The Surdna Foundation awards the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation® a $500,000 grant over a three-year period

May 31, 2023

The Center was recently awarded a $500,000 grant over a three-year period from the Surdna Foundation. The support will allow the Center and its partners to promote the sustainable use of land while providing increased economic benefit to historically underserved landowners and land stewards of color. These landowners will be those who own land in South Carolina, as well as those in Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, West Virginia, East Texas, and Arkansas.

The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster sustainable communities in the United States – communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures. Learn more at

Since its inception, the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation® (CHPP®) has worked to advance racial equity for historically underserved landowners thereby helping to protect family land. CHPP® is the premiere organization delivering legal and forestry education and direct services to heirs’ property owners for more than 18 years. To date, the Center has resolved 342 title issues on land with a tax-assessed value of $20.9 million.

Heirs’ property is land passed down informally from generation to generation, often because landowners die without a will. In the absence of a will, the land is considered jointly owned by all heirs, spilt between multiple family members regardless of whether they have set foot on the land, lived on the property, or paid the taxes.

“Property matters to people. It’s far more than just a parcel of land, it can be a window to the past that tells the story of a family, a community, or a way of life,” said Dr. Jennie L. Stephens, CEO of the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation®. “We believe that with our proven expertise and with the help of our friends at Surdna Foundation, we can help more families protect their family land while providing tools and resources to utilize their land for increased economic benefit.”

About The Center for Heirs’

The Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation® has been protecting heirs’ property through legal education and direct legal services since 2005. In 2013, the Center began promoting the sustainable use of land through forestry education and services to provide increased economic benefit to low-wealth family landowners. The Center provides legal services and forestry services in Allendale, Bamberg, Beaufort, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Chesterfield, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dillon, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Hampton, Horry, Jasper, Kershaw, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, Orangeburg, Richland, Sumter, and Williamsburg counties.

To date, the Center has provided 5,160 persons with free, one-hour “Advice and Counsel” (A&C) with 1,471 clients receiving direct legal services to clear title. A total of 1,578 simple wills have been drafted at free, community Wills Clinics; more than 503 families (who collectively own in excess of 40,000 acres) have benefited from various levels of education and expert resources to develop and implement sustainable forestry management plans,  and 342 titles have been cleared on family land with a total tax-assessed value of $20.9 million.