In Philadelphia, the PSA campaign hammers the importance of a will to the family legacy

By Stephen Williams

PHILADELPHIA CREAM – The City’s Office of the Registry of Wills has launched a series of Public Service Announcements (PIAs) on radio stations and on the web and is waiving or deferring fees associated with Probate Court, to help residents resolve the problem of “tangled titles”.

A tangled title occurs when a person lives or has the right to own a home but does not have a deed or title deed with their name on it. This can happen when a parent dies without a will or the deed never passed to the person who lives there.

“The most important thing we want people to understand is to have a written will and probate is needed to fix the tangled titles,” Register of Wills Tracey Gordon said in an interview with Tribune. “The main message is the importance of making a will, when you get an asset.”

As part of the process, a written will must be filed with the Registry of Wills office and go through probate. In the probate process, a will is verified by a court and considered a valid public document and a true last will of the deceased, or a settlement of their estate.

According to a 2021 study by Pew Charitable Trusts, more than 10,000 homes have tangled titles in Philadelphia, mostly concentrated in North, West and Southwest Philadelphia, where many black and brown people live. An estimated $1 billion in generational wealth is tied to tangled titles.

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In a public service announcement, a ‘grandson’ urges a reluctant ‘grandmother’ to complete her will. In another, a family tries to cope with the death of a loved one who did not have a will.

According to Gordon, his office has hired more than a dozen Screen Actors Guild union members for public service announcements, which will run through April 2023 on WURD 900-AM, Power 99 FM and all media platforms. social media, such as TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. .

“We’ve reached an agreement with Dell East and these public service announcements will air during concert intermission this summer,” Gordon said.

A third of public service announcements are in Spanish because the tangled titles tend to be in areas where many people speak only Spanish, Gordon said.

Other problems associated with tangled titles are that they can prevent residents from selling their home, transferring the deed to their heirs, or getting government assistance for repairs, back taxes, utility bills, etc. public authorities or even FEMA in the event of a natural disaster.

Many of these factors have caused people to lose their homes.

Resolving a tangled title can be tedious, time-consuming and expensive, according to the Pew Charitable Trust study. The problem typically affects residents of neighborhoods with high levels of poverty and low-value housing.

So Gordon’s office is waiving and deferring many of the fees associated with the probate process for low- and middle-income families as part of the office’s probate deferment initiative.

Fees are tied to the size of the estate, but even the lowest can be as high as $300 to $500, not including legal fees.

In addition, the city’s Housing and Community Development Division has a Tangled Title Fund that provides grants of up to $4,000 to income-eligible residents seeking to clear their homes’ titles, for costs administrative, legal and other.

But household income cannot exceed 200% of federal poverty income levels. Additionally, the home must be the applicant’s principal residence, or the applicant must plan to make it their principal residence.

The Registry of Wills Office is responsible for protecting generational heritage. The office processes marriage licenses, maintains historical records, and handles probate estates and other matters.

“In Philadelphia, you transfer your estate by leaving a written will,” Gordon said. “It’s not an automatic transfer and it’s not a transfer you can do verbally. It is not a transfer that you can do by video.

Stephen Williams is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.

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