Legal Description of Property

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“A legal description of the property is integral to transferring real estate ownership. Deeds are also needed, as well as other documents, for the sale of real estate to go through.”

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Legal Description of Property

This article examines a real estate legal description. It covers its requirements, functions, and the basic types of legal description of property you may encounter.


Legal Descriptions: What Are They?

Legal Description of Property provides information about a property’s exact location and boundaries. They are essential for transferring legal ownership, and land surveyors use them.


The Overview of a Legal Description of Property.

Legal descriptions of properties are concise documents. They provide an overview of a piece of real estate, generally containing about five sentences. Survey sketches routinely accompany them to give a visual understanding of the property boundaries. As a unique identifier that conveys the specific details of the property on sale, it is essential in real estate transactions.

The style of writing a real estate legal description varies based on the property type and location. It also depends on whether it’s written by a professional or using the Real Estate Purchase and Sale Agreement template. All legal descriptions of property, however, include the following universal elements:

  • Boundary lines of the property;
  • Defining the land’s features;
  • Real estate property’s total acreage;
  • A county, town, or subdivision’s pertinent information.

One of the property descriptions presented in Stoebuck, Comment, Description in Land Transactions, 49 Wash. L. Rev. (1973) was ambiguous and violated the ‘Statute of Frauds.’

According to this doctrine, a property’s legal description must be precise enough to identify it.

As the case illustrated, legal descriptions that need to be more specific or accurate can invalidate property transactions.

The importance of providing an accurate and thorough property description can be seen throughout this chapter. A property’s legal description differs from its address, which helps pinpoint it on a map. Addresses, however, can change over time. As a result, an address cannot always serve to identify a property.

By contrast, a legal description clarifies the property’s boundaries and the amount of land for sale. Despite its apparent convoluted and lengthy nature, it defines precisely the land’s exact boundaries, thereby preventing disputes in the future.


A Legal Description of Property: Why Is It Necessary?

What is the legal description of a property? It describes a property’s specific dimensions, shape, location, and boundary lines in detail and is one of the most critical information for any real estate transaction.

In contrast to popular belief, a street address is not part of a legal description. Instead, it serves to determine the exact location of a property. You can decide who legally owns the land by identifying the lot’s boundaries. This is true even if a structure, like a house, sits on it.

To find a legal description of property example, you can look at its most recent transfer deed.


Do I need a legal description of my property?

Real estate ownership transfers, as do mortgages, require a legal description of the property. Typically, property deeds include the phrase “that certain parcel or piece of land described as follows,” indicating the beginning of the legal definition of the property.

This information appears in mortgage documents, sales contracts, and other legal land documents. You can also find different accurate estate-related templates necessary for such a transaction. Property descriptions are the cornerstone of any legal transaction involving land.

In less common cases, property descriptions play a role in boundary disputes. The legal description results in an impartial surveyor delineating the boundaries of both properties. The surveyor highlights each of the beginning and ending points.

After reviewing a property’s legal description, a concerned party may challenge it. A surveyor may even have to reestablish property boundaries for a consensus to emerge. One party receiving financial compensation may resolve a dispute over property ownership.


Legal Descriptions: How to Create Them

Who can write a legal description of property? Anyone can create a legal description under the statute of frauds, provided the description appears on a land title document, like a tax record or deed.

  • A professional surveyor, however, is usually hired by investors for more precision.
  • A legal description appears as a lot-and-block description or a metes-and-bounds description.


Format for lots and blocks

Lots-and-block formats are often used for subdivisions. They contain the lot, block, subdivision, county, and state information.


Format for measures and bounds

Public surveying data determines a property’s location by using metes and bounds. It marks the location of a specific landmark, either artificial or natural. It describes boundaries by their relative distance from the historic site.


Legal Descriptions for Property Deeds

What is a legal description of property? To prepare a new deed to real estate, it is wise to use the most recent deed for the legal description of the property. Several legal safeguards protect you by using the prior deed:


The Legal Descriptions for Property Deeds


Transparent chain of title.

With the Legal Description of Property from the previous deed, you can ensure that the property you are transferring is the same as the property received in the prior deed.

A transparent chain of title is easier to maintain when the last deed serves as a legal description for the conveyance. It can help avoid title issues and disputes arising from property description discrepancies.


Consistency and specificity.

Despite any changes in street names, addresses, or property boundaries, a legal description from the previous deed uniquely identifies a parcel of land.

On the other hand, address and tax ID numbers are only sometimes sufficient to distinguish the property from neighboring properties or to define the exact boundaries.


Legal requirements.

Many jurisdictions require legal descriptions for powers of attorney and deeds. Tax identification numbers and property addresses may not satisfy this requirement, thus rendering the document invalid or unenforceable.



