Here are three recent, real world, case studies of common probate real estate mistakes. Hopefully, you’ll learn how seemingly small errors can quickly snowball into huge, expensive problems, which you definitely want to avoid!
Letting the home fall apart
In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In our example, there is an older citizen who began to decline (this is normal especially for Solo Agers), so keeping up the house was a low priority. The family was focused on scrambling with doctors, Medicare, nursing homes, social workers, etc. So, it’s common to overlook a leaky pipe at the house and leave it untended.
After this particular senior passed, I visited her apartment. I found a bathroom covered in fuzzy, black mold from water damage. So, a little bit of water damage left unattended for months or years is now costing tens of thousands in remediation damage. Mold is a big red flag when trying to sell real estate. You have to take care of that before anyone would be willing to buy it. It could have been solved long ago with a $10 wrench or plumber visit. Now, that $10 fix could cost $10,000.
Do It Yourself renovations have become popular. Too many heirs watch too much HGTV! When someone dies, there’s almost always a nephew who sees a fixer upper and wants to “Flip this House.” Too often, they have no idea what they are doing.
In this case, the son-in-law started renovations that were actually not too bad looking. But he did not get the correct permits and authorization paperwork, so he had to stop in the middle when the co-op management found out. Now we’re trying to sell a half-finished home. The toilet is literally in the middle of the bedroom. We probably would’ve been better off if we just sold it pre-renovation, if you take into account the delays we are now experiencing. At least it would have been intact.
Tenants in probate property
We’ve talked before about how tenants can be a nightmare in probate (E157 How to Deal with Nightmare Tenants in Probate) Tenants of estates don’t respect the need to pay rent. They pay if and when they feel like it. But it’s even worse when the estate suddenly gets tenants who weren’t even there before the homeowner passed. Here are two current, frustrating examples:
Example 1: The home aid won’t leave. We had a Solo Ager who needed help at the end, so he hired a home aide through Medicare/Medicaid. After the man passed away, it’s understandable that the aide needs a little bit of time to figure out where she’s going. But she didn’t leave! The heirs are don’t like conflict and were not sure what their legal rights are, so they didn’t do anything about it. Now, every day that passes, the aide is slowly creating a sort of tenancy! It will be harder and harder to get rid of her. We’ll probably have to evict her, and that will incur costs and time.
Example 2: A decedent passed away with an investment property and he was a small business owner. Since he passed away, the business shut down. The heirs felt bad for an ex-employee and allowed him to stay in the decedent’s condo! So now, a problem that didn’t exist before has been created. The heirs also gave him extremely low rent. Of course, he won’t be leaving now without a court-ordered eviction! The heirs were well-intentioned but created a huge problem for themselves.
How can you avoid these mistakes? Hire an excellent probate lawyer to guide the executor, or better yet, consider a professional executor to run the show. A professional executor would know not to make these mistakes and won’t make decisions based on emotions tied to the property.
Check out my book on Amazon, “How to Hire an Executor,” so you can choose the person who is the best fit.