For those of us who have not leased anything yet, now is the time to be doing your land/mineral research in preparation for the next round of leasing (2009). When you get an offer, you should already know all you can about your interests. You should know the history of the land/minerals and how you came to own your interests. You should know who else may own a % of the minerals you think you own, whether you acquired that interest through inheritance or purchase. Don't wait for the land company to run title on your minerals, only to find out that you don't have clear title or that you don't own the number of (mineral) acres you thought you did. Or that your minerals are HBP (held by production) from a lease that may be 40 or 50 years old. Those are bitter pills to swallow, if it's true, but be forewarned...there are a number of green landmen(women) running title right now. They can and do make mistakes. If you have the work done ahead of them you won't get any surprises. And you will have had the time to maybe fix a potential problem (or at least be aware of it) by the time they get to you.
I am speaking from personal experience. We have a tract that has been in my family for 99 years. We are selling the surface acreage and have been working with an abstract company to cure the title so that we can get a title policy. Due to a great grandfather who died without a will (intestate) the land passed to his wife and four daughters. Ok, no will, no probate, no affidavit of heirship, nothing legal filed at the courthouse (we're in Texas) that says how the girls or his wife claim title to the land. I know that they were his legal heirs but, in order to prove that, I just had to locate a living person willing to swear that they knew my great grandfather before he died and that they also know his relationship to these girls and their mother (all deceased, of course). He died in 1933! If you don't think that was some kind of tricky...go try it. But I got it done, none the less.
It was actually a bit more complicated than that, as there are about a dozen deeds for the pieces of this tract, because they (the ancestors) swapped around among the wife, the daughters, the husband of one girl (my grandfather) and my dad. And then my dad left it to us after which my siblings and I did some swapping of our own.
And I, innocently, had thought proving title on that tract should be a cakewalk because I knew the history and knew that not one acre had ever left the family. HA! I'm not even going to get into the survey saga...that's another story. Just suffice it to say that we don't own as many acres as we thought.
My point is that, now, after going through all that, when the landman says it will take 30 business days to run title, hence a sightdraft instead of a check, all I have to do is hand over my proof. I now have everything needed to prove title for both the surface and the minerals. Now, even though we don't own all of the minerals today, I know exactly who does, where to find them and exactly what percentage they own in that tract. And I know that running my title won't take 30 days so I can ask for a 10 or 15 day draft now (or better yet, a check!). My money is in the bank in half the usual time.
Note: Mineral title should be proved back to patent if possible (in Texas) and at least back to before any significant O & G activity in the area (going back to about 1900 may be sufficient in some areas but may require going further back in other areas/states). Although my experiences have to do with Texas land, some of what I say about mineral title also applies to Louisiana land. But, there are some very distinct (and critical) rules which apply in Louisiana that do not apply in Texas. A large portion of the posts (on this site) pertaining to mineral rules are pertinent to Louisiana and do not apply in Texas. Keep that in mind as you read.
Folks, if you live close/on your acreage and think you can run your own title, by all means, do so. If you live a great distance from your land or don't feel qualified to do your own title research, please find a professional person (of some sort) to help you. It could save you so many headaches and so much time, down the road. It will be well worth any amount you may have to spend. And, if the cost of hiring professional help, whether it's an attorney (most expensive), an abstract company (moderately expensive) or an individual (pricey, but bearable), seems huge, you need to weigh this cost against the potential income in bonus/royalties and then decide how to proceed. Good luck in your leasing endeavors! May we all get a great lease and eight wells (Oh, well... OK...I'd be tickled pink with just one).