How to Get PROBATE LISTINGS from Probate Attorneys

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Brandon Mulrenin:

My guest today is a phenomenal estate probate attorney.He's actually the attorney that I work with in my personal real estate salesbusiness, with us today, we have attorney Mike Rutkowski. Mike, welcome to theshow, my friend.

Mike Rutkowski:

Thank you, I appreciate you having me.

Brandon Mulrenin:

Absolutely. So, I want to talk about today, Mike, as areal estate agent, one of the things I think is important as you go out thereand build your business, is having strategic relationships with referralpartners, such as attorneys like yourself. And I talk a lot about that here onmy YouTube channel and what I want to share with the audience today, Mike, isfrom an attorney's perspective, how real estate agents can approach attorneys,how can we serve the attorney community in a way where we can earn the trust sothat one day probate estate attorneys, such as yourself can start referringbusiness to a real estate agent partner. So why don't we just start off withkind of an understanding of your practice, how long you've been an attorney andthen we'll jump into it.

Mike Rutkowski:

Yeah, sure. Quick little intro of me and what I've beendoing. So estate planning, elder law, probate trust administration is kind oflike our core focus. And I've been doing this going on 15 years now and I'vebuilt my practice because I understand the value of relationships, right? It'sall about relationships and getting referrals. So, that's our practice and withthe probate comes to the need to oftentimes sell real estate. But I want tostart here by talking about, you have to understand your audience, right?

Mike Rutkowski:

I kind of find myself as a little unique in that I kind ofam a businessman that happens to do estate planning. So I understand how therelationship piece work, but most attorneys are not that way. You know, we'rekind of more, CPA type where we're, not nothing on CPAs, but it's that C typepersonality where you don't maybe get the marketing piece of all this. We'rejust like, we're really good at analyzing legal work and pushing legal workthrough the probate process or whatever it is. And so just understanding thatcan, I think will help your audience just understand how do you build thatrelationship?

Brandon Mulrenin:

That's a great point. And it's what I say all the timetoo, to realtors. I always try to explain, you're actually in the leadgeneration business, the state just gives you a license to sell houses, butyou're actually in the business of generating leads and building relationships,and you're in sales and marketing first. So it's so interesting that you saythat I love that you said that, because you're right. When most of the peoplethink of attorneys or CPAs, we're thinking of the practitioner, like the guywith the glasses and the bow tie and the real dorky. And they're real mean, andthe real unapproachable, but to your point, you're a businessman first, andyou've grown a great practice because of it. So why don't we give the audiencewho are real estate agents and understanding,, Mike of the probate process andwhy it happens in the first place?

Mike Rutkowski:

Yeah, absolutely. And so let's start really high level.So, probate is essentially the administration of someone who has passed away.Their estate, right? There's ways we can avoid probate through beneficiarydesignations, through estate planning. It's what we do a lot in our practice,but often, I would say more than half of individuals do not have estate plans.So if an asset is in their name, when they pass away, it needs to go throughprobate. And essentially that's just a fancy way for saying a judge has to signoff on who's going to get the asset next, right? And so going through thatprocess, it's time consuming. It's expensive. You know, you usually need anattorney because it's complicated. And so, so often in our practice, we'regoing to run into a piece of real estate, maybe sometimes multiple pieces ofreal estate that we need to transfer legal title to.

Mike Rutkowski:

It's great because in real estate, we're stuck. There's nowiggle room in how can we transfer this asset? So now we have to get the courtinvolved and we're going to need to get a real estate agent involved to get ridof this property. And so in our world, we're not all that concerned with who'sgetting a commission on what, who it's getting sold to. What you can do to makeour life easy, is understanding how this probate process works. And we'll getinto a little bit more of it. And then just taking work off of our plate, takeit from, Hey, we have this house that needs to be sold, do your thing, workyour magic. Right.

Brandon Mulrenin:

Love it, I love it. So, and you're right, we're going tounpack all of that. So, just to be clear, a property goes through the probateprocess because the person who passed away, didn't proactively set up an estateplan and have a will or a trust. That's the thing that triggers the real estateto go through this process in the first place. Is that correct?

