The Weight of Probate


Funeral arrangements and the grieving process should be the only thing on our minds when a loved one passes. Unfortunately, for those related to 65% of the 2.5 million people over the age of 30 who die owning at least one property – the process of the Death Probate can add significantly more to the plate.

Often times, the chosen or appointed Personal Representative lives in a state other than the decedent or, even more difficult, had a fragmented relationship with the decedent. Throw in family dynamics, finances, and a hurry-up-and-wait-timeline, and suddenly there are several reasons to have moments spent wondering, “What did I sign up for?”

I was recently referred a Probate for a family who lived in the Sacramento area. The decedent and subject of the Probate lived in Gilroy, 3 hours away from them in Sacramento, and part of my service area. Probate must be handled in the county of which the decedent was a resident. These clients were at the very beginning of the beginning and had no idea where to start – or what they were getting into.

I have worked the Santa Clara County Court Probate system repeatedly and got to work quickly. There are 1.9 million people living in the county and one probate judge. Meaning, before you can get access to bank accounts and entry into the estate property, your Petition for Probate needs to be sorted and filed amongst all the others and a hearing date calendared first come, first serve. This hearing date, at the time, was slated for at least 3 months in advance.

My first step was getting this family in to meet with an experienced Estate Planning Attorney to assist with the gathering of the necessary information to submit the court mandated judicial council forms.

You do not need to hire an attorney to start the Probate process. However, it bares mentioning that these forms can be complicated and errors, costly. A court clerk receives your pleading form, scans it for missing boxes and then, if filled out completely, stamps it with a “FILED” date and sends you back a copy. It can sometimes be weeks, or months later, when you receive a note saying that something was done incorrectly. It is then up to you to hurry and either correct the information, or risk getting your hearing pushed out – again, weeks out.

I’m going to go ahead and say it now – these clients and I did not make it past this stage.

This particular family hadn’t spoken to the decedent in 10 years. They couldn’t site a date specifically but when we had to track down the date of death through obtaining an out of country death certificate, the year of death was 2009.

The Petition for Letters seeks to confirm two important things. First, what legal standing you, or someone else petitioning to be appointed Executor, Administrator, or Personal Representative has and two, who the rightful heirs of the decedent are.

The attorney’s office asked us to compile a list of all living relatives of the decedent. My client was the sister of the decedent – one of 9 others. Most of the other siblings were deceased and had no living issue, otherwise known as children. However, a couple of them did have living children, but my clients had no idea where they lived or how to contact them.

Once you file a Petition for Probate, you are entitled to notify all potential heirs that you are doing so. This noticing is to allow anyone who may have an interest in the estate to be in the loop of the proceedings and bring about an action if needed.

Moreover, the dates of death of the siblings was important but also unknown. Three possible scenarios existed and affected the distribution of the estate:

  1. If a sibling had died prior to our subject decedent, their share was to pass to their children.
  2. If any of the siblings died before the decedent but had no children, their share would lapse and go back into the estate pot; or
  3. If a sibling died after the decedent, then their share would pass to the estate but would also need to be probated.

This family tree is where everything unraveled for this case. The cost to hire an out of country investigator was around $4,000. My client’s knees were starting to tremble.

Then, it came to light that the nieces and nephews who would potentially be getting their parents’ portion of the estate, had not treated my client well. THIS is where they buckled.

They very graciously and candidly told me that they would rather do nothing with this property, than invest time and money only to see a portion go to family members with whom they had a bad relationship.

As an advisor, I couldn’t understand. But, as a human, I most certainly could.

These were kind and quiet people. They did not care about the money. They had endured more than I was able to fully discover, and they’d watched their large family break apart into scattered pieces across continents. To revive and make public all of their pain, was too much for them.

Without a properly titled asset, death can be a process unimaginable. There is no way to fully prepare for what the Death Probate can uncover, but there is a way through it and it doesn’t have to be alone.


Posted on May 28, 2019 at 11:50 pm
Jasmin and Jonny Wells | Posted in Probate |

I Never Left The Hospitality Industry

“In time of crisis and confusion, of opportunity and openings, success starts with identifying and staying steadfastly loyal to your guest. And real hospitality – the kind that makes a lasting impact – calls for an unrelenting focus on the guest,” – Stephen J. Cloobeck, Checking In.


