Inherited rights in Smith and Cherokee Co in TX

Hi, my mother had some minor mineral rights in the above counties. After her death my lawyers managed to have them put in the name of the estate. These only yielded 135$ last year yet the lawyer who transferred the rights to the estate charged about 900$ to do it. In order for me to close the estate I may need to put them into an individual’s name. I called the management companies involved but they are non-responsive. According to the courthouse of one of the counties involved i would need a title company and lawyer io transfer the rights. Is this true? Any advice of what I can do, as cheaply as possible, is greatly appreciated!

A title company would not be necessary. The cheapest alternative should be the estate attorney because he is familiar with the mineral interests and he knows who are the beneficiaries of the estate. His or her fees are administration expenses and be paid by the estate and are deductible for federal income tax purposes.

Hi thanks…I will have to think about that… the attorney will cost more than these shares will yield in the next 10 years if they are even still in production! I am in DE, the estate is in NC and the rights are in TX… I am kind of wondering if a paralegal could handle it locally in TX. Whereas the estate does have the funds to handle the legal work, I also have the responsibility to the heirs for cost containment.

What did the attorney do to put title into the estate? Was title in your mother’s name? Did he file the probate and will in Smith and Cherokee county deed records? You can file the certified probate court order which distributes the assets, including the minerals, to the beneficiaries. What do you mean by management company? Who is the executor?

Hi - I am the executor. Sorry, but I don’t know the correct terms regarding mineral rights… my parents never talked about it and although they were from TX, I am in DE and that is not an area where mineral rights are common - nor in NC where my mother’s estate is located, and where the estate legal firm is (the lawyer who formerly worked on this is gone). All I know is this: My mother had mineral rights… in one case they were significant and in at least two other cases, minimal. Those are the two cases in question (the significant case was dealt with quickly because someone stepped up wanting to buy or lease). My estate attorney at great cost transferred ownership of the lesser mineral rights to the estate… I received very small checks made out to the estate on the ‘lesser rights’. Those came from two companies - CW Resources and Riviera. I have contacted them and CW was non-responsive - someone at Riviera told me that the management had been transferred to a different company. I am now in the position of trying to figure out how to close the estate and these two hanging threads bother me… I don’t want to abandon but that may be financially my best option, What I need to understand and am hoping you wiser mineral rights folks can offer pointers on:

  1. I could only tell the estate lawyers about any rights based on the checks my Mother had received in the past few years. How do I find out if there are other rights out there that I was not aware of?
  2. If per NC where the estate is located I need to move them out of the estate name, how do I understand what paperwork is required to do so? Title searches had been done by the estate attorney last year and the correct paperwork done to move the known minor rights from my mother’s name to the estate - would I have to repeat title searches and such or is there a ‘shortcut’ given that I have already proved to the courts in Smith and Cherokee that my Mother is deceased and I am her executor?
  3. Should I even bother with this, if the relevant Clerk of Court in NC turns a blind eye to it? These are old, old wells and may not be in production now or ever again… how do I find out if they are still in use or might be in the future?
  4. How do I assure myself that there is nothing else out there in terms of what rights my Mother owned? What kind of searches can I do, are there databases you recommend that I should check?

Hope this clarifies (a little) what my questions are and what my dilemma is - I cannot justify spending more than the rights may make in 10 years, if ever, to get them transferred… but still it is part of my family history and I don’t feel right about not understanding it! Again, forgive me for not knowing the rules and terms… this far north I don’t think you encounter mineral rights questions until you hit Marcellus Shale in PA.

Thanks for your interest!

You should clear up the title because there may be future wells and much higher income. Never abandon your real property rights. In Texas, minerals can be severed and owned separately from the surface. The minerals are real property and you must have clear title to be paid royalties. The good news is that you do not have to separately identify every tract within Smith and Cherokee counties. Assuming that probate is open, add to the specific property list with a reference to all minerals and surface owned by decedent in Smith County, Cherokee County and the State of Texas. Then the distribution order can be for the same description. This can cover any yet-to-be identified specific properties for filing in the county deed records. Call the county deed records office and ask about the filing fees, usually a basic charge plus $1 per page. For more specific advice, a Texas oil and gas attorney can help and there are several listed on this site. You can do some title research yourself. First go to the tax appraisal records and look under your mother’s name and her predecessor’s name or names. Current records will only cover surface and producing minerals, meaning those with active wells. There are several services which have searchable deed records. Again, search for deeds into your mother and for deeds into her predecessors. You will have to pay for copies but they will give you legal description of the gross acreage. You can search in surrounding counties and some services have a method to search across the state. Some county records are available online for limited years and others back to sovereignty. Make files and give each beneficiary a notebook with the probate, deeds, and other information. Ask the beneficiaries to participate in the search and to share their findings. Lots of people are home and looking for interesting projects. And read other threads about locating your minerals on the Texas Railroad Commissioner GIS map viewer and see if there are wells on your lands.