Mike Rutkowski:

Yeah. So a little piece of clarity there, we'll make sureit goes through probate. A will is just guidance for the judge as to who'sgoing to get that property next.

Brandon Mulrenin:

Got it.

Mike Rutkowski:

We really need a trust, in Michigan at least, and moststates also, to make sure that it avoids that probate process.

Brandon Mulrenin:

Huge thing, you guys. So first off, if you guys are inMetro Detroit and you're a realtor, and you don't partner with a trust attorneyor a probate attorney, go contact Mike, and he's a great resource for yourclients. And believe me, when I tell you, you could feel safe referring yourclients to Mike's team, they take great care of them. So the will doesn'tprotect probate, it's the trust that keeps it out of probate. Is that correct?

Mike Rutkowski:

Correct, correct. The trust is got to then say who willget the property next. It'll also say who can assign the title work and allthose things in your world, you need a trustee to be able to do that. So, let'stake that piece, to the probate process now. So now it's going through thecourt process, essentially we can't sell it day one when someone passes away,we got to wait till it's kind of in the middle of the process, months down theroad before a judge is going to allow you to sign off on the sale. What youneed as a real estate agent is you need something called letters of authority.It gives you the ability to then sign the title work or whateve needs to besigned, to then sell the property, right? And then that's a big thing. Sounderstanding that getting with the attorney to say, Hey, let me know when youhave the letters of authority so that I can use those kind of going forward.

Brandon Mulrenin:

How quickly do you, as the attorney get those letters ofauthority after the probate process is initiated?

Mike Rutkowski:

Great, great question. So, usually we can get a probateestate open in a couple of weeks, if you're efficient about it. You know,things are a little weird right now with COVID and everything, but in a normalenvironment, a couple weeks. From there, we can kind of get letters ofauthority with a couple of weeks. And then, so you're looking at about 30 days.Within 30 days, we have those letters of authority that gives someone theability to sell the property. Usually there's a statutory order of who that'sgoing to be.

Mike Rutkowski:

You know, it might be spouse first and then some order ofkids, but that's all laid out in the Michigan statute. But from there, there'ssome little nuances, we might not be able to sell the property right away. Wemight need a judge to approve the sale of the property. It all depends on whatcounty we're in, are there contested issues? There can be a lot to play intoit. So you got to be aware. And, when you're setting expectations with clients,also when the property be available, you need to kind of work hand in hand withyour attorney on that.

Brandon Mulrenin:

And, buyers, and to your point, that's a great, greatthing to consider. And for you guys watching, this is where you'll see in thelisting remarks, "subject to probate approval", that's what that isreferring to. So you've got to make sure you work with your attorney to makesure that you're not selling a property or accepting a purchase contract whenyou really can't, because it's got to go through that probate approval processbefore you can legally sell that, that property. Is that right?

Mike Rutkowski:

That's correct. That's correct. And you know, one thingthat we were talking about a little bit before we got on here is it's just whatthat relationship looks like. And, should you have any concern about reachingout to estate planning attorneys. And here's the big difference, as an estateplanning attorney, I probably get reached out to, by three financial advisorsevery day. I never have real estate agents reaching out to me, it wouldactually be a breath of fresh air, because here's the difference, financialadvisors or CPAs, whatever the case may be, they want to establish kind of likea I'll scratch your back, you scratch my back relationship. Where a real estateagent, you're taking stuff off my plate, you are a help to me. So, please reachout if you understand probate, God bless you. And we're going to do this. Like,you will be my go-to for life, if you can take this off my plate and be good atit.

Brandon Mulrenin:

So that's a perfect segue. So, I want you to repeatsomething for a second, because people don't believe me because I'm a bigbeliever, Mike, in proactively going out there and building relationships, notjust sitting back and waiting for your business to happen. And, people don'tbelieve me when I tell them, listen, realtors don't reach out to attorneys. Goask attorneys and they'll tell you, I have so many attorneys that say, just toyour point, I've never had a realtor reach out to me in my 35 year career, notone time. And so what you're saying is that's the same for you, like you don'tget blown up by realtors, do you?

Mike Rutkowski:

Never.

