How to Get the Most of the Probate Petition (Judicial Counsel Form DE-111) if You Are a Real Estate Agent or Investor
If you a California real estate agent or investor and you are looking to buy probate properties at a discount, you probably have been told to pull the Probate Petition, also known as Judicial Counsel Form DE-111.
You will want to get your hands on the same petition if you hope to score a listing too – in case the heirs decide to sell the inherited home, as it contains vital information you will need to attain your objective.
Where to find the petition is a separate topic. The short answer is at your local probate court but who wants to drive to the court, pay for parking, and spend hours and hours combing scanned PDF files? If you value your time and want immediate access to probate filings, there are online alternatives to driving to the court.
Once you figure out your preferred method of obtaining probate data, the next step is locating, understanding, and taking advantage of the information that can be found in the court document. In this article, I will walk you through the petition step-by-step, so you know exactly what to look for and how to interpret the data.
Whether the petitioner does the paperwork on their own (this is also called “Pro Per” or “In Pro Per” filing) or hires a probate attorney, filing the petition with the probate court officially starts the probate process. There are court filing fees involved when starting the case and the initial Petition for Probate filing fees in California is $465. However, if the petitioner receives government assistance, (i.e., Medi-Cal, Food Stamps, SSI, etc.) he or she can file an Application for Fee Waiver available in lieu of the $465 court filing fees.
This is the first page of the petition, and it contains crucial information for probate investors.
Probate Petition -- Judicial Counsel Form DE-111 (Page 1)
First, you will notice the contact information of the attorney involved (if any); the address of the courthouse where the case will be heard, and the hearing date. In the middle portion of the first page, you will find the decedent’s name (“Estate of”) and petitioner’s name. The lower half of the form will reveal the decedent’s date of death and address, and whether the decedent died with or without a will.
Probate Petition -- Judicial Counsel Form DE-111 (Page 2 )
Page two of the petition provides an estimate of how much cash the estate has on hand, an approximate value of the real property, the amount of mortgage encumbrances (if any), as well as the amount of rental income produced by a property (if any).
Once the Petitioner is appointed by the court, they become the personal representative of the Estate. There are other labels used for the Personal Representative (often shortened as the “PR”). If the decedent left a will, the term executor is used. If the decedent died without a will, the term administrator is used.
Initially, the person seeking to become the personal representative is referred to as the “Petitioner”. The Petitioner’s mailing address and phone number are sometimes provided on page 4 of the Probate Petition or on a separate form called “Duties and Liabilities of Personal Representative.” If you are looking for the petitioner’s contact information, such as their phone number, your best bet is “Duties.” If the form has not been filed, then double-check the page 4 of the Petition.
Probate Petition -- Judicial Counsel Form DE-111 (Page 4)
Duties and Liabilities and Liabilities of Personal Representative
Another form that sometimes contains the petitioner’s mailing address is called “Attachment 8.” The main purpose of this form is to list all the beneficiaries of the estate. Since the petitioner is almost always also a beneficiary, they will be listed there, along with all the others.
Petition for Probate: Attachment 8
The initial Probate Petition will ask the judge to grant the Petitioner full authority or limited authority. The powers granted by the court under full authority vs. limited authority have a profound effect on your real estate transaction and should be a topic of a separate article. If you are new to probate, you want to avoid limited authority cases and only go after full authority since limited authority requires court supervision, among many other limitations and requirements.
If the decedent left a will, then a copy of the will is attached to the Probate Petition. If you are a real estate agent and/or investor, you may safely skip the will. The most important information that you are after can be found in the actual petition.
Once the petition is filed, the court immediately assigns a case number and an initial first court hearing date. Written notice that probate has been started (Notice of Petition to Administer Estate) is mailed to all the heirs listed on page four of the petition along with the hearing information.
During the probate process, a few more documents are filed with the court (after the initial DE-111 petition). From the perspective of a real estate agent and/or investor, the petition is the most important document, and you want to get a hold of it as soon as possible to beat the competition.