Thanks for the info!

One last note. It is not clear what you mean about the Clerk of Court in NC turning a blind eye to your title. The relevant law is the state where the minerals are located because this is real estate, not the state where your mother resided and probate was filed. You need to satisfy the requirements of Texas regarding clearing the title into the beneficiaries. Generally probate courts order distribution of assets once it is clear that debts, funeral costs and administrative expenses, etc. are paid or that there will be sufficient funds remaining available to pay any final expenses.

Hi,

I am under pressure to close the estate now as it has been open for two years… the mineral rights are the last things I need to resolve. Since they only produced 136.00 in revenue last year (yet cost about 900 in legal fees to have them moved from my mother’s name to the estate) I am hoping the NC court will let me leave them in the estate name instead of forcing me to move them to the name of one or all of the heirs.

North Carolina probate court has no jurisdiction over Texas minerals. To clear title in Texas, you need to file an authenticated copy of Will and probate, application, order admitting will to probate, and letters testamentary in real property records of both texas counties in which minerals are located. Check with companies taking production to find out if a copy of the filed documents are sufficient or whether you will need certified copies of the filed documents. If will does not clearly identify the beneficiaries, then executor can do a deed of distribution to them. At the end of the day, as executor, you have a fiduciary duty to estate and beneficiaries to administer estate and clear title. Leaving title in name of estate in my opinion would be a breach of your fiduciary duty.

Real estate is a forever asset. You cannot close the estate and leave assets in its name. What happens when the heirs die? Also, the estate will have to file annual income tax returns. Are you going to keep records and file those returns? What are you going to tell the heirs? And did the will specifically grant the executor power to sign an oil and gas lease in compliance with Texas law? If not, then an oil company will be concerned that the heirs are not bound by the lease and it could become voided. Are you leaving the house, cash etc all in the name of the estate or a trust? Ask for a court order distributing all the minerals in the counties and the State of Texas, whether specifically listed or not, to the heirs. Sometimes probate is not ever closed in order to have a way to deal with newly discovered assets.

Thanks - I got essentially the same answer from TennisDaze also … and I trust you more than I trust my lawyers! Sounds like I need to spend thousands to distribute an asset that when divided among the heirs will be worth about ten dollars to each of them! I hope I can find a paralegal to chase the paperwork rather than my 300$ per hour lawyers who for some reason now cannot even tell me what the first lawyer did to put the rights in the estate name!

Hi, see my response to TennisDaze and thanks for the help!

Hi, I think you and S Clausen are saying the same thing… that I do need to get this wrapped up. All other assets have been distributed. Thanks for the help!

Have you checked the Texas county deed records for your mother’s name? Or are the minerals still in her predecssor’s name? If the minerals are in her name, then you should be able to file the probate court records and that will transfer to the beneficiaries. Did the lawyer file anything in the deed records about the estate? A responsible attorney should have given you copies of anything that estate-related paperwork and filings that he prepared. If not, then you demand copies of everything in his files. I rather think that your attorneys are making things more complicated than necessary and it should not cost you that much.

I had to do this in Oklahoma a few years back. You can file the papers yourself with the court or the recorder. I search online for the correct papers to send. My father’s estate had been closed for 8 years already so it had something to do with filing without probate since probate was closed. I had to include his will and death certificate. Try a search and do it yourself, the only cost was copies and postage.

Thanks! I tried searching, and even called the court to ask what papers I needed to file… this was when I was told I needed a lawyer, but perhaps the person on the phone just wasn’t listening to me.

If your mother died with a will, and the will was admitted to probate, then all that must be done in Texas is file an authenticated copy of the will and the order admitting the will to probate in the Smith and Cherokee County Clerks’ offices. Doing this will place title to minerals devised under the will to the devisees under your mother’s will.

If your mother died without a will, then the Texas property passes according to the Texas rules of intestate succession. To clear title, it is best to file an Affidavit of Heirship in the County Clerks’ Offices of Smith and Cherokee County, Texas. An Affidavit of Heirship is a fact-specific document that outlines the heirs to the estate of a decedent. There is a statutory form under Texas Estates Code Section 203.002. The affidavit of heirship must be sworn to in the presence of a notary.

Thanks! I will look into this… she died without a will.