Title Verification

Can anyone tell me the steps that are taken before and after a lease is signed in regard to verifying ownership and recording of a lease? I have discovered that two people are the lessors of the same mineral acreage. Could this have happened if the land company that did both leases had done the proper research? Do the Landmen and/or the Operators they represent do a detailed accounting of the acreage they have leased? Would an oversight like this eventually be discovered?

Here’s one way it can happen: Oil Company A can lease a set of mineral rights. Before Oil Company A records the lease in the court house, Oil Company B leases the same set of mineral rights from the same owner. The mineral rights owner might be unscrupulous, or the owner might be elderly and may not even realize it is the same property, especially if they own several sets of mineral rights. Incidentally, the oil company that gets the lease recorded FIRST in the courthouse is the winner. That is the key. Yes, it would eventually be discovered by the operator of the new lease.

Thank You Mr. Anderson, Actually there is no A and B, the same Oil Company using the same Land Company leased the same acreage from two different people, the first person(s) by Affidavit of Heirship and three years later by the second person claiming ownership purportedly with a will and power of attorney. In other words the relatives of the decedent knew nothing of the will that person #2 presented. Ultimately it may have to be settled in court, but right now I am trying to figure out how lease #2 could have been made to begin with unless the county records were never changed to reflect the change in ownership which resulted from the Affidavit of Heirship filed three years previous. Both parties now hold leases on the same mineral acreage.

Have you checked with the county records department?

Was person #2 not related to person #1, or to the decedent?

Person #2 was decedents “Partner”. Person(s) #1 are decedents relatives. I have seen the online Oklahoma Land Records that you can search by legal description and they show the instruments recorded but you can’t see the actual images. It shows O&G leases in both parties names. It only goes back to 2006 so I can’t see when decedent originally was listed as owner. I live in Texas, do you think the county will give me info over the phone? Thanks.

Hi Mr. Hutchison,

It is worth a try. I have ordered many deeds and leases for properties my ancestor bought in a different state. There should be somebody there who can help you get started. I expect you would need to talk with the Register of Deeds office (or County Clerk's office) about recorded deeds etc. Perhaps that office can tell you the procedures followed in that county for transferring ownership. In the county I have property in, they have a procedure to follow, differing depending on if the estate was probated or not (I think determined by size/value of estate, at least the holdings in that state), if there was a will, if decedent was resident of the state where the property is located, etc. If the will is valid there could be a problem for the relatives, but that is way beyond what I would know about. In our county, it is the probate clerk who handles that (that is what they call her position).

It sounds like this could be complicated but the place to start is, I think, with the county where the property is located.

Do you have a copy of the "will"? If filed (by the "partner") with that county in Oklahoma, you could get a copy from the county, I expect, as well as from the county where the decedent lived.

Nancy, Thanks very much for your input. I don’t have a copy of the “will”. At this point it could turn into a legal dispute so I have not been in contact with him. We think the will could be bogus because my sister has been in regular contact with the “Partner” My brother died in Clark County, Nv. and his will is not recorded there( on the website) I guess that could mean his estate was not large enough to require probate. I will take your advice and see what I can find out from the County Clerk in Okla. Thanks again.

*regular contact with the “Partner”… during the 13 years since our brother’s death. He never mentioned a will, although she mentioned to him that she was leasing her minerals. I guess he thought he deserved a piece of the action!

It wouldn't hurt to call the office that handles estates and probates in Clark County, Nevada, as well, and see what is on record (or not) there. There are sometimes other documents besides the will that are required. Was that his residence at time of death? Did he own any real estate there that would need to have been transferred (house, etc)? The more you can find out, the better, I would think.

I am not an attorney so don't take my word for any of this, but my sister is one, although not in the state where our royalty interests are (nor in the states you are involved with). We have talked a lot about all this. Each state has its own way of doing things, but there are some things in common. If a will exists, and is being used to prove title (as is being done by the "partner") then it should be on file somewhere to be examined.

Good luck and be persistent.

Nancy, I appreciate your advice and encouragement. Many Thanks.

He did die in Nevada and owned a home there. Title transfer could have been done several months prior to his death as he new he was dying of cancer The house was his only asset.

If the estate is not probated or a certified copy of a probated will is not filed in the county of record, the property still resides in the name of the decedent. If an AOH is filed, it would need to be from a disinterested third party. Because of the multiple documents, the oil company probably thought it wise to hedge it's bet and just lease both parties. That's my opinion anyway....

The AOH was signed by me and filed by the Landman. It was my understanding that it did not need to be by a third party in Okla. You are correct about hedging their bet, thats what I have since found out. We may not know who owns what until Division Orders. Thanks for you input.

My guess is that if there is production, the company will suspend any payments until it is straightened out by mutual agreement or by the courts. Good luck to you.

Thanks. They have been drilling for about 30 days, so I figure it will be next summer if and when we get any royality payments. Fortunately most of what I have has marketable title.