Verifying a will in a probate case and buying/selling a property are two distinct processes, but one similarity between the two is that both can increase the risk of encountering scams.
Both probate cases and real estate transactions are entered into public record. In a probate case, a copy of a will, an inheritance plan, a list of assets, and the names, addresses and phone numbers of beneficiaries become publicly available. Real estate transactions are recorded in county land records and often include a copy of the deed, mortgage information, the property’s sale price, and personal information of the new owners and these records are available online, so it is easy for scammers to access.
Some Common Scams
In a probate situation, companies may want to buy property quickly, but as cheaply as possible. Some companies take advantage if the home needs a lot of renovations, or the children of the decedent live out of town and want to avoid the hassle of listing for sale. These companies will offer to buy the home “as is” but for a significantly reduced price.
Some mortgage protection life insurance companies contact people using info in the public domain. They will call or send a mailer and cite their ages, the sale price of their home, and the name of a mortgage lender in hopes of building credibility and gaining trust. Always contact professionals you know, such as a financial planner, to see if the product you are being sold is a good one for your situation.
Another popular scam is when there are requests to purchase special copies of a property deed. Property deed sellers often mail letters stating that the client needs to buy a grant deed, transfer deed, etc. However, housing deeds are free or inexpensive to download from the county website online and there is no need to pay a third party who will charge $80 to $200 to provide the very same thing.
Always Check with Professionals
Be sure to check with a professional in real estate before falling victim to a real estate scam. Realtors can help avoid both purchase and rental scams in addition to the above situations. This is the season that brings out the greed in unscrupulous people so being extra cautious is necessary.
Some information taken from an article in the SRES Professional Newsletter