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Payment of ‘ad valorem’ taxes sustain ownership in mineral interest

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Reversing the trial court’s ruling, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded that a woman’s payment of “ad valorem” taxes on a mineral interest in Posey County prevented the lapse of her partial ownership.

Carolyn Sue Stinson appealed Posey Circuit Court’s finding that she had not paid real estate taxes on the ownership of the mineral interest and that any taxes she did pay on the royalties were not publicly documented.

The appellee, George Woodcock III, argued Stinson’s mineral interest lapsed because her tax payments were for “ad valorem” taxes.

In L.C. Westervelt, Margaret Fox, Joe Dan Trigg, Attorney-in-fact and Trustee for Lillian Guild, Marilyn Guild Ramah Lee Jones, Janice Trigg and the Guild Family Trust, Barbara Killen, Patricia Kunc, Jacqueline Medley, Paul Fennessey, Carolyn Sue Stinson, R.D. Jones, Inc., and their unknown spouses, grantees, representatives, successors, heirs, and devisees v. George Woodcock III, d/b/a West Drilling Company, 65A01-1311-PL-501, the Court of Appeals declined to read the statute as narrowly as Woodcock.

The COA noted Indiana Code 32-23-10-3(a) says a lapse in a mineral interest is prevented when “taxes are paid on the mineral interest by the owner of the mineral interest.”

Also the Court of Appeals found evidence contradicting Woodcock’s assertion that Stinson’s tax payments do not appear in the public record. The COA pointed out the county did keep track of Stinson’s mineral ownership by assessing taxes on her interest and generating tax statements that included legal descriptions and well numbers.

 “But even if Woodcock is correct that the County’s records do not include all the information they should, we decline to hold Stinson may be divested of her mineral rights solely by virtue of the Posey County Auditor’s recordkeeping procedures,” Judge Melissa May wrote.

Judge L. Mark Bailey concurred with the result but, in a separate opinion, argued the majority did not have to inquire into whether and how taxes were paid and recorded.

Since oil has continued to be drilled from the property associated with Stinson’s mineral interest, Bailey contended the plain language of the statute says that was enough to sustain her ownership.
 

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