Out of State Probate/Expired Lease:

I am the Executor, Trustee, and sole Heir to my Grandmother’s Estate in which she owned interest in two wells. The only lease copy that was provided by any of the owners was from 1979 and was only a 3 year lease and no attempts were made to contact her since that lease expired and production reports indicate activity.

Are they allowed to bypass her estate to avoid paying her a signing fee and bonus?

Also, only one company out of a long list of entities has provided royalty funds that were in suspense as she stop depositing checks in 1990 and died in 2001.

Several companies are stating that they do not recognize Texas probate and will not discuss nor release the funds which is interesting to me as the other company recognized Texas probate.

Either way, it has been a considerable amount of time since she died and would assume that there is a statute relative to when the royalties in suspense have to be turned over to her state of residence, being, Texas.

Any legal assistance in regards to these questions would be greatly appreciated as hiring another lawyer to probate a will for an unknown amount that will not be provided to me is a table that I am not willing to take as the lowest amount to probate the will again in Oklahoma is $2500.00.

Each state has its own requirements regarding probate and clearing title for minerals located in that state. Texas accepts probate from other states and the probate must be filed in deed records in each county where minerals are located. Other states, such as Oklahoma, require ancillary probate in that state which is then filed in the various counties. There can be alternative methods of establishing title into the heirs. Most oil companies require proper proof of title before leasing or paying royalties. They do not want to pay royalties to only one of several heirs or to the wrong party. It is your burden as executor and heir. An Oklahoma oil and gas attorney can help you with this. You could hire a landman to help you determine exactly how many net mineral acres you own within each tract in the counties. While this costs money, in the long run you will gain the financial benefits.

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Dear KBrown: in most leases, that three years is only the primary term. If a well was drilled during the primary term that is producing in commercially paying quantities, then the lease goes into an extended term, and the extended term lasts as long as that well is producing in commercially paying quantities.

Oil companies (and the law) generally require some kind of legally cognizable title document filed in the deed records of the county where the wells are located in order to recognize a transfer of ownership and to pay royalties to a new owner. Usually that means a deed from the executor to the beneficiary in the will. The will must first be probated and the probate court appoints an executor. Just being named executor in a will is not enough.

In Texas, when there is no will or when heirs do not want to probate the will, you can often use an affidavit of heirship. You will need to see an attorney to make sure the affidavit is properly prepared and filed, but the fees are generally much less than the fees for a probate.

Also, if you are a trustee of your grandmother’s trust and the mineral interests were actually conveyed to the trust, you may only need a trustee’s deed from the trust to you. Again, you will need an attorney to review the trust and prepare and file the proper deed for you, but the fees will be much less than a full probate.

Be sure to check the Unclaimed Property site at the Texas Comptroller’s website to see if your grandmother’s royalties have been escheated to the state.

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Being a little hyper technical here. Because of the differences between Texas and Oklahoma probate procedure you would probably need a summary probate. Don’t worry, the end result is the same as an ancillary probate. That is the property is distributed to the heirs. There is just one more form for the client to sign and slightly different publication and time requirements. No travel to Oklahoma required.

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