A recently released report by the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), “Keeping It in The Family: Legal Strategies to Address the Challenges of Heirs Property and Prevent Future Home Loss,” endorses reducing the racial wealth gap by slowing the rate of home loss in minority communities through heirs property.
Heirs property is a form of property ownership when several heirs inherit a home but have not completed the probate process to clarify the title. An unclear title can lead to dozens of heirs with an increasingly fractional ownership interest in a home.
The report looks at laws and policies aimed at helping owners of heirs property.
“Protecting heirs property owners from losing their homes and increasing avenues for families to obtain a clear title will help reduce the racial wealth gap,” said Nketiah “Ink” Berko, who is a NCLC Equal Justice Works fellow, sponsored by the Rossotti Foundation. “Some studies estimate that more than half the real property owned by Black Americans is owned as heirs property, threatening the physical and financial security of Black families.”
The District of Columbia government, under Mayor Muriel Bowser, launched the Heirs Property Assistance Program in October 2023. The program, according to the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, is for low-income individuals or households who have a potential legal claim to residential real estate in D.C., currently under probate or has an unclear legal title after the death of the former owner.
The NCLC report identifies and analyzes three categories of legal interventions that have been adopted in jurisdictions in the U.S. to stem the tide of home loss and equity theft related to heirs property status. The categories include preventing immediate land loss; resolving heirs property and clarifying ownership status; and stopping heirs property from occurring in the future.
“These legal and policy strategies, deployed together, can make a meaningful difference in eliminating the racial wealth gap and tackling the problem of heirs property,” said Sarah Bolling Mancini, co-director of advocacy at the National Consumer Law Center and co-author of the report.
Source: Washington Informer