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[WATCH] The Shepherd Family Tell Their Appalachian Heirs' Property Story, Going from Clouded to Clear Titles



Heirs' property is land that is owned by multiple people who have inherited it from a deceased relative. When a property owner dies without a will (intestate) or with a will that deeds their property to all of their children without dividing the property, their heirs become co-tenants with one another, each owning an undivided interest in the property, and the title to the property becomes "clouded."


Charlie and Della Shepherd are residents of Letcher County -- a historically coal-producing county in southeastern Kentucky -- and their property used to be heirs' property. Over 40 years, Della purchased the fractional interests owned by her family members until she owned 100% of her property. Her husband, Charlie, grew up on heirs' property but his father bought out the interests of his co-tenants, like Della, and so Charlie inherited his father's property with a clear title.


As Charlie and Della explain in this testimonial, owning in property in heirship can severely limit its' capacity to generate wealth for the owning family. Families can, however, turn their "clouded" titles into "clear" titles by working with a lawyer to create a family LLC or a family Trust, both of which protect the land from being aggressively acquired by corporate interests and makes the land eligible for government programs designed to increase the economic productivity of land. Contracting a lawyer can be expensive though. That is why LiKEN has started the Appalachian Heirs' Property Coalition, a team of social workers, lawyers, agroforesters, and organizers who work together to offer heirs' property owners in Eastern Kentucky and select counties in West Virginia with free legal services to obtain a clear title to their multigenerational land.

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