What document transfers Mineral Rights


#1

My wife’s father died in 1997, he owned numerous mineral rights in New Mexico. His will was probated, but the mineral rights were not mentioned apparently… My wife became incapacitated and died in 2012, her only heir is our daughter. We recently became aware of these mineral rights and my question is how and what documents are mineral rights transferred to heirs? We are finding my wife’s siblings have apparently been receiving and cashing the royalty checks for 21 years now, how do we go about claiming that money?.
We have so far uncovered mineral rights in New Mexico, in Chaves and Lea counties. There may be more but how do we find them? Is there some database that lists all mineral rights owners and the locations?

Please be gentle with language, as is probably apparent, I am just starting to learn about the whole mineral rights business stuff and as of now am dumber than a box of rocks…


#2

If your wife’s father’s will was probated in New Mexico, then it will be easy to file the probate records in each county. If not, and the estate is open, then I think you can do ancillary probate. If not and the estate is closed, then you may have to file a quiet title action. The same will be true of your wife’s estate. Did your wife leave her property to your daughter? Otherwise, you may have to disclaim your rights as her husband. I highly recommend that you get an experience title / estate attorney in NM or licensed in NM to work your way through this. You will only do this in one county and then file the paperwork in in the other county. Be sure to ask which county has a faster court process. Lea County can be slow but I do not know about Chaves County.


#3

The will was probated in NM 5th District Court, which includes Lea and Chaves county, That clearly gives one fifth of the mineral rights to my deceased ex wife, my question deals with if there is some other document than the probate required to transfer the rights to his heirs… Ex wife did not have a will, but had only one heir, her daughter, what document is needed to transfer ex wife’s rights to my daughter?.


#4

You can check the Lea and Chaves County Deed Records for an Executor’s Deed from the estate of your wife’s father to her and her siblings. If there was no Executor’s Deed, you will probably want to obtain a certified copy of the entire probate file - or at minimum, his Last Will and Testament , the Order Approving the Will, the Inventory of the Estate, and the Final Order closing the estate. If no probate or administration was performed on your wife’s estate, you can file an Affidavit of Heirship with the Lea and Chaves County Clerks. Begin with your wife’s father, and break down the lineage of succession to your wife, to you/your daughter, etc. Include all facts - your wife is deceased, and yourself and your daughter are her surviving heirs, whether you were married when she passed, etc. The affidavit should be signed by a person who has no interest in the estate of your wife’s father, or your wife, but is familiar enough with your family history to swear to the facts. If possible, have two people sign a copy and file them both in each county. A quick google search will provide many Affidavit of Heirship templates, and as long as the facts are there, the format should not matter.

As to the question of royalty payments received by your wife’s siblings, I would ask the siblings what company they are receiving royalties from and contact that company’s Division Order Analyst to find out whether they have been holding your wife’s funds in suspense. If they have not, find out what information they need to clear ownership of yours/ your daughter’s mineral interests ( the documents mentioned above should be sufficient) and whether the undistributed funds are being held by the company or escheated to the State of New Mexico. You can hire an attorney to do all this for you, but if you’re willing to invest a little time and work, you can do most if not all of it yourself and learn quite a bit along the way.

Best of luck!


#5

I thank you so much for your informative comments, they are especially appreciated since this struggle seems to all alone and in a fog.
I am awaiting the probate records (we had them twice, but they have been lost), and am having the “affidavit of heirship” made up.
This discovery came about recently when some royalty checks were somehow found in the Florida unclaimed property lists. We had been advised that all the oil wells had dried up and were of no value. The Florida unclaimed property office would not release them until they were furnished with the rightful heirs of the money. I was able to obtain the names of the three different payers of the royalty checks from that and communicated with them that they were providing checks to the wrong people and gave them the rightful owners. They were BP America, Navajo Refining (now Slayton Resources) and EGL Resources., I have yet to even hear back from any of those companies, it has been a month and a half. Obviously they don’t seem to care at all about this, I intend to follow up with probate and heir ship records to maybe get them interested, but that seems to be in all probability a fruitless effort as well.,.
From all indications and my research so far, it appears that the executor of the estate has been receiving and cashing these checks for herself for 21 years! Apparently there is no check or balance that keeps that from happening, she of course is totally unwilling to communicate about this with us. I have been trying to find the physical location of these mineral rights, so far with no success. They all appear to be in Chaves County.
The frustration is that nobody seems to care. The oil companies are getting their oil, and apparently feels that any work on their part to clear it up is beyond their scope or responsibility. The deceased person cannot of course do anything, and the person cashing the checks of course would like to leave things as they have been for 21 years. for personal enrichment reasons…
I would love to know the amounts of those 21 years of checks, but that seems to be information I cannot access either. Would seem silly to go to court asking for some unknown amount of money and no proof that it even exists. My daughters share of the unclaimed property checks was around $1200 for what appears to be a months royalty checks, making the 21 year amount certainly worth pursuit.


