City of Detroit and Gilbert Family Foundation announce free estate planning, will preparation and probate services for heirs to help protect generational wealth

  • City of Detroit partners with Neighborhood Legal Services on free estate planning workshops and free will and estate planning, thanks to ARPA funding.
  • Gilbert Family Foundation invests $1.5M with Lakeshore Legal Aid and Michigan Legal Services to scale up probate services for homeowners at immediate risk of tax foreclosure.
  • Both investments follow Detroit Future City report revealing 5,500 families living in “heirs’ properties” worth approximately $270 million in Detroit are at risk of losing generational wealth.


Mayor Mike Duggan and Gilbert Family Foundation, along with Detroit City Council Member Scott Benson, today announced multiple investments in probate services and estate planning support to help Detroit residents protect their family homes and maintain generational wealth.

A Detroit Future City study released in May, with funding from Gilbert Family Foundation, uncovered approximately $270 million in household wealth tied to “heirs’ properties” – homes passed down through generations without a legal transfer of property to a surviving relative. Without proper support, families who have owned these homes for generations risk losing their equity and wealth.   

“For most Detroiters, their home is the foundation of their family’s generational wealth,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “With home values rising each year in the City of Detroit, ensuring homes can be handed down from one generation to the next is even more essential. We are thankful to Detroit City Council and Gilbert Family Foundation for their investment in and dedication to this important work and to the Biden Administration for the American Rescue Plan Act dollars that are proving to create lasting change for our residents.”

Detroit City Council approved a $668,000 ARPA-funded contract proposed by the Duggan administration to prevent this loss of generational wealth, and work will start this month with a series of workshops kicking off June 20 to provide free legal advice around wills and estate planning. Through these workshops, qualified residents will receive free legal services, ensuring their home is passed down to the next generation.

Through the funds allocated, the City of Detroit’s Housing and Revitalization Department has contracted with Neighborhood Legal Services to provide free advice to more than 3000 households and free will and estate planning services to approximately 720 households. “We are pleased to be able to offer this additional housing stability service for our residents and help Detroiters pass along family wealth,” said Julie Schneider, Director of the City’s Housing and Revitalization Department.

Gilbert Family Foundation Investment Prioritizes Homeowners at Risk of Tax Foreclosure

While it’s important to mitigate future probate needs through will creation and estate planning, at least 5,500 Detroit families are living in heirs’ properties today. Of those properties, nearly 500 are at immediate risk of tax foreclosure. The Gilbert Family Foundation will invest $1.5 million over two years to support Lakeshore Legal Aid and Michigan Legal Services to resolve these cases by providing free legal representation for probate court proceedings. The Detroit Housing Network will support the 500 families living in Heirs’ properties at risk of tax foreclosure. The first step is to call 866-313-2520.

"We are deeply committed to protecting legacy Detroit homeowners from displacement,” said Laura Grannemann, Executive Director of Gilbert Family Foundation. “Preserving these family homes is essential not only to building intergenerational wealth, but also ensuring the long-term stability of Detroit families and neighborhoods. We are grateful to all the partners committed to addressing this complex challenge.”

Detroit City Council Member Scott Benson (D3) is passionate about this work and is the chair of the city’s Wealth Generation Task Force. Benson has been working in partnership with the Duggan administration to bring this initiative to life. “A key finding of my Wealth Generation Task Force was the lack of estate planning among Detroit families and how that impacted not only the transfer of real estate upon the death of a loved one, but also how it has impaired Black families’ abilities to build wealth,” said Detroit City Councilman Scott Benson. “I am energized by the commitments of both the City of Detroit and Gilbert Family Foundation to fund this new initiative, so we can put more Detroiters on the path to prosperity and economic security.”

Workshop registration and program eligibility

The first three workshops will be held this summer, and advance registration is required.

  • Thursday, June 20, 2024, from 1-3pm in person at Matrix Human Services, 13560 E. McNichols, Detroit
  • Saturday, July 13, 2024, from 11am-1pm online – hosted by Jefferson East, Inc.
  • Monday, August 5, 2024, from 5-7pm online – hosted by Bridging Communities, Inc.

Residents can sign up in advance at

Additional workshops will be held later this year and into 2025 and will be posted on the DHN website as they are scheduled.

Eligibility for free legal services through the City of Detroit’s program:

  • Own a home in Detroit
  • Earn up to 300% of the Federal Poverty Level

Eligibility for free legal services through the Gilbert Family Foundation program:

  • Meet income requirements for the Homeowners Property Tax Exemption program (HOPE)
  • Working through the Detroit Housing Network
  • Heir living in a home passed down by the previous generation
  • Currently at risk of tax foreclosure

Residents can call the Detroit Housing Resource Help Line at 866-313-2520 for more details.


About the Gilbert Family Foundation

The Gilbert Family Foundation is a private nonprofit foundation founded by Jennifer and Dan Gilbert to accelerate a cure for neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) and build economic opportunity and equity in the city of Detroit. The Gilbert Family Foundation supports groundbreaking, cutting-edge research in hopes of eradicating NF1, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves anywhere in the body. Additionally, the Foundation supports the economic stability and mobility of residents in Detroit by investing in wealth-building opportunities and breaking down systemic barriers.

For more information on the Gilbert Family Foundation, please visit