Ownership question and right to put land in TRUST!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone...I have a crazy question? My family owns 685 acres in Culberson County, come to find out when doing a Title Search recently that my cousin who is a 1/5 owner has placed ALL the land in her Trust. She now tells us that she did it even though there are 5 families including her that are all 1/5 owners, to keep everyone honest. Now several owners are trying to sell their undivided interests to which they hold the Deeds and she is challenging their right to sell.

I guess my big question is how can she put something that is not hers in her TRUST? Shouldn't her Trust only hold her 137 acres?

Should we contact her El Paso, TX attorney or should we hire our own attorney to handle this! I am located in Castle Rock, CO and grew in El Paso, however, I have no contacts there?

Would appreciate your advice!

Thanks, Cyndy

It depends on chain of title in county records. Was there a documented transfer from X of 1/5 each to Aunt, B, C, D and E, whether by deed or probate? Or is title from X to Aunt alone with understanding that all 5 are real owners? With an undivided interest titled in 5 owners, Aunt's deed will describe the 645 acres but will only transfer her net minerals in the tract. Understand that the deed into the trust mus describe the entire tracy (100% of acres) and mat or mat not reference Aunt's 1/5 interest. Can be a problem if deed says her 1/5 interest and she really owns 1/4 because part would be left out. However, if all title is only in Aunt, then 100% would be transferred. It is important for title to be clearly in each owner. Otherwise the minerals will be owned by the beneficaries specified in her trust. You can contact her attorney to ask about the deed into the trust. But keep in mind that he works for your aunt and will only answer questions if she agrees. If you do get a satisfactory answer, then you need an oil and gas / real estate title attorney to help you get title in the individual owners. Attorney needs to be licensed in Texas, but not necessarily in El Paso.

You said a title search has been done (or at least that's how you stumbled upon the fact that she put it all in her Trust). Do you have the deed giving the 1/5 interests to various family members? The original document is where you always want to start. If you don't have the deed, depending on when the transfer took place, you might be able to get it easily online. Texasfile.com goes back to 2009 for Culberson County. If there really is clear chain of title into individuals other than your cousin, then she would have no legal right to put it all in Trust. I'd start with being really certain about the chain of title.

Hi, Cyndy -

TennisDaze and Christine have very interesting points and questions: How did your cousin have the right to place everyone's interest into a trust?

Online Records for Culberson County appear to only be available back to about 2009 and those records will only be the Real Property (now Official Public Records), not Probate or any other records. Unless your cousin or the Landmen or company(ies) making offers to your family can provide you with some sort of documentation, you will have to perform your own research at the County Courthouse(s) in order to determine title to your interests.

And before you or any of your family considers selling their mineral rights, I would advise that you allow me or someone else look up what is happening in the area first.

I have run across several instances where less than reputable companies and people have been trying to buy people out not only for much less than the interests are truly worth, but at times also knowing that the potential Sellers have royalties in suspense from wells that have already been drilled (In essence attempting to buy people out using their own money to do so - sometimes at an obscene profit).

And unless you or any of your other family members have a dire need for the money, such as a family medical emergency or somebody to get through college, I strongly advise that you DO NOT SELL. And if you just want a little money to play with, then only sell a portion - 1/4 or 1/2 or so - of your interests.

You should always consult an experienced Oil and Gas Attorney about things like this. Wade Caldwell is a frequent contributor to The Forum and very highly spoken of. If you need the names of a few additional Attorneys to consider, accept my offer to become A Friend on The Forum and I will provide you with contact information on a couple that I can personally recommend.

Legal fees might cost you a little money, but the peace of mind of having qualified and experienced representation is worth every penny. You could request that the other family members share in the expense.

Hope this helps -

Charles Emery Tooke III

Certified Professional Landman

Fort Worth, Texas

Cyndy, in August, 2016, you wrote that "my family owns undivided interest in 685 Acres in Culberson County, TX my share is 34.25 Acres. Some family members have shown interest in selling their shares. Any idea how to go about selling this land and how much it is worth."

You were referred to Wade Caldwell. What happened after that to bring you to this point in time?



I guess my big question is how can she put something that is not hers in her TRUST? Shouldn't her Trust only hold her 137 acres?

If I understand the fact situation as presented...

She can convey to her trust only the interest that she owns, and no more. If she owned an undivided 1/5th interest in the tract, with the other 4/5ths being owned by other individuals, then that 1/5th interest is all the trust acquired from her. Ideally, the deed conveying this 1/5th interest to this trust probably should have stipulated that it was limited to only the undivided 1/5th interest owned by your cousin, but if it did not, it is not really a problem. Since she cannot convey that which she does not own (the other 4/5ths interest), that 4/5ths interest remains vested in the parties now holding it, unaffected by the deed from your cousin to her trust.

If your cousin is challenging the right of others to sell or lease their undivided interests in this 685 acres, you might inform her of your position that the deed into her trust doesn't affect the other undivided 4/5ths of the 685 acres, since she only owned an undivided 1/5th thereof, and consequently, that would be all that the trust could have possibly acquired by virtue of said deed. The owners of the remaining 4/5ths interest are free to do with their respective interests whatever they may choose, because her trust does not own any portion of the remaining 4/5ths interest.

You may want to check with your counsel to obtain some peace of mind, but I would think that their advice would be along the same lines.

That's right! One can only convey what they own.

I suspect your misconceptions will continue until legal advice is sought.

Good luck.


One can only convey what one owns but they can cloud your title. In my opinion it needs to be fixed and better now than when the matter comes up.


You are going down the wrong rabbit hole. Your deed will stand on its own and should pre-date the Trust. If you or others decide to sell and the buyer finds the trust in the chain, the buyer and seller can sue to quiet title. Whatever you do, don't agree to a sale out of the trust. It causes gargantuan tax problems as some of my clients are experiencing in nearby Eddy County NM where buyers for expediency bought their mineral shares out of a trust directly. Big mistake for the remaining share holders who didn't sell.

BTW, I'm in Castle Pines Village but know a few lawyers in El Paso.

Gary L Hutchinson

Minerals Managment