Fresno, CA asked in Contracts and Energy, Oil and Gas for Texas

Q: Someone contacted my Father and his siblings saying that there is a suspense account in the name of a deceased aunt

He said it was regarding royalties to mineral rights on land his grandfather owned with his siblings. Its ringing as a scam to me but there has to be some measure of truth to it im assuming since he seemed to have alot of personal information. How can I verify if this is legitimate? Especially if the name on the suspense account is in someones name that is deceased. He also mentioned its on the verge of being turned over to the state.

2 Lawyer Answers

A: You do not say for how long your aunt has been deceased. Even though it is probably a scam, you can search abandoned property records in Texas or any other state where she might have had any personal property. States have laws that require what they consider "abandoned" or "unclaimed" property to be sent to the state. Usually there is a waiting period before this is done, which may be why a "suspense" account is mentioned. Property that can be considered abandoned or unclaimed includes checks that may have been payable to her but were never negotiated, the contents of safe deposit boxes under her name and funds in bank accounts which had no activity for a certain time, just to name a few. You can check the following government websites to obtain more information.

Good luck.

Aimee Hess
Aimee Hess
  • Energy, Oil & Gas Law Lawyer
  • Streetman, TX
  • Licensed in Texas

A: Yes, these are often scams. Often, the caller will offer to "help" you by purchasing the mineral interests for a fraction of their actual worth. Tell your father to ask the caller for the name of the oil company that has has these suspensed funds and then call the oil company and ask them to check under your father's aunt and grandfather's name. It may be that the funds are being held in the registry of a court or by the oil company itself. Either way, they can be claimed without the "help" of the caller. If the caller won't give you that information, then contact an attorney. At least in Texas (the only state where I am licensed so the only state I can speak to), state agency records can be used to locate these mineral interests and the oil company who is producing them.

Depending on the state where the minerals are located, you may need the assistance of an attorney to: 1) claim the funds; and 2) clear up the mineral title so that the oil company will pay royalties directly to your father and his siblings in the future. Unclear mineral title is probably the reason these royalties are being suspensed in the first place. Also, keep in mind that if royalties are turned over to the state, that does not mean they are lost. You still have a substantial period of time to claim them (although don't delay because there still are some time limits). In Texas, check the Texas Comptroller Unclaimed Property website.

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