Client Story

Probate – Twice Opened

Posted On April 24, 2018

In the Lowcountry, heirs’ property (HP) is more commonly owned by African American families, however this form of landownership occurs whenever the law is not well understood; when proper legal steps are not taken to prevent it, and when people can’t afford an attorney to help them.

When Tina’s husband passed away, she began probating his estate, but then she got laid off and couldn’t afford to see it through.  She thought that was the end of that.

Until…she needed some home repairs and went to the City of Charleston Housing and Community Development Department to apply for financial assistance and learned that she didn’t qualify because her property had become heirs’ property.

“That came as a complete surprise to me,” Tina said. “When they told me I had to finish the probate, I was at a complete loss and didn’t know how much it would cost, or how long it would take.”

The City referred her to the Center where Attorney Josh Walden initially filed a PTDH (Petition to Determine Heirs) and then found out that Tina had, in fact, “opened” her husband’s estate in probate court within the statutory 10 years of his death. Once opened, a probate can be re-opened and completed. Attorney Walden petition the court and did just that.

“The whole process was a learning experience for me,” Tina said. “I felt better the first day I talked to Josh. He held my hand through it all. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him.”

For Walden, this was an easy one. He wishes more cases were like Tina’s. Within six months, he had completed the probate with a Deed of Distribution to Tina and her two children, who then transferred their interest to her. With a clear title, she qualified for financial assistance to do the repairs on her home.

Also, Tina now has a Will and an estate plan for transferring ownership of her home upon her passing.

“Not having a deed in my name had tied me up,” Tina said. “I had a house with tons of equity in it, but I couldn’t do anything with it and I didn’t know where to turn. The Center was a huge help to me.”