Single Mom’s Probate Nightmare has a Happy Ending

Case Study from Barbara Theobald, Walnut Creek


Last year a single mother of twins, an 8-year old boy and a girl, came into our office for some assistance that turned into Probate and ultimately, home ownership and a happy ending! The woman lived in a small Walnut Creek condo with her kids and mother. The mother died without a will and left nothing but the condo and a big pile of debts. The daughter was on public assistance, worked part time, and didn’t have much money. She was very sweet, but totally unsure of what to do—she’d never dealt with real-estate issues or legal matters and she certainly didn’t have money for a lawyer.

Because the mother died without a Living Trust or Will, the estate had become a matter of public record and went into Probate, and Bill and I both helped her through this. We explained things simply so she could handle issues as they came up. I told her she could call us when things became overwhelming. She was very grateful to us–she didn’t have a support system or anyone else to help her, but she worked hard on this and was diligent. There was a lot at stake for her–she was determined to keep the condo—and keep her kids in the Walnut Creek school district.

A significant number of creditor claims

There was a significant number of creditor claims attached to the estate. We told her to take her time, keep good records and try to settle with the creditors, both of which she did, and finally we were able to settle the Probate. In all, the process took an additional six months, compared to a regular probate, which usually takes at least a year. When I called our client to let her know that the order had been recorded and the condo was hers, she came in to see me to pick up the order. She walked in the office and gave me a big hug and a big thank-you to all of us for our help.