Once upon a time, I found myself in California’s Bay Area after coming to the brutal realization that one simply could not remain in Santa Barbara after completing school just to avail of the endless beach days and State Street commodities. Unless that one, was of the likes of Oprah.

But what would a Southern Californian like myself DO, in the big, bad city?! I’d be lying if I said my journey to real estate was linear but as Stephen J. Cloobeck – entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist, and former founder and CEO of Diamond Resort International – reminds us in his book Checking In, “…the course to success never follows a straight line.”

The first night I made hundreds of dollars serving mediocre clam chowder and questionable “fresh” Catches of the Day at a tourist trap located right on Stearns Wharf, I knew that I thrived in hospitality. I was able to balance – figuratively and literally – as well as, if not better than, the seasoned servers almost immediately upon hire. I juggled the bigger sections, raked up the larger sales, and did it almost always with a pep in my step and a smile on my face.

Now if you’ve never served tables, you’re probably thinking, “how hard can it be?” If you have had the pleasure of scraping your tips in the form of coins off of a Shirley Temple stained dinner menu, then you know the answer; pretty damn hard. The act of writing down an order, getting it to the kitchen, and delivering it to your table (warm and correctly) is not hard  – but being at the mercy of the moods and dispositions of strangers expecting a service, an experience, with sometimes little or no “Thanks” is hard.

While I wasn’t the most gregarious or knowledgeable server per se, I managed to position myself as a leader at just about every one of my restaurants, by never forgetting one thing; people just want to feel taken care of. Period. Don’t like this drink that you confidently ordered a minute ago? No problem, let me get you something you’ll enjoy. Your well-done burger looks like it walked itself to your plate ? I am so sorry, let me re-fire that for you and, in the meantime, here are some complimentary nachos.

My job was to serve tables, the reason, was so as to provide enough of an enjoyable experience that would have them sitting back in my section week after week. Harnessing the “why” was the easiest and best thing I could have done for my future self and, ultimately, our real estate business.

Mr. Cloobeck – (have you opened that Amazon browser and ordered this book yet??) – reminds us that we’re all in hospitality. In an era where not “breeding, incorporating, or acclimatizing” the technological change is a sure way to almost guarantee you and your business sink before ever touching the water, that’s only one tool in your toolbox. The focus of your business must be on “…the end-users. On human beings. On people like us.”

The customer, guest, or client may be different, but in every industry the focus is the same – THEM. If there isn’t a more purpose-igniting thought than that!

I love sitting in front a client with my mouth shut and a pen in my hand listening to them tell me exactly what they want or need. Taking their order. I love going back to my laptop, phone, or office to find my client exactly what they just told me they needed. Getting the order to the kitchen. What I love most is walking them in to sign their final escrow papers, their ticket to their next chapter in life. Delivering the order.


Posted on March 14, 2019 at 8:11 pm
Jasmin and Jonny Wells | Posted in Service | Tagged , , ,

The Anatomy of Flipping….Remotely. Part 1

Part 1 – Making the Decision

A couple of years ago, Jonny, was bit by the real estate investment bug. It began how most bug bites do – immediate, incessant, and intense. Top that with the kind of man he is – an obsessive top former, starved for information – and it was as though he spent an entire day in a swampland covered in sugar water. Investing in real estate was ALL he talked about. It was ALL he thought about. So, naturally, I became infected too.

Pregnant at the time and working full-time as a Probate Paralegal at an Estate Planning law firm, he eased me into it. First, by insisting that I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. Let me pause here; if you were like me and had no idea of the true meaning of wealth and what it means to have your hard earned dollars work FOR you, open up a new tab in your browser, hop on Amazon, and order it NOW. You’re welcome.

Suddenly, the old bartender/waitress in me totally fine with making quick cash night after night, feeling okay with making payments on a never-ending car note and the Paralegal working dutifully for her paycheck was a bit enraged; why hadn’t I bothered to learn about this sooner?? Who was hiding these grand pearls of wisdom? With that frustration, came empowerment…and a commitment.

After thanking my husband, I was caught up and ready to look at our finances and goals for our growing family with a whole new set of lenses on. We dove in head first. Being the opportunity and connection magnet that he is, Jonny made friends with a group of successful Realtors and Wholesalers in Dallas, Texas and we were on our way.

Wholesaling real estate involves an investor buying a property or getting a property under contract and then selling the house or assigning the contract as quickly as possible. The investor may wholesale the property to another investor who will the fix up the property and rent it or flip it. In this scenario, we are investor number 2.

