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What if the person who owns mineral rights dies?

On Behalf of | Jan 9, 2024 | Oil & Gas Law

Mineral rights at a property can sometimes be the most valuable asset someone owns. They may negotiate a lease with the oil and gas company and earn mostly passive income. Oil and gas production remain among the most lucrative industries in Oklahoma.

Oil and mineral rights are very valuable, which inevitably means that they are also the sources of familial conflict. Perhaps a parent or grandparent owned property and held the mineral rights to their land. Everyone in the family may become fixated on those rights when the original owner passes away. 

What happens to mineral rights when the person who technically owns them dies? 

The probate courts get involved

Some estates in Oklahoma do not need to pass through probate court. The person who died had minimal property or planned very carefully to keep their belongings out of court. Unless a trust holds the mineral rights for a property, the property itself and the rights attached to it may need to pass through the Oklahoma probate courts. 

During that process, judges oversee the distribution of assets and determine who keeps what property from the estate. It can sometimes take more than a year to complete the probate process. It is only after the probate courts have finalized terms on the distribution of property that people can update oil and gas rights ownership records

They can submit documents from the probate courts to the relevant County Recorder’s office. Then, they can submit documentation to the company that negotiated a lease with the deceased former owner. The business should update internal records to reflect the current county records regarding ownership of the property and the mineral rights there. 

It can be very challenging to address mineral rights during family transitions. Getting professional support when handling a change in mineral rights ownership can minimize the risk of disputes and mistakes that could derail what could otherwise be a smooth transfer process.