Season 7 | Community of the Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Program (SFLR) | Episode 1

#100 | The most substantial reform of partition law in modern history: Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act

February 19, 2019 | Dr. Thomas Mitchell

Professor Thomas W. Mitchell is Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Program in Real Estate and Community Development Law at Texas A&M University School of Law. He also is a ground-breaking legal scholar and teacher who has been steadfast for more than 20 years in pursuing his heartfelt passion for helping disadvantaged people secure stronger property rights. Building upon some of his seminal research that highlighted how African American and other heirs’ property owners have been dispossessed of a substantial amount of land due to an unjust property law, he served as the principal drafter of a remarkable model state statute designed to turn the tide in favor of heirs’ property owners. The statute known as the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act has been enacted into law in several states and several more are considering it at this time. In the states that have enacted it, it has fortified the ability of thousands of heirs’ property owners to retain their land. Find out more on today’s episode.

Key Takeaways:

[1:40] A message from Leadership Nature.

[2:25] A quick intro about Thomas’s background.

[3:40] How did Thomas first get started in land retention and land rights?

[8:55] What was the process Thomas went through to change the direction of what law he wanted to practice in?

[11:55] When Thomas described to his colleague what he wanted to do, his colleague said it was career suicide.

[13:25] Thomas is so glad he didn’t listen to him because he knows he made the right decision.

[16:00] What kinds of issues do people face with heirs’ properties?

[24:25] When people have inherited property over the generations, a lot of times their property lacks clear title, and that poses a significant barrier to access, land retention and wealth building.

[28:00] Unscrupulous real estate developers will often contact a distant relative who owns possibly 1% of the land to force a partition sale of all the owners’ land.

[30:40] On top of this, the courts have been using an unfair analysis to determine the worth of the land.

[38:10] What has the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act accomplished?

[43:55] When Thomas received word his proposal was being selected, he almost fell out of his chair!

[47:25] What parts of the partition law will be changed due to this act?

[55:20] Many Americans do not make wills for their family. For African American families specifically, only 15% of them have a will.

[1:03:40] What results has Thomas seen so far?

[1:10:50] Thomas did not do this alone! He credits the network of people who have helped make this possible.

Mentioned in This Episode:

U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities


Thomas on LinkedIn


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