Worst Case Scenario!! – Fiduciary Broker Vlog #7

Fiduciary Broker Vlog Episode 7 | Worst Case Scenario

How is an estate Administrator to deal with a Probate involving catastrophic loss?

Hi, I’m Dan Collins – a California licensed real estate broker serving Napa and Sonoma Counties with expertise in real property matters involving Probates and Trusts. I am also a California licensed general contractor.  If you have found yourself tasked with being an Executor administering a Probate that has been involved in a catastrophic loss event, I can help you effectively execute your duties that attorneys do not help you with. To learn more, please visit my website: probate-realtor.biz

Today’s video is called “Worst Case Scenario”.  What do you do if you find yourself as a Probate personal representative when the estate has incurred a catastrophic loss?  And, what to do when the catastrophic event also results in the deceased’s last will being lost?  I was inspired to address this topic of estates involved in catastrophic loss events from last month’s wine country fires in Napa and Sonoma counties that destroyed over 8,400 structures and reportedly killed 42 people.

If you have been named as a personal Representative of a Probate for a deceased’s estate from the California wine country which suffered a catastrophic loss; whether that person died just before, during or, as a victim of the fire, you have a far more complex task than would occur in administering an estate where the assets were undamaged and the last will was intact and available to file with the Court.

Missing wills raise all sorts of interesting legal issues which often turn on the specific facts and circumstances. If a will was lost in a wildfire, the Personal Representative may have the option of submitting a photo or scanned copy of a will to be admitted for probate.  What happens if there is no photo or scanned copy?  If the only copies were destroyed in a fire?

Those questions are matters of law, and I am not an attorney.  But I will be interviewing attorney Mike Hackard of Hackard Law this week to discuss the subject of lost wills in the 2017 wine country wildfires, so we can explore the practical and legal details in greater depth.

Generally, the insurance on your residence will pay toward repairing or replacing your home in case of damage from a covered peril such as fire. The contents of your house should also be covered in case of damage or loss from fire. However, some perils may not be covered. For example, flood damage may not be covered if your house is in a floodplain. But fire is generally a covered loss.

Even if a catastrophic loss is covered, that doesn’t mean that becoming whole again will be simple or easy.  As a California licensed general contractor, I am conversant about the potential challenges of processing insured loss claims when there are catastrophic events. The reason is because I was involved in construction projects after both the 1989 Loma Prieto earthquake and the Oakland fire storm of 1991. Based on my experience, what is likely to happen in Napa and Sonoma is that the demand for construction materials and labor to  replace over 8,000 structures in such a small geographic area will surely result in inflated costs.  And that means Personal Representatives who are charged with administering a probate in the affected areas of Napa and Sonoma wine country will likely be at a great disadvantage.  (As an aside, that is especially true if they do not reside near the county where they are tasked with administering the probate.)  If a Representative or Administrator is not knowledgeable in the areas of law, insurance or construction, the chances of receiving equitable treatment are very low.  I would not advise going down this road alone.  You will need qualified and expert assistance.

There are a lot of nuances to the law and quite a lot to unpack here.  If you want to know more about what to do in a worst-case scenario when you’re the administrator of an estate involving a catastrophic loss, please join me in this week’s podcast with trust litigator Mike Hackard of Hackard Law where we will discuss in great detail the areas of equitable treatment for estate administrators in the affected areas of the Napa and Sonoma wine country wildfires.

My name is Dan Collins, I act as a “fiduciary broker” in probates and trusts that involve real property assets.  To learn more, please visit my website: probte-realtor.biz

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