How Do I Find Out If I Own the Minerals Under my Land?

How Do I Find Out If I Own the Minerals Under my Land?

Here at LandGate, we get many calls from property owners concerned that their neighbors are being paid for their mineral ownership, but they aren’t. The caller might say something like their family has owned this property for over 20 years and they want to know how to find out if they own the minerals.

There are several ways to determine if you own mineral rights. But first, let’s talk about the difference between surface ownership and mineral ownership.

In many countries, individuals are not permitted to own minerals. In the U.S. however, surface and the underlying mineral rights can be owned by private individuals and corporations, as well as the states, federal and tribal governments.

The U.S. is comprised of 2.263 billion acres of land that is owned as follows:

Private ownership- 1.334 billion (58%)
Federal Government- 713 million (31%)
States- 207 million (9%)
Tribal Lands- 46 million (2%)

The surface and underlying minerals were originally “bundled” together. In other words, the surface and minerals were owned by the same individual, government, etc. There are two ways to sever the surface from the minerals….you can sell the surface and retain the minerals or sell the minerals and retain the surface.

So how can you determine if you own minerals? First, understand that surface and the underlying minerals are also called Real Property. Every document or contract entered into that involves the purchase or sale of real property must be filed in the county courthouse of the county where the property is located. So, pretty much any option you select to determine if you own minerals will include a search of the courthouse records. Let’s look at what your options are as a possible mineral owner.

Go to the Courthouse to Search Mineral Ownership Records

If you live on or near your property, you can go to the courthouse yourself to search the records. The legal description of your property could be helpful. If you don’t have the description, go to the tax office first. As a surface owner, you are paying property taxes and they can assist you with your property description. It’s best if you have the deed that was signed when you or a relative purchased the property. With the deed, you can ask for assistance in the deed records room where they will assist you in understanding the process of running title on your property.

What you are looking for in the courthouse is a deed covering your property where the seller (called “Grantor”) conveyed the property to a buyer (called “Grantee”). You need to understand that, depending on what state the property is located, the first deeds could have been executed in the 1800s. However, you must start with the most current deed and research the title in reverse order. For example:

If your property was acquired from the Allen family, were the minerals reserved in that deed? Then find the deed where the Allen family was the Grantee. You might find that the Allen family purchased the property from the Beck family. Read that deed. Then find the deed where the Beck family purchased the property from the Clark family. It will take some time, but it will be necessary to locate all the deeds.

If you find a deed where all oil, gas and other minerals are reserved, then you will know that the surface and minerals have been severed and all subsequent conveyances of the surface will not include the minerals. Many of these deeds will state that Grantor is conveying all right, title and interest. But understand that if the grantor does not own the minerals, then Grantor is conveying the surface only.

Some counties in some states have online records. It can be difficult running title using only online records, but it is possible. LandGate can help. Let us know what it is you want to accomplish and let us save you some time.

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Hire a Landman to Run Your Title

There are many men and women in the land profession (“landmen”) who are quite capable of running title to answer your questions. These landmen have spent many years researching county records in an effort to determine who owns minerals. These landmen could charge you anywhere from $300 – $500/day, depending on their education, experience level, certifications and other important factors. Most LandGate title searches are completed in a week or less. Give us a call and let us show you how we can help you discover if you own the minerals under your land.

Hire a Title Company to Research Mineral Ownership

There are title companies in most every town. However, most title companies support the real estate industry. The majority of real estate transactions are focused on the surface. Title on surface ownership is not as complicated as title on mineral ownership. If you can find a title company that has the time for a mineral ownership search, that could be a good option. Calling LandGate is probably the better option.

Hire an Attorney to Help Determine if you Own Your Minerals

Hiring an attorney would likely be the most expensive option. However, hiring an attorney could be your best option. In many cases, property deeds are complicated to read and interpret, especially when property rights are being transferred with minerals being reserved. Having an attorney involved in the title research can really help when complications arise. If there are title issues, you will need an attorney to prepare documents to clear your title. As an example:

Imagine Mr Allen selling the property in 1905 to Mr Beck and retaining all the oil and gas rights. Then Mr Allen dies without a will in 1915, being survived by his wife and 4 children. In most states, 50% of Mr Allen’s assets would pass to his wife with the remaining 50% being divided between his 4 children. This would result in the minerals being owned 50% by his wife and 12.5% by each child.

Now let’s assume that each of 4 children died in 1965. And each of the 4 children were married with 4 children. In this example, there are now 16 grandchildren of Mr Allen who died in 1915. Each of these grandchildren own a portion of the minerals. How about the 50% that passed to Mr Allen’s wife in 1915? And if each of her 4 children were married when they each passed in 1965, who now owns the 50% that passed to their spouses? Answer – It gets complicated and someone’s going to need an attorney.

The Best Way to Determine if You Own Mineral Rights

Call LandGate. It is especially important that you find out if you own minerals. Most people that own property in the US think they own the minerals. And most people that own minerals in the US don’t know they own them. A great starting point would be to contact LandGate. We can assist you. And many times, it will be of no cost to you.

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