An ancestor owned oil and gas rights – how do I get title to them?

We are seeing a lot of situations where our clients have learned that they own mineral rights that were earlier reserved by an ancestor.  They typically learn of this through an oil and gas company who has researched title on a parcel they are interested in leasing (or sometimes on a parcel that has already been drilled).  The company discloses who reserved the minerals and describes its efforts in establishing a family tree for that person.
Based upon the company’s research (using Probate records, Ancestry.com and other tools) it determines those persons presently living who would have ownership of the minerals and the percentage of the minerals each such person owns.  Oil and gas leases are then prepared for those persons …

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Phone Scam – February 8, 2018

A local woman called this afternoon indicating she had received a voicemail from our office requesting credit card information.  I verified that nobody in our office had ever heard of this particular person, and that nobody in our office made such a call.  It would appear, then, that someone is spoofing our office’s phone number in an attempt to defraud people of money.
Caller ID is quite easy to manipulate.  Many smartphone apps permit a caller to select the number they appear to be calling from. The Federal Communications Commission offers this information about Caller ID “spoofing.”
Here, the caller poses as a law firm attempting to collect on a debt.  Some firms (particularly collection law firms) make similar, legitimate phone calls, …

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Dormant Minerals – Searching for Heirs

A previous article discusses more generally the notice requirements in Ohio’s Dormant Minerals Act
Who must be notified?
Before declaring a mineral interest as abandoned, a surface owner must first provide adequate notice to the “mineral holder.”  Many times, the mineral holder is deceased and has been for many years.   If that’s true, the surface owner must notify the holder’s heirs.
Who are a holder’s heirs?
It depends on the structure of the holder’s family.  It could be a surviving spouse, the holder’s children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, or even aunts and uncles depending largely on how long ago the mineral holder died.
How do I locate a mineral holder’s heirs?
Unless you personally know the mineral holder (or their family), chances are you don’t know the …

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Pipeline Close-Up

Pipeline Installation Photographs
The following image is a close-up of a pipeline in Eastern Ohio that was being installed in the early fall of 2017.

You can see the welded section (red), the remainder of the pipe (green), and the markings done by welding inspectors. In this instance you can see the word ‘repair’ along with some specific references to dates and inspector numbers. On my client’s properties with high pressure FERC pipelines, I require that 100% of the welds be x-rayed in advance. This is a good illustration as to why I require this. Had this weld not been inspected, the pipeline would have certainly blown out during the water pressure test. Generally, FERC pipelines are tested with water at 110% …

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Pipeline Construction Issues

Pipeline Construction Issues
As a pipeline attorney, I spend a lot of time impressing upon potential clients the importance of having a rock-solid pipeline contract (this can be an Easement or Right-of-Way). The importance of a thorough, specific pipeline contract cannot be overstated. There is something else I say that often surprises landowners, and that is, “no matter how solid I make the contract, neither of us can control what happens on your property during construction.”
Over the course of the last twelve years, I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly with respect to pipeline construction. I’ve seen A+ operations and F- ones. And the reality is that even the best contract in the world cannot control the …

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Things Land Agents Say – Part Two

This is a second post in a series describing common promises or other statements land agents make to entice landowners to signing leases, easements, or other agreements relating to oil and gas or pipeline transactions. 
Click here to view part one. 
“The crops will grow right over it, you won’t even know it’s there!” While the first part of this statement may be true, the second part is a loaded gun. True, most pipeline contracts allow farmers to plant crops on top of the easement. But trust me, the farmers will know that it’s there. Under the best case scenario circumstances a farmer will suffer yield loses in the first four years. Year one is construction. Year two is reclamation …

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Things Land Agents Say

Things that Land Agents Say – Part One
Part Two can be viewed here.
Today I thought I would write some of the things that I’ve heard land agents say to entice landowners to sign oil and gas documents. Part One will cover things that are not specific to a particular type of oil and gas contract, meaning that you could hear these phrases in lease, well-pad, pipeline, or other oil and gas negotiations.
“Don’t worry, we will just call most of your payment ‘damages’ so that you don’t have to pay taxes.” When I hear this phrase, it makes me want to scream. First, please don’t ever take tax advice from a land agent. Call an accountant—preferably a seasoned accountant who …

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Will Contests in Ohio – Frequently Asked Questions

If you expected an inheritance from a loved one but did not receive it, or received less than anticipated, you may have a good reason to challenge the deceased person’s last will and testament. Challenging the validity of a will is commonly called a “will contest,” and the person who created the will is called the “testator.”

Who may contest a testator’s will?
Anyone who would have benefited from the testator’s estate if the will in question did not exist. The contestant must prove they would have inherited by either the testator’s prior will, or by Ohio’s intestacy laws if the testator had no prior will. If the contestant would not receive an inheritance from testator’s prior will or from Ohio’s intestacy …

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Oil and Gas Protection Leases – A Good Idea?

What’s a Protection Lease?
Suppose there is an issue with the title to minerals under a 100 acre farm and it is clear that either Party A owns those minerals or Party B owns them.  Suppose further that this farm sits in the middle of a planned unit for a horizontal Utica shale well.  What can an oil and gas producer do to fix that situation?  More frequently, producers are using ‘protection’ leases to address this situation.
In the above example, the producer would obtain leases from both Party A and Party B, paying only a nominal amount upon signing of the lease.  A side agreement is also signed where all agree that any production royalties due on the acreage will be …

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Zoning – Oil and Gas issues

Regulating oil and gas via zoning
The last twenty years oil and gas drilling for Clinton Sandstone wells has moved into urban areas, as drilling locations in rural areas have been used up.  Under the concept of “home rule” enjoyed by municipalities, cities and villages enjoy broad police powers to regulate health, safety and public welfare.   As a result, a number of Ohio communities attempted to “zone-out” or otherwise regulate away drilling activity.  In State ex rel. Morrison v. Beck Energy Corp., Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-485, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that a municipality could not impose its own stringent well permitting requirements on top of the state’s system of regulation.  The court found that under O.R.C. 1509, the Ohio Department …

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