Anyone in California can probably understand why we chose Texas to begin our investment journey – comparatively, the costs (and therefore risk) are substantially lower. We entered into this with a goal to learn as much as we could and figured that any loss would be part of that learning experience. Being the young, soon-to-be-parents that we were, it made sense for us to go this route…while still being wildly unpredictable and risky enough for us to be slightly buzzing with those types of nerves you get when you know you could be on the brink of making a substantial life change.

My early on recommendations for anyone interested in getting into investing into real estate…

  1. Do your homework. Wholesaling is not the only way to go and it isn’t necessarily the most practical for all because it does require being able to front cash at the drop of dime. Remember, these investors want to sell or assign the contract to the next person FAST. So, if you aren’t ready or able, you may miss out on opportunities.


  1. Know your limits. Investing in the real estate market is EXCITING, but it’s also unpredictable. As hard as everyone involves tries to stick to a timeline, there are many unforeseen things that can cause delays. If you’ve put every bit of your cash and savings into a deal and then it suddenly gets pushed out several weeks or even months, that can be financially and emotionally devastating.

A lot of trust went into the decision to become remote investors. And a lot of growing pains. But, within 3 weeks of connecting with our remote team, we purchased our first property and, 55 days after that, sold it for a $10,000 profit. Our feet were wet and the fever caught. We were officially investors and flippers.


Stay tuned for Part 2 – Playing The Game!

Posted on March 7, 2019 at 5:44 pm
Jasmin and Jonny Wells | Posted in Investing | Tagged , , ,

When Money isn’t the Loudest Speaker in the Room…

Money isn’t always the biggest talker in the room….

Having an appropriate timeline, being prepared with paperwork, and expressing why you’re the right one for the property may speak louder…

It’s all in the strategy! Read on for 5 reasons why a high offer may be turned down!

1. You’re not flexible on the timeline

First and foremost among possible deal breakers is timing.

“Sellers look at the terms to their specific situation,” says Francine Brown, broker/owner and Realtor® at Brown Estate Realty in Norwalk, CT. “Maybe they need more than 30 days to move out, so if someone is pressuring them to move out sooner, that can sometimes be a turnoff if they haven’t found a new home to move into.”

On the other hand, the sellers might have already vacated the property, and are eager to unload it pronto.

That’s why customizing the length of the closing period to meet the sellers’ needs can be more important than the bottom line. Have your real estate agent find out what they need, and let them know you can accommodate them.

2. You don’t have your paperwork squared away

Yes, we’ve preached and prattled on about the importance of being pre-approved for a mortgage before you start your home search. And here’s just one of many reasons why: You can blow up the deal if you haven’t been pre-approved, says Sharon Paxson, a Realtor with Arbor Real Estate in Newport Beach, CA.

Why? If you don’t have the financing in place to make your initial down payment and closing costs, it doesn’t matter how many dollars you promise the sellers.

“Buyers must have that in place as opposed to tying up a house when they’re not really qualified to do so,” Paxson says. “When you’re ready to put in an offer, make sure your pre-approval is within 30 days or less. [If sellers] see that the pre-approval was done more than 60 days ago, that could make them wonder if you’re still credit-worthy to get a loan.”

Speaking of being credit-worthy, here’s another no-no: Making a large purchase (such as a car) during the escrow period—even if you have the money to do so. It might affect your ability to obtain financing, and that’ll be another major red flag to the seller.

3. You’re asking for too many contingencies and concessions

If you’re in a bidding war for your must-have home, you’ll want to go in not only with the highest offer, but also with the cleanest one.

“You want the deal to be as sweet and competitive as possible, so that if the seller takes it, there’s a very good chance that the sale will go through,” Paxson says.

For example, a contingency stipulating that your home must sell before you purchase the seller’s house is usually a deal breaker, Brown says.

“The seller may not consider your offer as favorable because you’re still shaky until your house actually sells,” she says.

Another potential turnoff: Negotiating for a large concession, like for the seller to pay all of the closing costs.

Instead, ask for the bare minimum closing costs—or none at all—and make sure the concession doesn’t dip into the seller’s price tag, Paxson advises.

“So if a house is listed for $300,000, and you can go up to $310,00, then put in $310,000 with a $10,000 seller’s concession,” she says.