Brandon Mulrenin:

I was the only one! I was the only one!

Mike Rutkowski:

Yeah, there you go.

Brandon Mulrenin:

So, let's break this down step by step. So if you are areal estate agent, and you wanted to go build relationships with probate estateattorneys, how would you go about doing it, Mike, that you thought made sense?

Mike Rutkowski:

That's a great question. The simple answer would probablybe a LinkedIn message, but I'm going to tell you a better way. Here's the evencooler way. Your state bar of the state that you are in, so our bar associationhas a membership directory, and you can sort by areas of practice, you can gettheir direct email there and just shooting a direct email to the attorney andjust saying, "Hey, I practice in your area. I have experience withprobate. I'd love to help you in any way that I can". I'd respond to thatall day. I'd be like, "When do you want to zoom, three o'clock today?Let's do it", because it just doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. Ihesitate on the LinkedIn only because it can get lost in the shuffle, butthat's a great way to if you don't have a great member directory in your state,just reach out on LinkedIn. I'd respond to that all day, too.

Brandon Mulrenin:

Cool. Let me walk you through what I teach my students todo in my coaching program, and I want your feedback. So, what I teach is directmessaging on social media, and the other thing I really teach is picking up thephone, calling a probate specific attorney where you know that's what theyspecialize in, and having a simple conversation that almost outlined exactlywhat you just said. That sounds something like this, "Mike, I'm a realtor.I actually specialize in probate real estate, I see that you do the same indowntown Rochester. And I was curious if I might be able to talk with you, howI make your job easier. Would you be open to a quick cup of coffee or azoom?". Right?

Mike Rutkowski:

You had me at hello.

Brandon Mulrenin:

And so there you go. So are you opposed to that?

Mike Rutkowski:

I think the call is great. I would just layer on that ifyou can't get them on the phone and sometimes attorneys are hard to get intouch with, if they have a receptionist, usually they're pretty good gatekeeper, getting through, just follow up and say, "Hey, I called youroffice. I know you're busy. Here's the purpose of my call".

Brandon Mulrenin:

Yeah, and just playing offense, Right? Like going outthere and serving, not selling, serving, serving, serving, play offense,because to your point, I love what you just said. Attorneys need, this is ahuge pain point for a probate attorney, is getting that real estate propertysold and a good agent that understands that can go and serve that probateattorney to help them in their practice. Is that right?

Mike Rutkowski:

Yeah, all day. It'd be amazing.

Brandon Mulrenin:

Cool. All right.

Mike Rutkowski:

I'd take that call all day long.

Brandon Mulrenin:

All right. So the real estate agent that musters up thecourage to call the big scary attorney, they get that appointment, maybe it's azoom appointment. What might that conversation, what would you focus on if youwere the real estate agent on that initial zoom appointment or that cup ofcoffee with the attorney at the first time they're talking with them?

Mike Rutkowski:

Yeah, you know, this is where I definitely focus on theneeds of the attorney. Just tell me about the struggles or complications you'vehad in working with other real estate agents that haven't done a great job. I'djust ask them a bunch of questions on how you can serve them. You know, that'skind of how I like to network as well as just,

Brandon Mulrenin:

It's all questions, it's all questions.

Mike Rutkowski:

All questions.

Brandon Mulrenin:

There's no selling, there's no selling, it's allquestions. Would you agree?

Mike Rutkowski:

Yep, all day. And you would be surprised too. Here'sanother way that you could help them, as the relationship starts. It isinteresting where you might come across situations where there might be a powerof attorney or something where you can give back to the estate planningattorney. You know, it's not like you're really talking about estate planningwhile you're out showing or doing whatever it is that you do on a daily basis,but the need will come up and you'll be able to give back. The first year,you'll be able to give back, but to us as the attorneys, just take it off ourplate and do a good job.

Brandon Mulrenin:

Well, here's the other thing that I teach, Mike, that youand I need to execute on this spring and summer, once things start to open backup, so you talk about pouring back into the relationship. I believe the realestate agent should host an estate planning seminar. You can do it virtuallynow, or webinar to help that attorney get more business to kind of be thespeaker of choice because your practice, and I love this, a huge portion ofyour lead generation strategy is events. Is that right?

