Selling land without a title

All Woman

Dear Mrs Macaulay,

My great-grandmother left one-half acre of land for my father. This is part of land that she left for her sons and grandchildren (none was left for her daughter). After my father's death I obtained, on behalf of my mother, Letters of Administration. My father did not will the land to anyone (I am the oldest of five lawful children).

I would like to sell the land. How do I go about this? There is no title to the land. Can it be sold without a title? I know I will need a lawyer to do this.

Thank you for your letter in which you have informed me that your father died intestate, leaving a half acre of land which he had inherited from his grandmother, your great-grandmother. You further stated that after his death you obtained Letters of Administration on behalf of your mother. This would be because she would in law be the person entitled to do so, as long as there were no minor children of your deceased father alive at the time of his death.

You also say that you are the eldest of five lawful children. I must point out that the concept of “lawful” and “unlawful” children went out of use and lost all meaning with the passage of the Status of Children Act. By this Act all children were made equal for the rights and obligations of their parents who begat them. So those born within marriage or outside of it to one of the parties also have the right to their father's name, to be maintained by him, and when he dies intestate, to share in his estate equally with those born within the marriage.

Anyway, I hope that when he died he had no children born outside the marriage alive, because they would have a lawful claim to share the lawful children's portion equally with you five, under the Intestate's Estates and Property Charges Act under which you obtained the Letters of Administration.

As the administrator of your father's estate you can dispose of estate property in order to settle the lawful proportions due to all the beneficiaries. These proportions are stated in the Act, for your mother and your siblings. It is your legal duty to ensure that all who are entitled obtain their legal share, including your mother, whose share is the largest. I am happy that you mentioned that you know that you will need a lawyer.

So let me now answer your direct question — if you can sell the land without a title. Yes you can, as long a the buyer agrees, and as long as they will obtain their registered title. However, I hope that you have an Examined Survey Plan for the land so that its description is sure and true. You will have to disclose the fact of having no title before any agreement is even prepared, let alone signed. You all may have to be prepared to receive less than the land is worth if registered because the purchaser(s) would have to meet the costs of applying for the registered title.

Or you can apply yourself and thereby be able to obtain as much for the land as you can. It would be advisable to have a valuation done of the land, then when you sell it none of the other beneficiaries can successfully argue that you sold it at an undervalue and make you liable for that value and the true market value.

So please go and get your lawyer to act for you, to either first obtain the title, or to sell it as unregistered land. The fact that the purchaser(s) would obtain their registered title would have to be included as a term of the agreement for sale.

I hope that the position is now clear for you. All the best.

Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public, and women's and children's rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to allwoman@jamaicaobserver.com ; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.

DISCLAIMER:

The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to legal advice from your own attorney.

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