I posted this in another discussion, and it was suggested that I put it on the main board.....
I have created a "Land Book." It is a 3-ring binder, with a separate section for each piece of land I own, no matter how tiny. The intended audience of this book is my heirs.
In each section, I begin by saying exactly what I own, and how I came to own it. I also include copies of the documents by which I came to own the land (cash deeds, judgement of possession, etc.). I go back up the chain of ownership, as far as I can go, so that if any questions arise in the future, my heirs are well-armed with as much information as possible. I include a map. I include names and contact information of any other owners, and the fraction each person owns.
Each section also contains copies of any contracts affecting the land - leases, division orders, ROW agreements, timber contracts. I also try to explain the main points of the leases, what my heirs need to check for (are they really getting those cost-free royalties?) , and a calculation of the fraction on the division order. It also contains a "heads up" about anything that will happen in the future, e.g., prescription, timber maturing, or leases expiring.
Finally, I include a CD with pdf copies of all these documents, so my heirs may all have a copy some day.
I find that every time a generation turns over, information is lost, and people end up not knowing what they own. I hope this doesn't happen when I pass my land along to my heirs.
Excellent advice for any mineral/land owner.
Way to go, Henry!
My brother did something very similar for our family. LIke you he included copies of deeds, platt maps, leases, etc...also included family stories about a great (maybe another great) grandfather, where our ancestors came from, and when they settled in Union Parish. I love having my notebook and refer to it often. Your efforts will be very appreciated by your heirs!
One additional suggestion where managing minerals are concerned. Predecessors in title are often deceased in a jurisdiction other than the one where the mineral assets are located. A copy of a succession or judgement of possession should be filed in the county/parish where the mineral interest is located if the probate occurred in a different county/parish. You can order a certified copy of the instrument and then pay a small fee to have it recorded in the appropriate jurisdiction.
Henry, wish someone had done that in my family. Trying to blindly piece the puzzle together via heirship hindsight without good records is hellish, to be sure.
And it seems to me that such a definitive history would make a good business model for a product offering if such a "family mineral book" could somehow be made affordable to landowers. Yet, knowing how much work this type of research actually takes, I would also assume it might involve literally hundreds of man hours to nail such a book down by a family outsider (when an old La. family had, say, a hundred years of land sales, per bits and pieces, and numerous hbp's along with a list of new leases). Yep, all that paperwork per courthouse records could make it a bit expensive, to say the least.
You're lucky you had the data, and your family/heirs are darn lucky that you wanted to do the good deed (ahem).
Thank you Henry. My heirs will live 2000 miles away from my land in the South. It's a big worry that they will lose things over the years. I've got file folders and photos, but this idea of a 3 ring binder is brilliant. Plus, like another poster mentioned, it's a good place to put family history - like a photo of my great grandparents.
I've seen families fall apart arguing over what assets existed and what should be done with them. This is a great way to put your "stamp" on things that you own and are passing onto others. Someday, your great grandkids will thank you for it. They will think that you were one smart, foresighted dude!
I would add two things to your idea, make multiple copies of your binder and include the PDF files on a UBS "stick". Most folks take for granted that everyone rents a safe deposit box, but usually that's not the case. Improperly stored CD's can loose data in as little as five years, far shorter than the 75-100 year estimated life span. "Sticks" are projected to stay in use for a long time because of their ease of use, however, they can become corrupted also.
Good old "paper" has been found in tombs over 3000 years old, so it's a good bet, unless your house burns down. We lost our first home to a fire and I still kick myself for not preparing for the results of a fire. My extended family and I do have a "notebook", but it needs updating. I'll put that on my list of things to do.
Good points. I forgot to note that while I include paper copies of documents in my book, I also note the conveyance book and page number, if I know that info. One can always go back to the courthouse and get copies, if necessary.
IMHO... Include a GOOD will. Especially if one lives in Louisiana.
DrWAVeSport Cd1 3/30/2012
And a good, solid, power of attorney....
If you were ever to become incapacitated, you would want someone you trust to have the authority to lease your land, sell timber, negotiate a pipeline ROW, etc.
Great Idea Henry, if every mineral owner did what you have done, I fear there would be a lot less land men.