October 21, 2021

Mini-tutorial: The ABC of working with probate leads

If you’re familiarized with off market properties, you know that there are many types of leads to choose from – for instance, these are some of the best ones in Florida, and here are the ones from Georgia. Typically, real estate investors pick a few of them and become experts in dealing with those motivated sellers. However, if you’re still hesitant, this quick mini-tutorial could help you understand how to work with probate.

At Real Estate IQ, we asked Al Nicoletti – an attorney and expert in probate real estate issues in Florida – to list the basic things you need to know when working with this type of lead. And at his webinar “How to crush the probate market,” he certainly delivered!

But before we start sharing the highlights of the talk, please keep in mind that though Nicoletti’s advice could be helpful in any state, his expertise is in Florida. So, there might be a few things that are slightly different in other places. Thus, he strongly recommended double-checking the procedures if you’re in another state. If you’re in Texas, you can start with this article about inheritance properties!

Now, let’s begin!

How probate works

The first step when working with this type of lead is to understand what it is. To put it simply, it consists of transferring title from the deceased owner of a property to their true heirs. And to do that, there has to be a court process called probate. “It’s nothing more than moving the title over so that heirs can sell the property. Before probate, they cannot transfer title, sell, convey, or mortgage,” detailed Nicoletti.

If you get in this niche, the best thing you need to know is that you don’t have to be a probate expert, nor learn the complicated words and definitions, or worry about its technical aspects. Probate is an easy experience; you only have to know just enough by asking the right questions.

Al Nicoletti, attorney and expert in probate real estate.

But if you are not required to have all the expert knowledge, how could you work with probate then? By having the right players on your team, of course! Nicoletti recommended finding the right Title Company and a probate attorney, so you don’t have to learn the intricacies of the entire inheritance line.

When working with probate leads, your job is to contact distressed sellers and gather the basic information by asking the right questions. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first, keep in mind that the best way to find probate leads is by subscribing to off market listings! And at Real Estate IQ, we have the best data on the market. Learn more about our Off Market Leads in Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Utah, and receive probate leads directly in your inbox every day!

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6 questions to ask when working with probate leads

Until now, we’ve been mysteriously mentioning that “you need to ask the right questions.” But what does that mean? Based on his experience, Nicoletti listed some basic questions you can’t forget to ask when you go to an appointment with a potential seller. This way, you can gather data for two purposes: first, to decide whether the deal is worth your time, and second, to understand the big picture and pass it on to your probate attorney.

These are the six questions you have to ask – and don’t forget to do it with confidence! It makes all the difference.

  1. Who are you? – First, you need to establish who you’re talking to and learn how that person is related to the deal.
  2. Is this the only house the deceased owned? – Then, find out a bit more about the story behind the place. Here, it’s also helpful to ask if this is the only house the seller owns and if they have pulled title (to discover if there are one or more probates).
  3. Do the Probate Macarena! – This is perhaps the funniest part of the process. Nicoletti coined the Probate Macarena as a way to memorize the inheritance line. First, ask if there’s a spouse; then, go down to children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. If none of the above, you go up: parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. If none, you go out: brothers, sisters, half-brothers, half-sisters, and children of them. And remember: you need information on all the relatives ever – dead and alive.
  4. Is there a will? – If so, ask if it’s the original ink will. If not, intestate! In Florida, the Statute creates a will for you.
  5. Is there a mortgage foreclosure or a tax deed? – If so, find out when it is.
  6. Where’s the original power of attorneys/probate (POA)? – This is essential because title insurance needs the original POA to record.
Real estate events.

How long does the probate process take?

There’s a sense that probate tends to take far too long. And even the aspects involved seem to be a lot. What if there are many children? Or several spouses? Or deeds? So, you might feel a bit discouraged before even starting.

There’s a misconception: probate doesn’t need to take forever. It doesn’t take six months or a year. It could take a matter of weeks, maybe one or two months. Actually, one way to crush the probate market is to keep in mind the probate timing.

Al Nicoletti, attorney and expert in probate real estate.

To prove this, Nicoletti detailed the estimated time for the probate process to finish in different locations in Florida. For example, in Tampa, it could take a week; in Jacksonville, just two days; in Ft. Lauderdale, 45 days; in Miami, eight days. And don’t forget that you can also significantly decrease the time you look for deals with Real Estate IQ’s Off Market Leads in Florida!

Before moving on, let’s take a moment to address something that is believed to slow the process down: the 90-day newspaper publications. The expert in probate issues clarified that this is not mandatory in his state: “Sometimes we don’t need to do it. It’s up to whether there are creditors or not.” Furthermore, even if you have to do it, he mentioned there’s a way to sell the house before the probate process is finished – though it might take about three months to get the money because the sellers’ net proceeds must be held in escrow.

Nonetheless, Nicoletti advised always to ask when the person died. This is a crucial piece of information: if it’s more than two years, the process is even faster because the creditors are out, and there’s no newspaper or notice. On top of this, he reminded attendees that it’s unavoidable to have all heirs on contract for homestead property. On the contrary, for non-homestead, it’s good to have everybody, but it’s also possible to select a representative.

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When is probate needed (and when is it not)?

This is a recurring question the speaker faces every time he hosts a webinar or course. And even though it might vary depending on the state, he has a pretty simple way to explain it in Florida.

In the sunshine state, you don’t need probate:

  • if the deed says “husband and wife,” and one of them is alive,
  • if both spouses are dead,
  • in the case of joint tenants (with rights of survivorship), if A, B, and C are specified in the deed and A and B are dead, the title moves to C,
  • as for ladybird deeds, they are specially prepared deeds that have language,
  • when the person that’s a life tenant on the deed dies, the title moves over without probate,
  • and lastly, revocable/irrevocable trusts avoid probate.

On the other hand, you need probate when someone is solely named on the deed and dies. For all these reasons, it’s critical that people show you the will since they guide the probate process – and you should proceed cautiously if they don’t.

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Key takeaways

Working with off market leads requires a certain amount of knowledge. However, as far as probate goes, you can have a general notion to gather the basic information and leave the specifics to the experts. If you’re able to collect the answers to the fundamental questions Nicoletti suggested, you’ll be able to decide if a deal is an opportunity to seize or something to let pass you by.

The good thing is that many people avoid working with probate because they think it will take too long to close a deal or because it looks complex on the surface. But with this mini-tutorial, you have all the insights you need to analyze leads better, understand that it might take you a week or two to close a deal, and take advantage of all those opportunities others refuse. What should you keep away from? Deals where the numbers don’t work for you, or where there’s no information about heirs – remember that, if you’re subscribed to our Premium Off Market Leads, the contact data of the leads and a close relative is included!

After all, the baby boomer era is here! According to the attorney’s analysis, the silver tsunami has started: baby boomers that bought real estate in Florida back in the 70s and 80s are beginning to pass away, leaving their properties to their children. And this means that, until 2040, the leads for probate should do nothing but grow!

“We have a huge shift in the baby boomer market in Florida, Texas, and North Carolina. And that alone should signal to you that this probate niche is something to get into now rather than later. And how do you crush it? By asking the right questions and knowing the details beforehand,” Nicoletti concluded.

Disclaimer: The blog articles are intended for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing in the content is designed to be legal or financial advice.