The passing of a mineral owner has absolutely no effect on an oil or gas lease except for altering who receives the royalties paid to the previous owner.
Upon death, the heirs should determine whether the owner died with, or without a will. If they died with a will, that is referred to as testate and the will is generally probated in the county where the owner resided upon death. The heirs are those folks outlined in the decedents will. If the owner dies without a will, that is referred to as intestate, and the heirs are set out by law in what is often referred to as descent and distribution.
Probating a will is a fairly expensive process and is unavoidable in most instances. When it can be avoided the interest can often be passed to the heirs by the filing of the will and/or an affidavit of heirship. Check with a local Attorney and with the oil company making the royalty payments and follow their advice to transfer the mineral interest to the proper heirs.
One last piece of advice is to contact the oil company making the payments once you have the decedents death certificate and send it to them and ask them to suspend the royalty payments until the estate is settled. If the lease that the decedent signed is not producing then the heirs should notify the current leaseholder of the change of ownership.
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