By Rick Harmon, the California Probate Specialist

Does the world really need a probate blog? I don’t claim to know how to change the world, but if we’re talking about California, a lifetime of specialized real estate experience tells me, yes, there are people who can benefit from the knowledge I’ve built up over decades of steering estates through the probate process.

This blog covers the problems people have before, during and after the life of a property owner. And after the owner passes, the next generation’s struggles to find solutions.

Dealing with probate comes at a difficult time. A family member has died. There is grief. There are so many details to think about. Funeral preparations. Final farewells. Those priorities come first.

But then, at some point, the estate heirs must settle what I call “all the stuff.” You can’t measure a lifetime by accumulated possessions, but your heirs still have to deal with those possessions. Typically, real estate will be among the most valuable of a decedent’s assets. Settling this aspect of an estate doesn’t need to be complex, although the laws of California and your particular family situation can make it a challenge.

This is where I want to help. My goal for this new blog is to provide weekly information on the probate process. I’ll share some of the most tangled probate cases I’ve worked on and unraveled over the years. We’ll explore a variety of complex probate situations, some of which defy imagination. Some of these situations are practically impossible to imagine until you’re actually facing them. And then it can be overwhelming. So every week we’ll break them down, one at a time, in plain language.

I believe the time has come to remove the fear and mystery that too often surrounds the probate process. My mission is to end financial suffering for California executors, administrators & trustees. We’ll cover a lot of ground in this blog, from learning how to select a qualified probate fiduciary mortgage lender to understanding how probate works. You’ll discover the importance of a trust and how to borrow against it, how to sell property in probate, deal with a foreclosure in probate, manage back taxes and death taxes – and I’ll highlight resources for solving these complex problems. I’ll also dive into some related and even tangential real estate topics when I have breaking news too important not to share.

I believe that gaining knowledge before it’s needed makes us better prepared to handle a situation than trying to learn what to do – or even what options we have – under pressure and emotional stress. I want to help you make the best possible decisions for your family and their property. Wherever we go, I will strive always to steer you in the right direction. That’s my promise.

My Story, or: why should you listen to Rick talk about California probate?

I have more than 35 years of experience protecting clients’ assets in California probate.
When a relative dies often we’re not sure what to do. When I was a 21-year-old college student, I came home one afternoon to a police car sitting in front of my parents’ home. When you’re 21, that’s never a good sign. Well, a cop told me my Dad had died while driving. A fatal heart attack. We were not poor, we were not rich, but I had to do a lot of things that were pretty difficult. I was already working full-time and in college. There was also the question of being able to stay in college. It was pretty challenging. I didn’t have any kind of guidance, any place to turn. There was a lot to learn. When Mom died many years later, she had done some estate planning. It was not sudden. There was a gradual decline. We were prepared for it and had taken care of business.

When you start learning about this business you discover right away that people have all these unusual situations, these weird property problems. Soon my business began to grow beyond that of a real estate investor. Around 1990, I spoke at a bar association luncheon and two different attorneys asked if anyone could make a loan while a property is in probate. At the time I didn’t know you could do that but discovered that you can. Estates and trusts can have a lot of problems when they can’t get a loan during probate. That’s just one example of an unexpected challenge. They didn’t have the ability to go to a bank. The banks don’t want to get involved. And my youth taught me what it was like to be cash poor. I’ve been through these things. Talked to literally tens of thousands of people about these situations.

When my father died, never in a million years did it occur to me that this is what I would be doing, making a career out of this.

For families facing a probate case, if not today then perhaps tomorrow, my hope is that the information you’ll find here every week will help you prepare and prove beneficial in your time of need. You’ll want to bookmark this page and visit each week for fresh information. Join me on this journey toward peace of mind.

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