Nothing gives a surveyor worse nightmares than sub-dividing land under succession.

Such land can remain unsubdivided for long before disputes can be resolved. In most cases, land forms a major component of the asset portfolio left behind by deceased persons.

A major challenge arises in cases where the deceased held land or plots in locations unknown to the legitimate beneficiaries.

It is not uncommon for such land to be seized by unscrupulous people altogether.

It, therefore, pays to ensure that someone within the family always gets to know the land or plots one owns.


To move land from the names or companies of the deceased to the beneficiaries, due process must be followed. An administrator must be appointed.

The duty of such an administrator is to ensure that the deceased’s estate is distributed in accordance with his will, and where there is none, with the agreement of the intended beneficiaries.

If the land is to be distributed without sub-division, then the administrator’s duty is to ensure that each of the parcels left behind are identified then move the court to award a grant specifying the parcels to be bequeathed each beneficiary.

However, where there has to be a sub-division, then surveying is necessary.


This draws in surveyors, planners and, in rare cases, valuers. In such cases, the administrator may move the courts to award each beneficiary a specific size of the land. Ideally, though, it helps if the administrator(s) call in the surveyor before moving to court.

Where families are in agreement, the process works well. But where not, the nightmare for any surveyor begins.

First, you may find that different members of the family opt for different surveyors, without consulting each other.

It is not uncommon to find different surveyors appearing on site to implement a court grant for the same family.

Where features like rivers or roads exist, many families insist on each beneficiary enjoying some frontage, hence greatly constraining the parcel layouts, particularly the widths.

This results in narrow linear parcels at times quite unsuitable for future development. Other common causes of disagreement are features such as graveyards, developed homesteads or boreholes in which all beneficiaries have an interest.

In some cases, the differences over how to treat such features, or the general lay-out of the sub-division boundaries, gets so intense and protracted that surveyors are unable to proceed.

Such proposals can be shelved for years. It is, therefore, advisable for families to take their time to agree before calling in surveyors. It is also advisable to avoid calling in multiple surveyors as this also saves money.

If qualified and registered to do title survey, most surveyors will implement a sub-division proposal.

Mwathane is a surveyor and chairman, Land Development and Governance Institute.

An article from Nation Daily by By IBRAHIM MWATHANE