How to Secure a Land Patent

A land patent is a record of transfer of ownership of federal land to a private individual. Land patents were originally created as a way for the federal government to distribute land either inherited or acquired by treaty to the private individuals who wanted to claim it. Land patents can be transferred from owner to owner, but they remain in force for as long as the American government exists. Owning a land patent gives you the ultimate proof that you lawfully own your land, ensuring that it will not be repossessed to pay back mortgage debts and/or tax obligations. So, while securing a land patent isn't always easy, it has enough benefits to make the effort worthwhile.

History of Land Patents

The land patents were originally issued to European colonists by whichever European power colonized that particular portion of North America. At the time, most European land had been settled and claimed, leaving little room for new landowners. The New World offered them a chance to start from scratch. And thanks to the land patents, they had the comfort of knowing that their land would remain in their family no matter what.

When the thirteen original colonies declared independence and formed the United States, the old colonial patents remained in force. Over the course of the next century, the country gained more territory by either buying it from other colonial powers or taking it from Native Americans either by treaty or force. To ensure that the land was divided fairly among the settlers, the American government implemented its own version of the patent system. The only exceptions to this rule are Texas and Hawaii, which were independent nations before they became part of the United States.

Understanding Land Patents

Once the land patents are issued, they remain in force regardless of who owns them. Their terms cannot be changed by the government except in cases of fraud, clerical error or failure to pay initial administrative fees. The way they work varies somewhat depending on whether they were issued by a colonial power or by the US government. In the colonial-era patents, land is described using the meets-and-bounds method, which is based on where the land borders are located in relation to landmarks that existed at the time. For post-colonial patents, by contrast, land is described in section-township-range format. The latter is more reliable than the former, because, while landmarks can change over time, administrative boundaries remain the same.

Securing a Land Patent

In order to secure a land patent, you will need to be able to present the following documents:

  • Warranty deed--This legal document proves that you got your land from someone who had the right to sell it, pass it on to you as inheritance or give it to you for free (whichever applies in your case).
  • Quitclaim deed--This legal document proves that the person you got the land from relinquishes all of his or her claims to it in your favor.
  • Other supporting documentation--If you didn't buy the land, you may need proof that you got your land legitimately some other way, just in case. Therefore, if, for example, you got your land from your uncle, you may need a copy of his will.

Next, you should record a description of your land and get it legally certified. Make sure it corresponds to whatever format applies to your land. Once you have it ready, send a copy of the description to the US Bureau of Land Management. It will search its records to see if it has any patent corresponding to your land. If it finds it, it will send you a certified copy of the land patent. At this point, you can take copies of all of your documents to your local land patent certification company. The company will make sure that your documents provide the proper evidence and record your land patent in your county recorder's office. From this point on, no one will be able to contest your land patent.

blog comments powered by Disqus