For low-income Ohioans who inherit their family home, gaining legal title and possessing the deed are essential to remaining safely and stably housed and preserving generational wealth through homeownership. With the support of the Foundation, the Greater Dayton Volunteer Lawyers Project (GDVLP) is providing volunteer lawyer assistance for Dayton-area residents to resolve probate, estate, and property ownership situations, including tangled titles.

GDVLP is one of 19 nonprofit legal service providers awarded funding from the Foundation earlier in the year to support special projects addressing critical civil legal issues for Ohioans around the state.

Summer Hawks, executive director of GDVLP, first encountered a tangled title problem last year when helping an elderly client who had inherited his family home after the death of his parents. Because the property deed had not been properly transferred to him, he could not qualify for the financing he needed to repair his furnace when it stopped working. He was so desperate for heat he had resorted to opening his oven door for warmth.

Hawks helped the senior navigate the legal process to resolve the tangled title, which required transferring the property from the client’s father to his mother, and then, finally to the client himself.

“What a difference it makes for him that he can stay safely in his home, and that he now has heat,” Hawks said.

GDVLP’s new program will fill a critical need in the Dayton area, where tangled titles are common. While the legal process to resolve a tangled title can be complicated, it presents an opportunity for pro bono attorneys to make an extraordinary difference for low-income families. Without legal intervention, Ohioans with tangled titles are often forced to vacate the property, which results in the loss of both housing stability and generational wealth for the impacted family.

“The funding from the Foundation allows us to dedicate GDVLP staff to client interactions and drafting forms, which frees the volunteer attorneys to use their time and expertise to review the forms, client signings, and court appearances,” Hawks said. “It’s an efficient way for us to help more families.”

GDVLP is also helping clients with other probate matters by engaging student volunteers from the University of Dayton School of Law to review probate documents and research probate-related issues.

The nonprofit is excited about the progress made so far and looks forward to positively impacting homeownership and family stability in Dayton.

To learn more about GDVLP’s work and to volunteer, visit