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Reformation, or when may a court change a deed?


When Rocky Lawrence saw the rig move onto his property to drill a gas well, he checked his deed. Sure enough, nothing on the deed indicated that the seller of the property reserved the mineral rights.

Patsy Barnes saw the same drilling rig and went to Conway Title Company to make sure that she had reserved the mineral rights when she signed the deed conveying that property to Lawrence.   She was certain that the contract for sale stated that the mineral rights would not be conveyed to Lawrence.

Sarah at Conway Title had one of those awful moments, realizing that the reservation of mineral rights was not in the deed that Patsy signed, though the purchase contract stated that the mineral rights would be reserved to the seller. Sarah asked Lawrence to sign a correction deed, but he refused. Then Lawrence filed a quiet title suit, hoping to affirm that he and his wife owned the mineral rights and would receive royalties from natural gas produced from the well on their land.

People ought to be bound by what they sign, especially when it comes to real estate. Otherwise, what would be the point of putting the contract or deed in writing or reading a contract before signing it?

Mistakes are inevitable, and it would be unfair to allow someone to benefit from a mistake at the expense of another. Courts have developed the equitable remedy of reformation for the correction of mistakes and have also developed some strict rules for determining whether to reform a contract or a deed. Though the exact rules vary a bit from state to state, the basic rules are these: Read the rest of this entry

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