Will of Pulaski County, Arkansas man ruled invalid for lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence.

In Shepard v. Jones, 2015 Ark. App. 279, a Pulaski County, Arkansas man’s will was found invalid after a lengthy and factually intensive trial.  In this case, the man was in hospice, on pain and anti-anxiety drugs, and barely conscious when his friend literally signed the will for him by holding the pen in the dying man’s hand and signing the man’s name.  In addition, the person procuring the will who was the man’s half-sister, withheld the fact that the dying man then owned $114,000 from the death of his sister.  The half-sister directed that the will she had prepared for her dying half-brother leave her and a family friend $365,000 while leaving the other heirs at law sums of $15,000 or less.

The facts of this case are excellent reading and law case book example of lack of capacity and undue influence.  In Arkansas, one seeking to dispose of his property by will must be able to retain in his mind, without prompting, the extent and condition of his property, to comprehend to whom he is giving it, and relations of those entitled to his property.  In this case, the man had no capacity whatsoever as evidenced by the trial court record.  The court’s recitation of the facts and circumstances leading up to the signing of the will is on pages 2 through 9 of the opinion.

If you have questions about the circumstances of the making of a loved one’s will, Arkansas probate and wills attorney Mark Robinette can provide you with valuable information about the law.  Lawyer Mark Robinette accepts probate cases in all 72 Arkansas counties.  Whether you need a full probate and administration of an estate or just probate of a will to clear title, Arkansas probate lawyer Mark Robinette can help you.

Van Buren County, Arkansas surface owners win partial victory over mineral owners on bad legal description.

In XTO v. Thacker, 2015 Ark. App. 203, a Van Buren County, Arkansas trial court ruled that a mineral deed with an extra handwritten description “also the South quarter of the Northeast quarter” invalid as surplusage.  In legal language, “surplusage” is just extra language that means nothing.    Surplusage is language that is unintelligible and repugnant to the matter at hand.  In this case, there was a typewritten legal description of 118 acres with a handwritten notation including “the South quarter of the Northeast quarter.”

When affirming the Van Buren County, Arkansas trial court’s ruling on the legal description in the deed, the Arkansas Court of Appeals noted that someone made the notation on the deed after the date of recording.  Thus, the land description attempted was not in the original parties’ bargain and the language placed in the deed after the recording date was surplusage.

Drafting is very important in any deed, but especially important in Arkansas mineral deeds.  Accurate legal descriptions are among the most important parts of a mineral deed.  It pays to have your Arkansas mineral deed lawyer to perform some title work to obtain the correct legal descriptions when giving an Arkansas mineral deed.  This may make the deed cost more, but it saves down the road when others may choose to scrutinize the title conveyed by the deed because the property has valuable oil and gas production and royalties.  It is also crucial that when granting Arkansas mineral interests title is clear and of record.   This too becomes an issue years later when there is real money at stake that makes the extra paid to a competent mineral deed lawyer a bargain in comparison to future litigation costs.

Mark Robinette is an Arkansas lawyer and attorney providing Arkansas mineral deeds and supporting Arkansas title work in all 72 Arkansas counties including the Fayetteville Shale counties of White County, Cleburne County, Van Buren County, Faulkner County, Conway County, and Pope County.   Arkansas lawyer Mark Robinette also represents persons in the South Arkansas oil patch including Nevada County, Ouachita County, Miller County, Lafayette County, Columbia County, Union County, and Calhoun County.

Van Buren County, Arkansas surface owners lose appeal on 1984 mineral quiet title order

In XTO v. Thacker, 2015 Ark. App. 203, some Van Buren County, Arkansas surface owners filed a quiet title suit in 1984 naming one of two original 1929 Van Buren County mineral deed grantees as defendants.  In the 1984 Arkansas quiet title suit, the surface owners alleged that the grantor of the mineral deed was not the record owner of the property and that the mineral deed was therefore invalid.

In usual fashion, the surface owner’s quiet title suit attorney filed an affidavit reciting that whereabouts of the named Arkansas mineral owner defendant was unknown after making a “diligent inquiry.”  The affidavit did not detail the efforts of the lawyer’s efforts to locate the mineral owner.   The clerk issued a warning order based on the affidavit, and the warning order ran in the local paper for four weeks.

Of course, the mineral owner defendant did not appear to answer the Arkansas mineral quiet title complaint.  The court entered an order quieting title in the surface owner defendants.  In 2010, after the development of the Fayetteville Shale in Van Buren County, Arkansas, the absent Van Buren County, Arkansas mineral owner learned of the 1984 quiet title decree and sought to set aside the court’s order of 26 years earlier.

At trial, the mineral owners and their production company lessee (XTO) lost.  The trial court ruled that the plaintiffs in the 1984 case complied with the rules governing notice in quiet title suits that were in effect at the time.

The Arkansas Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s order finding that the plaintiffs properly served the absent mineral owner.  Specifically, the rules in effect at the time of the 1984 required a recitation of the efforts employed to locate the missing mineral owner.  In this case, the affidavit merely recited that the absent mineral owner was not found after “diligent inquiry.”

In addition, the Arkansas Court of Appeals found that the 1984 case did not employ every method of notice required.  A newspaper warning order in a civil suit is a general requirement.  In an Arkansas quiet title lawsuit, there is a specific statutory requirement found in Ark. Code Ann. 18-60-503.  The statute requires a specific type of newspaper notice to run for four weeks with due proof of publication filed in the case.  This was absent in the 1984 quiet title suit.

When pursuing a quiet title lawsuit in Arkansas, it is vitally important to follow rules governing notice in the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure to the letter.  In addition, a plaintiff must follow the statutes governing Arkansas quiet title suits in general found in the Arkansas Property Code (Title 18).  When choosing an Arkansas quiet title lawyer for mineral interests or surface interests, make sure the quiet title attorney has knowledge of all the relevant statutes and does a thorough job of locating and identifying possible defendants.

Mark Robinette is an Arkansas lawyer and attorney providing quiet title suit services in all 72 Arkansas counties including the Fayetteville Shale counties of White County, Cleburne County, Van Buren County, Faulkner County, Conway County, and Pope County.   Arkansas lawyer Mark Robinette also represents persons with quiet title suits in the South Arkansas oil patch including Nevada County, Ouachita County, Miller County, Lafayette County, Columbia County, Union County, and Calhoun County.