Mike Rutkowski:

Correct, yeah. Yep. Being out in the community speaking.So yeah, everything you're saying is amazing. Anything that you can give backto the relationship is just going to further solidify it. I mean, just like Isaid, you had me at hello, now you're like we're in forever.

Brandon Mulrenin:

Yeah. So, you'd be obviously open that, so obviously youthink attorneys would be open to the fact, if their realtor partner said,"Hey dude, twice a year, I want to do a biggest state probate seminar andhave you as our guest speaker", of course you'd be open to that. Is thatright?

Mike Rutkowski:

I mean, my understanding is you probably have a prettygood mailing list. Not just you specifically, but real estate agents as a wholestill utilizing that list to generate a community event would be absolutelyincredible. Absolutely incredible.

Brandon Mulrenin:

So let's take that. Go ahead.

Mike Rutkowski:

Well, because I want to add to that, because there's theseethical rules that we have that we cannot reach out directly to people. So,cold calling and stuff for attorneys is totally off the table. But if it's youproviding an event for Mike the attorney is the guest speaker. Amazing, becauseyou just, again, created an opportunity for me, no work, no real things that Ihave to do to prepare, and now I get to speak to all these people.

Brandon Mulrenin:

That's right. And so let's take that even a step further.So, here's additional things that I teach my students to do, Mike, is not onlyhost events for the attorney from a lead generation standpoint, but in additionto that, is doing a monthly zoom video like this and emailing that out to therealtors database once a month with your attorney partner, to get them morebusiness working that database. The email list, making them part of yourmonthly newsletter. So, having a whole spotlight on the attorney, the localattorney, going out to your mailing list of 5,000 people in your monthly realestate newsletter, and just continuing to build the attorney's business throughyour database. And then lastly, putting the attorney on your website as atrusted partner, making blogs and vlogs to help drive traffic to your estateplanning attorney, to drive his business or her business is the best when it comesto the law of reciprocity. Would you agree?

Mike Rutkowski:

Yeah, I would totally agree with you. In what we do, we'retalking a lot here about the probate relationship, but most probate attorneysalso do estate planning. They kind of go hand in hand, and estate planning is aneed that the general community needs, right? It's kind of something thateveryone should at least be educated about, be aware about and, in our opinion,should do. So, you have a great list that you could provide information to, andwhich would be great content. And then also our industries align also with whenyou're downsizing, when you have a new family and they're buying a new homebecause they need more rooms, because they have more kids. Like these aretypically when people are thinking about estate planning. So I'm sure there'llbe some great ways to leverage those opportunities, downsizing growing into newhomes, those kinds of things.

Brandon Mulrenin:

They totally align. And that's why this realtor attorneypartnership makes all the sense in the world, because another thing that weteach is the annual real estate review, just like a CPA's talking to their bookof business once a year to do the taxes. A realtor should be touching base withtheir past clients center of influence database once a year. And through thatconversation, it's like, "Oh, Susie's pregnant. Have you thought about theestate plan? Oh, you need a bigger house. Have you thought about the estateplan"? Right? I mean, they always come together like that. It's such areally, really good point.

Brandon Mulrenin:

All right, cool. So, this is really good for everybodywatching. After you've established the relationship, you're doing some leadgeneration marketing together. What would be appropriate, Mike, for thatrealtor to continue to follow up? Well, let me ask a different question. Youmake a referral, okay? The realtor earns the business, you trust them, you makethe referral. What's a great way for the realtor to keep the attorney up tospeed with the process. So that attorney knows that they're doing what they'resupposed to do, because there's too much, and then there's not enoughcommunication. What would you prefer?

Mike Rutkowski:

Yeah, no, I agree with you. Once maybe every other week,just kind of like, "Hey, here's, what's going on with the property. Weshowed it a couple times". Like whatever. Just quick little updates wouldbe great. It's a good point. It's again, it serves two purposes. One, it keepsyou top of mind for me.

Brandon Mulrenin:

That's right.

