Resolving Disputes Over Oil and Gas Rights

Published in BizWest’s Thought Leader column, July 2022

Disputes frequently arise among landowners and heirs over the ownership of oil, gas, and mineral rights.  Common reasons for such ownership disputes include:  gaps or missing documents in the “chain of title”; failure to probate estates or properly address the mineral rights during probate; uncertainty over legal descriptions or vague reservations of mineral rights in deeds.  All of these can lead to disputes over ownership.  Each time real property moves from one owner to another, a new link is created in the “chain of title.”  If there is a broken link in the chain, or a link with problems, additional steps may be necessary to resolve ownership rights.

One option to address disputes over ownership of oil, gas, and minerals is through a legal device known as a quiet title action, which establishes an individual’s right to real property ownership against others who may claim an interest in the same property.  In a quiet title action, the party filing the complaint asks the Court to determine the rights of each party to the disputed property.  The Court’s determination is binding upon the parties and valid in creating a legally recognized interest in the property.

Another option to resolve a dispute over oil, gas, and mineral rights ownership is a petition to determine heirship.  This petition is filed when there is uncertainty over the proper heirship to mineral rights, or when too much time has passed to be able to probate the estate.  In Northern Colorado, quiet title actions and petitions to determine heirship are commonly used to resolve disputes over ownership of oil, gas, and mineral rights.

If you need assistance in handling a dispute regarding the ownership of oil, gas, and mineral rights, or in determining the proper heirs for such rights, an attorney with experience in oil and gas title, quiet title actions, and determination of heirship proceedings can provide legal guidance to protect your best interests and preserve your ownership rights in property.


James Godbold