Dear Mr. Cotten:
ND quiet title actions are governed by North Dakota Century Code (NDCC) Chapter 32-17, Actions to Quiet Title and Determine Claims to Real Estate. Links below:http://www.legis.nd.gov/information/statutes/cent-code.htmlhttp://www.legis.nd.gov/cencode/t32c17.pdf
NDCC Section 32-17-01, Action to determine adverse claims, provides, "An action may be maintained by any
person having an estate or an interest in, or lien or encumbrance upon, real property, whether in
or out of possession thereof and whether such property is vacant or unoccupied, against any
person claiming an estate or interest in, or lien or encumbrance upon, the same, for the purpose
of determining such adverse estate, interest, lien, or encumbrance."
Because the poster states she AND her cousins inherited minerals, the poster may bring a quiet title action with herself styled as the plaintiff and her cousins styled as the defendants and ask the court to quiet title to her share of the inherited minerals. Her cousins may counterclaim and ask the court to do the same for them. It’s a means to an end: getting a court order declaring ownership which can be filed with the county recorder. So long as the decedent remains the record owner of the minerals, neither the poster nor her cousins will be able to force the operator to pay them royalties on the production.
A declaratory judgment action (which does not require adverse parties) may be combined with or possibly substituted for a quiet title action. Declaratory judgments are governed by NDCC Chapter 32-23.http://www.legis.nd.gov/cencode/t32c23.pdf
32-23-01. Court of record may enter a declaratory judgment. A court of record within
its jurisdiction shall have power to declare rights, status, and other legal relations whether or not
further relief is or could be claimed. No action or proceeding shall be open to objection on the
ground that a declaratory judgment or decree is prayed for. The declaration may be either
affirmative or negative in form and effect, and such declaration shall have the force and effect of
a final judgment or decree.
32-23-02. Power to construe contracts, statutes, and wills. Any person interested
under a deed, will, written contract, or other writings constituting a contract, or whose rights,
status, or other legal relations are affected by a statute, municipal ordinance, contract, or
franchise, may have determined any question of construction or validity arising under the
instrument, statute, ordinance, contract, or franchise and may obtain a declaration of rights,
status, or other legal relations thereunder.
We don’t know when the decedent died or whether the decedent’s estate was probated or is currently in probate. If a probate estate is open, the poster’s attorney may use NDCC Section 32-23-04 in the declaratory judgments chapter to force the personal representative to deliver a mineral deed to the will beneficiaries. It should be noted that the probate of estates is governed by Title 30.1, Uniform Probate Code. Attention should be paid to the following statute concerning time limitations:
30.1-12-08. (3-108) Probate, testacy, and appointment proceedings - Ultimate time
limit. No informal probate or appointment proceeding or formal testacy or appointment
proceeding, other than a proceeding to probate a will previously probated at the testator’s
domicile and appointment proceedings relating to an estate in which there has been a prior
appointment, may be commenced more than three years after the decedent’s death, except:
1. If a previous proceeding was dismissed because of doubt about the fact of the
decedent’s death, appropriate probate, appointment, or testacy proceedings may be
maintained at any time thereafter upon a finding that the decedent’s death occurred
prior to the initiation of the previous proceeding and the applicant or petitioner has
not delayed unduly in initiating the subsequent proceedings.
2. Appropriate probate, appointment, or testacy proceedings may be maintained in
relation to the estate of an absent, disappeared, or missing person for whose estate
a conservator has been appointed, at any time within three years after the
conservator becomes able to establish the death of the protected person.
3. A proceeding to contest an informally probated will and to secure appointment of the
person with legal priority for appointment in the event the contest is successful may
be commenced within the later of twelve months from the informal probate or three
years from the decedent’s death.
4. An informal appointment or a formal testacy or appointment proceeding may be
commenced thereafter if no proceeding concerning the succession or estate
administration has occurred within the three-year period after the decedent’s death,
but the personal representative has no right to possess estate assets as provided in
section 30.1-18-09 beyond that necessary to confirm title to the assets in the
successors to the estate and claims other than expenses of administration may not
be presented against the estate.
5. A formal testacy proceeding may be commenced at any time after three years from
the decedent’s death for the purpose of establishing an instrument to direct or
control the ownership of property passing or distributable after the decedent’s death
from one other than the decedent when the property is to be appointed by the terms
of the decedent’s will or is to pass or be distributed as a part of the decedent’s estate
or its transfer is otherwise to be controlled by the terms of the decedent’s will.
These limitations do not apply to proceedings to construe probated wills or determine heirs of an
intestate. In cases under subsection 1 or 2, the date on which a testacy or appointment
proceeding is properly commenced shall be deemed to be the date of the decedent’s death for
purposes of other limitations provisions of this title which relate to the date of death.http://www.legis.nd.gov/cencode/t301c12.pdf
Above is probably more information than necessary to answer your question, but does highlight the need for the poster to immediately retain the services of an attorney to take the necessary steps to ensure the poster’s ownership interest in the minerals is secured and recorded with the county recorder.