How does property emerge as an institution in a new nation-state? At time of writing, the National Parliament of Timor-Leste is shortly expected to consider (and pass) a new law to establish property rights in land. In common with a number of other countries in the Asian region, Timor-Leste has long-standing customary authority systems, and a history of armed conflict and population displacement. As in all societies, but particularly in these types of circumstance, it is clear that the shape and content of property in land will not be a product of law alone. While the design of law is important, because it sets the parameters for state-citizen interaction, the interaction of law with non-state mechanisms of property coordination will determine the way in which property emerges as an institution in the new state context.