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Impact Stories Published August 8, 2023

Clearing a Tangled Title, Putting Her Affairs in Order

“Put your affairs in order.” That’s the advice Virginia Copeland received from her doctors while undergoing treatment for her autoimmune disease. Virginia wanted to take that advice and make a will to provide for her family, but her fixed income meant it was unlikely she could hire an attorney. Even worse: the home where she and her family lived had a tangled title.

Virginia sold her North Philadelphia home decades ago in order to care for her daughter, who had medical problems of her own. She moved her family into a home owned by her uncle. Virginia paid all the living expenses, including the mortgage, and her uncle considered the house to be hers in all but name.

Sixteen years later, Virginia’s uncle passed away. He left a will referencing a revocable living trust that ultimately left the home to Virginia, her deceased cousin, and her living foster cousin. By the time her doctors told her to write her own will, Virginia was an equitable owner of the home, but the home’s legal title was still held in trust. She needed a lawyer.

Virginia’s story took a turn when VIP matched her with a volunteer attorney. Her volunteer probated the uncle’s estate, recorded a deed in which her foster cousin relinquished his interest in the estate, and applied to the Tangled Title Fund to cover thousands of dollars of transfer taxes. Virginia walked away with a new deed granting her legal ownership of her home.

“You’ll be surprised by the people who come into your life,” Virginia said. “I don’t have a lot of energy because of my illness. But VIP took that into account and worked with me. They’ve been good to me. My attorneys exceeded all my expectations, and I know they were behind me each step of the way.” At long last, Virginia and her volunteers could put her affairs in order and make provisions for her health and her loved ones’ futures.