Determining mineral rights ownership in Montana can be a complex process. Here are some steps to help you find out if you have mineral rights to your land.
In most countries, individuals are not permitted to own minerals. However, in the United States, both surface and underlying mineral rights can be owned by private individuals, corporations, as well as state, federal, and tribal governments.
Originally, the surface and underlying minerals were "bundled" together, meaning they were owned by the same entity. There are two ways to separate the surface from the minerals: selling the surface while retaining the minerals, or selling the minerals while retaining the surface.
To ascertain if you own minerals, it is crucial to recognize that the surface and underlying minerals are also referred to as Real Property. Any document or contract concerning the purchase or sale of real property must be filed in the county courthouse where the property is located. Therefore, any method you choose to determine ownership of minerals will likely involve a search of the courthouse records. Let's examine the various options available to potential mineral owners.
Visit the Courthouse to Conduct a Mineral Ownership Records Search
You can personally visit the courthouse to search the records. Having the legal description of your property can be useful. If you do not possess this information, it is advisable to visit the tax office initially. As a surface owner, you are responsible for paying property taxes, and the tax office can provide assistance with your property description. It is beneficial to have the deed that was signed when you, or a relative, acquired the property. With the deed in hand, you can request assistance from the deed records room, where they will guide you through the process of examining the title on your property.
In the courthouse, you are searching for a deed pertaining to your property, where the seller (known as the "Grantor") conveyed the property to a buyer (known as the "Grantee"). It is important to note that depending on the state in which the property is located, the earliest deeds may have been executed in the 1800s. Nevertheless, you should start with the most recent deed and examine the title in reverse chronological order.
If you come across a deed that reserves all oil, gas, and other minerals, then it indicates that the surface and minerals have been separated, and any subsequent transfers of the surface will not include the minerals. Many of these deeds will explicitly state that the Grantor is conveying all right, title, and interest. However, it is essential to understand that if the grantor does not own the minerals, they are conveying only the surface.
Hire a Landman
There exist numerous individuals in the land profession, commonly referred to as "landmen," who possess the competence to conduct thorough title searches to address any inquiries you may have. These landmen have dedicated substantial time and effort to meticulously researching county records, aiming to ascertain mineral ownership. Their professional services may be priced between $300 to $500 per day, depending on their educational background, experience, certifications, and other significant factors. Call us we have a list of landmen.
Hire a Title Company
There are numerous title companies available in almost every locality, with their primary focus being the assistance they provide to the real estate sector. In the real estate industry, the majority of transactions tend to revolve around surface ownership. However, when it comes to mineral ownership, the title process can be more complex. If you are seeking a title company that can dedicate the necessary time for conducting a thorough mineral ownership search, that would be an advantageous option.
Hire an Attorney
Consider engaging the services of an attorney to assist in ascertaining your ownership of mineral rights. While it may involve a higher cost, enlisting the expertise of a legal professional can prove to be advantageous. Property deeds, particularly when involving the transfer of mineral rights, can present complexities that require specialized interpretation. By involving an attorney in the examination of titles, any complications that may arise can be effectively addressed. Should any title concerns emerge, an attorney would be instrumental in preparing the necessary documentation to rectify and establish a clear title.
Keep in mind that mineral rights can be severed from surface rights, so it’s possible that you may not own both. It’s important to conduct a thorough investigation and we recommend hiring professionals for extensive projects. This is a complicated topic and most people that own property in the US think they own the minerals. And most people that own minerals in the US don’t know they own them.