FLTA Al Nicoletti | Real Estate Deals


If you are looking for positive results in your deal, tune in to this insightful episode as Al Nicoletti offers his no-nonsense approach to achieve the most desirable outcomes. Don Costa welcomes the probate attorney extraordinaire who carves out a unique niche in solving various probate matters that once stalled real estate deals. Al shares his wisdom on properly handling deals you might walk away from. He also provides valuable insights on turning things around on a property with tons of issues.

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The Probate Attorney Extraordinaire: Diving Deep Into Real Estate Deals With Al Nicoletti

I have a guest here, Al Nicoletti. He is not a real estate investor. He is one of my favorite attorneys. I don’t have many favorite attorneys. I’m going to say that out loud. We’re going to talk about how you can do some crazy deals and stuff and get them done, probates and multiple issues with titles and stuff like that. He’s going to share some of his knowledge and wisdom on how to do some of those deals you might walk away from. How are you doing?

Don, awesome. I love seeing you. Every time we get to connect, we get to dive in on deeper things and get into real estate. It’s always good seeing you.

As I said, you are one of the few attorneys I like.

I appreciate that.

Before we get into how you got down the path to becoming an attorney and some of the things you do, I want to dig into one of the things that I’ve learned through the years. I’m hoping you can speak to this. It’s that not all attorneys are created equal. There are good attorneys and bad attorneys, but I also mean that in the sense of attorneys specialize.


FLTA Al Nicoletti | Real Estate Deals


A lot of people make the mistake of going to a Family Law attorney and trying to get some business stuff done or going to a Family Law attorney and trying to get them to battle for them in litigation or going to a real estate attorney for a Family Law issue. You got to understand the attorney’s expertise. What I’ve learned is you don’t want to pay them to learn. I want you to speak to that a little bit before we jump in.

Don, there are two routes we can go with this. The first thing is that there are a lot of lawyers out there that do everything, the ones that think they’re the jack of all trades and master of none. They do divorce, this and that. That’s not me. I’ve learned how to pivot away from that. The one thing I’ve learned from being in practice for years is that when you specialize in that niche and hone in as the expert in that field, 1) People gravitate more to you in that world. 2) You develop more credibility.

People know their own professions in their own areas, like flipping. When people say they do luxury flips, it’s like, “This guy’s specialized.” There’s more credibility. When you find that lawyers are doing everything, it gets crazy. They may not even be following up on the cases that you may either send or you’re working on. The first thing I would say is it’s so important that you find a specialist that hones in on the niche. That’s going to be key. The other side of it is this, and we take it at a deeper level. I had a conversation with an Illinois attorney that thinks similar to what I’m going through or what we’re working on now.

When you get into crazy deals like in real estate, you have to start thinking about not just the problem on the legal end but also about how does it close. That’s a problem that people run into. They come across these lawyers with these files or maybe they’re already working on the probate or this issue. The investor was like, “I understand you want to get this whole thing. How do we close?”

You want to find lawyers that are not just thinking about the beginning, contract, or title commitment. They’re thinking the end in game. You want to think about how you see the end. When you see the end, those are the ones that are the creative problem solvers, the thinkers, the ones that see challenges instead of problems, which is going to change your whole business. You can probably tell stories, Don. I’m sure you’ve seen lawyers so entrenched in their legal world that they’re not thinking about, “There’s a whole real estate world with closings.”

Let’s talk about you and what made you become a lawyer in the first place.

That’s a crazy story. I was a musician for fifteen years. I played violin. I didn’t even think about law school. I thought, “Maybe I’m going to go into music, be an orchestra and do all that stuff.” I realized that music wasn’t going to make money or the lifestyle I wanted. That’s what happens to a lot of people. It’s something going to generate that lifestyle, too, that we love and are passionate about.

Maybe I was going to do medicine, but then I didn’t like where pre-med was going. All of a sudden, I’m like, “Maybe I’m going to go be a lawyer. Maybe I will go to law school. I’ll take my personality and my music background. Maybe I’ll be an entertainment lawyer or whatever that meant, and we’ll go from there.” I applied to law school, got into law school, saw what it’s all about, and realized it wasn’t anything that I thought it was going to be. It was academic.

