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Detroit Launches Free Will and Estate Planning to Preserve Generational Wealth

Starting June 20, Detroit will offer its residents free will and estate planning services as part of a city-wide effort to help maintain generational wealth. Detroit City Councilman Scott Benson from District 3 spearheaded this initiative after discovering significant issues affecting the transfer of property titles within families.

In Detroit, approximately 5,500 households reside in homes considered generational properties, yet they face legal barriers because the current residents’ names aren’t listed on the deeds. This issue encapsulates an estimated $270 million in wealth that rightful heirs are unable to claim. The ramifications extend beyond just asset transfer, as affected residents often struggle to access housing services and the full benefits of homeownership.

The Gilbert Family Foundation has committed to address this problem by donating $1.5 million over the next two years to cover legal fees for families navigating the probate court process. Initially, the foundation aims to assist around 500 individuals at risk of losing their homes due to tax foreclosure.

To tackle these challenges directly, Detroit city officials have organized a series of informational sessions and workshops, offering estate and will planning at no cost. These services are designed to help residents avoid future complications related to property deeds and generational wealth transfer. The first three workshops are scheduled for this summer, with advance registration required:

Thursday, June 20, 2024: 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. at Matrix Human Services, 13560 E. McNichols, Detroit (in-person).

Saturday, July 13, 2024: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., hosted online by Jefferson East, Inc.

Monday, August 5, 2024: 5 p.m. – 7 p.m., hosted online by Bridging Communities, Inc.

More workshops are planned for later this year and into 2025, with details to be announced on the Detroit Housing Network (DHN) website.

Eligibility for the free legal services provided through the city’s program includes owning a home in Detroit and earning up to 300% of the Federal Poverty Level. Additionally, the Gilbert Family Foundation offers support to those who meet the Homeowners Property Tax Exemption program (HOPE) income requirements, are navigating Detroit Housing Network resources, are heirs living in generational homes, and are currently at risk of tax foreclosure.

Residents seeking more information or wanting to register for workshops can contact the Detroit Housing Resource Help Line at 866-313-2520.


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