Referral pathways and service connections among heirs' property owners in South Carolina

Thematic Area: Heirs' Property

Jennie L. Stephens, Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation
Jasmine Simington, University of Michigan

Researchers, practitioners, and policymakers interested in alleviating heirs’ property ownership precarity have long sought to connect these owners to titling and land management resources, but there is limited scholarly evidence on successful interventions. Using administrative data from the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation®(CHPP®), this article explores the demographic characteristics, types of direct legal services received, and referral pathways of landowners seeking legal assistance from CHPP® between 2017 and 2021. We find that applicants are primarily elderly, Black women, referred through four main pathways: (1) owners’ personal networks, (2) CHPP® outreach efforts, (3) CHPP® partner organizations—including public, private, and nonprofit agencies, and (4) word of mouth (other individuals/entities not formally connected with CHPP®, including outside legal and forestry professionals). Lastly, we identify a strong desire for estate planning amongst applicants, despite documented legal distrust amongst heirs’ property owners. This analysis has important implications for designing targeted interventions to assist heirs’ property owners beyond the South Carolina context.


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