Dear Grumpy Realtor,
How can I tell if a property is tied up in probate or an estate? Is it legal for one party to sell it before that’s all resolved?
Dead Men Sell No Sales

Chasing probate sales can scare the life out of you – pun intended. They’re legal, but definitely not for the faint of heart. Probate sales happen when the previous owner kicks the bucket without leaving a will. The state steps in to liquidate the dead guy’s assets, even if there are living heirs. Generally in a probate sale, an interested buyer has to make an offer, which sometimes includes a nonrefundable deposit. That offer is then increased by a percentage and about $500 and an auction is held in probate court with the modified offer being the OPENING bid. Maybe the original party will luck out and no one else will show up to pick the bones, but more likely, other bidders will jack the price up thousands of dollars at a time. Good luck, if that’s the route you take.