On Saturday, February 23, 2019, J. Mark Robinette will speak at the annual Ark La Tex Association of Professional Landmen (ALTAPL) Educational Seminar to be held at the Petroleum Club in Shreveport, Louisiana. The talk will be about recent developments in Arkansas Oil and Gas Laws. Register via the ALTAPL web site at https://altapl.org/.
Are you practicing law in Arkansas? Need to know what to do in order to take a deposition in another state? I found this handy guide published by the ABA whilst googling on the subject: https://www.paulhastings.com/docs/default-source/PDFs/deposing-nonparties-in-states-other-than-where-your-case-is-pending.pdf
The written materials for this webinar are available here.
On Saturday February 17, 2018, Mark Robinette will deliver an annual update on Arkansas Oil and Gas Law. The event will be at the Petroleum Club of Shreveport located at the 15th floor of the Mid South Tower at 416 Travis St., Shreveport, Louisiana 71101. Registration may be had at https://altapl.org/events/2018/2/16/altapl-educational-seminar. The cost is $200.00 for members of ALTAPL and $275.00 for non-members.
Mark Robinette will present an education seminar on Arkansas Probate for the National Association of Division Order Analysts on February 27, 2018. The Webinar, titled “Haunting the Title from the Beyond: When is a Probate Required in Arkansas?” Mark will present a guided tour of the Arkansas Probate Code with practical examples and explanations. First, participants will learn about the royalty payor’s duties in Arkansas. This is the foundation for governing how much scrutiny to give when transferring title from a deceased person to his or her heirs and devisees. Next, Mark will cover Arkansas intestate succession and examples of valid means of transferring titles from intestate heirs. Finally, participants will learn about Arkansas’s laws governing wills and types of will probates along with the often misunderstood and misapplied Affidavit for Collection of Small Estates. Finally, Mark will cover common alternatives to probate succession including Trusts and the Arkansas Beneficiary Deed Statute. For more information, contact NADOA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The case of Derrick v. Haynie, 2017 Ark. App. 327, makes clear that any property left on a landlord’s premises is abandoned. That is, the property legally becomes abandoned property which means the landlord my dispose of it as he/she sees fit. That’s a tough break for tenants, but it’s the law.
I get a lot of calls about quieting title for properties bought at tax sales in Arkansas. Before you call me, consider the following:
- Is the property you purchased subject to a property owner association with dues and assessments? If so, you will get a bill as soon as you accept the Commissioner of State Lands’ deed to you. For instance, Fairfield Bay in Van Buren County charges $75 a month in dues. In a single year, lot may accrue $900 in regular dues. If the State has held the property for a few years, you will get a $3,000 bill. That’s not an investment, it’s a liability.
- Tax sales do not extinguish mortgages and liens of record unless the Commissioner of State Lands gives proper notice. Never buy a tax title without looking at the Commissioner’s notice.
- The County and Commissioner of State Lands will screw something up in the process which may void the sale. In this case, you will have to occupy and pay taxes on the property for two years before being able to quiet title.
- The best deals are typically snatched up by investors in very competitive auctions. There are many, many people who buy tax titles professionally. A few are lawyers. They know which properties are the best deal and have the best chance of success. They will make you pay for a quality title.
- The best deals also tend to be properties where the owner died and lives out of state or had no close family. This creates problems. If you wish for me to quiet title for you right away, I will have to identify and serve the heirs of that person. See number 3. The heirs will likely fight it out if the property is worth anything and will probably win. Thus, there is no quick money to be made. It will be two years before you can get a valid quiet title.
If you reviewed this and think you have a property worth litigating, call me.
I get a call a couple times a month from someone who believes they own mineral rights in Arkansas. Many calls imply that somebody, somewhere cheated they caller out of their birthright. I sympathize, I really do. Mineral rights law is very complicated. Many actions that seem opaque and shady to a normal person are actually standard operating procedure for oil and gas companies. There’s a good reason why these actions that appear callous are the standard operating procedure. It is not personal–believe me. Folks at oil and gas companies are sympathetic human beings. The thing is that there are only so many of them, but there are 1000x more of you the royalty owner. For that reason, the company has to prioritize some requests and outright turn down others.
