When we were first contacted by the company that wants us to sign for our mineral leases, the woman mentioned that there are 32 people "in the trust." We are not sure of the following:
1. What trust? It isn't a family trust that we know of...is "the trust" an account of some sort that the energy company set up? Is it something else all together?
2. How would we go about finding out who is named on this 'trust?"
3. Do we even need to know who is named? Why?
4. Is it to our benefit to find these people before we negotiate the terms?
Does anyone here have any experience with this sort of thing? On our paperwork there are 4 family names listed. Have they pooled the mineral resources for the lease?
First, I would ask the woman who contacted you.
Are you familiar with the title chain associated with your property? Who owned it before you, before them, before them etc.
There are so many ways a trust could be involved.
A lot of missing information. Hard to give good answers.
Yes, lots of missing info! That's the problem. The woman that contacted us was a 'consultant' hired by the O & G company that wants to horizontal drill on the property that was owned by my great great grand father and passed down. We actually don't know who owns the property at this point.
Do you know what County and State where the property was located?
You can go to the County Recorder for the county where the property is located and search for your great grand father's name. Many counties offer online access to records so you don't have to actually go to the physical office.
From there you can look to see if he sold the property. If he died and transferred ownership of the property through his will you will find record of the transfer in Probate Court Records.
By starting with his name you can obtain a copy of the deed (when he owned the property) and the parcel number(s) for the property.
With the parcel number(s) you can search on the number and it will show you most (if not all) of the previous owners of the land.
Given that it is only three(3) generations back you probably are not going to have too many owners to dig through.
With the Parcel Number (and/or numbers if more than one parcel) you can also go to that counties Auditor and search for the current owner of the land. Most Auditors today also have searchable web sites.
You will want to print off copies of the Deed for each owner and read them to see if anyone retained ownership of the mineral rights.
If transfer of ownership of the land was done through a Will, you will want to review probate records involved with that transfer to see if the person who received the land also received the mineral rights. Sometimes you will find that one person inherits the actual land and the mineral rights may be split between multiple heirs.
When a Title Search is done all of this will be looked at. The O & G company that is seeking to lease the land will take the search back to Patent (when state issued a deed to a private land owner).
By you doing the search it will give you information that may be helpful to you in deciding if you want to lease the land and if so how much you would be willing to accept to lease the land (what it is worth to you).
The searches are relatively easy to do and if you need assistance navigating the Recorder's database for the searches you can call them during business hours. Most of them are glad to help walk you through the first search over the phone.
I will add to Alan's to do some genealogy work. Begin with yourself, any siblings, who were the parents, and who were their parents, and did those parents have brothers and sisters etc. This would give you possibilities as to who may be in the trust. Perhaps its your first cousins, second ones, etc.
Put together what you know. Then call the public library in Wetzel County which may have some genealogy info regarding your particular family. Plus these local libraries sometimes have obituary collections which help you to find who are the heirs.
Also online you can check for info at a site called familysearch.org which is free. If your local public library where you live has access to Ancestry.com you will be able to search that site for info.
Believe me the land companies have people doing genealogy work to find the heirs especially in states with so many severed mineral rights as WV. You can do it to as you probably know your relatives better than they do.
About how to find out names, "it depends" on where. Different counties have different ways.
About " Is it to our benefit to find these people before we negotiate the terms?"
Yes, if you can do it. If they are related to you, very helpful. If not (maybe your ancestor bought a partial interest in a property), still it is good to know who the others are, and to try to contact them.
Thank you, Nancy. We appreciate all the info we can get!