- RESEARCHING THE FILE (Calif. Court Houses)
In each probate file, you will find a variety of forms pertaining to the probate real estate process. Most of these forms don’t have the pertinent information we need. If you concentrate only on what you are looking for and don’t try to understand every detail on every form, you will have an easier time learning the system and spend a lot less time researching files. After you have searched through a few dozen files, you will begin to master the mechanics of probate real estate as a Probate Agent or Investor.
Now, under the old system, if you're researching online or cutting out your “Notices to Petition” and searching the tax rolls for property owners in your target area, you will research from the comfort of your own PC or head down to the courthouse on Friday to research these files. You may have anywhere from 10 to 25 files to research; before you fill out cards for every one and hand them all to the file clerk, ask how many cards you can hand them at a time. If you do this, file clerks will see you are trying to make their job easier and be more inclined to help you.
In my area, the courthouses have two different systems: Hayward allows 10 cards at a time, They file in numerical order, so make sure your case file numbers run in order so they can pull the files without having to backtrack. Again, after you research a few dozen files, you will begin to master the mechanics of probate.
Most court file rooms are online, so you can access the register of actions for each file directly from their computer or do it from your home. Ask the court file room clerk how the process works; this may save you time filling out file cards. Not all courts are online or have the probate files available, however, so check it out.
- PETITION FOR PROBATE (Probate Agents Bible)
The first form to examine in the probate file or on-line is still the “Petition for Probate”.
On the “Petition to Probate”, the attorney for the estate requests the court to approve the petitioner as executor. The petition confirms who the executor is likely to be. This is the person you will contact first. The person should be the same one named on the Notice to Administer the Estate where you started, and will be referred to as “Petitioner.” This person will make or break your probate real estate business.
Write the name of the person or persons requesting court approval as executor on your tracking sheet under (Executor’s Name). On the back of the petition, or more likely, on a separate sheet which lists all the heirs’ names and addresses, you will find the petitioner’s (executor’s) name, address, and relationship to the deceased. Note it!
On the “Petition for Probate”, you’ll see a statement indicating whether the executor is to have full authority or limited authority to act under the Independent Administration of Estates Act. “Full Authority” is a key, as it allows the executor to sell the estate property directly to our client without having to go through the court red tape and confirmation process.
We look for estates that can act under full authority, but we can earn on either process.
“Limited Authority” means that the executor must have court supervision for certain acts, including selling the real estate. Even if we find an executor who wants to give us our price, under limited authority, the offer may have to be confirmed in court, and the chance of having your discount purchase overbid is too high to waste time.
Today in our offers we ask the executor to petition the court for full authority if they don’t have it now. You can do this as long as the will doesn’t say the executor has to go through court confirmation.
I will have more to say on this matter later. For now, we indicate on the tracking sheet under “Will Information” whether the executor has full or limited authority.
“Petition for Probate” will have two boxes: Full Authority and Limited Authority.
- ADDRESS OF RESIDENCE AT TIME OF DEATH (Usually the Probate Real Estate Property)
This is the property we are going after.
This will tell you if the property was the decease’s residence at the time of death. If it was, there is a good chance it may be vacant. The estate may want to sell the property quickly if it is vacant to avoid possible vandalism or having to visit the property to check things out. You may want to make a note on the tracking sheet if the property is vacant by placing a “V” next to the Subject Property Address item.
It is also possible the deceased owned more than one piece of property; if so, it may be named in the will, but the best bet is to check the assessor’s rolls (MLS Tax search) to see what the deceased owned. If you do a name search in the county where the property is located, you will find all property any particular person owns. This is the research which will make you a top Probate Agent or if you're a Investor, you'll have agents serving you for listing leads.
- PROPERTY VALUE OF THE ESTATE
Next on the “Petition for Probate”, the estate’s executor estimates the value of any personal or real property owned by the estate. You will see how the property you are tracking is valued by the executor. This will give you an indication of what the estate feels the property is worth. It will not guarantee a sales price, but it will give you a starting point.
Many times, the estimated value from the estate will be much lower or higher than you know property in the area is worth. We use this value from the estate as a hint to the executor’s frame of mind in regard to value. Remember, there is no court appraisal under IAEA, so if the estate feels the property is worth $300,000, you know it’s worth $325,000, and make an offer for your client for $270,000, then you have built in a $55K equity position, even though in the estate’s mind it was only a 10% discount to your client. If this was a court confirmation sale, the official court appraisal would have had to come in at $300K, and this does happen. Remember, these are accountants doing a drive-by appraisal.
The other side of this coin is if the estate thinks the property is worth $350K and you know it’s worth only $325K; in this case, the chance of you selling your client the property for $275K is going to be tough. Not that it can’t be done; you will have to educate the executor on the actual value, deduct expenses, including fix-up, commissions, and holding costs, to re-establish the true value.
The better way is to have the appraisal challenged. More on this later….
List the estate’s estimate of value on your tracking sheet under Subject Property Information.
- PERSONAL PROPERTY (Not Probate Real Estate)
You will notice next to the real estate value on the Petition to Probate, there will also be a personal property value. This tells you what the liquid assets of the estate are. If the number is large, there may be personal property (cars, jewelry, furniture, antiques, etc.) you may be interested in and can pursue. Later, in the Inventory Statement, everything will be listed and a value given by the court referee. If you want to chase personal property, this is your starting point.
I personally don’t chase personal property. Over the past 30+ years of buying/selling probates, I’ve found the heirs usually pick over the valuable personal property and what is left is usually flea market items.
In my opinion, this is a waste of time but if you’re interested, this is where you start.
So this is how we start our research either online or direct at the courthouse. Once you know this system you will spend less than 1 hour per courthouse per week doing your research so not a big deal.
Buying probate homes for yourself, investors or end user buyers is a Six Figure Per Year Biz and anyone who is interested can learn more about me, my system and probate real estate at
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I’m often asked for best tips for those staring to learn the Probate Real Estate niche or they're continuing DF Students and just want to learn how to increase production.
For Real Estate agents or Investors here is a little tip which can add more deals to your year end bottom line.
As my current DF Probate students know, I have a probate lead service which provides 1800 Probate Cases with Real property each year in the 7 Counties I work around the Bay Area. This works out to 150 new cases opened every month which have real estate to be sold.
So on a weekly basis we release 40 new probate leads with full Probate Track Sheet (all pertinent info needed), a Title Search and value page so basically everything one needs to work probates every week. This will keep you moving and shaking, so you must be organized and consistent and you'll nail your fair share of the probate homes which will be sold during the probate process.
TIP: One tip I want to give now is for those looking at working probate homes. Spend a part of your marketing time going back and reaching out or following up with probate cases (with real estate)which are 4-5 months old.
Regardless of where you're located, check on these older cases now 4-5 months old because it will be the time for a Personal Rep (PR) to be approved by the court to be either the Executor or Administrator and have the power to sell the home.
When this happens it’s a great time to reach out as they will be more inclined to talk about selling or listing at this time.
Another reason to follow up after 4-5 months is not only is the PR approved so they can sell or list the home, but the Notice of Creditors (4 month process) is usually completed and this will allow the Executor or Administrator to Feel better about selling now that everything is complete in order to close a sale.
There are 50 -150 NEW leads added to the Archive each week and for only a one time fee of $99.
PLUS if you Order Access to the Leads Farm Today, we'll INCLUDE FOR FREE Admission to the Members Only JUMP START Probate Training taking place online LIVE with Gary D Sr this Wednesday .
To GET STARTED with the Probate Leads Archive - use the PAYPAL Button.