Inherited Oil Lease in Montana

My in-laws passed away last year leaving a small estate that included some paperwork for a 'paid-up oil and gas lease' in Toole County Montana that my father-in-law inherited from his mother. He didn't know anything about it until he was contacted by a law firm asking him to sign the paperwork for a 5 year lease with a 3 year extension for less than $500 in 2010. He was 80 at the time and didn't follow up on what exactly he owned. Now that we're settling their estate, we're trying to figure out what exactly we own if anything.

This is the description from the legal documents of the asset:

Township 34 North, Range 4 West, M.P.M.

Section 04: Lots 3(40), 4(39.99), S1/2NW1/4, SW1/4

Section 23: W1/2

In the next paragraph it states that the Lessor owned or claimed 639.99 acres more or less.

In the letter from the law firm they mention 11.87 acres of mineral rights that go with it.

Does anything know what this means? I've googled it till I'm blue in the face and all I get are drilling sites.

I assume this is public land, but am wondering how my in-laws could have owned it for so many years without knowing it. I think my father-in-laws parents had passed away when I met my husband 27.5 years ago and until 2010, no one knew anything about this.

We have an appointment with our attorney for next week, but would appreciate any insight or guidance you can give on what exactly we own.

Jean, it sounds like what is called an "undivided interest" in 640 acres. Your father in law owned an interest in the 640 acres equivalent to 11.87 "net" mineral acres. More or less a fractional or % interest in the entire 640 acres. I hope that explains it for you.


I've done many mineral evaluations for estates that included Toole County. There is a large but old gas field in the county and the lease may be close to it. That is why you are picking up well locations on Google. The lease info is only an indication that your FIL owned some minerals in the area. Could be the tip of an iceberg from your story.

Here are the important questions for your attorney:

  1. Knowing the legal names and relationship of your grandparents in law, did either of them, but especially your grandmother in law, leave a will? If yes, who was the executor? If no, what was the inheritance law in the State she last resided?
  2. Did your father in law leave a will? If yes, who are the beneficiaries, and who is the executor? If no, who inherited his assets by law?
  3. Assuming there is no mother in law, does your husband have siblings?

With that info, you will be able to quantify your husbands share and be able to research ownership in Toole County using the lease data as an indicator not an endpoint.

Send me a PM later if you need to know what is going on with the lease. I have a record of permits drilling and production.

Gary L Hutchinson

Minerals Managment


Thanks for your timely and informative response.

How do I send you a PM?

I'll have to get more info from my husband and his sister as I only know the basics. My father-in-law's family was very wealthy, and I believe this was passed down from the grandmother's father.

Do you know any attorneys in that area who do this sort of work? My sister-in-law was told we're going to have to hire an attorney in Montana--we're in western Washington.

The way this came about was an oil company had to find my in-laws and his brothers as I don't think anyone knew about it when their parents died to change the names on the legal documents. From what my husband was saying, his grandparents were well enough off that his father and brothers might not have known all the assets they had. I suppose there might be other claims that haven't been found...

I'll see what else I can find out from my husband about the his grandparents resources when he gets home and let you know. I really appreciate your input.