America’s conversation place for mineral owners
A well known oil and gas company contacted my family a little over a year ago about leasing minerals that belonged to my great grandfather. My great grandfather, grandfather and his son, my father, have all passed away. This leaves my sister and myself along with our mother.
The oil and gas company has sent my mother contracts(that are low). However...I've read the contracts and they are not between her and the oil company. They are between the family trust and the oil company with her signing as the trustee. In fact it names the family trust as legal heir to my great grandfather. I believe that my sister and I have no access to or ownership of this trust. and my mom seems confused that the mail she receives is to the family trust and not her.
My question is this. If the minerals are still under my great grandfather's name and deed of ownership has not been transferred, wouldn't that make my sister and I legal heirs or would my mother be legal heir who is not blood related? My understanding is my dad never had knowledge or legal ownership of the mineral rights.
The problem is that our family, that has always been close, is starting to get shaky the more everyone looks into this. The oil company convinced my mom for a few months to not tell her children about the contracts however her husband eventually told us. My mother has a personal lawyer, my sister is dating her lawyer and now, for some reason, they wont talk to me about any of it.
I would appreciate any knowledge, help or advice on this subject. Thank you sooo much
Do you know if the county where the minerals has an online documents website?
You need to find out as much information as you can, and find your own lawyer, it sounds like.
Was your grandfather the only heir of his father? Was your father the only heir of his father?
Seems more like a legal matter than a minerals matter. First, do you have a copy of the family trust document? Then you need to see where you fall in that trust. We had a similar situation but the trust was automatically terminated when our parents died and the assets distributed to the heirs named in the trust. It would seem that since you are not a trustee there is little you can do but you likely need a lawyer to sort it out for you. Many lawyers will give you an opinion of what will be involved at no charge for initial consultation.
If your lands are in Texas and the County's Records are available online, I will be happy to scratch up what I can about the history of the land. To some degree I can also help if they are in Oklahoma.
But, honestly, I have to agree with Nancy and John: If everyone has stopped speaking to you about all of this, then it's time to Lawyer Up.
It seems to me that if your Mother is the Trustee of a Trust, any leases she would sign as Trustee the company's Attorney would make it a Requirement that the Beneficiaries of the Trust Ratify the Lease. And yet, no one is sharing any information with you.
Who else besides you and your Sister could possibly be a Beneficiary to the Trust?
How was the Trust Set up? Under either your Grandfather's or Father's Will or a stand alone Trust established when they were alive?
What is the name of the Trust in the papers the company sent your Mother?
Never very much fun watching a family split up over these kinds of things. Let's see if we can help sort out what is happening before the damage is permanent.
Charles Emery Tooke III
Certified Professional Landman
Fort Worth, Texas
Ty very much for all the responses. I'm thinking I'll need to find much more information about all of this and lawyer up. I really dont know much about the family trust other than it was made when my father was alive, my mother is the trustee and I've been told my sister and I are the beneficiaries. The minerals are in the north east shale boom area and are surrounded by big producing horizontal gas wells.
It all sounds a little over my head at the moment however I'm still not sure why my mom should be making any legal decision on this if my sister and I are the legal heirs to my great grandfather. Unless we are not legal heirs. My mother is surviving spouse however my dad never legally owned these minerals. Confusing..
I think they want my mother making the decision because she's elderly and they may get her to sign low paying royalty and signing bonus, while at the same time they're making it to the family trust that my sister and I are beneficiaries of. Doesn't sit well with me.
Someone told me that my sister and I need to get the minerals put in our names. First I need to find out if indeed we are legal heirs. AAAAHH headache!! Oh and the county does not have a online document website :/. All by phone and mail. my mother sent for the information and wont show me what she found lol. Thats where we are at and its looking like it's time for a consultation from a lawyer.
Thx again for all the great advice
What County are the properties in and how far a drive is it from where you live?
Oh, and as a Certified Professional Landman, I would never dare tell your Mother to not discuss these issues with you. What company does the Landman say he represents? Maybe you should consider giving them a call.
Ask for the Vice President of Land.
If there are producing wells (oil, gas, etc.) the company must be paying royalties, presumably to the Family Trust, you should find out who (your mother?) has access to those funds and how much money is coming in and do you know if Affidavits of Heirship have been filed with the producing company (oil company presumably). The Affidavit tells the oil company to whom royalties are paid. A reputable LANDMAN in the area can be hired to get most of this information for you if can't get it online from the County Clerks office where the mineral rights are located. A landman can help with the paperwork also and can probably recommend a lawyer experienced in these matters. The process will depend on the state and county where your minerals are located, I am only familiar with Oklahoma and the process we had to go through. Hope that helps.
I agree with some of the comments below that this is a legal issue. How title passes to heirs depends upon what in what state the mineral interests are located. I do not believe that I have seen anything in the post or comments that confirms where these are. If in California, then the issue of multiple decedents can be challenging. Among these issues is the issue of a "Family Trust" that you mention. Trusts also complicate the passing of real property onto heirs. They do not automatically terminate upon the trustor's death, but often do. If the oil company lists the "trust" then it is likely that the mineral interest are held in the name of a trustee of a trust. Unfortunately, this matter likely will require a lawyer. Find yourself a good probate lawyer in the state in which the mineral lie. Good luck!
TRUE, Here in CA a Family Trust is common and doesn't require probate BUT in states like OK a trust means little, a will takes precedence you have would have to probate an estate which is what we had to do at an added expense of an attorney and court costs plus it takes some time.
You should take any and all documents that you have to your attorney. You or attorney should ask for a copy of the trust document. If you have the name of the document and the state and county, then you can check to see if there was a transfer of title out of your great-grandfather or grandfather or father into the name of the trust. If not, then the oil company should not have been willing to sign a lease with the trustee. If there is a trust, then it should have a federal id number and be filing federal tax returns to report income and distributions. You or your attorney should also ask for an accounting of the revenues. The trustee may be able to charge a fee for administering the trust, but that does not mean that the trustee can appropriate all of the income. This is not always understood by trustees.
My family and myself have a little bit more confused conundrum than you I think. I would recommend that you find a "Landsman" and a Lawyer with experience in dealing with lease agreements and such, forthwith! The next question is "How many descendants does your Great Grandfather have? If you are not sure, let both your Landsman and Lawyer know and start researching yourself into your family's documents!
Once you verify and determine exactly how many descendents of your Great Grandfather are, you need to contact them as quickly as possible and determine how many of these descendents have already sold their mineral rights to someone.
Next thing is to gather the descendents who have not sold their mineral rights yet together and form a company. We have done this with one of our grandfather's properties. You then have "muscle" and then can initiate negotiations through your Lawyer and with your Landsman's contributions to affect an effective "Lease Agreement" with what ever companies have an interest in your properties. The most important factor over time with these lease agreements is your company's "Royalty Interests". Over time that one will give you all more moner than the next thing to negotiate, which is the "Lease Bonus". This is a sum of money they will pay you upfront for the privilege of developing your Lease. Here is an important thing, something I did not know when we sold our mineral rights for, which back then was good, but not great good. Base your lease bonus on "Net Mineral Acerage"! If you are fortunate enough to have more than one productive formation this could be huge! As, unfortunately, I can not give you advice on this I will bet your Landsman and Lawyer will exploit this as best as possible!