#6

OK, lots of water under the bridge in a short time. I have found 8 mineral leases so far and need to get it all updated. From my research on this site, I THINK I need to send a copy of the 1997 death certificate, will, and probate, then a certificate of death from my ex wife, then an affidavit of heir ship completed by my daughter, since her mothers will was not probated to each producer so they can get royalty payments to my daughter. Apparently I should also send these same documents to Lea and Chaves county clerks for filing as well.
Do I have that all correct? Is there anything else I should be doing to get this mess straightened out?
Is there any search that anyone can do, even a landsman, to determine if there are other mineral rights owned by this person that died in 1997? They seem to be oozing from the files as I search but would love to have a firm reading on that…


#7

Sorry to hear you’re having so much trouble with this, Don. I am not an attorney, but it sounds like you may need one. I can tell you that if you don’t have the time or inclination to do all this yourself, it will likely get expensive very quickly. If I were you, I would begin by identifying the production volumes of the properties on the NMOCD website. If the production over the past XX years has been significant, you may be able to find an attorney who is willing to take the necessary steps toward corrective action on a contingent basis (for a percentage, of course). You’ll want to make sure your interest in the well is significant also (google proportionate reduction). If you find or decide that this route is not financially viable, I would at least get the information you need to prove your daughter is the rightful owner and simply forget the past. If that’s not in your nature, you’ll probably pay $350/hour for an attorney or $500+/day for a landman (expenses are high in the permian) to figure all this out for you. I would count on it taking at least 2 days per property to prove title, and longer if you want them to verify ownership percentage in the wells. I’m sure someone in this forum can point you to an attorney that is licensed in NM. You can walk into just about any courthouse out there right now and find a landman, but finding a reputable one that has the time to take on the job may prove to be difficult. If you need a landman referral, message me and I’ll see what I can find for you.

Also, this is potentially becoming very sticky. If the executor of the estate has been cashing checks, do you have any information as to whether they may have transferred title into their name from the estate in Lea/Chavez? If they have, and it has gone uncontested all this time, they may have a claim to adverse possession. Again, I am no attorney, but you really need to dig into this and decide what course of action you prefer to take.

As for the affidavit of heirship, it really needs to be signed by at least one person (preferably two) that do not have any interest in the subject land. Your daughter is an interested party, so I would not recommend having her sign. It would not likely be sufficient if it went in front of a judge.

Final statement for all information above - I am not an attorney. Do not construe any of this as legal advice. :slight_smile:


#8

First off, thanks for your guidance, I sure appreciate it.
I am an old retired Army officer with lots of time on my hands and don’t mind doing the work that I can actually do. I have had to go in the back doors but I have found out lots so far. On the good side, the chain of ownership of the mineral rights are pretty darned simple, and the crookedness was done in such a way as to not attract attention. My father in law inherited the rights from his father, who owned them and had the wells drilled back in the 20s and 30s. My deceased wife was one of his 5 kids, they inherited equally, and her only daughter is her clear and only heir. There can be no questioning that, and I have all the proof documents. The cashing of the checks and keeping the money by my wife’s sister was profitable, easy, and nearly foolproof for her. Some checks she forgot to have the address changed, resulted in the state of Florida claiming them. They would only release the funds to the rightful heirs! That was in 2014, this had been going on since 1997, and at least one lessee has claimed they have the funds held in suspense ever since that date! Obviously my current goal is to get all I can find into my daughters name and cleared up.
I don’t have the percentage division in front of me, but one of the wells alone pumped out 3,010,352 barrels of oil during that timeframe.
I feel I have to get to the bottom of some of this before I can act. It appears that from the guidance I can get, finding out how much was stolen in those 21 years is not possible, so it is hard to decide to make a claim for an unknown amount. I do know my ex father in law lived VERY WELL off those royalty checks.


