Georgia Heirs Property Law Center

Heirs Property

Generational Property Informally Passed Down.

 

Heirs property refers to a home or land that passes from generation to generation without a legally designated owner resulting in ownership divided among all living descendants in a family. This unstable form of ownership limits a family’s ability to build generational wealth and hampers the efforts of nonprofits and cities to revitalize neighborhoods. A recent report released by the USDA Forest Service indicates that on average, 19 percent of all parcels of land in the five Georgia counties studied are Heirs Property.

 

 

Heirs Property is Created when:

  • The owner dies with a will leaving property to multiple relatives; or
  • The owner dies without a will so the property passes to heirs at law

The recorded deed for the property is typically in the name of the deceased relative but without a will it results in a "fractured" title shared among multiple family members.

Owners of heirs property are tenants in common

  • Each heir has equal rights to full use and possession
  • Each heir is legally responsible for taxes and other property-related expenses
  • Each heir may transfer his or her interest in the property to another heir or to an outsider
  • Each heir may seek a partition of the property
  • Each heir must agree to any major decisions about the property

Implications for heirs

  • Face increased risk of forced sale and eviction
  • Cannot sell or mortgage property without agreement of all heirs
  • Cannot qualify for rehab programs or secure financing for needed repairs
  • Cannot participate in government programs offered by USDA, FEMA and other agencies
  • Cannot qualify for loss mitigation programs when facing foreclosure
  • Family relationships may be permanently ruined
  • Can lose a connection of family history and community
  • Can also lose the sense of freedom associated with ownership
 

Heirs Property Example

 Grandma owns a home and dies without a will. She is survived by her husband and six children. The property is co-owned by the seven heirs.

Grandma owns a home and dies without a will. She is survived by her husband and six children. The property is co-owned by the seven heirs.

Another Heirs Property Example

 Grandma is survived by her husband and four of their children. The two other children and their spouses died before grandma and did not have wills. But each of grandma's deceased children were survived by three children. Their property is co-owned by 11 heirs.

Grandma is survived by her husband and four of their children. The two other children and their spouses died before grandma and did not have wills. But each of grandma's deceased children were survived by three children. Their property is co-owned by 11 heirs.