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Probate Lending: Data from San Francisco

Recently, “probate lenders” have started to advance cash to heirs and beneficiaries in return for part of their interest in a pending decedent’s estate. This Essay advances our understanding of this phenomenon by analyzing an original dataset of 1,119 probate matters from San Francisco. Capitalizing on a California statute that requires probate lenders to file their contracts in the court record, the Essay offers insights about the contours of the industry, why people borrow against their inheritances, and the fairness of these transactions. The Essay concludes that probate lending raises serious consumer protection concerns.