Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Thanks to Ann Bartow (in a comment to my last post) for pointing out an interesting paper by Faith Rivers (Vermont Law School) titled Restoring The Bundle of Rights: Preserving Heirs' Property in Coastal South Carolina. From the introduction:
Heirs' property refers to real property held without clear title. The property is typically owned and inhabited by indigenous families, a significant number of whom can trace their ownership back to purchases by former slaves during the civil war and reconstruction. The deed to the land is registered to a deceased family member. The land has been handed down from generation to generation through the intestacy laws and is now owned by a group of relatives who possess fractionated fees as tenants in common.
The paper provides a historical overview of the problem and discusses related policy and reform issues. Heirs' property presents a host of interesting and important issues. I talk a bit about it when I cover tenancy in common and actions for partition. Buyers (often white) can buy one heir's interest, seek partition, and buy the property in the partition sale, a problem that Rivers discusses in some detail. The highly fractured ownership caused by generations of intestacy also reminds me of the Native American land at issue in Hodel v. Irving.
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