Mineral rights grant the holder the right to develop mineral resources. They are treated like any other real estate property. If mineral rights are left in the estate of a deceased relative, a legal transfer deed must be filed in the county where the mineral property is located.
All estates go through probate court, a legally supervised process whereby the deceased estate resolves claims and distributes property. An executor is typically named in the deceased will, but if not, the probate court names one on behalf of the deceased. The executor is responsible for the process which is ultimately approved by the probate court. Contested wills and estates delay resolution of the estate.
Mineral rights must be transferred to heirs before any transactions related to them can take place. Unlike a home, which can be sold by an estate, mineral rights must be transferred before any sale. Mineral rights can be transferred to rightful heir(s) or to a trust through a mineral deed.
A mineral deed is a legal record of ownership. All mineral deed transfers are recorded in the county clerks office in which the minerals are located. The deceased may have lived in a different county, state or even country, however, the executor of the estate must sign a mineral deed transfer and file it with the relevant county clerk in order to transfer mineral ownership and all rights associated with ownership.
If the deceased resided in a different state from where the mineral rights are located, ancillary probate is necessary. Ancillary probate is the process by which the court in the state in which the minerals are located oversees the distribution of that asset. In simple terms, a separate executor must be named within such state, sign the mineral deed transfer and record it in the appropriate county clerk's office. Ancillary probate of mineral deed transfers delays estate closings but is the only legal way to transfer mineral ownership to heir(s) or a trust.
Diane Bacher is a certified business energy professional with more than 16 years of experience in the environmental and energy sector. She has written numerous data and regulatory compliance reports for industrial, financial, educational and information-technology clients. Bacher's publications include the New Jersey Technology Council's "Tech News."