Probate Case Study: The Story of Sally and the Sharks

Case Study from Ian Duncan, Oakland

About a year and half ago, a well-dressed woman came into the Oakland office and asked Ian, one of the owners, if he did Probate. “Yes, of course we do!” Ian loves doing Probates.

This woman was very professional and pleasant. She was accompanied by a past client, and apparently California Document Preparers_Ian the two of them worked together. Ian had enjoyed working with this client, so he was delighted with the referral and was looking forward to working on a new Probate case.

Mrs. Cruikshank became a client. Her business? Buy low, sell high

Mrs. Cruikshank asked Ian if she could be a client: Ian would prepare Probate matters for her for the true Entitlees to the properties, as a vendor. Her business was buying and selling houses that were in Probate; she intended to clean up by buying low and selling high. Well, that’s how people like JP Getty and the Rockefellers made their fortunes—it’s the American way, right?

Meet Sally, the Estate’s Administrator

One could not have imagined a nicer, more caring person than Sally, who out of the goodness of her heart stepped up to administer the Estate after those named in the decedent’s Will refused to do so, even though they were going to inherit assets from the Estate. Sally had nothing to gain; she was the decedent’s longtime friend, and felt compelled to help.

The Shark Crew was trying to buy the Estate’s real estate for a price that was far below market value—a total violation of the probate code. They should have gotten a professional appraisal to determine current market value in the Bay Area’s red-hot real estate market. Instead, they circumvented this step and tried to practically steal the Estate’s property.

In Probate Court, the Court’s in charge

Thank goodness for the Probate Court. At a hearing for court confirmation of the sale, the court essentially forced the Shark Crew to pay a reasonable price for the property. Once the house was sold, Ian mistakenly figured that the Shark Crew was gone. Wrong.

One of the Estate’s less-functional beneficiaries was still living in the house. The home was no longer part of the Estate, so it was no longer CDP’s matter. But the Shark Crew convinced Sally to pay a distribution to all of the Estate’s beneficiaries before obtaining a court order to generate money to help this beneficiary move. This also cleverly saved Mrs. Cruikshank and the Shark Crew the time and expense of evicting this squatter.

Ian, a law and order guy, becomes her worst nightmare

Meanwhile, Mrs. Cruikshank was really sick of hearing from Ian—his constant hand-waving about pesky things like rules, procedure and the probate code. Ian’s a law and order guy, after all.

Now, as they wearily approach the end of this long, strange journey to close the Estate, Ian’s trying to keep his client from being sanctioned by the court for her extremely poor judgment.

The moral of this story: Avoid Probate by getting a Living Trust!

Stay out of probate! Do a Living Trust, for crying out loud, and avoid the sharks who want to “help” you sell your real estate.

If you do find yourself needing to go through Probate, find a good provider, such as a lawyer or Legal Document Assistant with a good reputation. There are no shortcuts. Real estate scams abound, and Probate creates low-hanging fruit. People are grieving, in a state of shock and loss, mourning their loved ones. They’re vulnerable and facing the long, confusing Probate process. When some nice person offers to “help” them, they’re delighted. Don’t get eaten by sharks–stay out of the water in the first place.

Of course we do Probate! Contact us one of our three Bay Area offices. Better yet, avoid Probate altogether and make an appointment to get started on your Living Trust. We help you through every step of the process. Helpful. Compassionate. Affordable