#9

It shouldn’t be that hard to figure out given you have time and are confident you have accurate title.

Get the total unit acreage for each well from the NMOCD well file. Then figure out how much of your acreage was included in it. - example (160 acre unit/40 acres owned= 1/4). Now look at the lease. Assuming your royalty percentage is 1/8, and you owned 20% of the minerals under that acreage, your interest in the unit would be:

1/4(from example above) x 1/8(lease royalty) = 1/32 x 20%(your percentage ownership) = 1/160.

Using the numbers above, now look to the production data. If the well produced 10,000 barrels last year, at an average of $50/barrel (use historical WTI data for each year), then you would take 10,000 x $50 x 1/160 and that’s “roughly” what you would have received in royalties from that well, less any allowables for marketing, etc. Any allowables would be identified in your lease… Do this for each year and you have an idea of what you would have received from each well over that time. If you want a more precise figure, use the monthly average production and WTI historical figures.

I really hope this information helps, Don - and thank you for your service! Best of luck!


#10

One last thought - has the estate that the executor had control of been closed and if so, do you have a copy of the order closing the estate? That may make a big difference when it comes to rightful ownership.

Also, you may have already tried, but here is some information for owner relations at BP


ownerrelations@bp.com


#11

Hey thanks, I had never thought of doing it that way (thru the back door so to speak) That sure will give me a figure close enough to decide what needs to happen next. I am cautious because I do know at one time back in 1970 or so the wells had all but stopped producing.
Thanks again, that sure solves one of my roadblocks in fine shape! Now on with finding the mineral rights he had that I have not yet discovered, there may be some or none.


#12

I have not seen it, but based on the files identification at the probate court and my daughter having seen a copy, the estate was closed, a copy of that document is in the probate file. The probate file is silent about mineral rights (and now we can suspect there was a a reason for that silence). I helped two different landmen track down documents on two mineral rights that were not being leased at the time, and we have them now each leased in my daughters name. To me that obviously supports my opinion that the title to the rights is not clouded, or they would have not paid a signup bonus to her. Also the unclaimed royalty checks in Florida were released to her (her 1/5 portion of them) after we provided enough proof for the lessees to reissue checks to her. However to start sending routine royalty checks to her they want the complete inheritance chain proof. I can fully understand that.
This has been quite an education for me, only a few months ago I knew vaguely that there was some process that companies pumped oil from the ground and some people got money for it!


#13

Thanks for the BP information. Frustratingly, one of the remaining unclaimed royalty payments was from BP to the guy that had died 17 years ago! I furnished the necessary paperwork for them to reissue the check to my daughter, but they have refused to answer my questions as to WHAT the royalty was being paid for! I need to know the mineral rights location etc. Perhaps your link will allow me to speak to someone in person to see why there is such things happening.


#14

OK thanks to the huge amount of help, I think I am now at least ready, I am sending the 1997 death certificate, the probated will, the close of the probate in 1999, my deceased wife’s birth certificate, her death certificate, appointment of my daughter of personal representative of the estate and only heir, and Affidavits of Heirship by my daughter. That in my opinion will show proof of my daughter being the rightful owner now… I am going to send all that to each known producer or lessee, then send it all to Chaves and Lea counties.
I keep hearing of deeds to mineral rights, is this necessary and in this case who would prepare such deeds?
I still have no real clue as to how to find other mineral rights that I may not be aware of currently. Would that be something I could find at the county clerks office by a personal search? If so, what office and what documents am I looking for?
So many thanks to all that have provided valuable help to me in getting this sorted out. I feel I am on a downhill stretch now!


#15

Be careful with that logic. I have seen many cases where an operator was more than willing to lease to someone with non-marketable title to prevent other non-ops from doing so. They were willing to make that risk, but it was different when it came time to pay on production. This is not based on NM, but guidance I have shows it is very similar to Oklahoma in regard to Affidavits. The purchaser MAY BE WILLING to distribute based on the strength of the affidavit.


#16

Thank you, never thought about that happening.