Heirs Property Project
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Those interested in receiving direct legal services from the new Georgia Heirs Property Law Center (GHPLC) are advised that the GHPLC has limited ability to take on cases and the current priority for cases is Fulton County, especially the Westside neighborhoods of Atlanta, McIntosh County, Liberty County, and the Southwest Georgia region. In addition, potential clients must be income eligible to receive GHPLC's services. To determine if your case is eligible for representation please contact GHPLC Legal Projects Director Joann Johnston at 404-852-0700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the report "Rooted and Grounded: A Georgia Handbook for Small Farmers and Their Land" here.
For disadvantaged communities, passing a home from one generation to another can be fraught with risks. The risk of being forced out of a home by a legal action increases as the title to the home becomes fragmented across multiple heirs. In addition, the 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.
Over 250 Georgia Appleseed volunteers—mostly attorneys and other professionals—completed a massive research project that analyzed data gleaned from the on-line real estate tax databases covering 20 Georgia counties (Round One), including a more detailed assessment of Superior Court land records in five counties (Round Two). In 2013, Georgia Appleseed published the results of its research in its report, Unlocking Heir Property Ownership. Those results confirm the magnitude of the problem but they also reveal the magnitude of the opportunity: Heirs property in Georgia, including in many of its poorest counties, represents assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The opportunity lies in “unlocking” those assets for the benefit of their owners and the low-wealth communities in which many of the heirs property owners live.
The Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act, a central component in Georgia Appleseed’s overarching strategy for increasing justice for low and moderate income owners of heirs property, was signed into law on April 16, 2012, making Georgia the first state in the South and the second state in the nation to pass a uniform partition bill. This legislation enjoyed unanimous support in both houses of Georgia’s General Assembly.
Georgia Appleseed has taken several measures to build on this legislative victory:
- To educate property owners and community leaders about the heir property issue, we produced a booklet, Heir Property in Georgia, for use in trainings across the state. That booklet can be accessed here. We 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. You can view our Heir Property in Georgia Attorney Training Manual here.
- We're working to create an independent, non-profit legal center that will help low- and moderate-income owners of heir property maintain ownership of their homes despite barriers to title. That dream is becoming reality with the incubation of the Georgia Center for Heirs Property Retention here at Georgia Appleseed. The new GCHPR Director was hired and began work on March 30, 2015. Over the next 18 to 24 months, the Center will not only serve clients but will also establish itself as a self-sustaining entity, with an anticipated launch as an independent center in late 2016 or early 2017.
To learn more about Georgia's first law center devoted to the legal representation of low and moderate income owners of heirs property, click here.