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Ely, Counselor at Law
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 101939
Experience:  Fully licensed attorney in Texas in private practice.
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A Energy Company contacted my family about mineral rights

Customer Question

A Energy Company contacted my family about mineral rights that came with a farm that was registered at county clerks of Wetzel County/ WV in the name of our grandparents. This land was not known to us. We learned that taxes have been paid by unknown cousins for 94 years. Could they claim ownership as squatters rights?
JA: What documents or supporting evidence do you have?
Customer: I received a copy of a Land Partition which the county court assigned 3 lots of an inhereitance.
JA: Since laws vary from place to place, what state is this in?
Customer: West Virginia
JA: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: We signed an gas and oil lease. We visited and notice someone seemed to be living there, We may need to sign an agreement with an drilling and may have a problem later.
Submitted: 1 month ago.
Category: Estate Law
Expert:  Ely replied 1 month ago.

Hello and welcome to JustAnswer. Please note: This is general information for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. No specific course of action is proposed herein, and no attorney-client relationship or privilege is formed by speaking to an expert on this site.

They simply cannot claim squatter's rights (adverse possession is the legal term) unless they have already been utilizing that land for ten years. So, unless this is true, they cannot claim ownership.

But even if it has been for 10+ years, the current owner has to then prove the following in Court:

  1. There must be a “hostile” claim: the trespasser must either
    • make an honest mistake (like relying on an incorrect deed);
    • merely occupy the land (with or without knowledge that it is private property); or
    • be aware of his or her trespassing;
  2. There must be actual possession: the trespasser must be physically present on the land, treating it as his or her own;
  3. There must be open and notorious possession: the act of trespassing cannot be secret; and
  4. There must be exclusive and continuous possession: the trespasser cannot share possession with others, and must be in possession of the land for an uninterrupted period of time.

And, this is not automatic, meaning THEY have to file this in court, and PROVE each element above.

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