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JD, Lawyer
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I inherited mineral rights to some property in Texas from my

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I inherited mineral rights to some property in Texas from my grandmother. The land was sold off years ago, but my family retained 50% of the mineral rights to the property that was sold. An oil and gas well has been drilled on part of the property. During the title work, a vacancy consisting of 2.45 acres was discovered between two of the tracts of property involved. The drilling operator is asking the heirs in my family to sign a quit claim deed to the surface of the property in return for the property owners signing a quit claim deed on the minerals.
Am I correct in assuming that my family currently owns the 2.45 acres in question? Also, I'm thinking that the current property "owners" don't own the mineral rights anyway, since the minerals that were sold were transferred during the original sale. If the property wasn't technically sold, then it seems that the minerals weren't either, meaning we're trading for something that we own anyway.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  JD replied 4 years ago.

Your logic is sound. However, it may not be that simple.

 

Tell me this, when you say "a vacancy consisting of 2.45 acres was discovered", are you saying that your grandmother's property was divided and sold and this particular section was never actually placed on anyone else's deed? If so, how long has the property been sold and has anyone been physically inhabiting, using, or controlling the 2.45 acres in question believing they were the owner?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

As far as I can tell, the property was never placed on anyone else's deed. The property was probably sold in the 60's, although I am not entirely sure of that. And, yes, someone else has been using and/or controlling the property. I can only assume that they believed they were the owner; otherwise, I would think that they would have tried to resolve the issue before it was discovered during the mineral lease title work. The odd thing is that the producer drilled on the property before this was resolved; however, I think sometimes they do start drilling before the title work is complete.

 

The letter that I received from the producer states that during their curative work for the division of interest in two of their units, they discovered a "vacancy" that exists between the boundaries of two of the tracts involved. They are proposing that reciprocal quit claim deeds be signed in order to clarify the title on the property. The document also states that I will hold my interest in the minerals for each tract and the current property owners will retain the surface.

Expert:  JD replied 4 years ago.
I will need to research one thing before answering. Please give me a few more minutes.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
No problem! One thing that I forgot to mention is that part of this issue occured because it was assumed for all of these years that the property line ended at the middle of the road, as is usually the case. However, in this case the property line was surveyed all the way across the road to the next fence line. That's kind of confusing, and I can't see that from the surveys that they sent with this letter, but thought that it might be some information that you can use.
Expert:  JD replied 4 years ago.

At first it would seem you may own this property, however these are the situations that adverse possession was created to remedy and may very well apply to this case. Basically if you think you own the property and possess it continuously and exclusively for a period of 10 years then you may have the ability to have a court grant you title to the property even when you were mistaken as to your ownership.

 

The law of adverse possession in Texas was articulated well in the following case.... http://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/opinions/HTMLopinion.asp?OpinionID=2000871

 

Here is a relevant excerpt:

 

Under Texas law, adverse possession requires "an actual and visible appropriation of real property, commenced and continued under a claim of right that is inconsistent with and is hostile to the claim of another person." Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 16.021(1). The statute requires visible appropriation; mistaken beliefs about ownership do not transfer title until someone acts on them. See, e.g., Bywaters v. Gannon, 686 S.W.2d 593, 595 (Tex. 1985). Thus, there must be adverse possession, not just adverse beliefs.

 

The statute requires that such possession be "inconsistent with" and "hostile to" the claims of all others. Joint use is not enough, because "possession must be of such character as to indicate unmistakably an assertion of a claim of exclusive ownership in the occupant." Rhodes v. Cahill, 802 S.W.2d 643, 645 (Tex. 1990) (quoting Rick v. Grubbs, 214 S.W.2d 925, 927 (Tex. 1948)) (emphasis in original); McDonnold v. Weinacht, 465 S.W.2d 136, 141 (Tex. 1971). Here, Haliburton shared use of the strip with the Buddes, so her use was not inconsistent with or hostile to their ownership. See, e.g., Brooks v. Jones, 578 S.W.2d 669, 673 (Tex. 1979) ("It has long been the law in Texas that when a landowner and the claimant of an easement both use the same way, the use by the claimant is not exclusive of the owner's use and therefore will not be considered adverse.").

 

.................................................................................................

 

If the people who have occupied the property for 50 years under the belief they owned it were to file a quiet title action, they may find success and the court order that they know own the property. This may or may not have an impact on the mineral rights and you may find it to your advantage to simply execute these quit claim deeds to protect your own interests.

 

I strongly advise you to seek local counsel and let them review this situation (and the property itself... take pictures). If they determine you would lose an adverse possession action, you will likely want to sign these deeds.

 

Please reply if I can help further.

 

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Edited by JD on 2/5/2010 at 3:10 AM EST
JD, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
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Experience: Over 11 years litigation experience including eminent domain and real estate disputes
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