The Advocate
May 27, 2022

Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act
Correcting a Wrong That Has Been in Place for Too Long

We have an opportunity to join many other states in protecting the ownership rights of many North Carolina families. Please read this background information below and be prepared to respond to a call for action asking you to contact your elected officials should we need your help to get the bill enacted.

The Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA) is an essential tool to prevent the unnecessary or unfair loss of land. It helps preserve family wealth passed to the next generation in the form of real property. It preserves the rights of co-tenants to sell their inherited land while ensuring co-tenants are protected. The UPHPA is a common-sense Act that corrects a current process that is unfair and just simply not right.

Why is UPHPA important?
The Act protects families who inherit property. If a landowner dies without having a will, the real estate passes to their family as tenants-in-common. Inheriting land in this manner could potentially leave any co-tenant heir vulnerable to a forced sale that is below market value. UPHPA helps protect vulnerable families from losing their most valuable asset.

What is the difference between the current partition procedure and the Heirs Act?
A partition is a proceeding that takes place when a Clerk of the Superior Court orders the division or sale of a property held by two or more people. The focus of a partition is on forced sales not divisions. Under UPHPA all parties in a transaction involving heirs’ property are protected; the focus is on a fair division.

The Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act:

  • Preserves the right of a co-tenant to sell his or her interest in inherited real estate
  • Provides co-tenants with the necessary due process in a partition action - notice, appraisal, right of first refusal
  • Protects families lacking the financial funds to hire an attorney or estate planner
  • Prevents a forced sale well below fair market value resulting in lost wealth
  • If a sale is required, it ensures a court supervised commercially reasonable process to ensure all parties receive their fair share of the proceeds

Is the current partition proceeding harmful for tenants-in-common?
Yes, countless numbers of tenants-in-common have been significantly harmed by partition sales. There are many examples of families being preyed upon, patiently and methodically picked off, and forced off their land without receiving a fair market value for their property. This is an issue that is primarily (but not exclusively) faced by middle to low-income families who own real property. However, it is estimated that Black Americans, primarily in the South, have lost millions of acres of land for well over a century through partition sales.

This state has a tremendous opportunity to help protect an estimated 500 vulnerable families in North Carolina each year from losing their tenancy in common property involuntarily. This is a harmful process that has been in place for well over 125 years and it’s time to correct it!

If you have examples of families who have lost land or would benefit from the UPHPA, please contact Pam Melton, Director of Political and External Communications.

Please stay tuned to future Advocates to keep abreast of this issue during the 2022 Short General Assembly legislative session.


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