A simple 640 acre gas unit out in the country may have 100 owners. In towns, the number will be in the 100’s. If a company has 64,000 acres in a gas play, it may deal with 64,000 royalty owners. That company may only have 10 division order analysts. This is why the oil and gas companies sometimes seem callous. They are outnumbered and outgunned. If they hired enough people to answer everyone’s calls and letters the same day, they could not afford to drill and produce.
Because of this asymmetry between owners and company employees, the companies lobbied States to have laws and regulations to pass the responsibility of keeping up with unclaimed royalty money to the State government. This is how royalty money disappears. There are exactly zero State employees actively looking to reunite you with your money because frankly if they don’t find you, they get to keep your money.
This is why you call me. I appreciate the calls, but there are some fact scenarios that are solvable and others that are not. Here are some common but practically unsolvable situations:
- You have no clue whatsoever where the land was and who originally owned it.
- You know that one or your parents or grandparents owned the land, but you don’t know or understand how much.
- You know that your great grandfather owned the land. He had 12 children. They had 8 children each. Your parents had five children (or some variation of these numbers where there are 50 plus descendants).
The first one does not help me help you. I don’t have the time to hunt down your ancestor’s names on deeds in the courthouse. The second is usually someone who actually is in the third situation but just doesn’t know it yet. If you are in the third situation, you have such a small interest in the property, it would cost you many times more in your share of any possible royalty money to hire me. I say “practically insolvable” because the cost/benefit on my fee to your recovery makes recovery impractical.
- Some person or company approached you to buy/lease/integrate your mineral rights.
- You’ve seen your name or your parents’ names on a State unclaimed property list.
- You know you have fewer than 20 owners in the whole tract of land and there is an oil or gas well on the land.
The first is a big tell that you have something valuable. You are sitting on a full house and they are bluffing. The person who approached you did the homework. You need me to figure out what he/she knows, clear your title, and claim your money. The second is also a good sign and provides plenty of information that will allow me to find your money and mineral rights. The third is also acceptable because you will likely have enough interest to make it worth your while to hire me.
So there it is. I hope you found this, read it, and understand what I can and can’t do for you if you think you own Arkansas Mineral Rights and haven’t been paid.
“Going through probate” or “probating an estate” means the same thing in Arkansas. It means petitioning a Court with jurisdiction over the person or property in Arkansas to probate a will, appoint a fiduciary (whether administrator, executor, or personal representative), or both. The proper Court is the Arkansas County of residence or the Arkansas County where the deceased had the most property. This fiduciary serves under supervision of the court for period of at least 6 months. It takes about 1 to 4 weeks to get someone appointed, so as a practical matter, it will take around 7 months to probate an estate in Arkansas in a best case scenario. More practically, the timeline for probating an estate in Arkansas is something like:
Day 1: Consultation, file setup, fee agreement, and information intake.
Day 2-10: Draft of petition, review by client, revisions by lawyer. Client returns signed and notarized petition.
Day 11-20: Filing of petition, drafting of order admitting will to probate and appointing fiduciary.
Day 21-30: Client returns acceptance of appointment signed. Lawyer files acceptance. Clerk of Court issues letters of Administration.
Day 31-40: Lawyer runs notice of probate in Newspaper of bona fide circulation. Lawyer sends notice of probate to parties entitled to notice under statute. Fiduciary files inventory with Court.
Day 41-220: This is the six month claims period. A lot can happen in this time. Creditors may make claims. Property might be sold to pay claims, etc.
Day 221-230: Final inventory prepared. Final accounting prepared. Petition for final distribution. Petition to close. Orders for each.
The typical Arkansas probate is around 230 days plus or minus 20 days. Usually, the time runs longer because clients don’t return signed papers as quickly as they should or some action gets delayed in hopes of avoiding expense (e.g. obtaining entries of appearance instead of filing formal notices).