Examining the Consequences and Character of Heir Property

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United States, Intestate Succession, Property Ownership, Kentucky, Heir Property, Case Studies


In the United States the laws of intestate succession can lead to real property being owned as tenancy in common. As a result, over time, large numbers of cotenants may own the same property; each cotenant possessing a fractional undivided interest to the jointly owned property. Property characterized by this form of joint ownership is often referred to as heir property. Recent literature has identified two prominent concerns regarding heir property: (1) efficiency concerns and (2) displacement concerns. In this paper we examine these issues using case study evidence from three families in eastern Kentucky. Our case studies provide evidence of both the efficiency and displacement concerns. To further assess and better understand the character of heir property we empirically examine affidavits of descent in Letcher County, Kentucky filed in the year 2000. The empirical results illuminate the general character of the family that survives an intestate death further clarifying the effect of intestacy law on specific family members.