So I am new to the whole mineral rights heir-ship thing and while I have found a bunch of great information on this site, I do have some questions.

Some background:  A few years ago I was contacted by a landman who informed me that I was heir to some mineral acres in Greene County PA.  He also informed me that there were lots and lots of heirs and that my share was a little less than a 1/4 acre out of about 80.  Not being very informed, and trusting the fact that he told me the lease could not be negotiated because I had such a small portion, I signed and then basically forgot about it.  Yes - lesson learned....

Fast forward a few years and I am finding that I am heir to what could be a large number of mineral acres. I have since signed (an attorney approved/negotiated) lease and am being offered a 3rd lease.  Since I find research interesting and, let's face it, because it has an impact on me, I started doing some research on PA Land records.  In doing my research, I am noticing that my portion of the heir-ship (?) rights are off.  It is usually only by about 3 or 4 acres but still - according to my research - off.  I am not claiming to be anywhere near a professional researcher but that PA Land Records site makes it really easy to to look stuff up.  I started with the info listed on the lease and then printed out everything related to the person I inherited from.  What I am finding is that some of the siblings deeded their share of their rights back to the person I inherited from.  The numbers the landman (?) or whoever did their research, based the acreage on is from the original deed.  So my questions are:

  • Has anyone ever done the research to their leases and found the (O&G Co) info to be incorrect?
  • Is is possible (or probable) that the O&G company heir-ships research could be wrong? 
  • Is it usual to only get the heirs from the original deed?
  • Can I go back to the old leases and question the heir-ships?
  • Is there anything they (G&O Co)  can/will give me to show how they came up with their heir information?  And will they give it out?
  • What happens if I am correct and should have more interest in the acreage?

I understand that a few acres really isn't worth arguing over, however, I do like to know that I am right and that in itself will be enough :).  Any information or insite would be extremely helpful.

-EM

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I am not an attorney, nor have I done any research on Pennsylvania records, but I have done a lot of research into my own interests in West Virginia and have found that sometimes the company's research is not accurate or not complete, as you have found. What I have done involves tracing my title (not an official trace, but I had professional input into the process) and getting the deeds and other documents to support this. When I have found a mistake, I have detailed what I have found in communicating with the companies, and they have corrected things.

I have seen what you have described, about some heirs deeding to other heirs, which certainly alters the amount that the various ones own.

Even 1/2 net mineral acre can make a money difference, in bonus payments (1/2 of $4000 an acre is not nothing) and in royalty payments on the prolific horizontal wells.

Keep at it, get your documents, make sure it is clear to you what you are finding/have found, and talk with the Land Department of the companies you are dealing with. Also not a bad idea to talk with the assessor's office. I really don't know how things work in PA but in WV the mineral interests are generally supposed to be recorded and taxed, so the assessor's office should (but doesn't always) have correct accurate information on the amounts people own. I have found several instances where something was not recorded correctly when a transfer was made (somebody sold the surface and 1/2 mineral rights, and retained the other 1/2, but it was recorded as if the surface and ALL the rights were transferred, etc. The deeds clearly stated what was what, but mistakes happen)

Maybe somebody else has some other ideas.

Just remeber when they do a title search they only go to the court house where the property is located all that is required in Pa to my knowledge.
If they are any intrastate wills or deeds it is up to you to provide them.
I take some of that back I have worked with two companies that I just told them where the wills or deeds where filed and they sent reps to get copies.

Like the gentleman said "educate". Depending on what you have inherited the first thing you need to consider is what it is going to cost for you to get things cleared up. Oil and gas attorney's are very expensive and to clear title it may cost thousands of dollars for research. I would recommend getting copies of as many wills as you can and see where the property has transferred. Then you will need to get the deeds. A good start would be the local court house. It sounds like it will be tough to get everything cleared up but it can be done. Good luck! 

Thank you all for your responses!
Nancy, from the information I found, PA does not tax mineral rights until they are taken out of the ground. I am going to gather all my info, contact the companies and see if they will at least hear me out. Wish me luck!
-EM

Good luck indeed, and please feel free to ask again if you want more ideas.The bottom line, is that if you are armed with all the necessary information and paperwork, and analyze it carefully, they should end up agreeing with you. Better to correct things sooner rather than later!

That is also why it is best not to warrant a title unless you have a rock solid title. They could make you pay back what you should not have gotten in the first place, even if it is their fault for telling you wrong.

Educate me,

First, understand that the leasing process is not conducted the same by all companies. Some are very methodical and thorough ( in order to avoid issues with title later on).

Other companies simply wanted to grab as much acreage as possible as quickly as possible, damn the details. The details can be dealt with later.

So in some instances you will find some of the issues you are questioning - incorrect acreage, incorrect heirship etc. Some companies don't care about the nuances of heirship. Chasing heirs can be a tedious and expensive effort. I think some companies make the decision to deal with those issues later if challenged.

Yes you can go back and question the heirship, acreage etc. on any lease. But don't expect much co-operation from the company; they probably won't give you info on their title searches (unless you press them legally with an attorney).

If your research shows any imperfections in a lease you have the right to have the information corrected. At this point you will probably need competent legal assistance (I emphasize "competent"). If it were me, that legal assistance should be obtained from an attorney or firm that specializes in oil and gas law.

Hope this helps.

Thanks Barry,

That is what I am trying to figure out.  Would an additional 2 acres be worth the cost of hiring someone to look into it for me and any legal issue(s) that may come up.  I am definitely not ready to take on a gas company.

However, I do know, on a go forward basis, I will be doing the research BEFORE I sign the lease and bring up any inconsistencies then.

Would it be worth hiring someone ?

I can answer without equivocation or hesitation -

Maybe.

Without knowing the particulars of your situation and not being an oil and gas attorney I think it would be unfair to you for me to speculate.

Another way to approach this is to research the income produced by an acre of ground from oil and gas production in your area, signing bonus plus average royalty per acre.

I would still suggest that you speak to an oil and gas attorney. The first visit is usually free and you may be able to get a ballpark figure on the cost.

I live in Oklahoma, but have royalties in Greene Co. Pennsylvania.  Not sure what steps I need to take in order to make a "right" decision.  Thanks for any much needed advice.  Martha M.

Just a couple of quick thoughts from years of experience searching Oil and Gas Ownership in PA.

Most importantly, Barry D. is correct is saying that every company is very different in how they conduct their searches. Many companies will do a limited title search on the Oil and Gas rights until it is time to do "Drill Title." Drill Title is a much more expensive title search so they typically only do it on properties they have in a unit they are looking to operate.

To your questions:
It is very possible that the Oil and Gas Company may be off in their title searches. I have found in my experience that some Oil and Gas Companies are awful when it comes to determining heirship. I would recommend printing/keeping anything and everything that you find in regards to potential ownership.

Surprisingly, the Oil and Gas Companies welcome this information. If you find Oil and Gas Interests that you inherited that they potentially missed, you are giving them the opportunity to work with someone that has already proven to play ball(you). Your added interest provides them more acreage on their reports and lessens the amount of other individuals they have to lease.

BEWARE OF ATTORNEYS. Many of them have decades of experience practicing law, but not all of them have experience practicing OIL AND GAS LAW. I have run into many attorneys that are Medical MalPractice/Oil and Gas Attorneys. If you go the attorney route, do your research. Make sure they are credible in Oil and Gas.

-TY

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