Landmen who don't verify current addresses of heirs

How common is it for a landman to casually send lease offers (containing private family info and tract details) to newfound oil & gas heirs without checking whether they’ve moved in the past 10 or 20 years? Many people move far more often than that!

Are they never required to give the recipient a call or pre-notice with a tracking #? The casual excuse given was lack of time, but it’s now taking up a lot of my time to chase down a package 1,500 miles away, and a tracking claim hasn’t helped yet. I don’t get the mindset behind that lack of diligence.

Generally landmen work from public records such as deeds, genealogy sites, obituaries and most recent addresses that they find. Phone numbers can be more difficult to find. Unfortunately, many families lose track of minerals and do not keep deed records with ownership information up to date. I am not sure what you mean by private family information, but deed records are public. A landman may be tracking a very large number of heirs of multiple tracts across a county area and has to work as fast as possible. If you have the landman’s name and contact information, why not just contact him and ask for a new lease offer to be sent to your current address?

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First, typically private family information isn’t being mailed by a landman trying to lease you. It’s usually public data they complied from public county records.

Second, it’s the responsibility of the mineral owner to keep ownership records up to date.

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This is about basic privacy and lack of thoroughness. I’d never mail something with any degree of personal info unless I knew it was going to the right person, or use certified mail for something like this.

Public records or not, the average Joe or Jane won’t casually find out if you have land rights with royalties, but this draws their attention if they aren’t honest and don’t return the package. They could also carefully slit it open and make copies that could end up on any web server.

Other relatives received signable forms with dates of deaths, parents’ full names and other things I wouldn’t want strangers viewing. Yes, I quickly contacted the sender and was given tracking info to open a case, but still haven’t found where it ended up; it wasn’t returned in their system.

You must know identity theft is rampant with many new ways to be an imposter. I grew up before the Internet when privacy was still sacred and things like Wikileaks weren’t considered a right. Now, many seem to not care if the whole world knows their family business on Facebook, etc. Makes no rational sense to me!

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Some company is spending thousands of dollars trying to trace ownership of minerals through multiple generations just to be able to pay the right people royalties. All due to the fact that no one took the time and trouble and cost to file probate or deeds or other title instruments over the years. This is your opportunity to take the lead and organize the extended family to prove up everyone’s title by gathering all the historical data of all the heirs (birth, death, who had children or spouses, etc.), figure who died with probate filed with heirs of record and who died intestate so inheritance is determined by state law where minerals are located, and get all the correct documentation filed in the deed records. It may be both time-consuming and expensive, especially if you need to consult an attorney for drafting documents or about intestate law, so hopefully other family members will also volunteer their time and money. By keeping the deed records up to date in the future, you can then be contacted easily and without the need for a landman to ask if he has found the right family and if his research has included all the names.

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As mentioned, the packets were a complete surprise. We had no idea of distant relatives with oil & gas ownership, and it also seemed like there was a genealogy error at first.

Has anyone else viewing this had hassles from out-of-the-blue lax address checking? I’m not here to debate the strange modern apathy about privacy.

In general, we are talking about two different levels of contact and title opinions.

On the front end is the leasing agent. Some do their thorough title checks ahead of time, but many do not. Due to the budget of time and expense, many of them send out tickle letters to folks that have similar last names based on a quick check at the courthouse. The data is public. If they get folks interested in leasing, then they will send the draft leases and once signed, THEN do the full title work before they pay the bonus. Hence the common draft letter that says they will pay you in 60 days, or something like that. This is the “drilling or leasing title opinion.” Some groups just lease at a general level without doing careful title work since lease bonuses are piddly compared to the final Division order which traces complete title for much more valuable royalty payments. Their goal is to get leases signed and filed in the courthouse.

I do not send a signed lease immediately. I have a third party hold the signed lease until the title work is done on their side. (It is expensive to do and they do not want to waste time unless they think you are worth it.) Upon title verification, my agent will hand over the lease after I get paid. I do not want a leased filed before I am paid.

The second level of title opinion is the Division Order title opinion done by the operator. The well has been drilled and now they want a signed contract to pay the correct owners the correct amount of royalties based upon clear title. This title opinion is usually much more rigorous and traces title all the way back to patent at statehood. This is why it takes months to do after the well is drilled. They may be trying to trace title for hundreds of people. Very expensive to do. You must have a clear title in order to be paid.

This is why it is SO important for families to make sure that their names and addresses and all title information such as probates, affidavits of heirship, changes of address, etc. are filed in every county where you have mineral rights. File your own, tell your children and your heirs what to do. It is the mineral owner’s responsibility to keep up with changes of address and file them in the courthouse. That is where the landmen and title attorneys start their searches as is the official repository for the information.

Note, you do not have to sign a DO in Oklahoma and states that do not require them. You can send a letter in lieu of Division Order. They want your W-2. You do have to sign a DO in Texas and other states that do require them. If you need more information about the letter in lieu, use the magnifying glass above as there is a whole topic area about that.

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Thanks for those details. Had I known of the inherited land beforehand, I’d have made sure they had a current address. I was a surprise to all the heirs.

Correction: IT was a surprise to all the heirs.

Your response is not that unusual based on my experience with lost heirs (a general term). Many people do not realize the depth of information in the public domain and so contacts of this nature can be very disturbing. Time and value can be limiting factors for this contact method. My practice has always been a phone call or introduction letter to establish contact as well as confirm information. After that point, you start to send out more detailed information.

It’s good to know that some are taking more time to be thorough about accuracy. The general erosion of privacy seems to keep this topic subdued.

Land reccords, telephone numbers and addresses are all public info…

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