Individuals affected by heirs property may qualify for free legal help!

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Heirs Property is the hidden story behind blight and generational poverty in Alabama.

When a person dies without making a Last Will and Testament during life to transfer real property to someone else upon death, or without transferring real property through other legal means, heirs property results. Heirs property is real property that is passed from generation to generation without clear title. Multiple heirs have fractional interest in the property. However, no sole heir owns the property outright.

Heirs property refers to a home or land that passes from generation to generation without a legally designated owner resulting in ownership divided among all living descendants in a family. This unstable form of ownership limits a family’s ability to build generational wealth and hampers the efforts of nonprofits and cities to revitalize neighborhoods.

FAQ About Wills

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You can.

However, we recommend you see an attorney to ensure your Last Will & Testament is properly drafted and executed.

You cannot disinherit your spouse without having made provisions for them by other means.

Alabama has an “elective share” law. If you omit your spouse from your will, your spouse may have the right to take the lesser of: (1) all of the estate of the deceased reduced by the value of the surviving spouse’s separate estate; or (2) one-third of the estate of the deceased.

If you are left an asset that is encumbered by a loan, then you take the asset subject to the loan, unless the deceased made other provisions to satisfy the loan.

A will contest is an action where someone, typically persons named in the will or those who would have received the property under the laws of intestate succession, challenges the validity of the deceased person’s will.

Persons named in the will or those persons who could have received the property under the laws of interstate success have standing to contest a will.

Many grounds exists to contest a will.

Some of the grounds include, undue influence, lack of testamentary capacity, underage, and fraud.

Many people find it helpful to have a will and a trust.

FAQ About Heirs Property

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Yes. Heirs property is a legal term.

Sometimes it is called Heir property, Heirs’ property, Family Land, Grandpa’s Land, or Tangled Title.

No. Heirs property has a wide impact.

It prevents banks from making loans and insurance companies from issuing policies. It causes blight which affects neighborhoods. It reduces housing values and the area’s tax base.

No – not always.

Property can still be heirs property even if a person lives on heirs property, receives a tax bill, and believes the family home is theirs. Relatives living in a different state, unaware of the property, can still be co-owners.

Heirs property has encumbered title.

This restricts what heirs can do with the land. Unencumbered title is necessary to protect property. Someone who owns interest in the property can have individual heirs’ interest in the property sold by forcing a sale


Living in a house does not mean your legal ownership in the property increases.


One heir cannot keep another heir from enjoyment of the property. All heirs have equal, legal right to use and possess the property.

Living in and caring for property (house or land) does not mean you inherit it all upon the current resident or owner’s death.

All real property, if there is not a last will and testament, is passed down to all descendants of the person on the last recorded deed.


All heirs, no matter what percentage of their interest, are legal co-tenants with equal rights and say in the management and responsibility of the heirs property.

Under certain circumstances, such as a forced sale through a partition action or a tax sale, the property can be sold without all heirs agreeing.


When you leave property to multiple beneficiaries in your will you have created heirs property. For example: leaving your house to all of your children in your will as co-tenants makes them the owners of heirs property.

If you pass away without a last will and testament and did not own your home with your spouse as joint tenants with right of survivorship, your children and your spouse inherit the property and co-own it together as tenants-in-common (aka heirs property).

If one of your children has pre-deceased you, their children will inherit the deceased child’s portion.

Title to real property can only pass to the beneficiaries of a last will & testament whose names do not appear on the deed (including spouses and children) if the will goes through the probate court process.

The named executor or anyone else in possession of an original last will & testament is required to submit it for probate or, if they don’t want to start the probate court process, file it with the county.

No. A spouse does not have to be on the deed to inherit a share of the property.

A surviving spouse can inherit through a last will & testament or if there is none, under Alabama intestacy laws. If there is no will and the deceased person also had children, the spouse and the children can inherit.

No. Heirs can consult with a range of professions:

attorneys, certified public accountants, non-profits, government employees, heir locator companies, bankers, elected officials, and genealogists.

Heirs Property: Ripple Effects

This presentation discusses several pressing issues about land loss, including how land passes legally from person to person, testate vs. intestate death, the prevalence of land loss in areas of Alabama, the pros and cons of having heirs property, and ways to prevent the occurrence of heirs property.

Supporting Heirs Property CLE

Defining & Supporting Heirs Property CLE webinar for attorneys with Valynda Jerome-Williams, Esq. and Deborah Neal, President at AbideWell.360. Learn how to define and identify heirs property, increase your knowledge of heirs property resolution tactics, and hear about the ripple effects heirs property creates for communities.

Heirs Property in Alabama CLE

In this resource for attorneys, Valynda Jerome-Williams and Will Breland discuss heirs property law in Alabama, and how to help clients avoid the pitfalls associated with heirs property.

Events and Presentations

We lead presentations at libraries, county extension offices, churches, schools, community centers, online, and more!

We also staff tables at resource fairs and other events throughout Alabama. 

If you are a service provider and would like us to speak to your team about what Legal Services Alabama does to help combat the heirs property epidemic, please contact us.

For more information, contact Heirs Property Coordinating Project Attorney, Victoria Shoots at



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