Probate Marketing Letters

Once you obtain access to a list of families tasked with settling an estate, inevitably the question is what to do with it and make the data actionable. Probate marketing letters will get your message out to executors, administrators and trustees, but the messaging has to be crafted right. First, some context.

From our experience, direct mail is a love-hate relationship. Some swear by it, while others are totally opposed, perhaps with good reason – we’ve encountered many agents and investors that have worked saturated lists like FSBO’s, expired leads, pre-foreclosures and other lists that are widely used by the masses. When the prospective seller opened their mailbox, they had junk mail spilling out into the sidewalk.

If you are adverse to mailers, our message is this: probate, trust and inherited property lists buck the trend in a few respects.

The national average of direct mail results is abysmally low, but probate mailings seem to defy the trend.
For one, many REALTORS® and investors shy away from probate, trust and inherited properties, perhaps out of misplaced concerns. Many think it is ambulance chasing, something we strongly disagree with because those families have a genuine need to sell the estate home for liquidity. Still others believe that probate is a complicated transaction. Sure, there are some nuances involved, but it’s really not all that different from a traditional sale.

Secondly, there is a more captive audience when a property is in the midst of probate – there is a lot of important correspondence being mailed to the executor/administrator at a time when they have the task of winding down the earthly affairs of their loved one. Anything that looks important is begging to be opened.

Hey Mr. Postman, which vehicle to use?

Postcards are cheap to print, cheap to mail, and there are no barriers to get opened. Some believe that the “we buy houses” type postcards are insensitive because someone just lost a loved one. We don’t subscribe to this sentiment but do believe that letters will outperform these tiny billboards, if they are crafted correctly.

Clearly, half the battle is getting your message opened. You can invest a lot of time and money into creating a compelling message but if it is not addressed properly, you can go from hero to goat in a matter of seconds.

Addressing your probate marketing letters

Particularly in competitive markets where families may be getting letters from other real estate agents, we recommend that you do not put your real estate logo in the return address, or otherwise give any indication that you are a REALTOR®. They know you want to list the estate home and you don’t want them to make up their minds and toss your letter before you had the opportunity to convey your value. Your name and address should suffice.

You can address your correspondence in a few ways. Here’s a couple I might recommend.

Sally Smith
Personal Representative of Bob Smith
134 Main Street
Anytown, USA 13748

The Estate of Bob Smith
ATTN: Sally Smith
134 Main Street
Anytown, USA 13748

What we are trying to do in this fashion is make the correspondence look official.

What to say about handwritten probate marketing letters?

I cringe when I think of handwriting reams of words because it conjures the childhood memory when I had to write hundreds of times, “I will not flush brown paper towels down the toilet.”

I once had a subscriber to our data that was looking to outsource the writing of so-called “yellow letters” and so I began calling around to get quotes. One call was interesting because the service stated that they invented the yellow letter. You invented writing on a yellow piece of paper?, I asked. They didn’t appreciate my sarcasm. At any rate, I found that these companies were a little pricey for some people.

Don’t violate any child labor laws, but maybe you have a teenager in your family that needs some extra money to go to the movies. Point is, you can find someone else you already know to do the monotonous task of handwriting these messages, likely at a fraction of what a yellow letter service would charge.

With technology, there are ways to cheat and make it appear that the letter is handwritten when it is not. I attempted this and seem to recall that it was not as authentic as the real thing, and so it misses the boat – the whole concept of a handwritten letter is to be personal and let the human element shine through.

Like other topics, I’ve only scratched the surface here. Unresolved is exactly what to say in the letter. I am sure to expound more on this and other topics soon – be sure to subscribe to stay in the know.


Jim Rutkowski has married his legal background with his real estate experience and passion for marketing to help real estate agents, investors, property management & financial professionals get more consummated transactions by getting their message out to families that have duties under a will, probate proceeding or trust agreement. If you are in the arena of probate, trust or inheritance, Jim is always happy to bounce some ideas around – call him at 310-595-5112 or send a scribe to


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