Montana joins states adopting legislation drafted by Professor Thomas Mitchell

Montana has become the third state to enact the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act, signed into law April 22 by Governor Steve Bullock.

Professor Thomas Mitchell of the University of Wisconsin Law School, working with the Uniform Law Commission, served as primary drafter of the act. Its goal is to help families hold onto inherited property that they own in common with others—or at least, to retain their real estate wealth—rather than being forced to sell at below-market prices.

The Uniform Law Commission works to identify issues where uniformity among state laws is important, and to draft laws that solve problems common to all the states.

Mitchell says the commission sought a uniform partition law after recognizing a recurring pattern in many states, one that has negative social, economic and political consequences for communities. "Current statutes can put families who hold tenancy-in-common property at risk, especially those in poor and minority communities. The new law makes real progress toward protecting owners from losing property their families may have held for generations and from court-ordered fire sales of their property," he adds.

The Council of State Governments recently featured the act in its “Suggested State Legislation” publication. Its endorsement is noteworthy: Out of the hundreds of newly enacted statutes or model statutes submitted by state officials for consideration, the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act was one of only 35 selected for the annual publication.

The act is receiving a growing number of endorsements from professional and civil rights organizations, including the American Bar Association, the National Bar Association, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the American Planning Association, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The first two states to enact the Partition of Heirs Property Act were Nevada and Georgia. And several legislatures—Hawaii, South Carolina, and most recently, Connecticut and the District of Columbia—have introduced the act for consideration this year.

Submitted by Law School News on July 7, 2014

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