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Student Paper

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Bayview has been the home to many black families for decades. However, the inability of title-holders to create distribution plans for their estate before their death has contributed to their ultimate displacement. When a title-holder of property dies, their property is required to go through a court system known as probate. The probate court system has various functions ranging from identifying assets, calculating any owed taxes and fees, and distributing property. The only way to avoid probate is through the execution of a probate-avoidance distribution document, which is mentioned in further detail below. The probate court system, to say the least, is complex and expensive. Apart from the difficulty of having to navigate the probate court system, there are various additional consequences that come with a title-holder not having a distribution plan for their assets at all. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that the issue of dying without having a distribution plan is more common for low-income black homeowners than their white counterparts.

This paper discusses how the lack of distribution plans has resulted in the displacement of many low-income black residents and what can be done to address this ongoing issue. Part II of this essay describes the relevant demographic history of Bayview, San Francisco, California. Part III provides details about the probate court system. Part IV expands on specific challenges that entail conducting transfers of wealth. Part V touches on the role that race and class have on one’s ability to conduct transfers of wealth. Lastly, Part VI presents various ideas for achieving economic justice in both legal education and practice.


Paper submitted for Poverty Law, taught by Prof. Michele Benedetto Neitz.