Consider the following facts commonly associated with Colorado mountain or rural properties:
In a 1920 deed, the owner of a large ranch reserved the minerals underlying the surface, resulting in a split or severed estate. The chain of title does not reveal any further activity on the mineral rights and the severed mineral rights appear abandoned. The current owner of the surface estate wants to rejoin the minerals with the surface estate, but the heirs of the original reserving party are nonexistent or unlocatable.
What, if anything, can the surface owner do to get the minerals back?
Many states have laws called dormant mineral acts that specifically address the scenario where a surface owner wants to rejoin an abandoned mineral estate with the surface. Even though Colorado lacks an on-point dormant mineral act, a thoughtful surface owner can apply other real property laws to their split estate dilemma.
Readers of the article ‘Quiet Title Solutions for Properties Acquired by Treasurer’s Deed’ know that savvy real estate investors can acquire Colorado real property by investing in property tax liens. With a little outside-the-box thinking, the split-estate surface owner can utilize a similar process to rejoin severed minerals to his surface.
Attorneys at Frascona, Joiner, Goodman & Greenstein, P.C. can assist surface owners with adding the minerals to the tax roll, purchasing the tax lien, and applying for and perfecting the treasurer’s deed. Taking it a step further, the surface owner may wish to file a quiet title action asking a judge to declare him the owner of the surface and minerals. The quiet title action is essentially a lawsuit to perfect title. At the end of a successful quiet title action, the judge issues the owner a quiet title decree. With a quiet title decree in hand, the owner can confidently sell or lease all or a portion of the property rights in the future.
The majority of these mineral tax lien and quiet title actions are uncontested, meaning that no party answers or defends them. These uncontested matters generally are completed much faster and are far less expensive than contested matters. However, even uncontested matters require some care to ensure that the appropriate parties receive notice and the treasurer’s deed and final decree are accurate, among other key steps. Regardless of the nature of the mineral tax lien or quiet title action, attorneys at this office can help split-estate surface owners rejoin the abandoned minerals underlying the surface.
Please contact me for questions on how to rejoin severed Colorado minerals rights with the surface.