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What Is Probate In Real Estate

Probate is a legal process that occurs upon the passing of an individual, whereby their estate is settled. This judicial procedure ensures the adherence to any will or estate instructions, the payment of debts, and the distribution of assets by the deceased person’s wishes.

Real estate often figures prominently in probate proceedings, as it can be the single most valuable asset included in an estate. Real estate probate typically involves validating a decedent’s will, appraising property and settling claims against the estate. Property must also be transferred to heirs according to the Will or intestate laws.

Real estate agents are often called upon during a probate proceeding, as they can provide valuable insight into market values that may need to be established for a given property. Agents can also assist in listing any real estate assets that may need to be sold as part of an estate settlement. established for tax purposes or for

GREINER LAW CORP. specializes in real estate law and probate proceedings and is an invaluable resource for anyone who needs assistance settling an estate. This blog post will explain the basics of probate and real estate. Let’s dive into it.

Probate And Real Estate | What You Need To Know

When someone owns the property and passes away, their assets must be transferred to the rightful beneficiaries or heirs. This process is called probate, and it’s important in real estate because it ensures that property is transferred correctly and legally.

Real estate is one of the most critical components of the probate process. Real property that the decedent owned before their death must be identified, appraised and subject to distribution according to estate instructions or intestate laws.

Transferring real estate assets in probate may involve transferring title on deeds, executing transfer documents such as quit claim deeds, or selling the property as part of an estate plan. Real estate transactions must also comply with tax laws and state regulations, promptly filing the necessary paperwork for transfer taxes and other assessments.

Types Of Real Estates That Require Probate

Real estate can encompass many assets and be divided into different types for probate proceedings.

  • Commercial real estate: Any property used primarily for business purposes, such as retail stores, office buildings, warehouses and more.

  • Residential real estate: Property used primarily for residential purposes, such as single-family homes or apartment buildings.

  • Vacant land: Any undeveloped property, such as acreage or land parcels.

  • Mineral rights: Rights to natural resources located beneath the surface of real estate, such as oil and gas.

  • Leases: Rights to occupy property for a specified period.

Probate proceedings involving real estate can quickly become complicated and require expert legal advice to ensure the deceased’s wishes are followed. It is important to contact an experienced probate attorney to help you navigate the probate process from start to finish.

Probate In Real Estate

business people and lawyers discussing contract papers.Legal planning. Concepts of law, advice, legal services
business people and lawyers discussing contract papers.Legal planning. Concepts of law, advice, legal services.

The probate real estate process is initiated when a decedent leaves behind real property. The first step is to submit the deceased person’s will to the probate court for review and validation. Without a will, the probate court will appoint an executor or administrator to oversee the process.

Once the executor or administrator is appointed, they are responsible for taking inventory of the deceased person’s assets, which includes all real estate properties. The properties are then appraised to determine their fair market value.

Dealing With Debts And Taxes In Probate

After the property appraisal, the executor must settle all the deceased person’s debts. These may include mortgage, tax liabilities, or other outstanding debts associated with the probate property. The property might sometimes have to be sold to cover these financial obligations.

Also, estates that exceed a certain value threshold may be subject to federal estate tax, which must be paid within nine months of the decedent’s death. The executor must file the necessary tax forms and pay any taxes due.

Distribution Of Real Estate Assets

Once all the debts and taxes have been paid, the executor can distribute the remaining assets by the deceased’s will. If the decedent died intestate, state intestacy laws govern the distribution.

In cases where real estate is to be divided among several beneficiaries, the executor may need to sell the property and divide the proceeds. This can be a complex process and sometimes leads to disputes among beneficiaries. Therefore, it’s advisable to have an experienced probate lawyer to guide you through this process.

Challenges In Probate Of Real Estate

The probate could become complex if the decedent owned properties in different jurisdictions, as probate laws vary from state to state. Another complication is when the deceased person’s estate is co-owned. The co-owners rights and the probate process can sometimes conflict, especially when the co-owner is not a spouse or a close relative.

Moreover, disputes among beneficiaries over the property’s value and other issues can complicate the probate process. Such disputes might have to be resolved in court, extending the duration of the process.

The Role Of Real Estate Agents In Probate

The role of real estate agents in the probate process is invaluable. They can provide a market valuation of the property, which is crucial for determining its fair price if it needs to be sold. A real estate agent can also assist in the listing, marketing, and selling probate real estate, easing the burden for the executor and beneficiaries.

  1. Accurate Property Valuation

Real estate agents have expertise in evaluating properties in the current market, making them indispensable in the probate process. They can determine a property’s fair market value—which is critical in probate proceedings for tax purposes and potential probate sales.

  1. Property Marketing

With their network and marketing skills, real estate agents can effectively advertise the property to many potential buyers. They can use their real estate market knowledge to target the correct demographic, speeding up the sale process.

  1. Handling Negotiations

Real estate agents can handle negotiations with potential buyers. They have the negotiation skills and experience to ensure the property is sold for the best possible price, maximizing the estate’s value.

  1. Managing Legal Requirements

Real estate agents are familiar with state and local laws regarding property transactions. They can ensure all necessary paperwork is completed correctly and on time, reducing potential legal complications.

