Severed Mineral Estate, Surface Partition Deed using the term "Fee Simple"

We own a tract of property that was willed to three siblings in a surface estate and a separate mineral estate giving 1/3 of the minerals to each sibling. The surface estate also included a life estate portion for one of the siblings and upon her death, both the surface estate and mineral estates changed ownership structure significantly. Two of us filed a lawsuit to address the surface estate so that we could enjoy our property as one sibling continued to use the entire ranch for his pleasure. The court order for the partition deed used the term “fee simple” that we considered to mean the surface estate only. We therefore requested a mineral estate to be be included in the partition deed. The other party says the term “fee simple” means the severed mineral estate goes along with the surface partition. Of course this is to his advantage as he owns the most acres in the surface estate. Some owners of the minerals do not even own any surface acres.

We are close to a motion to compel hearing and need to figure out how to protect our mineral estate from this partition deed. It seems there would be fee simple surface estate and fee simple mineral estate.
We also have an active oil and gas lease signed by all siblings under the existing mineral estate that will be producing shortly. Of course the well is physically located on the surface estate of the brother. We need to figure out how to protect our 66.66% mineral interest in this well.

PAny assistance or opinions would be greatly appreciated.

Dear BJF,

Not being an attorney, but a lowly landman, I can offer only my take if I were running title.

If I reviewed a partition instrument that partitioned described acreage in “Fee Simple”, my title report would reflect that the minerals were partitioned as well.

Fee Simple (or Fee Simple Absolute) is the highest form of ownership of an estate in property. That includes not only all rights to the the surface of the property, but all that lies above and below, from the center of the earth, to the pinnacles of the heavens.