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Paying It Forward: Ensuring Your Beneficiaries Get Full Rights to Your Mineral Assets

Holding on to generational assets like mineral rights, rather than selling them off before you pass on, could hold several benefits for your beneficiaries.

When it comes to generational assets, mineral rights hold a lot of potential for your beneficiaries. Instead of selling, consider the gift that transferring your mineral assets could be for your loved ones, both now and in the future.

According to many experts, if you are willing and able to keep your mineral rights for more than 10 years, opportunities for leasing and gaining royalties greatly increase. Therefore, not only are you passing mineral rights to beneficiaries or an entrusted party, you’re also passing the financial benefits that come with rights ownership.

What Are the Benefits of Holding on to Your Mineral Rights?

First, if you lease your mineral rights to an oil and gas operator, you will typically receive a lease bonus. An operator leases the oil or natural gas rights from you and reserves the option to drill on your property over a set period of time called the primary term. Oil and gas leasing are essentially a “reasonable access to leased property” sale that comes with primary and secondary terms. A primary, or definite, term covers the oil and gas exploration and production, while the secondary term covers the life of production in paying quantities. In other words, if the well is not producing, the leasing expires after the primary term. However, if the primary term is up and the well is producing, you or your inheritors hold the lease until production ceases.

If the land is drilled and oil or natural gas assets are found, you can earn royalties on your mineral rights. These royalties can essentially be a means of income for whoever holds those rights. Imagine a monthly royalty check in the mail for as long as the production value lasts.

It’s also worth noting that in most states, keeping nonproducing minerals still means owing property tax or ad valorem tax, but there’s value in asset ownership. The world is not making any more land, and the U.S. is the only country with private mineral ownership, so opportunities to own mineral acres are few and far between. Keeping mineral assets can be a wise move for future wealth, especially if you are living in a period of inflation and experiencing a volatile stock market.

Moreover, the question of how much mineral rights are worth per acre will change constantly. As innovation happens and technology improves, operators will be able to tap into more resources and obtain minerals in new ways that could be financially beneficial to whoever holds the rights to them.

Are There Any Challenges to Inheriting Rights to Minerals?

The benefits of passing mineral rights on as generational assets are many, but that doesn’t mean the process doesn’t have its complexities.

For example, dividing mineral rights among different beneficiaries can be tricky. If you inherit mineral rights along with another party and you own a specific percentage of that asset, you may encounter resistance to fragmenting the rights further by handing them down to your beneficiaries. (However, undivided mineral rights ownership is one of the best and easiest qualities for generational assets ownership.)

Surface owners can also run into trouble by assuming they own the mineral rights connected to the ownership of the surface property. If left uninformed, beneficiaries may have to work out what they’re actually entitled to. Meanwhile, oil and gas companies looking to arrange leases can take advantage of naive title holders and offer rates that don’t match up with the potential value of the asset. In the most extreme examples of uninformed mineral rights holders, predatory mineral buyers can capitalize on unknown mineral rights.

This is why getting a land deed drafted and making sure it’s executed, notarized and filed appropriately is critical.

How to Set Up Mineral Rights Beneficiaries for Success

You want to make inheriting mineral rights as easy as possible for your family or chosen beneficiaries, so how can you mitigate the above challenges effectively? Consider the following steps:

1. Bring in an expert to help manage the process.

It’s unlikely that you or your beneficiaries are experts in mineral rights. One challenge of inheriting rights to minerals is ensuring that you’re capturing their full value, which can oftentimes become a full-time job. Seek out an experienced mineral manager to make sense of your assets, to make sure you hand them down with accurate documentation, and to make the most from them in the form of lease bonuses and royalties. They can be a knowledgeable, invaluable partner who understands specialist information, like the cost basis for inherited mineral rights and the day-to-day operational concerns connected with oil or natural gas assets.

2. Make sure the mineral deed is valid.

To ensure your deed is valid for estate transfer, it must be in writing, the grantee and grantor must be identified by signature, and both parties must have the legal capacity to transfer or accept the assets. They must also be able to locate assets on the ground. It’s frustrating to have a will that tells the reader to "see inventory” when referencing assets but doesn’t include a consolidated, detailed inventory of the mineral assets.

Holding on to generational assets like mineral rights, rather than selling them off before you pass on, could hold several benefits for your beneficiaries. While drafting deeds and obtaining leases may seem complex, with a trusted operator, your assets can become a regular income for your loved ones for years to come.

Matt Autry is the President, Oil, and Gas at Valor, a specialty asset services provider focusing on mineral management, oil and gas operator services, accounting, and back-office outsourcing.

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