Once you get into law school and see what it's all about, you will realize that it wasn't anything you expected. Click To Tweet

I had the courses that I expected with contracts and Constitutional Law. I didn’t know what direction even then I wanted to take it. It was when I was studying for the bar exam that I was diving into the real estate side. I still remember where I was in Miami, studying for everything. I was like, “I like this stuff. I like the topics. I like the idea. They seemed to like it flowed. It was a lot of content.” Once I passed the bar, I was like, “I need to get a job. I need to find something to get my feet wet.”

Fortunately, I got with an old mentor of mine, Dennis Haber. Dennis was like, “Let’s bring you in and see what you can do and what you can learn.” It was there I learned things about foreclosure defense. We dove into things with probate. We got into some interesting nichey things, and I got my feet wet doing that. That was how I got into it and started getting into real estate. How I got into probate is a whole other thing just jumping in.

Ever since I’ve been in real estate, and it’s the community we are a part of, it reminds me of music. In music, we had a whole community, and we’d all get together. We’d all do things together. It’s the same thing in real estate. We’re all at events and conferences. We’re all having good times, and it’s that community feel. It’s amazing that I am the lawyer on the lawyer side, but also, I see it as two communities. The real estate community has been amazing.

It is an amazing community. Let’s do this. What are 1 or 2 of the craziest deals you’ve had to be involved in on either the probate side or the legal side to get a deal done that looked like it? On the surface, it was probably an impossible deal.

That’s the one that was six probates. Once in a while, we’ll get that one deal in the firm. Probably, maybe it will happen ten times a year. It’s super complicated. When you get those deals, you got to analyze everything, title and deeds. “What does the title company want? What’s happened to the probate? What’s happened on this end?” When we did an analysis, we realized that we couldn’t pull the deeds from the property appraiser. My first red flag went off, going, “Why can’t we pull deeds from this property appraiser? Something weird is already going on.” We pulled the deeds. There’s a whole deed chain. I was like, “Let me go see the title commitment.”

Title commitment comes back, and there are eight people on title. We’re thinking like, “What’s happening here? Are all eight alive?” That’s the best-case scenario that you get all eight people. We find out six of them are dead. Right away, it’s like, “What’s happening with the six?” That’s when, for the first time, I had to build out this whole thing that mapped out the family line and who went where and who was alive. I was amazed, in a way, eventually to where is it, and we came to who the people were.

Ultimately, it ended up being three heirs, three people. Fortunately, the family line kept going out. It was a big family that kept going. I remember talking to the heir’s husband. I’m in the car in Miami. I’m like, “This is what’s going on. I think we got this. We can pull this off.” I remember him going, “Al, I’d be shocked if this thing got pulled off.” I asked, “Why would you be shocked?” I know why I’d be shocked with the six probates. He goes, “We brought the file to 3 or 4 other lawyers.” Each time they did, the firm would take the file. They’d say, “We got this. No problem.” They look at it and sit on it. Two months later, they couldn’t figure it out. That kept happening 3 or 4 times.

He said, “We brought this to so many people, and nobody’s figured it out.” I told him, “I don’t know about them, but I think I figured this thing out here.” We got everything we needed. The hardest part of it was the death certificates. When you get into probate deals, it’s not always about the heirs or the deal itself. It’s all the little things that you have to get to lay the record to do the thing.

FLTA Al Nicoletti | Real Estate Deals

Real Estate Deals: When you get into probate deals, it’s not always about the heirs and the deal itself. It’s about the little things you have to get to lay the record of closing the deal.


It’s all the little paperwork we have to file and ensure we get in. Some of the death certificates were from 1950, 1960 and 1970. When you get into this business, it’s building connections with people that specialize in finding that stuff. Fortunately, over two years, I built a great connection with somebody who could find these death certificates or pull these death certificates, so they did that.

The biggest thing, too, was we were facing a tax deed auction. The investor said, “After you’ve done this analysis, are we ready to go? If we are, we locked all three of it. We got to pay off this tax deed, or we’re going to lose it to the auction.” Done. No problem. You got the right three. They paid it off. We had to pull off one probate that was 50% of the property. It was crazy. We got the only orders we needed. We got everything from the court, six probates and salvaged it from the deal.

