You can file a claim. If the previous lease was recorded by the lessee in 1996 the surface owner could not claim your minerals, that were leased. You don’t need to have the will probated to file a statement of claim. Statements of claim are pretty simple and only serve the purpose of showing you have not abandoned the minerals, so your claim can not be extinguished. If you sign a lease and an operator drills and you are due royalty, payments can be held up by a cloud on the title. In such a case you may need to probate the estate in N.D. to receive a mineral deed to be recorded in the county in which the minerals exist. You certainly have time before june to file/have recorded a statement of claim, but I would do so immediately ( I’d take no ones word about the date your rights would be extinguished). My dealings with the counties in N.D. is that they record things they receive immediately, but it may take them 6 weeks to return to you a sealed, bar coded original copy. If you know who the surface owner is atop your minerals, a simple letter, notorized and with tracking by the post office, that you have filed a claim (I’d send them a copy of the notorized statement of claim), should stop them in their tracks. If only a portion of your mierals were leased in 1996, I don’t know if the others are vulnerable, they might be. That might be a reason why the lease from 1996 isn’t affording you protection; because they are going after minerals that were not leased, then. Get a claim recorded with ALL your mineral legal descriptions, if your minerals are in more than one county file it in both counties. Gather all of your information, deeds , wills, probates and or prior claims and with the help of a lawyer you could have your claim recorded by the end of next week. Hurry, and good luck.