Earlier this month, I shared that I was deeply, deeply, deeply concerned about some of the statistics regarding African American Wealth. Sadly, the wealth gap in America between African Americans and other races continues to grow, and is only projected to get worse. Last week, I told you that if you fail to create your own estate plan, the state where you live has created one for you. Like it or not, unless you take action, it is what it is.
What happens when there’s land involved? When there’s no Will? When no one takes action to become the legal owner? Well, we end up with a little something called Heir property. Sounds fancy right? Nope. Heir property is far from desirable. The easiest way for me to explain this… Heir property is property that’s pretty much owned by everybody and their Mama, regardless of whether they live on the land, pay the taxes, or have ever set foot on the land. It means that somewhere down the line, someone failed to plan.
This is how it typically plays out. We may have great grandma who owns a house and some land. After she passes away, no one actually takes the steps to transfer legal ownership. So, cousin so and so moves in, lives there for a few years, leaves, and someone else comes in… It becomes the family revolving door. We may continue to take care of the property, we may or may not pay the taxes. The property is at risk. According to the Census Bureau, 80 percent of land owned by African Americans has been lost since 1910 due to Heir property issues. It may not sound like a big deal to have a whole bunch of relatives own one piece of property, but keep in mind, anyone with interest in a property can petition the court for their share. The easiest thing to split up evenly is money. So, the court could order that this property be sold, and the proceeds divvied out amongst the eligible heirs. This means that your family’s land could be lost forever. Failing to plan, has and can prevent you from keeping your 40 acres and mule. Don’t let history repeat itself. Plan accordingly.