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Oil/Gas/Mineral Deed

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Question
My parents (both had kids from previous marriages).  They owned a few acres in OK, but sold the land.  Both signed the deed (found online in county records), so they owned it together. They did not sell the mineral rights on that deed.  Both passed away in the past two years.  We have been contacted regarding leasing the mineral rights (We were unaware that they had them) and asked to sign papers for heirs.  For some reason the mineral deed (per the oil company wanting to lease) is apparently in only one of their names.  That being said, how do we best determine if it should also have been in both names, but isn't and who the correct heirs are. We did not file probate for either spouse in OK, as we were unaware of the mineral deed.  Assuming it is too late to do so, how do we best determine who the accurate heirs are? Thank you!

Answer
I can only answer this from the perspective of Texas since that is where I'm licensed so I will give you my answer for "food for thought".  I don't think that Oklahoma is going to be too different in these respects so you may want to check with an attorney in the state in which your parents/step-parents died - since that is the law that will control descent and distribution of the estate(s).

In Texas...the property that each parent had when they entered into the marriage is called "separate property" and a step-child will never inherit sole and/or separate property except in the case where there is a will which is probated.  

Through intestacy rules the property which the parent owned in total or was given to them through descent and distribution will remain in that family and not be spread to the step-children.  This means that if the mineral estate were purchased and both step-parents contributed money to the purchase of the mineral estate then all kids and step-kids will get an equal share.  This is because the community estate contributed money to the purchase of the asset.

I assume from your statement of facts that this was owned by one parent or the other prior to their marriage so it will be considered sole and separate now you should determine if they inherited the mineral interest or they purchased it with community funds.  (Community funds may not matter depending on the state in which they died.  Texas is a "community property" state but not all fall into this catagory.

Ultimately, you will need to make inquiries with an attorney that is familiar with estate law in the state in which they passed away.  That will determine how the mineral ownership is split and who should be leased by the oil and gas company.

As an aside, you mention that because they both signed the deed that it may mean that they owned it together and this may be the case but many documents have the spouse sign it even though they do not own any interest in it and this is not necessarily dispositive.

As an additional aside, if minerals are not specifically reserved then they are conveyed on a deed.  There must be some statement on the deed that says that "we reserve" or "less and except the minerals...".

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Cliff Williams

Expertise

I will try to answer any question you have. Even if I reject a question, I still will give a shot at what I would do in your position. The only questions I will not take a shot at would be a highly technical engineering or geological question. I am beginning to see quite a few questions from land men and other oil companies and that doesn't matter to me either. I will attempt to help.

Experience

I am an oil and gas attorney that has been in the business for more than 20 years. I have held a series 22 and 63 securities license, been in oil and gas operations, land man, division order analyst all prior to obtaining my law degree. Today, I typically write title opinions verifying ownership of oil and gas minerals, assist landowners in negotiations on oil, gas and mineral leases, easements and conveyances. I also assist oil and gas companies with the sale of working interest ownership as well as common business law issues.

Organizations
State Bar of Texas, Member of the Tarrant County Bar and the Dallas County Bar Associations.

Publications
Multiple oil and gas topical columns on ezine.com.

Education/Credentials
I have a B.S. degree which I rely upon more than my Business Mgmt degree or Law degree...

Awards and Honors
Husband and father of 26 years

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