Probate Real Estate Advice

For those looking for new ways to invest their money, taking advantage of probate real estate opportunities can help you gain significant revenue in a short amount of time. What exactly does this entail? For starters, it is the process of buying properties that belonged to people who recently passed away. When someone dies and a relative inherits a property, the heir will choose to hold onto it, list it with a realtor, or try to sell it on their own. More often than not, the person inheriting the building(s) was not planning on gaining control of a relative’s property. Because these properties tend to be unwanted burdens, they are likely to be listed below market value. As you can imagine, dedicating yourself to probate real estate can be emotionally taxing. As such, a lot of care needs to be put into probate cases, and strategies you would use in many other investing situations will not be effective here. Over the years, I have learned a lot about probate cases from investors who have achieved a lot of success in this area. That includes former NFL receiver and Yale graduate Ralph Plumb. In these posts below, I will help you understand how probate works and how to generate probate real estate leads. When you are ready to begin making money together, click here to schedule a planning session.
“probate” spelled with game pieces

Six-Step Process to Probate Success

Brandon Barnes is a newer investor that has been able to realize $100,000 in revenue in less than a year of real estate investing. The most effective strategy, which has resulted in over half of his overall revenue, is the pursuit of probate real estate. Brandon has been able to turn a $1000 marketing budget into over $50,000 in revenue in less than one year by consistently adhering to this six-step probate process, which he outlined in detail in our recent conversation:

Step 1 – Obtain Probate Leads

Obviously, the first step in the real estate probate process is to get your hands on related leads. In most markets, you must physically visit the County Courthouse and ask a clerk for assistance in pulling the records on everyone that has submitted an estate to be probated. In other markets, this step can be completed online or on the phone.


Brandon commits to going down to the probate courthouse once each and every week in 3 different counties.

Step 2 – Prepare Probate Letters

After obtaining leads, the next step for successful probate real estate investing is to prepare the probate letters. Brandon accomplishes this by mail merging the documents together. For example, if he pulled 10 probate records, he will put them in an Excel spreadsheet with three columns – one for the addresses, personal representatives, and the decedent – and mail merge those into his standard probate letter. Following this method allows you to quickly create the letters while minimizing the manual labor required.

Step 3 – Probate Letter Messaging

Brandon’s standard probate letter reads, “Hi. My name is Brandon. I recently understood that you’ve initiated a probate record with the (insert County) at the address of (insert address). I offer my condolences and I am deeply sorry for your loss. I’d love to talk to you and help you clear this up with lower holding costs than you are already being charged.”


Brandon finds that addressing the elephant in the room – they have recently lost someone personally – is the best message for a probate letter. It helps because people appreciate the genuineness and the candor. Most people that are in the probate process will typically be facing a serious issue. Not only have the lost a loved one, but they likely don’t have the time to sell the property or to list it with an agent. Therefore, making a deal with an investor that can give them an all-cash offer and close quickly will be extremely helpful and appealing.

Step 4 – Mail Probate Letters

After the probate letters are prepared, address and stamp the envelopes, send them out, and wait for a response. When probate real estate investing, there will be many times that it becomes a waiting game.

Step 5 – Conversation With Seller

Once leads start calling in, which Brandon always answers directly and does not let it go to voicemail, a typical conversation would be the following:


Potential Seller: Hello Brandon. My name is Joe and I just recently received a letter that you sent in regards to my property at 123 Main St.


Brandon: Hi. I purchase homes in that area all the time. I would love to talk to you about the property. What is the condition of the property and when can I get over there to check it out?


As you can see, the conversation is very simple and straight to the point. After sending out the initial letter, the real estate probate process moving forward is just like working with any motivated seller. It is all about addressing the elephant in the room upfront. The original homeowner is deceased, so Brandon will offer his condolences in the initial letter, which means that, by the time the potential seller calls, they can move forward with making a deal.

Step 6 – Lead Conversion

At this point, Brandon will go to the property to evaluate its condition and take photographs. If the “shoe fits,” he will either lock up the deal and resell it to someone on his buyers list, or he and his partners will perform the rehab themselves and list it on the MLS.


