At Midtown Attorneys our lawyers provide professional representation and personalized service. We understand that every client is different. We believe that a good lawyer takes the time to fully understand each client’s unique situation. The facts of your immediate problem are important, but your overall goals and ambitions are equally important to finding the right legal strategy for you.We assist clients with legal matters including, but not limited to, business law, contract negotiations and real estate law concerns. Our Oklahoma City attorneys have tailored our practice to serve clients in many situations. From starting a new business to leasing property and negotiating contracts, we handle a wide array of commercial legal concerns. Additionally, we also have attorneys that handle other areas of law such as creditor/debtor issues, including collection of debts and defense of collection actions, FDCPA/FCRA issues, bankruptcy, and all aspects of family law.Whatever your legal concerns, we will work hard to safeguard your best interests. By maintaining excellent communication with our clients, we ensure that they are always in control of their legal situation. We respond to e-mails, answer inquiries and return phone calls in a timely manner. Protecting our clients now and in the future is our top priority.
With the housing market suffering and people struggling to pay their mortgages, there are a lot of people who have downsized their home and some who have even moved into apartments to try and reduce their cost of living. Many of these people have opted to retain their old home, with the mortgage in place, and then rent, or try to sell the home, on a Contract For Deed basis. But, there is a problem, under Oklahoma Law. In Oklahoma, a Contract for Deed is automatically treated as a Mortgage and Deed and requires proper recording of the instrument, payment of mortgage tax, and a full foreclosure process to terminate the agreement. Additionally, such an instrument almost certainly violates the underlying Promissory Note and Mortgage and can trigger acceleration of payment clauses.
Over the years I have seen many situations where individuals have sold the same property numerous times to different people on a Contract For Deed basis. Most people do not know their rights and believe that if they are buying property on a Contract For Deed basis, that if they miss a payment they can be kicked out immediately and lose all of the equity that they have paid towards the home. This is simply not the case. There are even situations where property is sold on a “Lease to Own” where such an agreement will be treated by the Courts as a Mortgage and Deed. If a person is “buying” property, whether it be a Contract For Deed, a Lease to Own or any other type of agreement whereby any amount of equity is being transferred in the property, from the seller to the buyer, most likely a Court will not allow a simple eviction (Forcible Entry and Detainer) but will require the seller to properly file the paperwork and proceed with a foreclosure. This treatment of the agreements by Oklahoma Law gives rise to homestead rights and additional requirements in order to proceed with a foreclosure.
Be cautious before trying to purchase or sell Real Estate by any means other than a direct purchase transaction which will include a Mortgage, Note and Deed.
You have your divorce decree in hand and you are finally free; you never have to deal with your ex again. Or so you thought. If you and your spouse have children together you will not be truly ‘free’ of your ex just because you are divorced. Depressing, right? Well, life after divorce doesn’t have to be. In fact, ex-spouses who work with each other and not against each other will be happier in the long run. More importantly, your children will be happier if they don’t see mom and dad constantly fighting.
Now, you’re thinking to yourself, hold on, wait a minute. I got divorced because I couldn’t stand him/her and all we did was argue. Why in the world would I want to continue to try to communicate with him/her? The answer is, “To make your life easier.”
Constantly fighting and bickering with your ex-spouse will not get you anywhere; except maybe a few migraines and some missing hair. Custody disputes and child support arguments are common after divorce and issues concerning them will continue to arise until, at the earliest, your children have graduated high school or turn 19.
Making an effort to get along with your ex regarding your children will make everyone happier and life easier. You and your spouse are adults and should make every effort to set an example for your children to follow. During and after your divorce your ex-spouse and you should have a conversation about what is working and what is not working for each of you. Having this conversation without placing blame on either of you will make it much easier to communicate when an issue relating to child support or visitation does arise. Simply put, being an adult and making the effort to get along for the good of your children will make everyone involved, your children included, happier in the long run.
As many Oklahomans are aware, our yearly severe weather season has begun. This time of year brings rain, hail, lightening, and tornadoes. We join with all other Oklahomans in saying our hearts go out to the many individuals in Oklahoma who have recently been displaced by the large and damaging tornadoes early in the season.
