Miles Malbrough, Class of 2022, will join the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands as an Equal Justice Works Fellow after graduation. Malbrough’s fellowship project will focus on providing estate planning services to prevent houses, often the major asset passed along in an estate, from becoming “heirs property” and thus potentially subject to a forced sale.
His Equal Justice Works Project is funded by the Albert & Anne Mansfield Foundation.
As an undergraduate student at Harvard University, Malbrough learned that African American homeowners disproportionately lack legal wills and are thus vulnerable to losing the ability to preserve generational wealth by passing the house along to a single heir. “When a homeowner dies without a will, the house becomes ‘heirs property.’ This means it’s owned collectively by all legal heirs, and any one of them has a right to force a sale to collect their share of the inheritance, even if another heir is living in the house,” Malbrough explained.
A Tennessee native, Malbrough was motivated to earn a law degree by his desire to address laws common in many states, including Tennessee, that undermine the ability of people in the Black community to preserve and pass on generational wealth. “My Equal Justice Works project aims to narrow the Black-White wealth gap in Middle Tennessee through community education and estate planning, and by representing heirs in partition actions,” he said.
Malbrough is a first-generation student at Vanderbilt Law. During law school, he discovered that people who inherit heirs property in cities like Nashville, where rising property values have resulted in rapid gentrification, face a higher risk of a forced sale.
He worked throughout law school to gain estate planning skills and practical legal experience with the goal of providing estate planning services aimed at helping homeowners in Nashville’s Black community pass on generational wealth. He also plans to provide educational outreach about the importance of estate planning in preserving wealth.
“My goal is to prevent houses from becoming heirs property,” he said.
To gain broad legal exposure and experience, Malbrough interned at the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission in Washington, D.C., and for Judge Liam O’Grady on the Eastern District of Virginia, volunteered with the Vanderbilt and Woodbine Immigration Clinics, and led the 2020 Pro Bono Spring Break trip to Jackson, Mississippi.
He wrote his 3L research seminar paper on the topic of heirs property and gained estate planning experience through the University of Memphis Law School’s 2022 Pro Bono Spring Break. “I was in their wills and estates track, and we worked with several senior centers under the supervision of a local attorney, David Cook,” he said.
Before attending Vanderbilt law school, Malbrough worked for three years with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic.