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 following Emancipation. At some point in the land’s ownership, it was passed down without a written Will – or was not legally probated  within the 10 years required by SC law to make it valid – so the land became heirs’ property.

Heirs’ property is land owned “in common” (known as tenants in common) by multiple heirs, who own a percentage of the whole property (not a “piece”) – regardless of whether they live on the land; pay the taxes or don’t, 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 force a sale of the property in the courts – OR can sell his/her percentage of ownership to another (outside of the family) who can force a sale of the entire property in the courts.

What should you do?

Call the Center if you think you own heirs’ property at (843) 745-7055 to make an appointment to meet with one of our attorneys for one hour of FREE “Advice and Counsel” to get answers to your questions about your particular HP issues.

The Center provides legal and forestry services within the fifteen counties of: Allendale, Barnwell, Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Clarendon, Colleton, DorchesterGeorgetown , Hampton, Horry, Jasper, Orangeburg, Sumter and Williamsburg).

REMEMBER – An “oral” Will is not a “written” Will.  You must have your Last Will and Testament properly drafted by an attorney – signed and witnessed – to be considered a legal document, and you must probate that will and estate within 10 years of the death of that individual in SC.

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