Do you or a loved one own mineral rights? The story listed below talks about a reservation of minerals in a deed. There were conflicting claims to the production proceeds of three wells.
According to 348 P. 3d 1104 the plaintiff, Chaparral Energy, L.L.C., the operator of certain producing wells in Latimer County, brought this interpleader suit alleging that there were conflicting claims to the mineral interests on which three producing wells were located. The appellants, Elaine Q. Helm, Trustee of the Helm Family Trust, Douglas Vining and Pauline Walker, appealed from the trial court’s order granting summary judgment to other Defendants, the Appellees, Samson Resources Company and Circle F Ranch Company (Circle F), who won at the trial court level. The trial court found that Circle F is the mineral owner of the 160 mineral acres in question and was entitled to a share of the royalty proceeds held in escrow by Chaparral Engery and of the future production proceeds attributable to said oil, gas and other mineral interest.
The trial court was asked to rule based on a deed. This deed is the root of the appeal and the issue before the appellant court. Under the deed, the Grantor conveyed to the Grantee “an undivided one-half (½) interest in and to all of the oil and gas interest and royalties, and any and all other mineral interests which may be owned by Circle F Ranch, Inc.”
But Circle F claimed that the language in the deed only meant that one-half (½) of the 160 acres of mineral ownership in dispute were conveyed (160 mineral acres) to the Grantee. Since the grantor owned a total of 320 mineral acres , the trial court concluded the deed only conveyed 160 mineral acres to the Grantee.
The original Grantor owned ½ or 320 mineral acres in Section 24. There are 640 mineral acres in a section of land. The question for the appellant court was whether the language in the grantor’s deed conveyed a fraction of the Grantor’s fraction or whether the Grantor’s deed conveyed all of the Grantor’s 320 mineral acres to Grantee.
On appeal, the parties who lost in the trial court, the Appellants, argued that the trial court should have determined the deed conveyed to the Grantee one-half (½) of all of the mineral interests (320 mineral acres) in and underlying Section 24.
The party who won at the trial court, Circle F, countered that the trial court properly determined that the deed conveyed one-half (½) of Grantor’s one-half (½) mineral interest in Section 24 (½ of 320 or 160), concluding that Circle F owned one-fourth (1/4) or 160 mineral acres in and underlying Section 24.
The appellant court held that in construing a conveyance, or deed, the Court’s first priority is to ascertain the true intent of the parties, particularly that of the grantor, as gathered from the four corners of the instrument itself, considering each part and viewed in light of the circumstances attending and leading up to its execution, including the subject-matter and situation of the parties as to the time of the deed’s execution. The appellant court applied the four corners rule and agreed with the trial court and affirmed its ruling.
This four corners rule is the same rule used by the courts to determine the intent of a will, or a trust. It is not unusual for the probate court to be asked to decide what a will means. Some people buy forms and then make a mess of what they are trying to accomplish. Or they use someone who does not have enough experience to be an expert in probate, wills and living trusts. That is why it is so important to use an experienced attorney for your documents. Never rely upon self help or forms that you acquire. You need an expert to make sure your wishes are correctly and clearly stated.
An experienced will, living trust, probate, guardianship, elder law attorney like Brent D. Coldiron, knows what to do in these situations. He has prepared several thousand wills and trusts during his career. He knows how to stop family fights over inheritance. His fees are reasonable. The best money ever spent is to get experienced expert legal advice before signing your name to something. Contact Brent at (405) 478-5655 or 737-2244. His website is http://coldironlaw.com.