Professionals, such as surveyors or attorneys, prepare legal descriptions in previous deeds that accurately describe property boundaries. This ensures that the description is accurate and less prone to errors, unlike descriptions based on addresses or tax identification numbers.

The preparer must use the exact legal description listed on the most recent deed to prepare the legal description correctly. This requires special attention on the part of the preparer. The legal description should be proofread at least three times. This will ensure every letter and punctuation appears precisely as in the previous deed.


Legal Description Types

Different land types require other legal descriptions, as do other structures. For example, surveyors must describe condominiums and subdivisions differently.


Platted Land

This type of land has been “subdivided” into blocks (and smaller lots) for housing development. The local government has approved land that consists of plats. Plat maps contain this information. They are available at the Register of Deeds office in the county where the plat is filed.

The platted land format uses lots and blocks. Most properties in platted land adhere to local zoning and development regulations.

Surveyors often use “short plat” and “long plat.” A short plat is an arrangement in which property or a lot can split into four (or fewer) smaller lots. This allows owners to use each lot for different purposes, such as leasing, renting, or selling. The legal description for a short plat is similar to that of a subdivision but does not include block numbers.

A long plat appears in the county records instead of a long plat, a regular subdivision of blocks and lots.


Unplatted Land

A lot-and-block format cannot describe these areas, so they can only exist in terms of metes and bounds or sections, townships, and ranges.

Unplatted land usually uses metes and bounds, but investors can access the United States Public Land Survey System (PLSS). We divide sections into multiple sections, quarter sections, and so on. In the legal description, sections, townships, and ranges are defined.


How Can You Find a Legal Description?

How to find legal description of property? If there are any differences between the legal descriptions on property documents and the real estate transaction, it’s a red flag. This situation calls for further investigation.

In these documents, you will find the following legal descriptions:

  • The deeds
  • Commitments to title
  • Observations
  • Mortgages
  • Contracts for real estate
  • Statements of property taxes

Search for words like described, legal, description, or legal description. Also, look for lots, blocks, plats, sections, townships, and ranges. Check for directions, such as north, south, east, and west, and references to water bodies and geographical markers.


How Does Wrong Land Description Affect Property Rights?

Buying a property requires the investor to pay attention to the legal description of property in California. It appears in the property’s deed. However, tax records may have an incomplete or inaccurate description.

Investors need to check if the property reflects correctly. It may lead to a dispute if the property is close to the neighbors’ plot of land. No matter who bought the house, the court tends to favor whoever owns the land on which it sits.

Nevertheless, if neighbors cannot agree on terms or land divisions, an attorney may be able to help them negotiate. This is especially true if the property is part of both legal descriptions.


Legal descriptions: How to update them

What is the legal description of a property? There are still disputes that may occur due to outdated methods, even if area boundaries are carefully defined. Over the years, surveying methods have become more precise. A description made one or two decades ago may need to adapt to current standards.

If someone inherits a family land parcel or home surveyed decades ago, they might consider watching it again. They could update its legal description. There are two ways to update a legal description.


Scrivener’s Affidavit

There is a remedy for minor issues in deeds, such as typographical errors, that can be overcome with a scrivener’s affidavit.


Correction Deed

Individuals must complete a correction deed when significant changes to a property’s legal description occur. You must also file to reflect these changes. Additions or removals may involve changing the land’s boundary. They may also correct technical errors in the original document.

However, a correction deed cannot change the owners’ names or modify the terms and conditions. However, it can change the legal description of the deed.

The owner of a disputed property and the disputing neighbor can file a correction deed if both parties are willing to cooperate. Cooperation is necessary to correct land distribution mistakes. The neighbor’s area will also receive an impact. Attorneys can help resolve the issue here, too.


Frequently Asked Questions


What is an example of a property’s legal description?

The legal description of a property indicates its exact location and its surroundings. The Rosemont Subdivision plat is an excellent example of a lot and block description. The Recorder of Deeds at Marshall County, SD, records it.


Is there a best way to legally define a property?

Legal property descriptions are written based on the location of the property. Large governmental properties can benefit significantly from the Rectangular Survey System. In contrast, rural properties can benefit from the metes and bounds system, and subdivisions often use the lot and block system.


How do legal descriptions differ from one another?

You can write a property legal description in three ways. They are by rectangular survey, metes, and bounds, or by lot and block.


The legal description of land looks like this: what is it?

Depending on how the legal description was written, different information may appear as part of the description. This consists of the physical geographic location of the parcel.



Undoubtedly, the legal description of the property exceeds a mere property address in its detail and complexity. Prevent disputes over property boundaries by giving stakeholders a clear understanding of their legal ownership.

An expert lawyer familiar with these property-defining methods should be employed. The appropriateness of the process varies depending on the type of land in question.

As an additional service, Attorney Real Estate Group offers a comprehensive Real Estate Purchase and Sale Agreement template, simplifying the process of buying and selling properties.

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