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.