SC group partners with Mississippi to help families hold on to heirs’ property

Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation will assist Mississippi Center for Justice in program to protect forestland owned by families.
Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 4:37 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 22, 2021 at 2:39 PM EDT

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A highly successful program in South Carolina is being expanded into Mississippi to help people hold on to their family property. The Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation located in Charleston, is working with the Mississippi Center for Justice.

The partnership will help African Americans and other underserved people retain ownership of valuable land and forests that have been in their families for generations, known as heirs’ property.

Heirs’ property is a widespread issue in the Black community. According to the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation, land is passed on informally from generation to generation, and is split among heirs, often because landowners died without leaving a will or taking legal action to transfer title. As generations go by, a parcel of land can end up with dozens of owners. Without clear ownership, the land can easily be lost to developers and timber harvesters, tax sales and forced partition.

Part of the reason the problem is so pervasive in the south among Black families, is that for decades, as African Americans were finally able to acquire land, they often didn’t have the resources to create wills. The Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation states that as such, the US Department of Agriculture calls heirs property, the leading cause of Black involuntary land loss in America.

A national news conference was held recently to announce the new program in Mississippi to help land owners there.

The World Wildlife Fund and Kimberly-Clark are providing support for this two-year initiative.

If you need help resolving heirs’ property issues, click here.

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