A Tale of Two Estates: A Journey through Probate | Estate Plan Pros
Modest estate going through probate

John, a widower, owns his modest home with a small mortgage.  When he passes away, his three children find buried in all his papers a will instructing them to divide everything equally.  The oldest child, Bill, heads down to the realtors office to list the property.  And so the journey begins…

At the realtor’s office, Bill discovers that with a will, he’ll have to open a probate case, and be appointed the executor by the court before he can list the property.  So he heads down to the probate court, and discovers that he’ll have to get the probate forms on his own and fill them out.  Oh, and there is a fee for lodging the will with the court, and a fee for opening the probate case.

After searching for the forms, and struggling through their obtuse terminology, Bill has been back and forth to court several times before the clerk would accept his paperwork.  Finally, Bill throws his hands up in the air, and engages a probate attorney.

In the meantime Bill has discovered that his dad’s bank account also had his brother’s name on it, and his brother is refusing to use any of the money to pay ongoing expenses with the house, or indeed anything related to the estate.  Now Bill is paying the mortgage and utilities for his dad’s property out of his pocket. 

With the probate attorney’s help, Bill is now the executor, and can finally engage a realtor to list the property.  The walkthrough with the realtor shows that with some small improvements, the house could really shine, and probably fetch a much higher price.  But because there is no money in the estate, and Bill is tapped out paying all the extra expenses already, none of the improvements are made.  The realtor also explains that the listing will note that this is a probate listing, which might scare some agents and buyers away. 

After some time, Bill finally has a buyer.  He dutifully takes the offer to his probate attorney who schedules a court hearing to have the sale approved.  After some additional delays, the sale is approved, and escrow closes. 

The proceeds from the sale are deposited into a blocked account until the court approves the final accounting and order for distribution. 

Months later, the court approves the order, and after all creditor’s bills, attorney fees, and executor fees are paid the property proceeds are finally distributed. 

Bill is mad at his brothers for not helping with the expenses, and his brothers are mad at him for how long things took to get their inheritance, which was not really his fault. 

Meanwhile, across the street…

Jim, a widower, owns his modest home with a small mortgage.  When he passes away, his three children find buried in all his papers a living trust instructing them to divide everything equally.  The oldest child, Jane, heads down to the realtors office to list the home. 

Because Jane is listed in the trust as the successor trustee, she is able to hire a real estate agent right away.  When the agent walks through the property with Jane, he points out a few improvements that could have a big impact on the price of the property. 

Jane uses some money out of her dad’s bank account to quickly make the updates, and by the weekend the listing is live. 

After receiving several offers, the realtor helps Jane negotiate a higher price, and Jane accepts the best offer.  After escrow closes, Jane pays all the final bills, and distributes the estate. 

Everyone is happy, and makes plans for their next family vacation together.

The end.

Image courtesy of khongkitwiriyachan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tags:Probate Will Living Trust

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Erik Hartstrom

Erik is the founder of Estate Plan Pros, a leading estate planning practice in Elk Grove.  Erik’s practice focuses on Estate Planning Law. In Estate Planning, Erik works with clients to make the process simple, so clients can focus on more important things. He is a local authority for specialized estate planning instruments, like Special Needs Trust, Irrevocable Trusts, or other focused documents. Erik has litigated, negotiated, and mediated the gamut of family law cases. With this unique perspective as a family law and estate attorney he can often spot issues otherwise overlooked. Prior to graduating he worked as a legislative analyst for a non-profit organization, and volunteered as a youth counselor. Erik currently participates in local politics and is an active member of his local church. Erik is very happily married and has two young sons. Together, his family loves to get outdoors and enjoy the varied activities the Sacramento region has to offer.


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