The investor bought everything for $15,000 to $20,000 and netted $200,000 of that one deal. A lot of people ask me. They’ll say, “Al, can you find probates with the commercial property?” My answer is, “Yes, you can.” It’s commercially zoned land. It comes up, and that’s what happened. It was stuck in limbo, and all these buildings were all surrounding it. I’m sure you’ve heard those stories.

This one lot, we solved it, and they got it, sold it, and done. The moral is that even when you hear these sticky weird deals, no matter the front-end work that’s going to be needed, you don’t realize what the potential backend is. You have to analyze the exit strategy backend because if that is a high equity number, six probates are nothing if we can do it.

That’s awesome. That is a crazy one. I’m going to drop a quick share here. We had one where we locked up a contract, open probate. We found out people who were in contract with had no claim to the property. We had to track down people who did and negotiate with them, get a contract with them, and go through the probate process. The home ended up going to foreclosure, and we had to postpone the foreclosure.

We get approval from the brother and sister. We think we’re good. We get the second approval for a postponement for 30 days, then find out that the brother is 45 minutes from an embassy in El Salvador, and they’re not taking appointments. They’re about a month and a half out because of COVID. We have to go back and get the third postponement.

The brother had to go 4 or 5 times because every time he went, he brought the wrong paperwork. It was a whole thing, but these deals do pay off. A lot of people will run from them. Ours wasn’t as complicated as yours, but I’ve had my own experience of putting in a little bit of time and elbow grease and having these things work out in a good way.

We’ve had ones with missing heirs where we couldn’t find them and how you get it sold. We had one that still, to me, it sounds like, “Why don’t you do this? Why don’t we figure this whole thing out?” A lot of people are like, “What do you mean?” We had this one where I asked a series of questions. They only had 3 of the 5 heirs on contract. Ultimately, what do you want in a deal? You want the whole property. You want 100%.

Could you get fun and cute by doing an auction game, getting some cash, and doing that whole old wholesale route? I’m sure you would, but ultimately, you want 100%. In this one deal, 3 out of 5, when I asked these questions, we had a route to go 100% for the buyer to buy it. Everybody was like, “What? How?” I’ve done over 350 probates since I’ve practiced. I’ve done a lot, but I’ve seen a lot more hypotheticals. It’s the hypotheticals that come up that when you run through those, they may not happen, but when it comes up again as a potential opportunity, that’s the goal. You’ve taken the time to analyze the experience and go, “We thought about it. We were going to do it. This is possible.”

That’s why I said at the beginning, not all attorneys are created equal. You want to find somebody who specializes. You want a Family Law attorney for Family Law like you want a heart surgeon for heart surgery. When you have somebody like yourself who’s done so many of them and understand it, we’re paying you for your expertise. We’re not paying you to try to do something you’re not sure you can do. There’s a huge difference in your ability to get things done in a timely manner to the finish line. Honestly, it may seem more expensive for an attorney that specializes up front, but in the end, they end up being cheaper because they usually get to the finish line faster. That’s always been my experience.

For every deal, you want to make sure you analyze it on the front end and the back end. I had somebody call me about a partition issue about forcing a sale. I said, “It sounds great. What money is involved? What spread is involved?” They said $20,000. I’m like, “On this deal, you’re going to be spending so much time and little money.” I was like, “If you had $100,000 or $200,000 in that deal, you got a completely different scenario.”

Don, I’ve been through things with wild deeds where investors want to buy a great piece of property in a prime area on a lake or near the water. There are weird fraud deeds that come up and how you resolve that or liens that are still sticking to the property. Can you resolve that? It’s the weirdness in the different world that has intrigued me about what’s going on because investors want to pick up these deals. You want to get these deals. People out there want to get these deals, and we want to help figure it out.

