Should you look for a broker or lawyer first when selling a probate property? With non-probate home sales, brokers are the first to list, set an open house, and find a great buyer. Lawyers only get involved once a buyer is in place and a deal is struck. The lawyer then drafts the contract and conducts the closing.
But with probate, talking to a lawyer first makes more sense. Here’s why:
Talk to a probate lawyer first when selling a home
It’s important to talk with a probate lawyer, because you need to know who has the authority to sell the home. The lawyer can also tell you whether the estate needs to be probated. Not every estate needs probate: maybe the house is titled a certain way or it is held in a trust. Or, maybe you live in an area where the title company accepts “heirs at law” affidavits. These situations are best analyzed by a probate attorney.
How long will it take to get started? How much will it cost? The answers to these questions will determine what type of broker you will work with.
A probate attorney will walk you through the estate debts, taxes, etc. You may not want to go through the hassle of selling the probate property if there is only a small fraction of the estate left over after debts and taxes.
There are some pre-steps that a probate lawyer (or a good broker) can help with:
- Hiring a title company to confirm who owns the property and check for major judgements or liens.
- Talking to co-op management and HOAs to see if there are any red flags.
When to speak with a broker first to sell probate property
Brokers are good at figuring out how much you can reasonably expect to sell the house for. Is there enough value to deal with the mess?
A downside of talking to a broker first is that too often, they are eager to get a new deal but they don’t understand the estate situation. The broker may not realize that the person they are speaking with does not have the legal authority to hire them. At that point, you’ve wasted your time and the broker’s time if you do not have the legal authority to sign a listing agreement, etc.
Sometimes selling probate property does not require a broker. You can avoid the broker’s commission if you sell the home to an heir, a neighbor, or a cash investor. A probate lawyer can advise on this, so it will probably save money to meet with a lawyer first.
We see this happen a lot, so we want to share our tips with anyone who is looking to sell probate property. Meet with a probate lawyer first so that you can get proper guidance. To learn more about probate, check out my book, “How Probate Works,” available on Amazon.
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