Oil and Gas – Leases – Validity When Executed by Life Tenant and Remaindermen at Different Times

In 1952 plaintiffs acquired an oil and gas lease from the life tenant which they assigned two years later, reserving an overriding 1/16 royalty interest. Subject to plaintiffs’ royalty rights this lease was eventually acquired by the defendant. In 1954, the remaindermen executed an oil and gas lease to defendant’s wife who assigned a 7/8 working interest to eight persons, and reserved a 1/8 working interest which she later assigned to defendant, subject to a 1/16 overriding royalty interest in herself. Action was brought by plaintiffs against defendant, his wife and her eight assignees for a declaration of rights of the parties in oil being produced on land covered by the leases. The trial court concluded that title to the leases had merged and vested a valid oil and gas lease in the defendants who were working the property. On appeal, held, reversed. The life tenant’s lease to plaintiffs was invalid when executed and was not validated by subsequent events. There was no merger of titles which could validate the lease because the entire interests were never joined in one person or a separate entity. Rowe v. Bird, (Ky. 1957) 304 S.W. (2d) 775.