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Heirs Property

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** 2024 NC A&T & NCSU Heirs Property Summits **

All Summits are held from 9 to 3. More info here.

May 8     Lumberton  Register                 July 17   Monroe      Register

Heirs property is land that is jointly owned by descendants of a deceased person whose estate was never handled in probate court and is passed down from generation to generation. These joint owners (heirs) have the right to use the property, but none of them have a clear title. Without proper documentation and a court proceeding to clear the “cloudy” title, third parties (like banks, mortgage lending companies and others have no way of knowing who is really entitled to the property and whether any creditor claims apply. This means that none of the heirs can sell, mortgage, or make any repairs the real estate.


  • The land becomes vulnerable to involuntary loss through adverse possession, tax auction, or a partition-by-sale if granted by the court.
  • The heirs cannot sell the property or use it as collateral for a mortgage
  • The property may be ineligible for federal assistance, like USDA farm programs or FEMA support after a natural disaster
  • Most potential tenants, logging companies, or other people who may wish to do business with the property may refrain due to title and ownership issues;
  • Heirs may be reluctant to repair or improvement the property because every dollar spent is supposed to be divided among all of the other heirs.
  • Family relationships can be ruined forever
  • Precious family history and evidence of community contributions can be lost

Occurrences of heirs property are found in all types of landowners. The proportion of land owned by heirs is disproportionately high among racial and ethnic minority groups, low-wealth and low-income households, and other vulnerable populations who are less likely to conduct sophisticated estate planning. Relatively high rates of African American land loss during the 20th century likely contributes to the widening racial wealth gap by depleting existing assets and undermining the transfer of these assets across generations.

Heirs Property Resources

Heirs Property Project (NC A&T)

Heirs’ Property: Understanding the Legal Issues in North Carolina (VT)

Myths & Facts about Heirs Property (GA)

Heirs Property Resources (NC Roanoke Electric Cooperative)

Heirshares  (online training for heirs’ property owners)

How to Deal with Heirs Property (NC / UNC)

Sustaining Ecological and Economic Diversity Among Limited Resource Landholders by Expanding Opportunities for Management of Opportunities for Management of Productive Woodlands (NC / NCSU)

Splitting Heirs: The Challenges Posed by Heirs’ Property Ownership to Coastal Resilience Planning (NC SeaGrant)

Identifying Potential Heirs Properties in the Southeastern United States (USDA)

Heirs’ Property in the Southern United States (USDA)

Heirs’ Property and Land Fractionation: Fostering Stable Ownership to Prevent Land  Loss and Abandonment (USDA)

The use of brand names and/or any mention or listing of specific commercial products or services herein is solely for educational purposes and does not imply endorsement by NC State University or our partners, nor discrimination against similar brands, products or services not mentioned