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Do You Know Where Your Real Property Stands?

There are a multitude of strategies to build your wealth, with advice coming from all sides.  Regardless of the strategy you choose to plan your future, like the overwhelming majority of people, the biggest investment you will make in pursuit of your dreams is right under your feet.  If you received legal advice prior to purchasing your home or property, you likely know EXACTLY what you received in exchange for that big mortgage you have been working so hard to pay off (or if you are lucky, have already paid off).
When you think of property, it usually defines itself: a car, a house, a dinner table.  But real property does not conform to an innate definition because, although each parcel is unique to itself, there is a lot of land on earth.  This forces us to impose an artificial definition by placing a geometric figure upon it to separate it from all the rest.  This is known as a “full legal description”.  Washington is unique when compared to other states because it requires transfers of an interest in land to include a full legal description, with some exceptions.
Whether you hold real property for investment, recreation, or residential purposes, your real property asset is determined by the description contained in the document that transfers an interest in land.  These documents include:

  • Deeds;
  • Mortgages;
  • Some Leases;
  • Easement Deeds;
  • Options to Purchase Land;
  • Tax Foreclosure Proceeding Notices; and
  • Lien Claim Notices.

The above list of documents require varying degrees of accuracy when describing land.  But there are instances when no legal description is required to create, transfer, or affect an interest in land.  In these instances, delicate judicial doctrines will determine your rights or the rights of others in a parcel of land.  Some oral agreements to convey, mortgage, or otherwise sell land may be enforceable to your detriment or benefit.  Similarly, other judicial doctrines do not require any documentation.  Adverse possession, boundary issues between neighboring parcels, and shoreline issues (lake, stream, river, ocean) may create, transfer, or affect an interest in real property.
Although there are many resources at your disposal that purport to address all of your real property needs, legal advice from a licensed attorney regarding the extent of your real property interest is irreplaceable and, compared to the investment in your future, invaluable.  If you believe you are entitled to an interest in land, unsure of your rights to land, or simply want peace of mind knowing that your real property asset is protected, you should seek legal advice.
Jason Wolcott is a contributing author to this blog and has served as an intern for the Law Offices of Richard D. Seward. Jason has been admitted to practice law as a Rule 9 Legal Intern in Washington State.