When,Why and How to Choose a Probate Realtor



Probate real estate requires a unique process when purchasing a home and can be a difficult process without the proper realtor. It is important to have an experienced probate Realtor to help you navigate and represent the estate during the sale. My background as an attorney and CPA has allowed me to leverage prior experiences for the benefit of my probate and trust clients and their attorneys/fiduciaries. It’s important to have insight on when, why and how to choose a probate Realtor.

When should I consider a probate Realtor?

When someone passes away without a trust, his or her estate will typically go through a process called “probate.”  Probate is a court-supervised process that is required to legally transfer ownership of a decedent’s property to his or her heirs/beneficiaries.  This process usually takes a year or more to complete. The “personal representative” of the estate (i.e. the person designated to administer the estate during probate) may choose to sell some or all of the real property in the estate during the probate period.  In these situations, it is prudent to hire a “probate Realtor” to represent the estate in the sale of the real property.  Alternatively, if you are person looking to buy a property that is owned by an estate going through probate (i.e. a probate sale), it is also wise to consider consulting a probate Realtor.

Why should I consider a probate Realtor?

Selling probate real estate, like most specialties, involves subtle nuances from selling real estate under normal circumstances (i.e. a standard sale).  For instance, probate sales: require different contracts/terms, have unique rules for timing and pricing, require “notice” actions at different stages of the sale, and in some cases, require court hearings to confirm the sale.  The degree of differences involved in the probate real estate process really depends on whether the Personal Representative is appointed with Full Authority or Limited Authority under the Independent Administration of Estates Act.  Nonetheless, a good probate Realtor will fully understand the actions required in each.  

The other main reason for needing to work with a qualified probate Realtor is that he or she can save significant time and money for the estate. Conversely, a Realtor inexperienced in probate sales can cost the estate significant time and money, which is ultimately time and money wasted for the beneficiaries. To illustrate, a probate attorney’s fees are dictated by state statute as they are paid a predetermined percentage of total value of the estate. However, probate attorneys are also allowed to charge “extraordinary” attorneys fees in addition to their statutory fees. “Extraordinary” attorneys fees are charged to the estate for services rendered that fall outside the scope of a regular probate. For example, such extraordinary fees are merited for legal services in connection with the sale of a decedent’s real property. So you can see how additional guidance and coaching of a Realtor by a probate attorney during the transaction is not the best use of resources by the estate (especially when most attorneys charge between $250-$450 per hour).

How should I determine which probate Realtor to use?

There are a few important things to look for and specific questions to ask when finding and interviewing a probate Realtor. First off, the easiest way to find a good probate Realtor is go online and search things like “probate realtor + name of the city or state” or you can ask your probate attorney if he or she can refer you to one.  Once you have a few Realtors in mind, I would then look at the probate Realtor’s website; it should be very clear whether the Realtor specializes in the sale of probate property.

About the Author:

Mark Cianciulli is a highly focused Realtor and the co-founder of The CREM Group, a boutique faction of professional Realtors specializing in LA’s Eastside neighborhoods, Hollywood/West-Hollywood, Long Beach and surrounding communities. Associations California Bar, CAR, NAR, NARPM, AAGLA.