We received a letter from profile energy LLC in Oklahoma. They stated that a lease signed by my mother was due to expire after 7 years. They mention WV statutes indicating if we don’t take action that the right can be given to the surface owner. They propose that we give them 50% of the right in exchange they will go to court to preserve our rights. Sounds fishy. Anyone heard of this?
I do not think giving up 50% of my rights would be a good idea.
Is the lease in a productive area? Is she getting royalties? Or was the area never drilled? If the minerals are not in production, then they are considered “dormant”.
The company is referring to what is called dormant minerals. There was a bill introduced in 2019. Can someone in WV verify if it passed? HOWEVER, in the bill it says that there is a grace period of five years after the bill is passed for any mineral owners to assert their rights. That five years is not up if the bill passed. Several other states have similar laws and the ranges of time in which to claim minerals varies. In the states that have dormant minerals law, all that is required is filing in the county courthouse for a very small fee that you claim the minerals. There is usually a simple form to fill out that has specified margins, a place for a stamp of the county clerk, name, address, description of the minerals, etc.
I suggest that you call your county clerk that handles title for mineral owners and ask if the bill passed and if you have to file the claim form for your mom. Do they have a template that needs to be used. You can do it yourself for a few dollars. I would also ask if letters like this have been reported.
M_Barnes, thank you. I live in another state. This is all new to me. I appreciate the information.
The letter is not a scam. In fact, the company was trying to protect and save your mineral rights. In WV, if an oil company wasn’t able to locate a mineral company, then it had the right to seek a Special commissioner’s lease. After filing a petition in court, the court could and frequently appointed a Guardian ad litem, and then a Special commissioner to execute a lease on behalf of the missing and unlocatable heirs. this was frequently done in Doddridge and other counties in WV. Then frequently, if the mineral owner could not be located the Special commissioner would negotiate a lease with the oil company. . https://www.lawserver.com/law/state/west-virginia/wv-code/west_virginia_code_55-12a-6 The missing owner then has seven years in which to come forward and claim their interest in the same court case. *Within seven years after the date of the special commissioner’s lease, any unknown or missing owner or abandoning owner of a mineral interest leased hereunder may file a motion with the court to reopen the action, and may thereupon present such proof as the court may deem necessary to establish the movant’s identity and title to the mineral interest or any part thereof.
If that is not done within seven years after the execution of the lease, then the missing owner loses/forfeits his rights. If an owner of any mineral interest leased under section six of this article remains unknown or missing, or does not disavow the abandonment, for a period of seven years from the date of the special commissioner’s lease, the special or general receiver shall report the same to the court, whereupon the court shall enter an order naming those who then appear to be surface owners as additional parties and giving notice to them, pursuant to the West Virginia rules of civil procedure, of an opportunity to appear and present proof of ownership in fee of the surface estate. Upon a finding by the court of the present ownership in fee of the surface estate, the court shall (i) order the special Commissioner to convey to the proven surface owner, subject to the special commissioner’s lease, the mineral interest specified in the motion, by a deed substantially in the form specified in subsection (b) of this section and (ii) order the special or general receiver to pay to the Oil and Gas Reclamation Fund established pursuant to §22-6-29 the funds which have accrued to the credit of the mineral interests specified in the motion to the date of his or her report after payment of all allowable fees, expenses and court costs, including special Commissioner’s fees paid or to be paid in amounts determined by the court. After the date of the special Commissioner’s deed, the surface owner grantee shall be entitled to receive all proceeds under the lease attributable to the mineral interests specified in the deed.
In other words, the missing owner has seven years to come forward in the court case and claim the interest. If they don’t do so, the mineral interest reverts to the surface owner and the proceeds are given to the WV dept of environmental compliance.
I still think it’s a scam to this extent: in reading West Virginia Code §55-12A, if a petition has not been filed, then it seems that all a mineral owner may need to do is file a disavowal of abandonment in the deed records. Obviously, a West Virginia oil and gas attorney should be consulted, but giving away half your minerals for what may be a one or two page affidavit filed in the deed records seems outrageous. Even if a petition has been filed, the cost to have an attorney file a brief document with the court noting your interest may be a lot less expensive than giving up half your minerals.
I agree with you AimeeHess.
In fact, in reading the statute, it looks like even if a petition has been filed, all you do is file a notice of your interest, and the abandonment suit is automatically dismissed as to your interest. It’s not as if you have to mount some big court battle (assuming you have verifiable proof of your interest, like a deed or a will or an affidavit of heirship).
One might believe that it doesn’t have the value of 50%, but its not a scam. That’s a difference in perception of value. One is assuming that 50% of the minerals has a great value as opposed to a very small fractional interest in a well with minor production. Prior to the letter, Mr/Mrs. Kirk was unaware of this interest. The statute and all the cases indicate that a motion must be filed. If one believes that it would be a simple matter, i would invite you to look at the case of Antero v. Newton B. Cox, filed in Doddridge county, Case no CC-09-2013–C-9 in which the seven years expired October 16, 2020, and the case is still going on. In that case, no party who will receive money took the simple act of filing a disavowal in the county clerk’s office. Further, no pleading is just one or two pages. Mr./Mrs. Kirk, if you choose just ignore the seven years deadline, and just file a disavowal in the county Clerk’s office, you do so at your own risk. Because, if that doesn’t work, then you don’t really have a remedy to get your minerals back.