Governor Ralph Northam was at the Blakey Farm, east of Harrisonburg, in July for the ceremonial signing of the Heirs Property Act. This act addresses the problematic legal structure of heirs’ property that has been a major factor in the decline in the number of Black-owned farms in Virginia and in the country. Virginia became the 16th state to address this problem with unanimous legislation in the 2020 General Assembly Session.
Heirs’ Property refers to land that has been informally passed from one generation of owners to another, without a formal will. The new law in Virginia looks to ensure that lands that have long been owned “in common” amongst many descendants cannot be swept out from under the feet of those living, working, and paying taxes on the property by family members who have long since left the land. The law expands the due process rights of all tenants on the land when confronted with the desires of another who holds interest in the property.
The unanimous adoption of this measure in the General Assembly was a result of diligent work and consensus building by the Black Family Land Trust, Virginia’s United Land Trusts, and many others. We are proud to stand as friends and allies of these groups, and congratulate them and the whole Commonwealth on this monumental accomplishment.
For more information, consider reading Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring’s July article in the Richmond Times Dispatch.
Photo courtesy of Marco Sanchez, Piedmont Environmental Council.