Abandoned royalty interest in Texas

Can ownership in a royalty estate be abandoned and acquired by another person other than by conveyance?

What I want to know is, can ownership in a mineral estate be sold, transferred, or some other way acquired by another person when the record owner has no address and there has been no communication with them?

Last known payments were in 1982. I’m a descendant of the prior owner and just recently discovered the royalty interest and found that the current record owner took possession in 2012. There are no recorded documents in the county records for the current owner. Any thoughts?

What do you mean by royalty estate? Is this minerals? Or an overriding royalty interest in a lease or a well? Or an NPRI?

Sorry, I’m probably not using the correct terminology, I’m still new to this.

My grandmother was receiving royalty payments from production of two oil wells as late as 1982. When she died it was supposed to be transferred to my grandfather but the transfer wasn’t completed correctly with the gatherer. Her name was still listed as owner up until 2012. From 1997-2012 the records show no address with the county assessor or the appraisal company. No record of unclaimed funds in her name in Texas or Florida where she lived at the time. In 2012 she was removed from the paydeck and another person added, same first and middle name. No documents are recorded in the county in this person’s name. I’m fairly certain its a case of fraud but first I’m trying to determine if the gap from 1982-2012 could have resulted in the royalty interest being deemed abandoned or something like that.

Not sure if this answers your question about the NPRI but current production is operating under a lease signed by my family in 1955 which is when the mineral estate was initially severed.

Jeff

Jeff: title to mineral and royalty interests can be lost through adverse possession in Texas. You should contact a Texas oil and gas attorney to investigate the particular facts of this situation and see if that has happened with your family’s interests. There are some strict time limits so it would be best to do this sooner rather than later.

If the property taxes were not being paid, the county may have foreclosed and sold the interest via a sheriff’s deed. You would likely have to search for the foreclosure in the court records and without an address, the service could have been through publication. From your talk about the paydeck, you are presumably talking with the oil company / operator. You need to gather information for review by an attorney, including the deed which severed the minerals from the surface, division orders, check stubs if available and any correspondence with the oil companies over the years. Create a detailed history of the lease, the dates when royalties were paid, any copies of tax records, etc. Was any probate filed in the county when your grandmother died? Gather copies of probate filed by your grandmother, grandfather, and parents. It may not be fraud, but that a landman found someone with a similar name and no one knew this was not the correct person. This highlights the importance of retaining records and following up on minerals.

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Thanks Aimee.

I’m planning on having a landman run an abstract for me in the next week or two and then I’ll be contacting an attorney. For now, I was just trying to determine for myself what the different scenarios might be. From what I’ve read online so far, a royalty interest is a non-possessory interest and therefore cannot be adversely possessed.

Jeff

Thanks for all that info TennisDaze, that puts things into context for me. Most of the documents you listed no longer exist, but I do have the original lease, a DO from 1986 and 2011. Probate was filed in the county when she died in 1982 for this reason alone as there was no other property.

Identity theft can occur. See this article. https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/oklahoma/articles/2020-08-20/oklahoma-men-indicted-in-scheme-to-defraud-mineral-owners

Very well could be fraud. If the interest was categorized as a “non address” unclaimed or abandoned property for some reason, it could have been escheating to the state where the payor at the time was domiciled - usually Delaware. Worth a look.