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Heirs' Property Updates: Land and Revenues Spring 2024 Recap

From left to right: Jana Miller, Meredith Duff, Jaryd Crum, Kevin Slovinsky, Joe Childers, and Madison Mooney at the Martin County Wills Clinic in May.
From left to right: Jana Miller, Meredith Duff, Jaryd Crum, Kevin Slovinsky, Joe Childers, and Madison Mooney at the Martin County Wills Clinic in May.

Kevin Slovinsky and Madison Mooney presented the results of LiKEN’s research for a collaborative project led by the Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University focused on heirs’ property in the American South. LiKEN’s Community Engagement Coordinators conducted semi-structured interviews of heirs’ property owners and local leaders (lawyers, property valuation administrators, surveyors, etc.) in Harlan, Martin, and Letcher counties. Kevin Slovinsky, Madison Mooney, and Deborah Thompson analyzed the interviews to determine how heirs’ property owners  and their communities understand their own personal and communal wealth as well as the opportunities and barriers to building wealth. They found that both the cause and effects of heirs’ property are conflated by the historic and contemporary domination of extractive industries in eastern Kentucky. You can view the slides for our presentation, titled “Family-Land and Love Amidst Extraction: Perspectives on Heirs' Property in Eastern Kentucky,” on the Resources page on our website here.

Kevin presented at the Dimensions of Political Ecology 2024 conference at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. The presentation explained what heirs' property is, how it affects landowners and communities in Eastern KY, and how the Appalachian Heirs' Property Coalition seeks to address it. Crossing over from analytical research to a vision of fostering economic justice in Central Appalachia, the presentation’s conclusion sketches out an organizing strategy that positions heirs’ property as the portal through which communities can build a kinship-based cooperative economy that can challenge the existing land regime in Central Appalachia. You can watch the presentation, titled “Dimensions of Political Ecology 2024,” on the Resources page on our website here.

Kevin also presented at three seminars in Ohio, Fleming, and Franklin counties for University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University cooperative extension officers. You can watch the Franklin County presentation, titled “Navigating Kentucky's Heirs' Property” on our Resource page here. These seminars were the last of  “Navigating Kentucky’s Heirs’ Property,” an eight-part traveling seminar funded by Alcorn State University designed to train cooperative extension agents on heirs’ property. Participating cooperative extension agents are eligible to apply for a mini-grant offered by Kentucky State University to organize a community-level information session. Kevin has been working with participating agents in Eastern Kentucky to utilize the mini-grant to hold “Free Will-Writing Clinic and Heirs’ Property Information Sessions.”

Organized by LiKEN in collaboration with AppalReD Legal Aid and hosted by Cooperative Extension offices throughout eastern Kentucky, our Free Will-Writing Clinics offer local residents an opportunity to meet with a lawyer and write a simple will for free. Attendees can also take the time to  speak with LiKENeers to learn more about heirs’ property, the Appalachian Heirs’ Property Coalition, and our other programs and partners.

“I have two months to live [...] I am so thankful for this event today. I feel more comfortable now with my life and passing because of this event today. I wouldn’t have been able to afford this on my own. Thank you so much for having this opportunity for our community.” -Wills Clinic Participant

Heirs’ property is typically created when landowners die without writing a will (intestate) or when their will does not sufficiently parse the property into separate parcels for their children. By offering a free will-writing service in collaboration with AppalReD Legal Aid and other volunteer attorneys, LiKEN is preventing the creation of heirs’ property and the fractionalization of existing heirs’ property in Eastern Kentucky. Moreover, each clinic and its concurrent information session provide residents with an opportunity to start a conversation about heirs’ property in their community, the steps they can take to acquire a clear title, and how the Appalachian Heirs’ Property Coalition can assist them along their title clearing journey. Kevin has prepared a PowerPoint that runs continuously throughout the event that provides attendees with straightforward answers to their most common questions about heirs’ property. You can find that resource, titled “Heirs’ Property in Eastern Kentucky: Services & Mythbusting,” on our Resource page here.

At the time of writing, LiKEN has organized three Free Will-Writing Clinic and Heirs’ Property Information sessions. We held a clinic in Harlan County in March, Martin County in May, and Leslie County in June. We have helped dozens of local residents acquire a will for free and are looking forward to holding monthly clinics across Eastern Kentucky. Check out our schedule below!

The following clinics are scheduled for 2024:

  • July 18 - Johnson County, KY - 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

  • August 8 - Breathitt County, KY - 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

  • September 17 - Harlan County, KY - 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

  • October 9 - Perry County, KY - 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

  • November 19 - Floyd County, KY - 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Will-Writing Clinic Schedule, see text.

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