first-year law review

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Nov. 14 Property: Requirements of Written Instruments

I’ll tell you up front that the moral of today’s lesson is USE A GOOD CONTRACT! The question of the day is what’s required of a written instrument conveying property? Let’s find out. Our first case is Bowlin v. Keifer. Guy Wade executed and delivered an instrument to Keifer saying that he conveyed all of his rights, title, and interest in his father’s estate to Keifer. The court held, however, that a contract for the sale of land will not be enforced unless the description disclosed therein is as definite and certain as that required in a deed of conveyance. Wade should have included at least some description of the property, although there’s some question in my mind as to whether the court could have just looked at his father’s will. That doesn’t seem out of the ordinary to me, but oh well.

The next case is Harris v. Strawbridge. Edward’s only heirs were his sister’s children so he made a will conveying property to them, but then a decade later he made an instrument conveying the property to Strawbridge. Even though the document didn’t use words like “grantor,” “grantee,” and “deed,” the court held that if from the whole instrument the court can ascertain a grantor and a grantee and there are operative words or words of grant showing an intention by the grantor to convey title to land which is sufficiently described to the grantee, and it is signed and acknowledged by the grantor, it is a deed. So I guess there’s some saving grace for those of us who don’t like to use lawyers or who want to do things simply. You still should have that description though. On that note, we should review the requirements of the usual Statute of Frauds. The Statute of Frauds usually requires grantor/grantee names, a description of the property, a statement of intent to convey, and a signature. Every state has a Statute of Frauds that may vary a little bit, but these requirements are pretty universal. Make sure that any instrument conveying property has these elements. More preferably at least get a title agent or someone to do. Most preferably, get a lawyer.


November 15, 2006 - Posted by | Property

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