Grand Rapids, MI asked in Real Estate Law for Michigan

Q: How do we sever/retain the mineral rights on land before selling the property? No other sever records found on record

We believe there are methane pockets on our 4.9 acres of land. It is not yet verified, but we would like to retain the mineral rights to the property before we sell it.

Our realtor told us it is better to sever the rights while we still own the property and before we have a buyer, or it may cause issue with the sale process. She has seen it done both ways she said. I have dug through piles of records on the property at the courthouse, and found no other historical severance records for it in Deeds, wills/estates etc.

I have located many forms online (Deeds, transfer of, etc), but I am still not certain which are the appropriate ones to use in this case or how to differentiate them from other similar forms, Also, I have found a lot more variety of these forms for the state of Texas... but we are in Michigan. So I don’t know if that same form re-written for Michigan would work, or, if the laws are entirely different.

Thanks so much! Any information is greatly appreciated.

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2 Lawyer Answers
Kenneth V Zichi
Kenneth V Zichi
  • Fowlerville, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: Mineral rights owned by someone other than the surface owner are rights said to be ‘severed.’

There is no 'special' way to do this other than with an appropriate deed, but the process is complex. That said, you do NOT need to do that before you 'sell' the land. The transfer of land without mineral rights is routinely done, and similarly the transfer of mineral rights without transferring the surface rights is also routinely done.

Don't get legal advice from a Real Estate agent unless they are also a licensed attorney. Similarly don't take 'marketing' advice from an attorney, but I cannot see how LISTING a property as "surface rights only, mineral rights retained by seller" would cause problems with the sale other than some people won't be interested if they won't get mineral rights too. WHY would it cause issues?

ALL that said, if you try to DIY this you will be asking for trouble, and you ABSOLUTELY need an attorney representing you at all stages of the property sale. There are lots of little 'gotchas' and some not so small ones that will sneak past you if you don't do land sales regularly.

Get local legal advice on how (and when!) to do this.

David Soble
David Soble
  • Farmington Hills, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: The purchase agreement and conveyance instrument will dictate whether or not you retain mineral rights. People sell or lease mineral rights on property every day- but these rights are still regulated by the state law in which the property is situated. Texas law has nothing to do with Michigan law. Contact a real estate attorney. Remember, good real estate agents are for the most part, still commissioned sales people, not legal advisors.

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