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HOME > All Land is not Creating Equal: Unleashing Family and Community Wealth through Land Ownership

22 Oct 2020

From The Aspen Institute: When it comes to the roots of wealth inequality in the United States, what is the “worst problem you never heard of”?  For many, that answer is a confounding phenomenon called “heirs’ property” or “fractionated land.” 
Heirs' property is land that has been passed down through generations without a will – creating shared ownership among many descendants. Over time, unless title to the land is cleared and land rights secured, the opportunity for those owners to use their land fothe r economic benefit is limited. As a result, underserved vulnerable landowners throughout the country – especially, women, indigenous people, Black Americans and the poor – have involuntarily lost their family property through contested claims, unaffordable high transaction costs, forced sales to speculators, and outright fraud. Black families alone, researchers estimate, have lost hundreds of billions of dollars in such land value over the last century. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture considers Heirs’ Property the “leading cause of Black involuntary land loss.” 
Fifteen years ago, most considered this complex problem intractable. In contrast, the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation saw opportunity. The Center’s process has since helped families clear more than 200 titles, and its partnerships have fostered a landowner movement that is unleashing cultural and natural resources to build family and community wealth and ecological restoration in marginalized communities. Efforts alongside the Center's – work in Native nations, among investors and researchers, and in state legislatures – are now likewise growing to secure family land ownership rights, stimulate economic growth and increase regional resilience. 
In celebration of the Center’s 15th anniversary – and the 35th anniversary of the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group, which helped spark the Center’s start-up – we invite you to learn about the role of land in wealth inequality, about heirs’ property and fractionated land, and about strategies and policies that can address this issue to build rural regions and urban communities that are more inclusive and resilient. Join us for any or all of these insightful-and-action-provoking sessions! 
Overview Session 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. ET
Learn about heirs' property – what it is, its history, the critical role it plays in wealth inequality – and the Center’s creative breakthroughs in helping families and communities clear through legal and land ownership hurdles to improve their livelihoods. The session will include topical panels and story videos.
Moderated by Melvin Oliver –Co-author of Black Wealth/White Wealth
Breakout Deeper Dives 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. ET
Go deep into the practical aspects and the promise of addressing heirs’ property and fractionated land issues. Each of the five breakouts will be repeated so that you can attend any two you choose.
Special Event 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. ET
Screening of America's Forests with Chuck Leavell (tree farmer/forester and keyboard player for the Rolling Stones!) featuring on-the-ground work by the Center for Heirs' Property Preservation. Chuck will join the post-screening discussion with Jennie Stephens of the Center, Janet Topolsky of Aspen CSG and others!