Deed Interpretation and Construction

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Deed Interpretation and Construction


The basic objective of the Alabama Supreme Court when it interprets deeds is to ascertain the intention of the parties, especially the grantor. Turner v. Lassiter, 484 So.2d 378 (Ala. 1985).  If “that intention can be found from the entire instrument, arbitrary rules of construction need not be used.” Id. at 379; Holmes v. Compton, 142 So.2d 697 (1962).  The Alabama Supreme Court has taken the following approaches in interpreting and construing mineral deeds:


1.If the entire deed reveals a clear intention for the grantor to reserve certain mineral rights, the court will uphold that intention without invoking arbitrary rules of construction. Holmes v. Compton, 142 So.2d 697 (Ala. 1962).


2.A reservation of mineral rights is not repugnant to a grant of the surface estate so as to require resorting to arbitrary rules of construction. Id.


3.As an arbitrary rule of construction, the court has “held that where there is an inconsistency between the granting clause containing words of inheritance and statements in the habendum or clauses subsequent to the granting clause, the granting clause in the deed will prevail and the clause containing the reservation of mineral rights will be considered void.” Holmes v. Compton, 142 So.2d 698.


4.The court normally construes ambiguous reservation clauses in favor of the grantee and against the grantor. Martin v. Knight, 275 So.2d 117 (Ala. 1973).


5.“[O]il is a mineral.” Holmes v. Compton, 142 So.2d 697, 699 (Ala. 1962).


6.Where the parties distinguish between “oil” and “minerals” by reserving “one half of the oil and all the minerals that may be discovered in said land,” the court will uphold the reservation as to “one-half the oil and all the other minerals.” Holmes v. Compton, 142 So.2d at 699 (emphasis added).

Copyright 2011 by Edward G, Hawkins. All rights reserved.