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Writing a Legal Description as a Professional Land Surveyor (Including Checklist)

The Vital Role of Accurate and Concise Legal Descriptions for Land Surveyors


For professional land surveyors, crafting accurate and concise legal descriptions is a fundamental aspect of their work. These descriptions serve as the cornerstone of property boundaries, providing legal clarity and certainty to property owners, real estate transactions, and land disputes. Ensuring these descriptions are precise is not only an essential skill but also a legal requirement.

To help both seasoned and novice surveyors in this critical aspect of their profession, we introduce a comprehensive resource: "Writing a Legal Description as a Professional Land Surveyor." In this article, we'll delve into the importance of writing accurate and concise legal descriptions, the reasons for their significance, and the specific elements that often pose challenges for new surveyors.

The Significance of Accurate and Concise Legal Descriptions

  1. Legal Certainty: Accurate legal descriptions are crucial for establishing clear and unambiguous property boundaries. These descriptions are used to resolve disputes, support property transactions, and provide a foundation for legal documents like deeds and land titles. Any ambiguity or error in the description can lead to costly litigation and confusion.

  2. Property Rights: Legal descriptions are vital for protecting property rights. They define the exact location, size, and shape of a parcel of land. Without a precise legal description, property owners may find themselves encroaching on their neighbor's land or losing valuable acreage.

  3. Real Estate Transactions: Real estate transactions heavily rely on accurate legal descriptions. Buyers and sellers need assurance that the property boundaries align with what is described in the documents. A flawed legal description can jeopardize the sale or lead to complications in the future.

  4. Adverse Possession: An improperly written legal description can open the door to adverse possession claims, where someone may gain ownership rights to a piece of land through continuous occupation. Land surveyors must ensure that legal descriptions accurately reflect the true boundaries to prevent such claims.

Common Challenges in Writing Legal Descriptions

New surveyors often face difficulties when crafting legal descriptions due to their complexity. Here are some common challenges:

  1. Metes and Bounds vs. Lot and Block: Surveyors must be adept at working with different systems of land description, such as metes and bounds (describing a property's boundaries with compass directions and distances) and lot and block (commonly used in subdivisions).

  2. Precision in Measurements: Ensuring the accuracy of measurements is critical. Miscalculations can lead to significant discrepancies in property boundaries.

  3. Natural Monuments: Descriptions often reference natural features like rivers, trees, or rocks. Surveyors must accurately identify and describe these landmarks, as they are essential for locating boundaries.

  4. Bearing and Distance Calls: Understanding how to interpret bearing and distance calls is vital. Errors in azimuth angles or distances can result in property disputes.

  5. Reconciliation of Overlaps and Gaps: Surveyors must carefully reconcile overlaps and gaps between adjoining properties. Failure to do so can create confusion and disputes.

Introducing "Writing a Legal Description as a Professional Land Surveyor"

To assist surveyors in overcoming these challenges and producing accurate legal descriptions, we recommend using our comprehensive resource, "Writing a Legal Description as a Professional Land Surveyor." This checklist outlines the step-by-step process for crafting the best legal descriptions, covering topics such as:

  • Choosing the appropriate land description system
  • Conducting precise measurements and calculations
  • Identifying and describing natural monuments accurately
  • Navigating bearing and distance calls effectively
  • Resolving overlaps and gaps
  • Documenting the legal description in a clear and concise manner

Downloads, Tools and Conclusion

Accurate and concise legal descriptions are the bedrock of property rights, real estate transactions, and legal clarity in land surveying. As a professional land surveyor, mastering the art of crafting precise legal descriptions is not optional; it's essential for the success and integrity of your work. With the help of "Writing a Legal Description as a Professional Land Surveyor," you can ensure that your descriptions are error-free, protecting the rights of property owners and maintaining the integrity of your profession.

Download Checklist for Writing a Legal Description as a Professional Land Surveyor - Land Surveyors United.pdf

A New Legal Descriptions Writer Tools to Try (built by Land Surveyors Community)


Checklist for Writing a Legal Description

Gathering Information

[ ] Obtain all relevant survey data, including field notes, maps, and records.

  • Collect all field notes, maps, and records related to the property survey.
  • Ensure that the survey data is accurate and up to date before proceeding.

[ ] Review any applicable title documents, deeds, or previous legal descriptions.

  • Examine any title documents, deeds, or previous legal descriptions associated with the property.
  • Understand the legal framework and any restrictions or easements that may exist.

[ ] Consult with relevant stakeholders, such as property owners or attorneys.

  • Engage with property owners or attorneys to clarify any legal or boundary issues.
  • Discuss any specific requirements or constraints for the legal description.

[ ] Conduct a site visit to physically observe and measure the property boundaries

  • Visit the property to visually inspect and measure the boundaries.
  • Use appropriate surveying equipment to accurately determine the property boundaries.

Identifying the Property

[ ] Research and gather any historical or cultural information that may be relevant to the property

  • Conduct research on the property's history and cultural significance.
  • Consider any historical or cultural factors that may impact the legal description.

[ ] Determine the accurate and precise boundaries of the property.

  • Review all available property records, including surveys, deeds, and legal documents.
  • Research any relevant boundary disputes or discrepancies.
  • Use surveying tools and techniques, such as measuring tapes and theodolites, to establish the exact boundaries.

[ ] Review any relevant zoning or land use regulations that may impact the legal description

  • Review zoning and land use regulations applicable to the property.
  • Take into account any restrictions or requirements that may affect the legal description.

[ ] Identify any natural or man-made features that define the property lines.

  • Inspect the property for natural features like rivers, streams, or hills that may serve as boundary markers.
  • Identify man-made features such as fences, walls, or roads that indicate property boundaries.
  • Use aerial imagery or topographic maps to identify additional features that may define the property lines.

