Dawkins v. Hysaw, 450 S.W.3d 147 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 2014) rev'd, Hysaw v. Dawkins, 483 S.W.3d 1 (Tex. 2016).


Interpretation and Construction

No Ambiguity


Testatrix devised surface rights to tracts of land of different acreage to each of her three children.  The children also received the mineral rights but subjected them to a royalty interests.  After all the children died, the grandchildren fought over one of the children’s royalty interest described as “an undivided one-third (1/3) of an undivided one-eighth (1/8) of all oil, gas or other minerals in or under or that may be produced from any [of the tracts].”  One group of descendants argued that the will granted a fractional royalty to each child (1/24) and another group argued that the will required the children to share all royalties equally.  The trial court held that the royalties were to be shared equally.


The appellate court reversed holding that the will was unambiguous in giving this child the surface and mineral estate subject to a fixed fraction royalty to each of the other two children.  The court engaged in an extensive discussion of the difference between fractional royalties (constant or fixed fraction of production) and fraction of royalty interests (floating fraction of whatever royalty interest is reserved in the lease).  The court determined that different children received different types of interests thus rejecting the argument that Testatrix actually intended for all children to share all royalties equally.  The court explained that even if she may have intended the children to share equally, the court is bound by the unambiguous words of her devises.


Moral:  Wills granting interests in oil and gas properties need to be carefully drafted to assure that the interests being conveyed comport with the testator’s intent.  Prudent practice is to consult with an oil and gas expert when phrasing the terms of the grant.