What advice would you give somebody that comes across a property with issues? What’s the first thing they should do if there’s a probate issue, or, let’s say, a fraud deed or liening the property? I know we come across a lot of stuff where it’s a mortgage from the 1950s or 1960s, and it doesn’t show as being reconveyed. Here in California, we can do a lost note bond or title, and we got to wait a little extra time. It’s an affidavit and stuff like that, but we can get it done. What are some of the things people can do or the first steps they should take if they come across a question on a property like that?

First, hopefully, you have your team built in place. You’ve networked with a great title company. You’ve connected with a great attorney who understands real estate and the end in mind. Hopefully, you’ve connected with people like Don Costa who have been through this before. If you got a JV with somebody on the deal, you’re ready to partner with experience.

That’s first, but the first thing you want to do is get with the title company because the title company ultimately is going to say, “This is what’s needed to close on the deal. Can we close the deal? What’s needed? What are you going to have to do? Who do you have to get with?” They’ll give you the title work, the title commitment. People are told so much information all the time of, “You need to do this and that.”

FLTA Al Nicoletti | Real Estate Deals

Real Estate Deals: The first thing you want to do is get with the title company. This is what you really need to close on the deal.


I want to go to somebody who’s going to tell me, “Can we get the deal done?” When they tell you, “We got to do a probate. We got to do four probates. We got to do a quiet title,” then you’re moving to your next piece, your player who knows how to be in that game. That’s the lawyer if it’s a probate, a quiet title partition that you get with that. They’re going to be the ones that tell you how long, how much, what’s involved and what participation you need to have because you have to analyze those things.

The whole thing can be great and fun and a great adventure, but what Don Costa wants to know is how long and how much. You are ready to now get into other deals. You’re ready to either refinance or get more lending for other deals and want to know the timing of how you play onto other things down the road. You don’t want to find out that I say it’s two months, then it’s a year later. Now it’s not a good investment. Work with them to ask those questions, how long and how much. Take all those pieces together and think about your exit strategy for the property.

My advice for people is not just to think about it as, “We were going to wholesale it.” Maybe in this market, it makes sense that you want to keep it. Maybe you want to do a flip and Airbnb it, or maybe you want to do a flip or have to realtor list it. You have to analyze also the exit strategy for it. It’s not always about the probate or the title issue. It’s about the other due diligence issues. Is it wetlands? Did you check for all these other things? What do you want to do with that property, ultimately?

It’s by asking the right questions too. For the newer readers, you go to a title company. You open an escrow or open a title with a title attorney and get your preliminary time report back, showing everything in the property. It shows that there’s a lien that hasn’t been reconveyed, or it shows that there is an individual that’s passed away.

A lot of times, a title company is not going to take you by the hand and sit you down and explain what you need to do. You’re going to look at it and think, “Roadblock.” I’ve learned through the years to reach out to my title attorney and ask, “What do you need from me to resolve this? What are some of my options to resolve this? This is a roadblock to you providing a clean title. How can we get this done?”

It’s asking some way, somehow like that but asking them directly. If you get somebody that says that they don’t know, then ask to speak to somebody with a little more experience in their office to ask for some of your options. It may be that you need to, like in our state, get a lost note bond, or you need to talk to a probate attorney, or there’s another issue, and you need to counter to resolve. At least you know what expert in your team to reach out to or at least start building a relationship with as well.

I agree. You got to build that connection out and do it now because as you start to scale your business and get more of those leads, you don’t want to be in a position where then you’re scrambling, and you miss out on it or now the seller’s now going to go somewhere else because somebody else provided a solution that you didn’t talk to them about.

You must build your connections as soon as possible to scale your business properly. Click To Tweet

Sellers know the confidence level in what you’re able to offer. When you offer the people around you as, “We got somebody for this. If we run into this, this is what’s going on,” that is an immediate sell, and that sells people and sellers to want to go to you versus maybe somebody else that comes along that’s not even there. Maybe you’re more local than you are, site unseen somewhere else. Even if you are across the country doing deals in whatever part you’re in, you’re able to offer something different.

You are in Florida, personally. Are you able to practice and resolve some of these issues across the country? Are you confined to your geographical state?

