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August 18, 2021

ABA heirs conference to explore stronger laws to protect land, homes and family history

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2021 — The American Bar Association Section of State and Local Government Law will hold its inaugural 2021 Heirs’ Property Virtual Conference, Aug. 25-26. Participants will explore the history and basics of the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA), adopted in 19 jurisdictions so far and introduced in at least seven more, and the ongoing efforts to prevent the loss of family land and homes across generations.

The UPHPA is a uniform state law addressing a widespread, well-documented problem faced by many low- to middle-income families across the country, particularly people of color. They often own small shares of a farm or an urban house as tenants-in-common because long ago their families were unable to have a will written. As a result, ownership is passed down through multiple generations in ever smaller intestate shares, which makes the families vulnerable to predatory investors and a forced sale of property they want to keep.

Thomas W. Mitchell, a MacArthur Fellow and reporter for the 2010 Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act for the Uniform Law Commission, will speak at the opening plenary on Aug. 25 at 1:30-2 p.m. EDT. Dãnia Davy, director of Land Retention and Advocacy at the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, will give the keynote address on Thursday, Aug. 26 at 1:15-1:45 p.m.

What:               2021 Heirs’ Property Virtual Conference
                         Sponsored by the ABA Section of State and Local Government Law
When:              Wednesday-Thursday, Aug. 25-26
Where:             Online

Scheduled programming includes:

Wednesday, Aug. 25

“Writing, Implementing and Expanding on the UPHPA”— Panelists Ben Orzeske, chief counsel, Uniform Law Commission, and Heather Way, clinical professor and director of the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, will discuss the history and future of the UPHPA and related state law initiatives. 2-3:30 p.m. EDT

“Identifying, Addressing & Planning for Heirs Property Solutions: From Mediation to LLC”

 Experts David Dietrich, owner and principal of Dietrich & Associates PC, Billings, Montana; Mavis Gragg, director of the Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Project for the American Forest Foundation; Joshua Walden, chief operating officer, Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation, Charleston, South Carolina; and moderator Erica Levine Powers, immediate past chair of the ABA Section of State and Local Government Law, will discuss the importance of estate planning, finding heirs, mediation to deal with family issues and arrive at consensus for managing or partitioning the property, and choosing a form for business management. 3:45-5:15 p.m. EDT

Thursday, Aug. 26

“Protecting Victims from Speculative and Predatory Practices Targeting Heirs’ Property” — Panelists Scott Kohanowski, director of the Homeowner Stability and LGBT Advocacy Projects for New York City Bar, Jill Mariani, assistant district attorney, New York County District Attorney’s Office, and Lizabeth Parra, staff attorney, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid Inc., will discuss civil remedies under the UPHPA and criminal sanctions being explored to protect victims of speculative and predatory practices. 1:45-3:15 p.m. EDT

“Coalition-Building and Advocacy to Enact the UPHPA at the State Level” — The recent successful adoption of the UPHPA in Virginia, California and Florida and the coalitions of support will be discussed. UPHPA has variously gained support from organizations of Black heirs, statewide associations of realtors, national environmental organizations, and local and specialty bar associations. Panelists will be Ebonie Alexander, executive director, Black Family Land Trust; Sanjay Wagle, senior vice president of Governmental Affairs, California Association of Realtors; Farrah Wilder, vice president and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, California Association of Realtors; Kent Wimmer, senior representative, Defenders of Wildlife; and moderator Mavis Gragg, director of the Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Project for the American Forest Foundation. 3:30-5 p.m. EDT

The complete conference program can be found online.  For media registration, please contact Betsy Adeboyejo at [email protected].

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