Leaving mineral rights to your beneficiaries can be incredibly complicated. The right mineral management partner can make all the difference.
Generational Rights to Minerals: How to Set Your Beneficiaries Up for Success
When thinking about estate transition, questions may come to mind about how to create a detailed descent and distribution plan for your mineral assets. You may be wondering how to ensure the mineral rights transfer is successful, what some of the pitfalls are to avoid, and how you can protect your assets.
At Valor, we understand the importance of thorough estate planning to ensure you have secured your mineral rights for your beneficiaries. Addressing these questions head-on — with knowledge and clarity — can help set you on the path to a successful mineral estate transfer.
How do mineral rights get passed from one generation to the next?
Mineral rights are the ownership of the subsurface real property. When hydrocarbons are produced, the mineral owners are entitled to a royalty percentage of the production proceeds. When you pass away, your beneficiaries inherit your mineral interests. If you have a will, it is up to the executor to probate your will and make sure the assets are passed on in accordance with your will. Since mineral rights are considered real estate, this will require a conveyance to be filed in your respective county courthouse. The executor will need to prepare, execute and record the conveyances. If you pass on without a will (intestate), the mineral ownership will pass in accordance to the inheritance laws of the state in which the property is located — this usually requires an Affidavit of Heirship to be filed in lieu of a deed.
In either case, it is important to know what exactly is owned so that the property descriptions on the conveyance are accurate.
First, in order to verify ownership, a landman, title company or attorney are usually hired to research the ownership records of the property(ies) in question. It is the norm for the deed to have the gross property description, not necessarily each individual owner’s net ownership. So even if you have copies of deeds, it will likely require further research to verify net ownership. It is also common for the surface owner(s) and the mineral owner(s) to differ. Just because you own a house does not necessarily mean you own the minerals as well. It’s also common for there to be multiple owners of a property, especially after a generation or two. Sometimes an owner sells to someone outside of the family, or gets divorced, and you can have a range of related and unrelated owners of the same mineral property.
Once the conveyances are filed of record, the next steps are to make sure the county tax authorities update the records to match. They should also make sure any oil and gas companies that have an active lease on the properties are notified. In an intestate case, oil and gas companies may require additional documentation to prove ownership.
This can be quite a tedious and expensive process if there is not a plan in place along with the correct people designated to handle it. Too often individuals did not know about the mineral rights until they’ve been inherited and they have to start from scratch. Do your beneficiaries a favor and keep good records, have the right people to help, and have your estate plan in order.
What are the biggest challenges in mineral estate planning?
- 1. Family Matters: Inheriting and keeping track of mineral rights is becoming increasingly complicated. For example, let’s say your grandfather divided mineral rights ownership among your family members, with each owning a specific percentage. While you may want to exclusively split your portion with your own children, others may hold a different view. Some may opt to sell their rights to outsiders, further fragmenting mineral rights.
- 2. Documenting what you own: Owning a real estate’s surface rights doesn’t automatically mean owning the mineral rights. This can be most challenging for your beneficiaries if they don’t know where to start. An important piece of the puzzle to prevent confusion for them would be outlining the plans for the mineral rights in your will in as much detail as can be provided. The more you’re able to explain and translate for their understanding, the more responsibly they can make decisions on ownership and the future of the rights and property.
- 3. Educating inheritors: When the mineral rights are transferred to your inheritors, some oil and gas companies will reach out and ask them to sign leases. Unfortunately, some of these enterprises can capitalize on your beneficiaries’ naivety or lack of regular valuation knowledge and offer exploitative rates.
- 4. Being taken advantage of: There is also the threat of predatory mineral buyers taking advantage of your mineral rights inheritors if they are unaware of their inheritance. Mineral buyers usually work with probate firms to research and target potential heirs of wealth who did not file a last will. Hunters sometimes demand that the beneficiaries agree to share a significant portion of the inheritance with them before disclosing the source of the inheritance.
How can you set up inheritors to avoid challenges?
Though the aforementioned are all major hurdles, you have a couple proven ways to mitigate these issues and set your inheritors up for lasting success:
1. Provide Clear Documentation for All Parties
Inheriting rights to minerals, oil or natural gas could produce a financial windfall for your beneficiaries. But maintaining this complex asset class can be a daunting task, especially for those unaccustomed to maximizing the value of mineral rights. Set up your inheritors now with clear, well-thought-out direction for them when the time comes to take on the mineral rights. Having your rights audited before inheriting them will prevent confusion and complicated decisions (and fees involved with auditing after inheriting) for beneficiaries and any legal and insurance teams involved down the road.
2. Utilize a Mineral Management Company
You simply may not have the time or expertise to effectively manage mineral, oil and gas assets — nevermind being certain that you’re following best practices. A number of beneficiaries don’t even know the details of everything they inherit. If they do, they aren’t equipped with an accurate picture, or they’re not getting the true pay for it. For that reason, mineral asset owners often choose to work with a professional mineral management company who can oversee key tasks on their behalf, including conducting regular valuations to fill in the gap in the value of the rights versus the market price at any given moment. These regular appraisals will keep your inheritors up to date on any changes in value of the mineral rights as well as be crucial in making any decisions about them or the land the minerals are on. Utilizing a mineral manager provides your inheritors with a knowledgeable source of trustworthy guidance and information on a regular basis.
When mineral assets are part of an estate or trust, you need an experienced partner who understands more than just the market value. And that’s what we do. Valor understands the day-to-day operational challenges, the long-term investment environment, and the ins and outs of complex agreements and transactions. We safekeep your records with our proprietary mineral tech software (mineral.tech®, equipped with up-to-date security and revenue-optimization technology) to ensure that your rights are protected — and effectively managed and reported — making for a seamless, profitable transition to your inheritors.
Allowing an expert to work as your partner on your estate or trust takes the work and worry off of your and your inheritor’s hands while still safeguarding your asset rights. For your peace of mind in managing and securing your mineral rights, get in touch with one of our experts today.