Rebuilding Together, Wells Fargo Expand Heirs' Property Initiative to Help Homeowners Protect Generational Wealth

Grant funding will support free legal assistance and estate planning services in low-income communities

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 20, 2024 – Rebuilding Together, the leading national housing nonprofit rebuilding communities in need, is expanding its Heirs' Property Initiative to help families keep their land and protect generational wealth. With support from the Wells Fargo Foundation, this effort provides free legal services to residents to address the complexities of "tangled titles," a critical issue affecting homeownership, especially within low-income communities.

A tangled title happens when land or property is passed down informally from generation to generation, often because landowners die without a will. When a home's occupant is unable to prove ownership because their name does not appear on the deed, the land is considered jointly owned by all heirs – split among multiple family members regardless of whether they have set foot on the land, lived on the property, or paid the taxes.

While nationwide research is limited, in Philadelphia alone, a recent report from Pew Charitable Trusts revealed that more than 10,400 homes have unclear legal ownership, with a collective value of more $1.1 billion, contributing to a cycle of instability and posing a significant barrier to affordable housing.

First launched in 2022, the Rebuilding Together Heirs' Property initiative provides educational outreach, free legal assistance, and estate planning services to residents in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Kent County, Maryland. These resources include support for people who need help creating a will or who are already facing heirs' property challenges, as well as expert advice about tangled titles, estate planning, real estate taxes, and more. Residents can visit Rebuilding Together Philadelphia, Rebuilding Together Baton Rouge, and Rebuilding Together Kent County for additional information.

"My experience with the Rebuilding Together team was wonderful," said Gale Smith, Philadelphia homeowner and participant in the Philadelphia initiative. "They took care of everything and now I am set up to do what I need to do as a homeowner."

"At Wells Fargo, we believe everyone should have access to a quality, affordable home and opportunities for creating generational wealth through homeownership," said Stacy Spann, head of Housing Access and Affordability Philanthropy at Wells Fargo. "More than ever, we need to be intentional about scaling solutions for addressing heirs' property issues and empowering people to maintain home ownership from one generation to the next."

The success of the Heirs' Property pilot program sets the stage for broader implementation across all Rebuilding Together affiliates. The organization continues to gather insights and lessons learned, with plans to develop a comprehensive program to address title issues and preserve generational wealth for low-income households. 

"We are deeply grateful to Wells Fargo for its commitment to our mission and recognition of the importance of preserving generational wealth," said Stefanie Seldin, CEO of Rebuilding Together Philadelphia and an attorney with expertise in this area. "This initiative, which will enable us to work with more homeowners to untangle titles, allows us to provide critical legal services for free to families in need, ensuring their homes remain a lasting economic asset for generations to come."

Since 2010, Wells Fargo has donated more than $18 million to Rebuilding Together and its affiliate network to support rebuilding efforts across the country, including providing essential home repairs, revitalizing communities, and helping veterans, older adults, people with disabilities, families with children, and victims of disaster remain in their homes. 


About Rebuilding Together

Rebuilding Together is the leading national nonprofit organization repairing the homes of people in need and revitalizing our communities. Through its national network of affiliates, Rebuilding Together works proactively and collaboratively with community leaders, long-term residents, funders, and volunteers to foster dialogue and create safe, healthy communities together across the country. Learn more and get involved at