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Gift Deed

Click on the image below to open a sample form.

Gift deeds are one of the quickest and most simple tools available to Indian trust landowners to consolidate their lands and prevent further fractionation of their interests. (Land sales and exchanges, discussed in the previous section, are also good ways to consolidate and protect Indian trust lands.) Unlike writing a will, an attorney is not required to process the Application for Gift Deed of Indian Land, making it a viable option for those who do not have immediate access to legal services. It should be noted, however, that a will is always the best way to make sure land and assets are distributed in the manner that the individual chooses.

A gift deed (sometimes called a gift conveyance) provides a way for transferring land between individual Indians or between individual Indians and the tribe. This can be done through:

  • A gift deed, which transfers the title of property during the lifetime of the donor, or;
  • Through a gift conveyance with life estates retained, which means that the grantor can maintain land use, benefits and income from all or a portion the land until they die.

A gift deed or gift conveyance with life estates keeps lands from being further divided, keeps lands out of the probate process, and allows the landowner to make sure that the land will be passed on without having to specifically include it in a will. Currently regulations do allow for gift deeding trust lands to a non- Indian. However, the trust status of the land cannot be terminated for a period of five years after the secretaryof the interior approves the conveyance.

Steps in the Process
When a gift deed application is first submitted, either to the tribal or BIA realty office, it must be signed by the grantor in front of a witness and/or notary and include the Cobell Notice and Waiver and Confirmation of Consultation (which are also required for a land sale). Supporting documents, such as legal land description, survey or plat map, Title Status Report (TSR), Individual Trust Interest Report (ITI), and an appraisal, are also required to process the application. It should also be noted that, as in a land sale, majority consent is required from the co-owners of the allotment to gift deed one’s shares to someone who is not a co-owner.

Once the application is complete, including the supporting documents, a deed showing the transfer of ownership is prepared and the application is sent to the BIA superintendent for approval. If approved, the application is then routed to the Land Titles and Records Office for recording.

Length of Time
Similar to a land sale, the gift deed process can take anywhere from one to eight months or more, depending on the complexity of the application and procedural differences that vary from region to region.