Energy Industry (Oil & Gas)/How do I get Devon to honor TX Muniment of Title?
Last May a Wilson County Judge signed an order as Muniment of Title, giving us ownership of mineral rights in several oil and gas wells in the Eagle Ford Shale being operated by Devon Energy.
When my uncle passed we knew he had a will, but had no idea where it would be. For the last couple years prior to his death we had paid his bills because all of his social security & va benefits went toward his room at the Veteran's home in Floresville, TX. The only personal property we knew of was the boxes & boxes of papers he had for years. Before his last illness he had given all his boxes, foreign coin collection & stamps he collected over the years. He considered the boxes of papers as his "memoirs", and asked my then 12 year old daughter to sort through & put in order so she could help him write his memoirs. He had a stroke not long after that.
Two years ago we found his will stashed in the boxes of paperwork he gave my daughter. We then filed it as a Muniment of Title, which is legal in Texas. Apparently my cousins had known about the royalties & did an affidavit of heirship. (Which, by the way, had totally false information & was witnessed by my sister, which is receiving royalties, & my aunt - the mother of my cousins.) Under the will my uncle specifically denied them any interest in his estate. My mother & I were the heirs.
After the judge signed the order we took it straight to the Wison County Clerk's office & had it file stamped and then drove to DeWitt County Clerk to do the same. Certified copies of everything was overnighted to Devon Energy.
At the beginning they were very helpful. They told us the order was "vetted" by legal & we signed Division Orders. Everything was set up to be paid and a few days before we were paid, the Division Order analyst received a letter from a company named MAP, whom Devon sent a demand letter to in order to have them reimburse the money they had been paid (the cousins had sold their interests last summer). The next day Devon received a letter from MAP asking to put everything in suspense for at least 60 days in order for them to investigate the amount Devon was requesting MAP to reimburse. Sixty days is now 6 months with no action by MAP, or Devon and we are still trying to get paid.
What can we do to compel them to comply with the Judge's Order. We have spent thousands of dollars to get this far and feel like I keep hitting a brick wall. Sorry about the lengthy letter, but I felt that all of the facts would probably be helpful. Thanks, A.T. Vines
If MAP, in good faith (i.e. not knowing the cousins may not have had legal title to the minerals at the time of the sale) bought from them, it may be unreasonable to expect MAP to pay back any royalties they've accumulated since their purchase, assuming the affidavit they based their purchase on is in Texas considered a legal document that actually transferred the ownership from your uncle to the cousins who were claiming they were the heirs. MAP would have no way of knowing the affidavit was inaccurate because they were at the time (it seems) unaware your uncle had a will stating otherwise.
If in fact the affidavit they filed was inaccurate and it can be shown that they knew, or should have known it was inaccurate, then you and/or MAP may have a valid argument that THEY should be responsible for repaying the royalties MAP has received since their purchase. It is a sticky situation, since apparently MAP bought the minerals from the cousins in good faith, not knowing of the will that was later filed, or that the affidavit stating your cousins were the owners was not in accordance with your uncle's wishes.
My advice would be to contact a good Texas oil and gas attorney if there's a substantial sum of money (or future potential of a lot of money) involved in this. If you can get a judge to invalidate the deed from your cousins to MAP, and instead base current ownership on the order you obtained by filing the will showing you as owners, then Devon would have no problem paying you from this point forward at least, though you may have trouble recovering any past sums accumulated by MAP, though perhaps a judge would order your cousins to pay it if it could be show they filed a fraudulent affidavit in order to claim ownership to something they knew they shouldn't be claiming (and thus shouldn't have sold.) You really should seek the advice of an oil and gas attorney on this one however, as I am not an attorney and thus cannot give legal advice.
The "good" news is at least the money appears to be "in suspense" now, so MAP is apparently no longer being paid, though of course you aren't either. MAP probably bought these off the evidence stated in the affidavit that was filed, so I wouldn't think you'd have much of a case against them since it sounds lie they had no idea of the will that was found or the judges order granting the rights to you after it was discovered, at the time of their purchase.
Hope this helps you out!
Frederick M. "Mick" Scott CMM, RPL
The Mineral Hub