Detroit initiative offers free legal aid to homeowners

"Detroit Legal Aid"

A promising initiative led by Detroit City, the Gilbert Family Foundation, and Detroit City Council Member Scott Benson, offers free legal and estate planning services to local residents. Intended to preserve intergenerational property equity, this initiative will incorporate probate services and educational workshops.

Unfortunately, in Detroit, around 5,500 intergenerational properties worth over $268 million are stuck in complicated ownership disputes. Often, when property owners pass away without a will, the properties end up in the costly, time-consuming probate courts. This situation creates a pressing need for accessible estate planning and probate services.

Detroit’s Mayor Mike Duggan has commended the importance of homeownership as a means of wealth accumulation, especially as property values in Detroit continue to rise each year. Emphasizing homeownership is an effective financial strategy, it promotes community stability and pride, while encouraging residents to invest in real estate.

In partnership with Neighborhood Legal Services, Detroit City intends to provide free legal consultation to more than 3,000 households and estate planning services to around 720 families. The initiative has received $668,000 through the American Rescue Plan Act to achieve this.

Free legal aid for Detroit homeowners

The venture aims to tackle housing instability and prevent potential foreclosures due to unresolved taxes or ownership disputes. The efforts cover various issues including unjust eviction, poor housing conditions, landlord harassment, and rental disputes.

The Gilbert Family Foundation is supporting the cause with a $1.5 million investment over two years. This will enable Lakeshore Legal Aid and Michigan Legal Services to assist about 500 Detroit families residing in heirs’ properties and potentially facing tax foreclosure. It underscores the importance of philanthropy within local communities and illuminates the potential to bring about significant change.

Top representatives from the Foundation and the Council, Laura Grannemann and Scott Benson respectively, stress the lasting impact that the initiative will have on wealth generation and financial stability. The common goal is a resilient, sustainable future for all Detroit residents.

The program is open to those who own a home in Detroit and whose income is below 300% of the federal poverty level, with additional requisites for participating in the Gilbert Family Foundation’s program. People living in inherited properties under tax foreclosure threats are particularly encouraged to apply.