State vs private ownership of mineral rights in right of way

In 1942, my grandfather purchased 3/4 of a section of property in Utah, bordered on the south side by an existing state highway on the section line. In August 1952, my grandfather signed a right of way contract giving 5.23 acres of right of way to the state to widen the road… Payment was $1 plus a new fence. The contract had conditions, about how the property could be used, which indicates to me that my grandfather still had ownership. The right of way contract uses the term" right-of-way" no less than 15 times from start to end. However, the state drafted deed which my grandfather executed specifies fee simple, but, interestingly, the body of the deed refers to new ditches being constructed outside of the highway “right of way.” We have paid taxes on the total acreage ever since, including the 5.23 acres. Do we have a right to claim the minerals underneath the 5.23 acre parcel?

That is a question for an attorney in Utah and the more specific wording of the Deed.

Has there ever been any oil and gas activity on the property? If so, see if the the right of way company has ever leased, if they havent since 1952, safe to say you have the rights to the 5.23 acres

Wells have been drilled and the oil company title search shows the mineral rights are owned by the state. This parcel was leased to a third party and they are now getting paid royalties. The warranty deed is a fee simple transfer, but Northwest Realty vs Jacob’s has established the precedent that if “right if way” verbiage is used in the deed, it may be a lesser estate. The right of way contract was signed 71 years ago, but we have paid property taxes on the whole parcel the whole time. Does that bring the statute of limitations current? The state does not have to pay taxes, so that would be a moot point in whether or not they have a claim. However, we have used the whole parcel as collateral for loans and paid liability insurance on the whole and actually executed oil leases on the whole multiple times through the years. Water rights specifically attached to the property are also all in our name. If not a right of way, what about adverse possession?

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Even if someone on this forum tells you what you want to hear, you are in need of an Utah attorney.

Todd, I appreciate your comment. I just wanted to get an idea of whether or not it is worth my time and money to even engage an attorney. If somebody out there had a similar experience, it would also help me come up with some precedent to pass along to my attorney (i.e. Northwest Realty vs. Jacobs). As professional as they are, I know there are alot of attorneys that make mistakes (speaking from personal experience) and they don’t automatically know all the ins and outs of each argument. Hopefully, if I decide to pursue this, I can provide them with as much ammunition I can that would help them argue my case.

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If oil companies have leased the 5.23 acres specifically, youd have an uphill battle to fight. Being worth your time is relative, how much yearly revenue does the 5.23 acres generate? If you own 3/4 of the section, with the same wells, should be easy to determine if its worth your time to pay a local attorney $150-300.00 for a meeting to review the possible outcomes.

Attorneys have varying specialties and you always need to consult an attorney with in-depth knowledge and experience in a particular area. This issue would require a title attorney who has an in-depth knowledge of Utah real estate law. Many general real estate lawyers will not know enough about this. At least in Texas, you cannot claim adverse possession against the state.

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