Texas is a state rich in natural resources, with oil and gas representing a significant portion of the state’s energy and mineral industry. In Texas, the owner of the surface my not own the mineral interests underneath. Those interests may be severed, with the owner of the mineral rights differing from the owner of the surface interest. This is common in parts of Texas where there is a substantial history of drilling for oil or natural gas. The rights to oil and gas can be explicitly separated by a deed, and once that ownership is severed from surface ownership, then oil and gas rights may be bought, sold, or transferred, the same as other real estate property.
According to the Texas Supreme Court, the five attributes of a severed mineral estate include:
(1) the right to explore and develop-the right of ingress and egress
(2) the right to lease-the executive right
(3) the right to receive bonus payments
(4) the right to receive delay rentals, and
(5) the right to receive royalties.
The words “royalty”, “bonus”, and “rentals” have a well-understood meaning in the oil and gas business. A conveyance of land without reservations would include all minerals and mineral rights. However, it is well settled that a grantor may reserve minerals or mineral rights and he may also reserve royalties, bonuses, and rentals, either one, more or all. Here we have a reservation of “royalty rights.”
While personal property can disappear and money can be spent, real property, including both surface and mineral interest, does not simply go away without a trace. In contested estates, the surface and mineral property interests may constitute the vast majority of an estate. This is particularly true in rural counties, with large tracts of still undeveloped land.
Major oil and gas formations in Texas include:
Eagle Ford Shale
Many oil formations that were previously not economically viable are now due to emerging technologies. Today, thanks to advances in technology, the shale and basin formations continue to impress in terms of resource potential. In fact, the shale industry has made America the world’s top producer of crude oil. In 2018, the Permian Basin’s production rose by a million barrels a day, and it could surpass the Ghawar field in Saudi Arabia within three years. The Permian generates more oil than any of the 14 members of OPEC except Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The Haynesville Shale under East Texas and Northwest Louisiana, is considered one of the top three U.S. natural gas deposits. The Barnett Shale in North Texas is one of the largest onshore natural gas fields in the United States. The most productive portion of the rock formation is located directly beneath Johnson, Tarrant and western Dallas counties, about a mile and a half underground. The Barnett shale contains an estimated 40 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Like surface interests, mineral interests are passed down by inheritance. If there is a valid will, it controls who gets the property. If not, Texas laws of heirship controls. But what if the will is flawed or there is an argument about its validity? Or an argument regarding the validity of a purported deed transferring ownership before death.
The rules of intestate succession in Texas can by found by clicking here.
If someone has attempted to steal or hijack your mineral interests by attempting to probate a bad will, you must contact an experienced estate litigation lawyer as soon as possible. We can help you either probate an earlier will or inherit the oil and gas interests through heirship.
If someone has attempted to steal your inheritance by contesting a will in your favor, we fight to ensure the will is admitted to probate. An aggressive defense of a will in your favor is the best offense to protect your inheritance.
We have substantial experience in fighting for mineral interests, such as oil and natural gas. We examine the will, the deed, and any other relevant documents. Our goal is to make sure you are not cheated out of an inheritance.