Do you feel awkward contacting probate leads?
Through the years as a real estate investor, I have always searched for deals or, more importantly, motivated sellers that need to sell their property. My search started with many marketing techniques including mailing out postcards to boarded up properties, hanging bandit signs, sticking magnetic signs to my car, advertising in the newspapers and on websites (I Buy Houses), and even using code enforcement lists naming sub-standard and condemned properties. I had varying degrees of success with each, but my most successful marketing campaign by far has been direct marketing to properties in probate. Please understand that I am not talking about following and contacting family members while they are grieving from the death of their loved one. I have seen some investors follow obituaries that are posted daily. Can you even imagine how this conversation would go and how difficult it would be to build rapport?
“Hi! My name is Mary Investor and I saw your Aunt passed away yesterday. I was just wondering if you would be interested in selling her house tomorrow?”
Not so smooth, is it?
Some may feel there is never a good time to contact the family regarding this matter. Hopefully I can shed some light on this topic and make you feel more comfortable when it is the right time to approach the family.
What is Probate?
First, let’s talk about what Probate is. In simple terms it means to prove or validate a will. When someone passes away, probate will be opened at probate court. Now, in most states Probate will be handled by the county, but in the northeastern section of the United States it may be handled at the city level. Each state dictates its own law and each county has their own filing system. Figuring it all out can be time consuming, but it will be well worth it at the end.
When someone passes away, their estate continues without them. Think about this for a moment: bills continue to come in, mortgages still need to be paid, property taxes are being assessed, utilities bill, consumer loan payments continue, etc. These all are active bills that need to be paid on time, and someone will have to pay them. If the mortgage does not get paid, what then happens? Foreclosure. What happens if the utilities don’t get paid? Utilities are shut off! You get the drift. So the estate can continue without the decedent, as long as someone is paying the bills.
It has been my experience that after someone passes away and there is no surviving spouse, the family may make the decision to open probate and settle the estate. The timing for this is typically 30 days after death. I have seen probate open many years after death or, on the other side of the spectrum, as little as a few days from death. For the most part, 30 days is generally the time frame we are looking at. Now remember, the bills still need payment. This is the main reason why probate opens and it is the family’s decision when they do this. By opening probate they acknowledge they are willing to move forward to satisfy the estates liabilities and distribute remaining assets to the heirs.
As the old saying goes, “timing is everything.” The right time to contact these probate leads is when the estate probate opens. Once probate opens, the family acknowledges the need to move forward and understands how important it is to settle the estate. Now you have the green light to contact the family. Now you can send your letters, postcards, or you can call them.
Here’s one last interesting fact about doing probate work: I have found that in many instances the family members whom I contact are grateful. They have been overwhelmed with the death of a relative or loved one, and they see selling the property as you lifting a burden from off of their back. So, if you’re like the rest of us who like making money and at the same time helping people, give probate a try.
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