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Can I take possession of the land?

Can I take possession of the land?

I recently agreed to buy a piece of land from a friend of mine, Kwame Okai.

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The land is located at Dodowa.

We agreed on the price of GH¢250,000 for the land and a payment plan.

As agreed, I paid an initial deposit of GH¢100,000 into his bank account.

He issued a receipt in my name for the amount and the land description and signed it.

About four months ago, I was informed by his son, David, that my friend Kwame had passed away in a robbery.

David also informed me that his father had left the land to him in his Will.

David also told me that since his father had left him the land, he was no longer going to sell that land to me and that he was willing to refund the deposit.

The problem is that I have placed several truckloads of gravels and sand on the land and paid a contractor to start construction as soon as the transfer was completed.

I cannot afford to lose this land. What do I do?

James Akron, Adabraka, Accra

 Dear James,

A predicament like yours will be disheartening to any potential purchaser of land.

In this case, you have agreed on certain bare essentials for the contract to be binding on your friend Kwame and his successors and assigns.

You have identified the land and agreed on the purchase price, the terms of payment, and the initial deposit.

You further satisfied the requirements of the law by paying the deposit of GH¢100,000.00 to Kwame.

In law, you have partly performed your part of the agreement.

The receipt given to you by Kwame, which acknowledges the payment made, the description of the land, and his signature, all satisfy the law's requirement.

Kwame is, therefore, under a legal obligation to deliver the land to you once you satisfy the terms agreed to by you.

The permit granted you to deposit sand and gravel on the land is also evidence of placing you in possession of the land.

By law, where there has been an agreement to sell land, and the purchaser has discharged his obligation under the agreement, or there has been a sufficient act of part performance on the vendor’s death, his representatives would be legally obligated to complete the contract.

 In the eyes of equity, they would be deemed to hold the land as trustees on behalf of the purchaser and under a legal obligation to complete the sale of the land.

 This is because equity always looks at the fairness of the process and regards it as that which ought to be done.

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The Will of your friend Kwame, in which the land was devised for his son David, will not change the legal position. 

This is because a Will takes effect only after the death of a testator.

So, if in the testator's lifetime, he made a Will giving the land to David and before his death he sold the land, that devise made to David will lapse by the sale, and its inclusion in the Will will not change the position.

At the time of Kwame's death, he did not own that land.

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What is due him is a debt on the land to be paid by you.

This debt will now be paid to his estate.

Thus, even though he left the land to his son David in his Will, David is merely holding the land in trust for you, and he must complete the sale of the land and convey the title to you.

Because of the technical nature of this scenario, I would advise you to engage the services of a lawyer and proceed to court to enforce your rights if David persists with his intentions.

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