  1. Resolving Potential Disputes

Real estate agents can help reduce conflicts among beneficiaries regarding the sale of the property. Their impartiality and expertise can help present a clear picture of the property’s value, providing a basis for fair distribution.

  1. Handling Property Documentation

Real estate agents can ensure all documentation for the property sale is in order. They can help with property deeds, disclosure forms, and other related paperwork, ensuring a smooth transaction.

  1. Offering Support And Guidance

Real estate agents can offer much-needed support and guidance to the executor or beneficiaries, making the probate process less overwhelming. They can provide regular updates about the sale process and advise on the best action.

  1. Streamlining The Sale Process

Real estate agents can streamline the sale process, from listing the property to closing the deal. They can coordinate with home inspectors, appraisers, and closing attorneys, making the process easier for all parties involved.

GREINER LAW CORP. has experienced real estate advisors that can assist with probate proceedings involving real estate.

How To Avoid Probate In Real Estate

what is probate in real estate
House and tag PROBATE on pink background with copy space for text.

Trusts are legal entities that hold ownership of assets on behalf of beneficiaries. Two main types of trusts can help you avoid probate real estate: revocable trusts and irrevocable trusts.

Revocable Trusts

Revocable trusts, also known as living trusts, are flexible arrangements that can be altered or cancelled by the trust maker during their lifetime. The trust maker transfers ownership of assets to the trust but retains the ability to manage those assets and receive benefits from them.

Upon the trust maker’s death, the trust assets bypass the probate process and are directly transferred to the beneficiaries as per the terms of the trust. This quick transfer is advantageous, as it avoids the time-consuming and often costly probate process. However, it’s key to note that setting up a revocable trust involves legal and administrative fees.

  • Setting Up Revocable Trusts

To set up a revocable trust, you must create a trust document, similar to a will, that outlines the terms of the trust, identifies the trustee (the person responsible for managing the trust), and names the beneficiaries who will receive the trust assets upon your death.

Once the trust document is created, you must transfer ownership of your assets to the trust. This is known as “funding the trust,” it typically involves changing the titles of the assets from your name to the name of the trust.

Irrevocable Trusts

Unlike revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts cannot be altered or cancelled once created. The trust maker permanently transfers ownership of assets to the trust, and those assets can’t be taken back.

The primary advantage of an irrevocable trust is that its assets are removed from the trust maker’s taxable estate. This means they’re not subject to estate tax upon the trust maker’s death. However, the trade-off for these tax advantages is a loss of control over the assets.

  • Setting Up Irrevocable Trusts

Setting up an irrevocable trust involves creating a trust document that outlines the terms of the trust, identifies the trustee, and names the beneficiaries. Because changes can’t be made once the trust is set up, it’s crucial to carefully consider the terms of the trust and the choice of trustee and beneficiaries.

After the trust document is created, the next step is to transfer ownership of your assets into the trust. This involves changing the titles of the assets from your name to the name of the trust.

Transfer-On-Death Deed

Transfer-on-death (TOD) deed is an estate planning tool that allows real property owners to transfer their properties to beneficiaries outside of probate. With a TOD deed, you can nominate the beneficiary who will receive the property upon your death and specify the terms of ownership.

You also retain control over the property during your lifetime. The TOD deed works similarly to a will but only applies to real estate. It does not cover other assets such as money or stocks and bonds.

  • Setting Up Transfer-On-Death Deeds

To create a transfer-on-death deed, you must first complete the deed document, available from your local county recorder’s office. The deed must have your name and the name of the beneficiary you’ve chosen to receive the property upon your death.

Once the deed is completed, you must sign it before a notary public or other qualified witnesses. You then need to file the deed with the county recorder’s office. It is important to note that transfer-on-death deeds can be revoked or changed during your lifetime.


Co-ownership is an arrangement whereby two or more people share property ownership. It can be an effective way to avoid probate if the co-owners are spouses, close relatives, or trusted friends who agree on dividing the assets upon one’s death.

However, some risks are associated with co-ownership, including a lack of control and potential conflicts between owners. Considering these risks carefully before entering into a co-ownership arrangement is important.

  • Setting Up Co-ownership

To set up a co-ownership arrangement for real property, you must first prepare an agreement outlining the terms of ownership and how the assets will be handled upon the death of one or more owners.

This agreement should be in writing and signed by all parties involved. Once the agreement is completed, you must change the property title to reflect the co-ownership arrangement. This typically requires filing a quitclaim deed with your county recorder’s office.


Probation can be lengthy and complex, especially when dealing with real estate. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid probate in real estate, such as setting up revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts, transfer-on-death deeds, and co-ownership arrangements.

It is essential to consider the various options carefully and work with an experienced attorney to ensure that your estate plan is set up correctly. With the proper planning, you can minimize the time and expense associated with probate, ensuring that your loved ones are cared for upon your death.

You should also periodically review your estate documents to ensure they reflect your wishes and any changes in circumstances or laws. Doing so will help ensure your wishes are fulfilled when you pass away.

GREINER LAW CORP. is an experienced probate and real estate law firm that can help you set up the right plan for your estate. Contact us today to learn how we can help you with your estate planning needs.


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