Heir Property Project
Heir property involves the passing of a home or other real property across multiple generations outside of the official probate process. As title to a home becomes less clear and more fractioned across heirs, the risk of being forced out of the home by a legal action becomes greater. In addition, lack of clear title prevents access to wealth-generating tools commonly associated with land ownership. Low-income rural African Americans across the South are disproportionately hurt by the heir property problem.
Georgia Appleseed's Approach
In Round One of Georgia Appleseed's heir property research, over 250 Georgia Appleseed volunteers – mostly attorneys and other professionals – examined publicly available real property tax databases in 20 Georgia counties to determine the scope and prevalence of heir property issues in our state. Georgia Appleseed is using this data as the foundation for our Round Two heir property research efforts, which will ultimately yield comprehensive county-by-county heir property assessments.
In Round Two of Georgia Appleseed's heir property research, Georgia Appleseed is working with real estate lawyers to evaluate the Round One findings using proprietary land record information in order to distinguish between actual heir property and supposed heir property. Round Two research efforts are nearing completion in several Georgia counties, including Chatham, Bryan, Carroll, Greene, Evans, Dougherty, Chattooga, Rabun, and Long Counties.
Georgia Appleseed has completed both Round One and Round Two heir property research in McIntosh County, Georgia. You can view the results of the McIntosh County assessment here.
In order to educate property owners and community leaders about the heir property issue, Georgia Appleseed has produced a booklet, Heir Property in Georgia, for use in trainings across the state. To request an educational presentation in your area, contact Crystal Chastain Baker, Georgia Appleseed Heir Property Project Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Georgia Appleseed has also developed a three-hour Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course to educate attorneys regarding the representation of low and moderate-income owners of heir property on a pro bono basis. Georgia Appleseed's Heir Property in Georgia Attorney Training Manual was created to ensure that volunteer attorneys are equipped with the proper tools to assist a client with an heir property issue.
On March 27, 2012, the Georgia State Senate unanimously passed the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act. This key Senate vote — which was preceded by unanimous passage of the bill in the Georgia House of Representatives — makes Georgia the first state in the South to pass a uniform partition law. The passage of the Act in the General Assembly is a key victory in Georgia Appleseed's Heir Property Project efforts. State Representative Edward Lindsey, also a Uniform Law Commissioner, was instrumental in shepherding this critical piece of legislation through the General Assembly during the recent legislative session. Governor Nathan Deal signed HB 744 into law on April 16, 2012.
Long Term Sustainability
As a key outcome of the Heir Property Project, Georgia Appleseed seeks to create an independent, non-profit legal clinic that will help low and moderate-income owners of heir property maintain ownership of their homes despite barriers to title.
Heir Property & The Young Professionals Council
The Georgia Appleseed Young Professionals Council (YPC) has adopted the Heir Property Project as one of its signature initiatives. YPC members lend substantial law and business expertise to Georgia Appleseed's heir property efforts, and they also oversee the long-term planning efforts that address the sustainability of the Heir Property Project.
Georgia Appleseed is actively seeking volunteers to assist with our Heir Property Project. For more information about how you can help, contact Crystal Chastain Baker, Georgia Appleseed Heir Property Project Manager, at email@example.com.