All deeds require an accurate description of the real property being conveyed. Street addresses and Tax Parcel numbers can change, so they are not sufficient to describe real property on a deed.
Each state may describe real estate a little differently. In Georgia, we have two main types of legal descriptions. The easy one is often called a ‘short form’ legal description, which simply lists the Land Lot, District, lot number, and a recorded plat map for a full description of the property. Most residential properties in subdivisions have a short legal description.
A second type of description is a ‘metes and bounds’ description of the property. The metes and bounds description will still include the Land Lot and District, but then go on to write out the description of the property instead of referring to a recorded plat.
The ‘mete’” part is the description of the boundary lines, and often requires using math and geometry. The boundary lines will be described by stating the direction and distance of a line or curve. For example, a line of North 89 degrees 1 minute 1 second East a distance of 50 feet, would describe a 50-foot line that is almost directly due East. Curves can get more complicated because they require the radius, chord, arc, direction, and distance of the curved line.
The ‘bounds’ part is a monument or something that exists to physically show the boundary of the property, usually a road. Older legal descriptions use stones and trees as markers. Using trees and stones creates a lot of problems when trying to decipher a property line because trees are not permanent and stones can be removed.
Rural counties in Georgia will often refer to the ‘GMD’, which are general militia districts. The counties in Georgia were initially divided by these militia districts, with a captain for each district. A property’s GMD may still be used in certain legal descriptions today.
A deed will be invalid without a valid legal description. The most common mistake on a short-form description is listing the wrong lot number or wrong plat book reference. With metes and bounds descriptions, there are a lot more chances to make a mistake.
John C. Bennett is a real estate closing attorney and owner of Origin Title and Escrow, Inc.. Since 2003, Origin Title has handled real estate transactions – purchases, refinances, reverse mortgages – quickly and professionally. There will be no surprises, nothing misunderstood. Title searches are thorough and well-reasoned, to avoid unpleasant surprises later down the road. Calculate your closing costs in Georgia or Florida using our calculator or contact Origin Title using this form.