The Probate Trap & How To Avoid It

Performance Property Real Estate Question

Q: Gerald, I spent the last few months trying to buy and close on a probate real estate deal. Just as I thought we were about to close another heir showed up making demands that were outside of what had been agreed upon. How do I avoid this kind of problem on the next deal? Kerry, Union, NJ

A: Great question, Kerry. A home is sold in probate court when someone dies without a will or without bequeathing the property they own. When this happens, the state takes over and administers the property’s sale. The court normally then appoints an executor of the estate. It sounds like you were negotiating with someone who had some interest in or connection to the property but may not have known or revealed the whole situation.

Probate deals can be messy because they often require you to get in the middle of messy family turmoil. The key to avoiding this aggravation when you buy real estate after the death of an owner is to make certain from the beginning that you identify the decision maker or decision makers—otherwise you can’t negotiate in good faith and are likely wasting your time which unfortunately it seems is what happened in your case.

Thanks for your question, Kerry. For more real estate information and tips visit my blog at