I’m only confined to Florida, but I’ll tell you what’s been happening, which is I’ve been in this position lately. What’s happening is by me doing what I’m doing social media-wise and content-wise, other attorneys are finding me, or other investors are asking me for other attorneys. It’s slowly starting to build out where these people are, but not just anybody.

It’s the ones thinking differently, like a guy in Illinois, somebody in South Carolina, or this lady in Pennsylvania. I’m slowly trying to figure out how to be like, “Don’s got something going on in Arizona. Here you go. Do you got something going on in Colorado?” I ask questions like, “Do you run the gamut in probate?” “Yes.” “Do you run the gamut when it comes to the quiet title?” “Yes.” Find them. Over time, it’s not going to happen immediately because I’m still looking in certain states. I don’t have them all at all, but I have some. Do it slowly.

Are there some resources that you’d point people to that they could do a little study on their own, so at least they have a grasp of some lingo and maybe some options that are available to them as far as being able to ask the right questions or put some confidence in the seller?

I have a YouTube Channel. I do webinars and seminars throughout the year. I’m going to ramp that up in 2023. On Instagram, I do quick videos that are checklists and things you’re looking for, like little key points. There are great people that are always doing webinars. There are different content creators all over the country. I’m in Florida, that’s one thing. If you’re in Arizona, Riles is in Arizona. He does a lot of things with investors for probate over there, and I know he has tips and tricks. I’m sure Don knows people in California that are doing that. It’s hard to find that content, and it’s hard to find that state specific.

If you can get people watching my content or watching somebody Riles or people that are doing it elsewhere, just the basics, that’s going to help take you to the next step. Maybe go to a local REIA where you are. Let’s say you’re reading this, and you’re in Wisconsin. You’re like, “I still have no idea where to go.” Sometimes your local REIAs will have that lawyer that walks in that is thinking differently.

It’s that more investor-minded different person that may understand, “I’ve watched Al Nicoletti’s video. Do they have something that here? Do they have something like that in Arizona here, or maybe people in Texas?” Alan Ceshker does a lot of content in Texas for wraps, sub-tos, seller finance, and all that stuff. “Do they have that here?” You ask the question. You grasp what you can, apply it to your state and see who can do it.

Where do they find you if they want to absorb some of your content? Is it under Al Nicoletti, or is there a specific place they can go to find content?

In the YouTube Channel, it is under Al Nicoletti. The Instagram is @AttorneyNicoletti. I have my show which is on Spotify and iTunes. You can find that there. Pretty much that’s where you can find it. Facebook, I’m always dropping stuff too. It’s pretty much the same on all the channels, but those are the big ones.

Any advice you want to give anybody? Anything I didn’t ask that we need to make sure we cover?

The last thing is to vet the sellers for how serious they are in probate deals or weird stuff. Something I’ve learned in my practice over the last couple of years, which happened in the last couple of months, is that everybody wants probate deals. I want quality probate deals. When you focus on the quality of the lead over the quantity, that’s the best because you want a seller when you ask them, “We did this.” They get it to you.

Focus on the quality of the lead over the quantity. Click To Tweet

You don’t want ones that you’re going to ask all these things, and they ghost and go somewhere else. Now you’re wasting your time. Your time is valuable. Make sure you ask a lot of these things upfront when you can. It’s going to show the quality of the seller. It’s going to show what you’re able to do. As I said, I’m not doing investing, but I would rather focus on a seller on a deal where I’m going to make $100,000 on one probate deal, and they’re going to get me everything over ten deals, and it’s chaos. People aren’t getting me stuff and this. I want quality. That’s what I stress to people, get quality deals out there.

If somebody wanted to reach out to you and maybe make contact with you, how would they go about doing that?

My email is Al@AlNicoletti.com. The phone number is (904) 999-0053. Leave a detailed voicemail.

Al, I appreciate your time and thank you so much for giving us the information you gave.

Thank you so much for having me, Don. I love seeing you.

If you got value from this episode, make sure you’re liking it and sharing it out to other individuals. They might be able to help get some value from it as well. Follow me on Instagram @TheRealDonCosta. You can read this anywhere that you can find. The more you get that out to people, the better we do. Al, thank you very much.

Thank you, Don.


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