[ ] Use proper surveying techniques to establish the property corners.

  • Use triangulation or traverse methods to accurately determine the property corners.
  • Set up surveying equipment, such as total stations or GPS receivers, at each corner point.
  • Measure the angles and distances between the corners to establish the precise boundaries.

[ ] Interview neighboring property owners or occupants to gather additional information about the property boundaries

  • Speak to neighboring property owners or occupants to gather insights on the property boundaries.
  • Consider any shared boundaries or potential conflicts that may arise.

Writing the Legal Description

[ ] Consult with local government agencies or departments to obtain any additional information or records related to the property

  • Reach out to local government agencies or departments for additional information.
  • Obtain any relevant records or documents that may assist in creating the legal description.

[ ] Conduct a thorough research of the property's history, including previous surveys, deeds, and any relevant legal documents

  • Review previous surveys, deeds, and legal documents related to the property
  • Look for any recorded easements or restrictions on the property
  • Examine any previous survey maps or plats

[ ] Visit the property in person and visually inspect the boundaries, noting any physical markers or markers that may have been set by previous surveys

  • Physically visit the property
  • Inspect the boundaries of the property
  • Look for any physical markers, such as boundary stones, fences, or walls
  • Identify any markers set by previous surveys

[ ] Begin the legal description with a clear and concise preamble.

[ ] Include the name of the county and state where the property is located.

[ ] Utilize advanced surveying equipment such as GPS, total stations, or laser scanners to collect precise measurements and data about the property's boundaries

  • Use GPS equipment to collect precise location data
  • Employ total stations or laser scanners to measure distances and angles
  • Record the collected measurements and data for further analysis

[ ] Consult with neighboring property owners or local authorities to gather additional information or resolve any discrepancies in property boundaries

  • Communicate with neighboring property owners to gather information about shared boundaries
  • Consult with local authorities, such as county or municipal offices, for any available records or information
  • Resolve any discrepancies or conflicts in property boundaries through communication and collaboration

[ ] State the purpose of the legal description, such as for a specific transaction or boundary determination.

[ ] Write a description of the property's boundaries using metes and bounds, lot and block, or other appropriate methods.

[ ] Consider any legal restrictions or easements that may affect the property's boundaries, such as right-of-ways or conservation easements

  • Identify any legal restrictions or easements that may impact the property
  • Review relevant legal documents or agreements
  • Take into account any right-of-ways or conservation easements that may affect the property's boundaries

[ ] Use accurate measurements and bearings to describe the property lines.

[ ] Take into account any changes or alterations to the property since the last survey, such as new construction or land improvements

  • Assess any changes or alterations made to the property since the last survey
  • Consider new constructions, demolitions, or land improvements
  • Take note of any changes in land use or structures that may impact the property's boundaries

[ ] Include any necessary references to adjacent properties or landmarks.

[ ] Indicate the total acreage or square footage of the property, if applicable.

Language and Formatting

[ ] Use precise and unambiguous language to avoid any confusion or misinterpretation.

[ ] Ensure that the legal description is written in a clear and concise manner.

[ ] Follow the standard formatting guidelines for legal descriptions, including proper punctuation and capitalization.

[ ] Include any necessary legal terms or phrases as required by local jurisdiction.

Review and Verification

[ ] Proofread the legal description for any errors or inconsistencies.

[ ] Verify that the legal description matches the survey data and other relevant documents.

[ ] Seek input or review from other licensed surveyors or legal professionals if needed.

[ ] Make any necessary revisions or corrections before finalizing the legal description.

Certification and Recording

[ ] Sign and seal the legal description as required by local regulations.

  • Use your official stamp or seal to sign the legal description.
  • Ensure the signature and seal are clear and legible.
  • Follow any guidelines or requirements set by the local regulations for signing and sealing documents.

[ ] Include your professional land surveyor license number and contact information.

  • Write your professional land surveyor license number on the legal description.
  • Include your full name, professional address, phone number, and email address as contact information.
  • Ensure the license number and contact information are clearly visible and easy to read.

[ ] Provide any additional documentation or exhibits as required by the specific jurisdiction.

  • Attach any additional documents or exhibits that are necessary to support or clarify the legal description.
  • Ensure the documents are organized and labeled correctly.
  • Follow any specific requirements or guidelines set by the jurisdiction for including additional documentation.

[ ] Submit the legal description to the appropriate authorities for recording or filing.

  • Prepare the necessary copies of the legal description.
  • Contact the appropriate authorities to determine the submission process and requirements.
  • Submit the copies of the legal description to the authorities along with any required forms or fees.

Documentation and Archiving

[ ] Keep a copy of the final legal description for your records.

  • Make a digital copy of the final legal description and save it in a designated folder on your computer.
  • Print a physical copy of the final legal description and file it in a labeled folder or binder for easy reference.

[ ] Maintain all supporting documentation, such as field notes and maps, in an organized manner.

  • Scan any field notes or maps related to the legal description and save them in the same designated folder on your computer.
  • Keep physical copies of field notes and maps in a separate labeled folder or binder for physical reference.

[ ] Store the legal description and associated documents in a secure and accessible location.

  • Consider using a cloud storage service to securely store the digital copies of the legal description and associated documents.
  • If using physical copies, store them in a locked cabinet or safe to ensure their security.

[ ] Update any relevant databases or record-keeping systems with the new legal description information.

  • Access the relevant databases or record-keeping systems and locate the entry corresponding to the previous legal description.
  • Update the entry with the new legal description information, ensuring accuracy and consistency with other records.

[ ] Note: This checklist serves as a general guide and may need to be modified based on specific project requirements, local laws, or professional guidelines.

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