Mike Rutkowski:

Because you're updating me. You're also keeping yourpromises, so you're doing a great job for me. So the two are great because youhave a reason to follow up with me, you're going to stay top of mind. You'regoing to be like "This Brandon guy, he's amazing". I need to tell theother estate planning attorneys that they need to use this guy.

Brandon Mulrenin:

That's right. I mean, that's huge. I love it. So whatpercent, because I guess I should get the facts from a pro like you, but whatpercent of probate cases, if you had to guess have real estate that need to besold, is it the majority?

Mike Rutkowski:

It's the majority. I would say it's 80%.

Brandon Mulrenin:

That's what I say. I say 80% of the time there's realestate and it needs to be sold to settle this estate, and this is where arealtor can really come in and provide a lot of value to an attorney.

Mike Rutkowski:

Yeah. And you know what? It might even be higher than thatbecause people will try without real estate in the picture, people will tryother ways, there's small estate administration where the individual might tryto wiggle through that process in probate. If there's property, thecomplexities become too much, now we have attorneys in the picture. So, I wouldeven go as far as saying 90%.

Brandon Mulrenin:

Yeah. Yeah. That's phenomenal, man. That's so good. Well,listen, man, this is great. This is the conversation I wanted to have, becauseI think so many realtors are so intimidated by attorneys. But, what you'resaying is attorneys really value a great professional expert. We're not talkingabout the hobbyist, the person that's a real estate agent on the weekends.We're talking about a real expert that understands the probate process throughand through. And at that point, can really be a value add to your practice. Isthat true?

Mike Rutkowski:

That's true. That's true. And I would caution and say,don't feel like you have to nail the probate process before you start reachingout.

Brandon Mulrenin:

Love that.

Mike Rutkowski:

You can learn, you can learn. You can say, "Hey, Iwant to.", I'm good with that. Like, as long as you want to start workingwith more, we can work on this together. Cause it's such a pain point for me.

Brandon Mulrenin:

That's so good. And I think every business person,attorneys are the best at picking a niche. Most realtors don't have a niche.I'm trying to teach people, pick a niche, go be an expert in estate andprobate. And then you can align yourself with 10 or 15 attorneys and you wouldhave a great career. You never have to worry about another listing again,because I think if you had 10 or 15 probate attorneys, that realtor would havelistings for the rest of their life, would you agree with that? It's crazy,it's crazy. So, Mike, thank you so much for helping me pour back into thisindustry that's helped me so much. Where can people connect with you? Facebook?Instagram? Where's the best spot?

Mike Rutkowski:

Yeah, yeah. So we're on Facebook, YouTube, but we do a lotof different estate planning webinars. Check us out at rutkowskilawfirm.com.That's R-U-T-K-O-W-S-K-I law firm.com. We've got links to all of our socialmedia and everything there.

Brandon Mulrenin:

Cool, and I'll link up, you guys, all of Mike's socialmedia links go follow him, go connect. If you're a realtor in Michigan,certainly if your clients need an estate plan or you need an estate plan, makesure you reach out to Mike, they do a hell of a job. And so Mike, thank you somuch for the value you dropped today, bro. I appreciate it.

Mike Rutkowski:

Yeah, my pleasure. Anytime.

 

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Brandon Mulrenin

Brandon Mulrenin, founder and CEO of reverseselling.com has dedicated his life’s work to the study of human behavior and communication.

He began his sales career in the mortgage industry as a mortgage loan officer with Quicken Loans in Detroit. He worked his way up the corporate ladder to become the AVP of Quicken Loans’ preferred real estate partner, Rocket Homes, formerly, In-House Realty.

Brandon then decided to go out on his own and built his real estate sales business to the point where he was listing and selling over 100 homes a year with one assistant and one buyers agent. Brandon’s success was quickly recognized as he awarded the #1 listing agent for Keller Williams Premier in 2014. It was during this time that Brandon began to train other real estate agents all over the world with his reverse selling system.

Then in 2018, Brandon launched his own independent real estate brokerage firm in Metro Detroit, Michigan which has quickly become one of the fastest growing real estate companies in the entire state.

Brandon is now the managing CEO of four entities: Brookstone Realtors, National Mortgage Funding, Maximus Title Agency, and reverseselling.com

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