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By: W. Paul Lewis, Title Counsel, Pinehurst & Wilmington
Every valid conveyance of real property must describe the real property being conveyed with enough certainty so there is no doubt as to its identity, otherwise, the conveyance may be void due to an indeterminable subject matter. This required certainty can come from the deed itself or by referencing something outside the deed. Although there are various ways to describe land in a conveyance, some means of description are safer than others to ensure a valid transfer.
One of the safer ways to describe land is by a metes and bounds description. This appears in more rural areas as well as for raw land or land not subdivided with a publicly known plan of development. A metes and bounds description uses monuments, courses and distances to define the boundary lines and the area within the boundary lines. There are times when a metes and bounds description is ambiguous, inconsistent, conflicting or otherwise uncertain. When the description is uncertain, we are guided by a set of rules of construction to determine if the description is sufficient so that the conveyance will not fail due to vagueness.
The overriding rule of construction when reviewing a description is to determine the intent of the parties to the deed by an examination of the entire document, or more fondly known as the four corners of the deed.
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