courthouse and pulling individual files is just not feasible.  Are there any other tricks that you use to get a better list?  The only thing I can think of is to eliminate all entries that have the same last name of the PR and decedent realizing that I'm getting rid of potential siblings, children, cousins, etc.  Solves my problem but eliminates so many that I would otherwise mail to.  

Thoughts? 

Hey Matt,

I do probates here in NJ and for me the process is a little different but all the same. I do not contact widows for obvious reasons and my approach is to cold call my lead sheet as opposed to direct mail. I build my list through the courthouse, most of the court houses that I have visited here in NJ have a way for you to see the relation of the executor to the decedent. I understand that you prefer the local newspaper as opposed to going to the courthouse (if possible I would recommend the courthouse, just because there would be records of the parties attached to the probate and their relation to the decedent). In some cases you can also shoot an email to or contact the attorney associated with the probate and inquire about the relationship of the executor to the decedent. Another point you had was regarding to not knowing if there is an estate attached to the probate. Here in NJ at one court house I frequent has a term associated with the probate ("Standard administration" or "Standard probate") are buzzwords that are used to convey that the probate has an estate attached to it. Your best bet may be to spend time at a courthouse or two, and to understand the probate process for your county as well. I hope this helps in someway.

-Uba

@Matt Foster I would be interested to read the content of the mailer that you are sending. A good option might be to test some different letter styles and content and see what people are responding better to. Make sure you are sending professional (typed) letter rather than a handwritten style and show how you can help them. 

Originally posted by @McKinley Crowley :

@Matt Foster I would be interested to read the content of the mailer that you are sending. A good option might be to test some different letter styles and content and see what people are responding better to. Make sure you are sending professional (typed) letter rather than a handwritten style and show how you can help them. 

Here you go....sorry about any formatting issues it looks better on my letter.  

Dear (Name of Representative),

It is my understanding that you have been appointed by the probate court as the personal representative of an estate. I'm very sorry for your loss, and I understand that this is a difficult time for everyone.

I also know that it is easy to be overwhelmed by the long list of things that the personal representative must do to settle the estate. I am a well-connected Realtor and Investor that can assist you with all phases of selling real estate.

Here’s how I can help….

  1. List the house for sale
    • These are normally houses that are in good shape and you want to get the highest sales price possible. I specialize in selling homes during the probate process.

2) Buy the house

    • These are normally houses that are in poor condition, are burdensome and for one reason or another you just don’t want to list with a Realtor.

    • I pay cash and I close quickly so that that the executor and heirs don't have to spend more money for the probate attorney, mortgage payments and commissions.

    • I buy property in its current condition so you don’t have to worry about making costly repairs and waiting a long time for contractors and handymen to get the work done. You also won't have the cost of utilities, up-keep and taxes while you wait to find a buyer who is getting a mortgage.

3) Find another investor willing to pay cash

    • Not every house is something I will be able to buy. In these scenarios we will decide on a sales price and I will go out and find a cash buyer through my network that I’ve built over the years.

Not ready to make these decisions yet but need help getting started? Call me if you need any of the following…

  • Referrals for contractors, estate sale companies, clean up/junking companies, dumpster rentals, etc.
  • Free Consultation at the property

Call or text me direct at.......

 

As a California probate attorney I can mainly speak to California and my experiences over 25 years. I find that direct mail can work for Realtors but, as you say, there might be some backlash with it. All you can do, in my opinion, is go over board trying to sincerely offer help in a difficult time. Not everybody will want that help and no matter what someone will feel you are a hearse chaser but comes with the territory. Just keep offering help and hopefully the good outweighs the bad. You might also send letters to the attorneys, for the people that are represented, as a way of introducing yourself. I know some attorneys might feel you are trying to work behind their back because, for example, other attorneys couldn't contact our client directly without our permission. Doesn't matter to me but I have heard attorneys say similar sentiments. Good luck! -John

Originally posted by @Matt Foster :

Question for my Southeast Michigan members or anyone else with similar circumstances.  I've been direct mailing probates for a few months now and it's been going relatively well.  But as my list grows it's making me more and more uncomfortable with the nasty phone calls and social media posts I'm getting.  And to be honest I feel terrible about it because 95% of the negative feedback is coming from widows who just lost their partner and have no desire to sell their house.  I don't want to mail to them obviously but the problem I'm having is that I don't know how to accurately remove these people from my list.  

Here's what I get.  Detroit Legal News publishes the list of new probates which I put onto an excel file.  I get the name of the decedent, the attorney and the personal rep's name & address.  I don't know if these estates have real estate or what relationship the PR has with the decedent.  Since I don't have the address of the decedent I can't cross reference with the PR name.  So I'm at a loss.  

Going to the courthouse and pulling individual files is just not feasible.  Are there any other tricks that you use to get a better list?  The only thing I can think of is to eliminate all entries that have the same last name of the PR and decedent realizing that I'm getting rid of potential siblings, children, cousins, etc.  Solves my problem but eliminates so many that I would otherwise mail to.  

Thoughts? 

You are a man of gold my man. 

Just because of your very ethical nature, I really want to help you.

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If you want to take me up on this offer, get in touch. I will evaluate your site and give you pointers and will do my best to help you out.

Hey @McKinley Crowley   - You know how I love probates. 

