The mission of the Heirs' Property Retention Coalition (HPRC) is to stem the tide of heirs' property land loss, particularly among low-income families of color in the southeast, so that such families can retain their ancestral land and maintain it as a sustainable asset for future generations. To this end, we develop and facilitate the collaborative action of organizations that help families, particularly by supporting legal reform efforts at the state level. However, we also have a) connected such organizations and partners to legal and land planning resources inside and outside the Coalition; b) developed and centralized practice materials and research libraries; c) provided for intra-Coalition case referrals; and d) organized the gathering of empirical information about the scope of heirs' property and land loss.


The Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act has been enacted in fifteen jurisdictions and is pending in eight more. Also, due to changes in the Farm Bill, passage of the Act gives states access to more farm loan money. The ABA has adopted the Act as well, and the Act has been listed as suggested state legislation by the Council of State Governments. The Act has been endorsed by the NAACP, ABA, American College of Real Estate Lawyers, American Planning Association, National Bar Association, and National Black Caucus of State Legislators, among others. For more on the Uniform Act, check out the Uniform Law Commission's page for the Act. The Act's enactment was in substantial part due to HPRC's work on the Act.

Thanks to an amendment by Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), there will be federal money available to help heirs property families clear title .

HPRC's contributions to developing the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act has been documented as part of Princeton University's "Innovations for Successful Societies" series.

The Federal Reserve of Atlanta held a full-day meeting on heirs property, featuring speakers presenting on heirs property data, solutions, and challenges. Thomas Mitchell delivered the keynote address. The link provided has the full agenda, which has links to all the PowerPoint presentations. And you can read a press release from the Fed about the event. Afterwards, the Fed produced a podcast on heirs property featuring Thomas Mitchell as well as Cassandra Johnson Gaither, a research social scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service's Southern Research Station.

HPRC members Thomas Mitchell and Louisiana Appleseed participated in a panel discussion entitled “In the Clear: Barriers to Recovery, Restoration and Recovery” at Res/Con on March 9.  The resilience conference took place in New Orleans on March 7-9.  Other members of the panel were the Executive Director of Southeast Louisiana Legal Services and Legal Counsel for the Office of Community Development, State of Louisiana. This information is very timely as Louisiana residents struggle to recover from statewide flooding events in March and August 2016 and the recent tornados in the New Orleans area. Recovering from the impact of a disaster is difficult on an emotional, financial and practical level. The issue of a “clear title,” without which there are creates significant barriers to mitigation, rebuilding, recovery and relocation efforts, owners cannot sell or lease the property, use it as collateral, obtain permits to make structural and non-structural changes to homes, or become eligible for federal or state funding to rebuild or relocate. Lack of clear title also affects the way regions deal with code enforcement, implementation of structural and non-structural programs, and due process. This panel examined this issue and about how it plays a significant role in the way in which residents and governmental entities proactively plan for and rebound from emergency situations.

Check out our Media page for news about Mark Zuckerberg's use of partition sales in Hawaii and how the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act played a role.

HPRC member Thomas Mitchell, a professor at University of Wisconsin Law School, has a new article entitled Reforming Property Law To Address Devastating Land Loss, which is all about the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act.

Check out the movement in Arkansas that got the Uniform Act adopted! There's a great presentation and also a website set up. Plus Karama Neal appeared on The Giving Net Radio to promote the Act, and gave a TED talk addressing the Act.

Coalition member Center for Heirs Property Preservation was awarded a $425,000 grant from the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities to operate a Sustainable Forestry Program for African American landowners.

Georgia Appleseed released a report identifying the prevalence of heirs property in 5 Georgia counties (PDF file).

HPRC members have conducted or will be conducting a number of presentations, including:

  • On July 23, 2014 at 1 PM Central Time, there was a free webinar on heirs' property that featured HPRC members Thomas Mitchell and Jennie Stephens.
  • At the ABA Section of State and Local Government's Spring meeting in Asheville, NC on April 25, 2014 at 11 AM, there was a panel on heirs' property. The panel featured HPRC participants and partners, including Thomas Mitchell (University of Wisconsin Law School), Dawn Battiste (Land Loss Prevention Project), Carolyn Gaines-Varner, David Dietrich, and Ben Orzeske (Uniform Law Commission). Check out the ABA meeting site for more details.
  • A Wills for Farmers Clinic on February 25th, 2012, hosted by the Conservation Trust for North Carolina in conjunction with NC Central University School of Law at the Minority Landowners Conference in Raleigh, NC.  The project is modeled after the Wills for Heroes Program and will offer farmers essential legal documents including wills, living wills, and power of attorney.
  • The ABA Midyear meeting in Atlanta on February 2, 2011. Sponsored by the ABA Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, the Section of State and Local Government Law, and the Uniform Law Commission, this presentation was entitled What Costs Billions, and is Worthless? Heir property in America and African-American Land Loss. The panel featured Shirley Sherrod and American Planning Association President Mitch Silver, as well as HPRC members Craig Baab (Alabama Appleseed Center and National Appleseed Heir Property Project Director), Thomas Mitchell (University of Wisconsin, and Reporter for the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act), and Chrystal Chastain-Baker (Georgia Appleseed).
  • The American Planning Association annual meeting in Boston on April 11, 2011. This panel featured presentations by HPRC members Greg Peterson (private attorney) and Craig Baab, as well as Jeffrey May (National Community Reinvestment Coalition).
  • The Alabama State Bar Annual Meeting on July 14 or 15 in Grand Hotel, Alabama. This was a panel discussion on heirs property with Bob McCurley (Executive Director of the Alabama Law Institute and Chair of the Uniform Act's drafting committee), Prof. Robert Zabawa (Tuskegee University), and Craig H. Baab.
  • The ABA annual meeting in Toronto in August 2011. This heirs property panel was sponsored by the ABA Section of State & Local government Law. Thomas Mitchell was one of the presenters.

Read about HPRC's successful work with the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program on a 150-acre property in North Carolina.

The ABA Journal released a feature story on heirs' property that featured many members of HPRC.

Two HPRC members (the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, and the Center for Heirs' Property Preservation) were awarded grants under the USDA's Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for heirs' property.

HPRC is grateful to Alison Volk, Nadya Perez-Reyes, and Charlie Doughty of the University of Wisconsin Law School for their work putting together a legal information brochure for heirs' property in North Carolina. HPRC also thanks Professor Thomas Mitchell for bringing his students into the project.