The turn around from first contact to close can be as quick as 10 days, or it can be drawn out if it is a more detailed probate situation. Sometimes, there may be a bunch of different heirs that live in different locations that all need to be served the notice of the estate being probated.


Brandon has actually locked up a deal with the intention to purchase once the probate process is completed, and the heirs lived in different countries. As a result, he had to wait until all the heirs were served and the executor was given clearance to sell, which took a month. But once the sellers came back to Brandon with the all-clear, he moved forward and closed the deal in 7 days. Therefore, overall, sometimes the process can be drawn out and last months, while on other occasions, it can be turned around in 1-2 weeks.


The lesson here is, when probate real estate investing, be proactive about offering your condolences and be patient but diligent.

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Two Tips to Successfully Navigate the Probate Real Estate Niche

In my conversation with Ralph Plumb, who is a NFLer turned real estate entrepreneur, he explains a strategy that you can follow in order to replicate the same success he has obtained from one of his favorite lead sources: probates.


Ralph has found a lot of success over the years in the probate real estate niche. “The granting of probate is the first step in the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person, resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person’s property under a will.”[1] Upon completion of the legal process, the inheritor of the deceased person’s property will be placed on a list that is available for purchase. As a real estate investor, Ralph will purchase these types of probate lists and perform 4 to 5 direct mailing campaigns to attempt to acquire properties. However, instead of blasting the entire probate list with the standard “we buy houses” advertisement, Ralph strategy differs in two main areas.

1. Out-of-State Probate Owners


When Ralph purchases a probate list, the first thing he does differently is that he only mails to out-of-state inheritors. If someone is inheriting a property and they do not live in the same state or near the property, Ralph has found that they are more likely to have the motivation to sell the property. Since they don’t live in the vicinity of the property, it is much more of a hassle for them to manage and deal with the property, Therefore, when he obtains a probate list, he further refines it down to only keeping the entries where the mailing address of the person on record is out-of-state. Then, he will perform a 4 to 5 piece direct mailing campaign to those remaining entries.


2. Tailored Message to Probate Owners


When dealing with probate leads, Ralph has found that the most effective theme of the direct mailing message is ease of transaction.


After inheriting a probate property, the individual will typically have 3 options:

  1. Keep the property
  2. List the property with a realtor
  3. Try to sell it themselves


However, inheriting the property was likely not something that they were planning on, which comes with additional, unwanted tasks added to their lives. Often times, there is also the additional emotional stress that comes with a death of someone close. Therefore, ease of transaction will be enticing as well as extremely helpful for the seller!


To get the “ease of transaction” theme across, Ralph’s direct mailing message consists of statements like:

  • We will purchase the property as-is
  • We are not going to negotiate the repairs down the road
  • We will purchase all cash, and therefore close quickly
  • You can leave all the stuff in there or you can take everything out, whichever works best for you!


All in all, Ralph wants to be extremely flexible with the seller for everything that he offers.


Example Probate Deal


An example of a recent probate lead that Ralph closed on was a 3,200 square foot property in Rhode Island that was filled with 6 dumpsters worth of stuff. One of the big key points for the seller was that they didn’t want to have to deal with the stuff left in the property. Therefore, Ralph’s “ease of transaction” theme was really effective.


When marketing in general, but especially in regards to probate, it is important to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. For probate, you are mailing to someone that is inheriting a property that they weren’t planning on. There is going to be some level of emotion and time involved. They have busy lives with family, a job, etc. And now they have to deal with selling a property.


In the example above, they can’t list with a real estate agent because a realtor won’t list the property with all that stuff in it. A buyer won’t be able to go through the property and make sense of it will all that stuff in it. If they are going to put the property on the open market, a lot of sellers don’t want to put their name on a property will all that stuff in it! Therefore, their best option is to go the “ease of transaction” option that was presented to them by Ralph.



All in all, the most effective method for attaining high quality probate leads and is the most helpful to the seller is to mail to out-of-state inheritors only and have ease of transaction as the dominating theme of your direct mailing messaging. Also, be sure to put yourself in the individual’s shoes when mailing, conversing, and negotiating.


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Joe Fairless