Probates have been my number one source of leads for more than a decade.  These folks almost always have to sell the house.  It's just a matter of whether they list it or sell it to an investor.  I have been very successful with direct mail campaigns. I personally never call them unless they have first called me.  I believe understanding the mindset of those folks going through that process is one of the main reasons I have been successful.

I don't call them because someone they love has passed away, and for more than a decade I have heard how much they hate and resent the insensitive intrusion.  I personally don't mail to surviving spouses.  It's not a foolproof system, the I do a pretty good job of figuring out if they have one on the tax assessor's site.  

I'm very lucky here (Louisville KY) because the information is in the newspaper.  You only need 4 pieces of information. The name and address of the deceased, and the PR.  Sometimes that is an attorney, but not usually.  One more place to look is online.  Here, there is something called online records.  Wills are published there. So for instance, when the probates come out once a month, I could look up the wills for that same month and often find missing or additional  information.

There are 3300+ counties in the US, and everyone is a little bit different. You're going to have to do some detective work (and this is where most people quit). If you're willing to do the work, you can help a lot of people. And for agents, the field of probates is wide open.   

One thing I would like to mention is that I only use white, computer generated, personalized letters.  You need to do a mail merge so you are talking to one person.  Also, use standard #10 envelopes.  This is a niche where you don't want to send them something in an odd sized or colored envelope. The last thing you want to happen is for them to open an envelope that looks like a sympathy card.  I have written a lot about probates on my blog and here on BP.  I hope this helps.

@John Palley - I know probates are a lot more complicated in California than they are here.  Here it's pretty much just a regular transaction. 

I tell my students that they should contact the top probate attorneys in their area and offer to buy 30 minutes of their time. They need to actually schedule (and pay for) an appointment. In this meeting they can introduce themselves, tell them what they do, and let the attorney know that they are cash buyers if/when they come across a distressed property in an estate. I stress the importance of building a relationship with the attorney.

Originally posted by @Sharon Vornholt :

@John Palley - I know probates are a lot more complicated in California than they are here.  Here it's pretty much just a regular transaction. 

I tell my students that they should contact the top probate attorneys in their area and offer to buy 30 minutes of their time. They need to actually schedule (and pay for) an appointment. In this meeting they can introduce themselves, tell them what they do, and let the attorney know that they are cash buyers if/when they come across a distressed property in an estate. I stress the importance of building a relationship with the attorney.

Sharon- Yes, offering to buy their time is a good idea. I know for me, and probably most successful probate attorneys, we would decline the offer as it's not worth the bookkeeping hassle but a sincere offer is nice.  I can only speak for myself but when I was a younger attorney, with more time on my hands, I was more likely to agree to meetings. After 25 years it's very rare I agree to meetings. I would say for me I am more likely to agree to a meeting with a warm introduction from a mutual friend or client and occasionally a common background affinity item (same college for instance). For example, a few years ago a large client introduced me to a Realtor friend of his who had wanted to meet me. I was not about to turn down a large client to meet his friend! It worked!That Realtor has ended up getting several listings from me as I was pleased with his work on a small/difficult first referral I made to him.  Friendly persistence, showing one is dedicated to probate work, and doing something unique (like dropping off unique stop-by items) are things I notice. I should add that I, and probably most lawyers, also notice typos and sloppiness.  The odds are low a lawyer will want to refer to a Realtor who types emails like they are text messages in code, has typos, is sloppy and is generally unprofessional in how they present themselves.  I recall a large envelope I received, from a Realtor, a couple years ago.  It was a large envelope with let's say $3.00 postage on it. It was full of flyers and stuff. However, the address was sloppy and had a typo, the cover letter was a "to whom it may concern," and they never followed up on their mailing. That's a waste of that Realtor's money in my book. Just my two cents.  Good luck to all!

Originally posted by @Sharon Vornholt :

This business is all about relationships for sure @John Palley.

 One other thing that I forgot in my last rambling post. [I realize I mixed up Realtors getting listings with investors but same concepts.] One thing for investors or Realtors is if you send letters to the probate lawyers make it EASY for them. For example, one investor in our area sent me a letter on every case I filed (over 100 a year) but he only put the case number in his letter. For example: "I am writing to you about the real estate in probate case #2018-45678912 and wondering if you are client is planning to sell" blah, blah, blah....  I don't use the court case numbers in my day to day life and if I have 85 open cases am not about to go figure out which case that is. I thus recommend you always list the decedent's name, the executor's name, the case number and the property address in communications to lawyers. That way I can pass it on to my client easily.  If it's difficult the letter will get thrown away.

@Matt Foster

As much as I enjoy researching probate files an attorney (in Alameda county) gave me a piece of advice.

People mistakenly believe that the probate attorney represents the estate, when in fact, the attorney represents the executor or the administrator.

The executor/administrator represents the interest of the estate and the attorney represents the interest of the executor/administrator.

In other words the attorney's obligation to the other heir's is very limited.

You should consider mailing to the Personal Representative that reside(s) out of the state of Michigan (R.I., KS, WY, TX, CA, etc). More than likely the PR's will be motivated.

If you don't get your first response it could be that the PR has declined to represent the estate, missed a court hearing that could extend the case, court-mandated paper work not yelled filed, it's a thankless job, etc.,etc,.

The PR decides which real estate agent they choose to hire to list and sell the property at retail or which wholesaler they choose to work with to wholesale the property.

Continuing sending until you get a negative response or you close a deal..


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