The Emotions Behind Property Law Decisions

“I might cry” is a phrase my clients sometimes say during our initial client consultations. Emotions are expected and encouraged in my workplace. Land ownership in West Virginia is often tied to the rules of inheritance. Inheritance means talking about the death of family members. Death is a painful, messy business. Just like there are kind neighbors who bring turkey casseroles after a death in the family, sometimes wild turkey casseroles are made from my rural town, there are kind lawyers, and accountants and title examiners. Find professionals who will let you cry easily on the phone. Trust your emotions. Good decisions are made with the heart, as well as the head. One of the best things you can do to honor the dead, is to make active and thoughtful decisions about land ownership rights for future generations. Best wishes in your healing journey.



Property Law Basics: Deeds

Most of a real estate lawyer’s work focuses on a single piece of paper: the deed. The deed is a legal document which contains a description of the property boundaries (the survey), and the current ownership rights. Deeds are highly formalized and contain some ancient language. One of my favorites is “witnesseth” which is a fancy way for saying “pay attention” and a word I might have to bring back to settle my kids’ fights over their Minecraft houses. Don’t let the formal tone of a deed scare you. Here is a quick cheat sheet that will help you make sense of your property deed.

All property deeds must have a “metes and bounds” property description which is usually in single space type on the first page of the deed. This is the weird language that sounds like a pirate talking about a map to her buried treasure—-”go 72 feet to a sunken pine oak, then go Northwest 800 feet to an old cherry tree.” Modern survey language usually describes property lines by using direction of a compass (North/East) and degrees.

Every deed must contain an accurate survey of the property. If you are giving the whole property to another person, a real estate lawyer can copy the former survey language into a new deed. If you are giving a piece of property to a child or friend, then you will need to pay for a survey of the new property lines prior to making the new deed. If there is confusion about where property lines are located, please pay for a new survey before selling a house or building a new garage.

I remain your friendly, neighborhood property lawyer,

Abigail Benjamin

Grand Opening on September 22, 2016

Many thanks to all the people who have helped nurture this new environmental law office! I will be sworn in to the WV State Supreme Court at 8 AM on Wednesday, September 21, 2016 in Charleston, WV and the Southern District of West Virgina United States District Court at 2 PM the same day.*  I have already started scheduling client calls starting on Friday, September 22, 2016.

Please visit for a Grand Opening Reception from 5 to 6 PM. Wine and Cheese provided.

Remember if you hugged me during my 10 week  Bar Exam Prep marathon you count as "family" for my 10% off friends and family discount.


*My swearing in at the Northern District of West Virginia United States District Court in Martinsburg, WV will be scheduled shortly.