Louisiana Appleseed is grateful that you highlighted the serious problems that result when residents lack clear title to inherited property. As noted in your recent article, after Katrina, recovery in the Lower 9th Ward was significantly delayed because legal title was never transferred for homes passed down through generations by inheritance laws or by family agreement. This same scenario was not confined to the 9th Ward; it occurred throughout the Greater New Orleans area and the surrounding coastal parishes. The lack of clear title to inherited property has far-reaching and serious consequences to both individuals and their communities.

This continues to be a problem statewide because many people do not realize they lack clear title to inherited property until a disaster occurs. A title search shows they are not listed as owner in the property records, and without clear title, owners cannot exercise important property rights such as receiving government aid, selling the property, refinancing, getting a loan to repair the property and cashing insurance checks. These types of title issues to inherited property also prevent municipalities from taking action if the property is abandoned and later becomes blighted or when taxes are not paid.

Getting clear title used to be expensive and time-consuming. But now, thanks to Louisiana Appleseed volunteers and advocates, the law provides a cheaper and faster way for some people to get clear title, allowing heir property owners to file a “Small Succession Affidavit.”

Through a grant from the Greater New Orleans Foundation, Louisiana Appleseed is educating community members about the importance and necessity of having clear title to inherited property. We are also working with partners to provide legal services to address these important property issues.

As we reflect on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we remind families that legal title to inherited property does not automatically pass to the next generation. Families need to be proactive to ensure that clear title passes to the proper heir. Only then can they truly protect their property, helping not only themselves, but generations to come, and the community at large.

Christy Kane

executive director, Louisiana Appleseed

New Orleans