Curing Title Defects
Every attorney’s certified title opinion should contain a list of title defects. As those of us in the oil and gas land business are aware, very few tracts have clean titles, and oil and gas ownership (especially in Appalachia) almost always has something wrong with it. But what separates the most valuable title opinions from title opinions of lesser value is the presence of solutions to the title defects and assessment of the risk.
Optimally, multiple and alternative solutions are included, especially when the title defect is something that can potentially prevent or severely delay development. The greatest value is gained when the title opinion reveals title defects, proposes solutions and is rendered by an attorney who has the skills, capability and willingness to carry out what is necessary to solve the dilemma.
Most in-house curative teams in the oil and gas industry in Appalachia are quite proficient at curing common title defects and can do so with little or no assistance from an attorney. Such common defects may include deeds that are not properly acknowledged, deeds or oil and gas leases taken from the wrong parties or oil and gas leases that contain a deficient legal description – or no description at all.
The most valuable title opinions not only advise the client to perform certain curative measures, but also show them exactly how to do it. For instance, if a deed is required to cure a title defect, the client can be provided with the exact language that the deed should contain, which really comes in handy if the entity is a trust, partnership or other less common ownership entity. Such information makes the curative landman’s job much easier.
Many experienced landmen find themselves stumped when faced with more complicated issues and could probably use the advice and assistance of a good title attorney. Our firm has encountered many such stumpers over the years, and have been able to help clients cure defects that seemed insurmountable.
Among the difficult scenarios my firm has assisted clients with include:
- Re-opening estates in order to enable effective record conveyance or lease of oil and gas interests
- Prosecuting civil petition actions to obtain oil and gas leases on behalf of missing heirs
- Drafting agreements, affidavits and releases to protect oil and gas operators from landowners who may be part of a class of owners that is subject to increase in number as the result of language contained within prior deeds or wills in the chain of title.
The list goes on.