It's one thing to understand the basic concept of a land patent. It's another thing entirely to put this knowledge to good use.
You might be pleased to learn that you don't need a fancy legal degree or years of experience in the real estate industry to file a successful land patent. Depending on the complexity of your case, you might just need to follow a few simple steps to obtain your very own land patent.
1. Prove Your Right
First, you'll need to prove that you own the property for which you're filing a land patent. To do this, you'll need to procure or produce a certified copy of the warranty deed to your property. The local authority that oversees the management of local properties will issue this document. In most cases, this will be your county or municipal clerk's office.
If you own your property through a quitclaim deed, you'll need to prove that you're its legal owner by establishing a "chain of title" between your deed and the original warranty deed. In other words, you'll need to produce certified copies of every quitclaim deed that stands between you and the property's warranty deed. These will also be available at your county or municipal clerk's office.
2. Confirm Its Location
Next, you'll need to confirm the exact location and bounds of your property. This might seem like a silly step, but it's absolutely essential to the patent filing process. The best way to obtain an official "description" of your property is to obtain a certified plat map from your county clerk's office. If none exists, you may need to hire a licensed surveyor to draw a plat that can pass muster with local, state and federal authorities.
3. Obtain the Land Patent
Once you have your property deed and description in hand, visit your local Bureau of Land Management branch to request a legal copy of your land patent. It's important to note that the patent to your land isn't just lying around your local BLM office. The agency must use the official documents that you present to produce an original, legally binding copy of the patent.
4. Draw Up a Declaration of Acceptance
While you're waiting for the BLM to produce your official land patent, you'll need to draw up an official "declaration of acceptance." This document will convey your acceptance of the restrictions that your patent imposes. In effect, it reaffirms your respect for federal law and ensures that you adhere to any restrictions that the patent places on your utilization of the land. You may need to consult a legal professional to ensure that the wording of your declaration of acceptance doesn't stray outside the bounds of commonly accepted land law parlance.
5. Revisit the Clerk
Once you've obtained your land patent, you'll be ready to take the final step. Compile all of the documents that you've obtained or created over the course of your journey into a single package and file it with your county or municipal clerk. This package will take the place of your original warranty or quitclaim deed and serve as the final word in any disputes that arise over your ownership of the land.
Some folks speak ill of landowners who go through the trouble of obtaining a land patent. They argue that patent-holders are unscrupulous individuals who wish to strengthen their legal basis for evading taxes or avoiding past debts.
In most cases, this couldn't be farther from the truth. In fact, your land patent filing may be a selfless act. Since the federal government grants these assignations in perpetuity, your patent will endure long after your passing. Whether they know it or not, your children, grandchildren, and all of their landowning heirs will be in your debt.
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