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Acquiring Mineral Rights of Unknown or Unlocatable Heirs

William P. Pearce, Proceedings of 40th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1994)

A frequently recurring problem in ascertaining the ownership of severed mineral interests arises when a record mineral owner is deceased and there is no evidence in the record as to succession to the interest. It is important, both prior to acquiring or leasing a tract and prior to seeking division orders for disbursement of proceeds of production of minerals from the tract, to be able to determine who has succeeded to the mineral interests of deceased record owners. Did the deceased owner leave a will, or possibly more than one will, or did he die intestate? In the latter case, can the identity of the intestate successors be determined and what can be done if this is impossible, or if their identity can be determined but their location cannot be determined? How can development rights be obtained from such unknown and/or unlocatable persons? These situations pose many problems, not all of which can be addressed in a single paper, and a number of which have been previously analyzed.1 [21-3] This paper will focus on how these kinds of problems arise in the context of testate and intestate estates, and in the course of the analysis will address some of the available approaches to solving the problems.