Texas Landowner’s Mineral Rights
Most Central Texas landowners do not know how much of the mineral rights they own on their property. (In South Texas they probably do, haha) When landowners own 100% of the minerals they usually know because someone has done the research or the land has been in the family a long time. The percent of minerals that’s available in a land purchase is one of the most common questions Land Brokers hear and the most difficult to answer.
Now days it can be quite challenging to find a property with 100% of the mineral interest in tact. Most often the mineral interest, at least to some degree, has been severed from the surface ownership. In Texas, the mineral interest is a separate interest in land that can be severed from the surface estate. This severance usually happens in one of two ways. One, the landowner sells the mineral estate while continuing to own the surface estate. Or two, and most common, a landowner sells the surface estate and retains (reserves) some portion, if not all of the mineral interest they own. If a seller does not reserve any of the mineral rights in a transaction, all of the minerals owned by the seller is automatically transferred to the buyer.
Free ways to find out about your mineral interest.
At one time you could ask the title company, especially ones that specialize in farm & ranch properties, how much of the minerals convey during a purchase. Although I still run across some title companies that may verbally tell you about the mineral interest on a property, today many title companies won’t say for liability reasons.
Sometimes the title policy can provide information on mineral rights, but for the same reasons mentioned above most title policies do not for liability reasons. Liability reasons aside, doing a mineral search on a property can be very time consuming and expensive. Minerals are usually not insurable on a title policy so its pointless to do the research on them from a title insurance standpoint.
From the county land records you can construct a “chain of title.” A chain of title is simply a timeline record of documents showing how the mineral rights have changed hands throughout the years. Basically, from the county clerk’s office, get copies of the chain of title on the property. You’re trying to find out with all of the previous landowners if the mineral interest has been reserved or severed from the property. If you find gaps in title you may also want to check probates or divorce decrees in the court clerk’s office as well.
This probably doesn’t apply much in Central Texas but if there is an oil and gas lease already in place on a property you can ask for a copy of the title research done on the minerals from the oil and gas company.
Ways to find out about the minerals if you’re willing to pay.
An attorney can do a title search on the property to find out how much of the mineral interest is intact. This can be expensive depending on how complex the documents are. As with all the research mentioned in this post you usually don’t know how time consuming a project like this is going to be until you get in to it.
Lastly you can hire a landman. A landman makes his living down at the county clerk’s office researching deeds and records to determine mineral ownership. If you are willing to pay, this is probably the most efficient way to go to find out about the mineral interest on your property. Many landmen work for oil and gas companies and therefore are very experienced in researching the mineral rights on a property.
***This post is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.***