“The Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act helps families clear title to their land and qualify for farm loans, crop insurance and disaster aid so they can better manage their land and the wildlife habitat provided by their land,” said Kent Wimmer, senior Northwest Florida representative at Defenders of Wildlife. “Many family heirs’ properties are located along the Florida-Georgia boundary, which sustains exceptional habitat for gopher tortoises and the over 350 commensal species that rely upon gopher tortoise burrows, including the endangered Eastern indigo snake.”

TALLAHASSEE, FL

Today, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA) into law, marking a major victory for Florida’s families. The bill, sponsored by state Senator Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando) and state Representative Loranne Ausley (D-Tallahassee), helps protect the transfer of wealth between generations of families who use a simple will or pass without a will. Because a majority of low-income and minority Floridians don’t have wills, this law will help transfer wealth among many people who need it the most.

“I am committed to housing justice, and this bill levels the playing field between speculators and families, making a complicated process clearer and fairer,” said Sen. Bracy. “It provides homeowners with crucial protections by ensuring that property speculators cannot take advantage of families who inherit property after losing a loved one and then being forced to sell that very same property through a partition."

“I am honored to have the opportunity to work with Senator Bracy and a dedicated team from multiple organizations to pass this important legislation,” said Rep. Ausley. “This will be one of the highlights of my legislative career as this law will truly make a difference in the lives of heirs property owners in our state.”

Under the leadership of Sen. Bracy and Rep. Ausley, the UPHPA passed the Florida Legislature unanimously. With Governor DeSantis’ signature, Florida joins 16 other states and the U.S. Virgin Islands that have enacted the UPHPA. Southern states have led the way with Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia enacting UPHPA. In 2020, UPHPA bills passed in Florida and Virginia, and have been introduced in five other legislatures including in Oklahoma, Mississippi and the District of Columbia. Florida’s enactment of the UPHPA will hopefully encourage other states to enact it into law

“I welcome the news that Florida has now become the sixteenth state (in addition to the United States Virgin Islands) to enact the UPHPA into law,” said Texas A&M University School of Law Professor Thomas W. Mitchell, Co-Director of Texas A&M’s Program in Real Estate and Community Development Law and principal drafter of the original UPHPA. “Consistent with the impact the UPHPA has had in other states that have enacted it, many heirs’ property owners in both rural and urban parts of Florida will now have enhanced property rights that should enable them to be in a better position to fend off speculators, developers, and others who have abused partition law for many decades to force the sale of many family-owned properties for fire sale prices.”

The provisions within the UPHPA, championed by social justice and housing advocates, promise to help diminish systemic inequities. In a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, the prevalence of heirs’ property is disproportionately high among low-income households, as well as racial and ethnic minority groups. 72% of non-white adults—and 55% of all adults—do not have wills, meaning the UHPHA will benefit many Floridians who have historically been left behind. For many decades, large numbers of disadvantaged families in Florida, including a disproportionate number of African American families, have had their heirs’ property forcibly sold as a result of an unjust property law known as partition law.

Tallahassee real estate attorney Jami Coleman said, “I believe this change in the law will prove to be a great benefit to the State of Florida. It will provide additional safeguards to protect private property rights and help families to keep the property that their families have owned for generations. I am very proud of the advocacy of Professor Mitchell, Senator Bracy, Representative Ausley, Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of the Florida Bar, and all partners and supporters of the heirs property act here in Florida, and it has been my pleasure to work alongside of them.”

“I believe this legislation is a critical first step in addressing decades of inequity in the law regarding heirs’ property,” said Karen Woodall, Executive Director of Florida People’s Advocacy Center. “Many thanks to Senator Bracy and Representative Ausley for addressing this issue. Congratulations to everyone who supported the effort.”

“Equitable development is a priority in our work to increase and preserve housing that’s affordable,” said Jaimie Ross, President and CEO of the Florida Housing Coalition. “Enacting the UPHPA is foundational for our work, especially in rural areas of the state, where so much land owned by African American families has been lost.”

“As a former heirs’ property owner and now providing strategic leadership in this space and professional assistance to Florida’s population of heirs’ property owners, I celebrate the passing of the UPHPA,” said Dr. Sandra Thompson, Faculty/Specialist with the Cooperative Extension Program of Florida A&M University. “The existence of the UPHPA means that heirs’ property owners have a codified law that helps them retain ownership of their property and consequently a potent equity base. I am very thankful for the support provided by Florida A&M University (College of Agriculture and Food Sciences/Cooperative Extension Program) through Dr. Robert Taylor and Ms. Vonda Richardson.  I am also very thankful for the partners that helped to navigate this dream into reality, particularly Senator Bracy and Representative Ausley, as well as, Professor Thomas Mitchell, Attorney Jami Coleman, and Mr. Kent Wimmer.“ 

Environmental advocates, including Defenders of Wildlife, Florida Conservation Voters, Sierra Club Florida and 1000 Friends of Florida, also supported the UPHPA, which will help protect critical habitats for several imperiled species in Florida. 

“The Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act helps families clear title to their land and qualify for farm loans, crop insurance and disaster aid so they can better manage their land and the wildlife habitat provided by their land,” said Kent Wimmer, senior Northwest Florida representative at Defenders of Wildlife. “Many family heirs’ properties are located along the Florida-Georgia boundary, which sustains exceptional habitat for gopher tortoises and the over 350 commensal species that rely upon gopher tortoise burrows, including the endangered Eastern indigo snake.”

 

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

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Jake Bleich
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(202) 772-3208

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