4. You’re requesting too many things be included with the home

On a related note: If you ask for the custom drapes, the Smeg appliances, and the Scandinavian hot tub to all be thrown in with the house, sellers might wave you off, Brown says.

“If the sellers had put in the listing that the chandelier wasn’t included, then don’t ask for it to be thrown in,” Brown says.

You might think you’re paying for all that stuff with your higher offer, but if you really want the house, tread lightly here. You risk offending the sellers if it looks like you’re trying to squeeze as much out of them as possible.

5. You haven’t expressed your love—for the house

You might not be the only one bidding high. And when similar offers are on the table, sometimes the sellers look for other factors to break the tie—that another happy family will live in their cherished home, for example. Or that the buyers won’t be gutting it and turning it into something totally different.

So how can you sway sellers who love their home? Put some heart into your offer by giving them some idea of who you are and why you want their home.

“I’ve seen buyers take a picture of themselves and their family. If that’s what works to make it more emotional, then do it,” Paxson says. “It just depends on who your target is. If your seller is an investor, they’re probably not going to care—they just want the money. But if they raised their family there and want to sell it to another nice family, an emotional appeal might work.”

Writing a love letter to the sellers can sometimes seal the deal, Brown adds.

“A buyer may outline why they feel this house would suit their family needs and how they can keep on the tradition of what the previous owner has,” she says.

6. You gave up after your offer was initially refused

If, for whatever reason, the sellers reject your bid, hang in there, Brown says. Contracts that come in way over asking price tend to have a high cancellation rate, perhaps because the buyers didn’t have pre-approval and their financing falls through.

“I make sure things always end nicely with the listing agent, and tell them that we want to be kept in the loop should there be any problems with the accepted offer,” she says.

Ask your agent to check in every two or three weeks. Because then, instead of putting it back on the market and creating a whole new bidding war, the listing agent may just go to the next most attractive offer: yours.


Article Written by Wendy Alfenbaum,

Posted on January 29, 2019 at 7:11 pm
Jasmin and Jonny Wells | Posted in Buying & Selling |

5 HOT Reasons to Sell This Winter!

Here are five reasons listing your home for sale this winter makes sense.


1. Demand Is Strong

The latest Buyer Traffic Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that buyer demand remains strong throughout the vast majority of the country. These buyers are ready, willing and able to purchase… and are in the market right now! More often than not, multiple buyers are competing with each other to buy a home.

Take advantage of the buyer activity currently in the market.

2. There Is Less Competition Now

Housing inventory is still under the 6-month supply that is needed for a normal housing market. This means that, in the majority of the country, there are not enough homes for sale to satisfy the number of buyers in the market. This is good news for homeowners who have gained equity as their home values have increased. However, additional inventory could be coming to the market soon.

Historically, the average number of years a homeowner stayed in their home was six but has hovered between nine and ten years since 2011. There is a pent-up desire for many homeowners to move, as they were unable to sell over the last few years because of a negative equity situation. As home values continue to appreciate, more and more homeowners will be given the freedom to move.

The choices buyers have will continue to increase. Don’t wait until this other inventory comes to market before you decide to sell.

3. The Process Will Be Quicker

Today’s competitive environment has forced buyers to do all they can to stand out from the crowd, including getting pre-approved for their mortgage financing. This makes the entire selling process much faster and much simpler as buyers know exactly what they can afford before home shopping. According to Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insights Report, the time to close a loan has dropped to 46 days.

4. There Will Never Be a Better Time to Move Up

If your next move will be into a premium or luxury home, now is the time to move up! The inventory of homes for sale at these higher price ranges has forced these markets into a buyer’s market. This means that if you are planning on selling a starter or trade-up home, your home will sell quickly, AND you’ll be able to find a premium home to call your own!

Prices are projected to appreciate by 4.8% over the next year according to CoreLogic. If you are moving to a higher-priced home, it will wind up costing you more in raw dollars (both in down payment and mortgage payment) if you wait.

5. It’s Time to Move on With Your Life

Look at the reason you decided to sell in the first place and determine whether it is worth waiting. Is money more important than being with family? Is money more important than your health? Is money more important than having the freedom to go on with your life the way you think you should?

Only you know the answers to the questions above. You have the power to take control of the situation by putting your home on the market. Perhaps the time has come for you and your family to move on and start living the life you desire.

That is what is truly important.

Posted on December 18, 2018 at 10:25 pm
Jasmin and Jonny Wells | Posted in Buying & Selling |