FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LOUISIANA PRESS ADVISORY
EDWARDS SIGNS LOUISIANA SMALL SUCCESSIONS ACT TO HELP SOLVE STATE’S HEIR PROPERTY PROBLEMS
BATON ROUGE (June 27, 2017) – On June 12, 2017 Governor John Bel Edwards signed Act 129 into law – providing relief to thousands of Louisiana residents living in homes without proof of ownership.
Act 96, the Louisiana Small Successions Act, was introduced by Representative Paula Davis, with the help of Louisiana Appleseed, a law-related nonprofit, and its team of attorney volunteers, led by Patty McMurray of Baker Donelson. The Act, which passed unanimously through the House and Senate, further expands the use of the heirship affidavit, a mechanism that allows the passage or transfer of ownership of inherited property to the legal heir(s) by placing legal title with them when the decedent’s interest in the property does not exceed $125,000. Prior law capped use of the less expensive and easier process to estates valued at $75,000 or less. The new law also allows families to use the affidavit process for estates of any value in which the person died more than 20 years ago.
After the 2016 floods, many low-income homeowners throughout Louisiana discovered that they were unable to qualify for government disaster relief funds because they lived in homes for which they did not have clear title. This means that government records did not show them as the homeowner. Thousands of people throughout Louisiana live in homes that have been passed down through several generations by family agreement, but outside of the legal system. This type of ownership is referred to as heir property. More families will now be able to clear the legal title to the property by using the heirship affidavit.
Patty McMurray, Louisiana Appleseed volunteer, stated “the use of the heirship affidavit was so widespread after 2009, demand arose to broaden its use. This is what motivated us to continue succession reform and simplification for small estates.”
Laura Tuggle, Executive Director of Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, the largest nonprofit law firm serving low-income people in Louisiana whose agency leads a collaborative disaster title clearing project, commented, “The heirship affidavit helps homeowners cost effectively and more quickly prove ownership of their property. This is critical to disaster recovery, helping homeowners qualify for loans, and to preventing blight in our communities.”
Louisiana Appleseed has distributed thousands of educational brochures to the public as a means of raising awareness of the importance and necessity of having clear title to inherited or donated property and how to achieve it through the use of heirship affidavits. Louisiana Appleseed Executive Director Christy Kane added, “Act 96’s further expansion of the use of the heirship affidavit is another step in providing even more low-income homeowners with the tools to protect their property, helping Louisiana residents to build wealth and to rebuild our region.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Christy Kane, Executive Director, Louisiana Appleseed, 504.561.7312, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tara Richard, Program Director, Louisiana Appleseed, 504.561.7304, email@example.com
Patty McMurray, Partner, Baker Donelson, 225.381.7041
Louisiana Appleseed recruits professionals to donate pro bono time to solve problems at their root cause. Our goal is to advance social justice by effecting change at the policy, or systemic, level. Louisiana Appleseed’s projects seek to increase access to education, opportunity and justice. Since 2007, Louisiana Appleseed has worked with volunteer attorneys, lawmakers and community groups to address the heir property issue head-on, working to solve the problem at the systemic, or policy, level. Louisiana Appleseed recently became part of a collaborative with the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, Southern University Law Center, LSU Law Center and the Baton Rouge Bar Association to further policy-related efforts, as well as direct services for heir property owners. For more information, visit www.FloodProofLa.org or call 1-844-244-7871.