QUESTION: When a oil company drills for minerals, before they drill are they
required to file in the county clerks office that they are going to drill?
The reason I am asking is there are many land patents that are in my family.
I have performed a search on the County Web site but and I get "no results."
Then I go to the Oklahoma Commission Corporation's web site and check the "well drilling" records and it shows that there has been drilling on this property.
This is one of many situations that I have found. Some clerks records do show the activity's on many of the patents I found in my family but many others do not.
Since the patents state "TO HAVE AND TO HOLD that said tract of land with appurtenances thereof, unto the said, ____________and to his heirs and assigns forever", does this mean that the heirs of ______________ then will too own the land and minerals as well?
If that is correct then shouldn't the oil companies find the heirs and "ask" to sign a lease to drill before they drill?"
ANSWER: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to answer your questions. To make certain I answer all of them, I'll take them in order.
1. Is an oil company required to file notice of intent to drill, in the county clerks office? No. But they are required to file an application for a drilling permit, with the Oklahoma Corporate Commission (OCC), and they cannot drill until that application is approved and a permit is issued by the OCC.
The reason why a County Clerk's records would show drilling activity is only if that activity resulted in actual production. Every county levies ad valorem taxes ("value-added" taxes) on the owner of mineral rights when those mineral rights produce. Only when mineral rights are producing is when the mineral rights owner receives a tax statement and must pay the tax assessed and levied. If the land was drilled but was a "dry hole"--no production, then no taxes would have been levied and no records would exist in the county.
2. Does the "to have and to hold... forever" mean that the heirs then will too own the land and minerals as well? Yes. The clause you cite is called the "term clause" and it means that lawful heirs (when an owner dies possessed of the land rights) and assigns (a noun that means whoever the owner or heirs sell the land rights to, using a deed or other conveyance) automatically become the legal owners of the rights as a matter of law. But that change of ownership must still be reflected by documents filed into the deed records of the county where the land is located, and can be probate records, affidavit(s), and/or court orders.
3. If that is correct then shouldn't the oil companies find the heirs and "ask" to sign a lease to drill before they drill? Yes--to a point. In Oklahoma, the company wanting to drill must show good-faith effort to find all of the current owners of mineral rights as shown in the county records of the county where the land is located (which is why my answer to #2 above is important). But if the oil company cannot find everyone, then Oklahoma allows the oil company to file a petition asking that the unleased interest be "force pooled" into the unit or into the well spacing unit, which can be granted only by the OCC.
If your mineral rights (under all of the various patents you are heir to) have been force pooled, it most likely would have been done under separate force pooling orders issued by the OCC for every pooled-unit area being created for the well drilled. Bottom line: You need to visit http://www.occ.state.ok.us/Orawebapps/OCCORaWebAppsone.html
, install the JInitiator software available on the website, and research the records for your wells and open the imaged copy for each force-pooling order to look for family names in the Exhibit to the order. You will also want to find out (in the OCC website) the current operator of any producing well on or involving your land, to start the process of getting their records updated to show you and the other heirs entitled to receive royalties under the force-pooling order.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Marsha I have been studying your information you sent. I want to say thanks again for your time with answering my question with very specific information.
You said ,"that change of ownership must still be reflected by documents filed into the deed records of the county where the land is located, and can be probate records, affidavit(s), and/or court orders." I do not have any probate records so do you have any suggestion or any standard form that I should use to file in each county? Would you be interested in possibly working on this with me for a percentage?
Thanks for the follow-up question. And thank you for the offer to pay me, but I won't accept any kind of payments for the help I give on All-Experts. Now to answer your questions.
If you have inherited the mineral rights or royalty rights but there was never a will probated, then you have inherited under the "Oklahoma State Laws of Descent and Distribution" as set out in the state statutes. This happens often, and you can file an Affidavit of Death and Heirship (ADH) into the county records in Oklahoma, in every county where any land you inherited is located, to let the world know that the owner is now deceased and the names and addresses of all of the new owners of those rights.
To do it properly, you need to get a blank Affidavit of Death and Heirship form that is approved for use in Oklahoma. You should also be able to use a service like LegalZoom.com to prepare one. But first you must find someone who has first-hand, personal knowledge of all of the facts that must be stated in a complete ADH, someone who is not in line to inherit. None of the heirs can sign an ADH and have it be legal. A neighbor of several decades, a pastor, business partner--anyone who knew the deceased owner long enough to know first-hand the answers to the questions about marriages and children born and/or adopted by the deceased owner would be qualified to sign an ADH.
The same completed and signed form can be filed into each County.
Now that I have said all of that, I need to tell you that an Affidavit of Death and Heirship cannot be legally used to evidence intestate ("without a probated will")transfer of real property rights in Oklahoma if the total value of all assets owned by the deceased owner at the time of death exceeded $175,000. If the assets were more than that amount, Oklahoma law requires that you do an Administration of an Intestate Estate using a probate court in any one of the counties where land is located. You definitely will need to hire an attorney to do that for you, and he/she can explain to you fully what it entails and what you will need to provide in order to be able to get it done. This is one of the major reasons why larger oil companies no longer accept a recorded ADH to change their records to begin paying new owners based on it--they have no way of knowing if the total assets of the decased owner exceeded the limit allowed by law for the ADH to be legal.
Good luck, and let me know if you have any other questions.