What is Heirs’ Property?
“Heirs’ property? I don’t live on heirs’ property. I live on land that my grandfather left my father and my father left me. I pay the taxes, so I own it.”
Many people come into the Center believing that they own their land when they don’t. They only own a percentage of the land as one of many heirs. Others come into the Center thinking that they live on heirs’ property, when they don’t. So…
What is heirs’ property?
In the Lowcountry, heirs’ property (HP) is mostly rural land owned by African Americans who either purchased or were deeded land after the Civil War. Historically, HP owners were routinely denied access to the legal system; could not afford to pay for legal services, and didn’t understand or trust the legal system. As a result, much of this land was passed down through the generations without the benefit of a written Will, or the Will was not probated within the 10 years required by SC law to make it valid – so the land became heirs’ property. Often the family members didn’t know that.
Heirs’ property is land owned “in common” (known as tenants in common) by all of the heirs, regardless of whether they live on the land; pay the taxes or have never set foot on the land.
Why is this a risky way to own land?
Heirs’ property ownership is risky because the land can be easily lost. Any heir can sell his/her percentage of ownership to another who can force a sale of the entire property in the courts.
The Town of Bluffton is hosting an heirs’ property seminar on Monday, June 20, 2016, from 6-8 p.m. at the Bluffton Town Hall, located at 20 Bridge Street. The seminar is being presented in conjunction with the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation. Please share this with your friends who may have an interest in this subject. For more information call 843-706-7818 or visit www.heirsproperty.org.