Various weather anomalies are not the only things that are brought about by the beginning of spring. Shortly after the rain and storms stop, elaborate scams further injuring those already harmed by the storms begin to appear. A quick trip to the mall after a minor storm reveals a half dozen post cards under the windshield wiper advertising for storm damage repair or hail repair shops that promise to be quick and not take a dime more than your insurance will pay. More and more are offering to perform their services without you even paying an insurance deductible (it should be noted that such practices are in violation of the law). While some companies are of course legitimate, others may well not be. Advertising is of course a normal business practice that transcends all types of businesses. However, the old adage of caveat emptor, or buyer beware, becomes more important than ever when choosing a reputable company. Simply finding the lowest cost workman is not always the best idea. It is important to realize that in times of crisis, such as severe weather, people are in a vulnerable state and susceptible to clever scam artists. I hear horror stories regularly of people who gave money up-front to a company that was going to repair storm damage, only to find out the company never did any work and now can not be located.
When choosing a business that will be performing a service for you there are a few key bits of information that you should always seek out. Determine if the business is in fact a company that has been formed and filed with the State. Determine if the business has an actual address and phone number that does not include a cell phone and a trailer in a parking lot at a street intersection. Also, many reputable companies will include information about how long they have been in business. Additionally, the low tech word of mouth approach is another method of ensuring the person you are choosing to perform work is indeed reputable. Most importantly, we would highly recommend only hiring contractors that are insured and bonded.
I recently read an article that stated that by simply convincing someone to add them as a connection, or a friend, on a social networking site that a potential hacker, who knows nothing else about the person, could successfully steal a person’s identity approximately 15% of the time. How could this be? Because you disclose to those contacts all sorts of personal information: marital status, maiden name, birth date, where you live, where you grew up, who your relatives are, where you work . . . the list goes on and on. The warning here is to be careful who you are adding, and make sure you actually know who they are. How many people can honestly say that they have personally met everyone on their list of friends on social networking sites other than myself? Yes, I am admittedly an FB snob, but for a reason.
Additionally, as an attorney, I constantly receive very elaborately crafted emails, which usually contain forged documentation, seeking assistance with legal matters against local businesses. So far I have assisted two foreign corporations in filing complaints with IC3, which is the FBI porthole for reporting cyber-crimes, because of people claiming to be with those companies and seeking assistance in suing local businesses here in Oklahoma. How would such a scam work you may ask? Well, the plan is to actually defraud the attorney. The scammer would typically either request that you provide them with your account information so that they can “wire” you the retainer you require, and then sweep your account, and the other is the age old fake cashier’s check. They will send you a cashier’s check, which you then deposit, then they will decide they do not wish to pursue the matter and request a refund of the unused retainer. For example, they send a $20,000.00 retainer, three days later notify you to cease work and refund their unused retainer, let’s say $19,000.00. A check is then sent to them and three weeks later it is discovered by the bank that the original certified check was fraudulent. The attorney has then lost $19,000.00.(Note: If you ever get an email from Nigeria saying that a former government agent needs your assistance in getting his money out of the country, or you have surprisingly won their lottery without having entered, it’s a scam also.) Anyway, crooks are getting better and better at trying to deceive people. Luckily I am naturally skeptical and double check everything, or I may have even fallen prey to a few of these scams. (Another thing you should always do is hold your cursor over any “link” on a website or email to make sure that the destination site actually matches what the “link” says that it goes to.)
Another area in which I have noticed an increased surge in scamming attempts is when people are applying for a job. Fake postings on job-listing sites can quickly convince you to divulge significant amounts of information which a scammer can use to obtain the additional information needed to commit identity theft. In this day and age there isn’t much information about you that isn’t available for a small fee. For $35.00, I can tell you every address at which you have ever lived, who your neighbors are and usually their phone numbers and address, who your relatives are, along with addresses and phone numbers, and a whole list of additional information. All I need to know is your name and birth-date.
The short and simple summary to this post: Be careful. Take a few extra minutes to make sure people are who they say they are, that emails are from who they say they are, and that you are providing information to legitimate entities. Whether you have significant assets or not, identify theft could end up costing you more than you can ever imagine.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of attorneys who will convince clients that they need to spend money creating a living trust, to avoid the expense of Probate, simply because it means money for the attorney. Even worse, few attorneys know how to properly structure and fund a Trust. So not only do people end up with something they do not need, they end up with something that isn’t worth the paper it is written on. In most cases we end up advising a client that a Trust is an unnecessary expense based on the fact that what they are hoping to accomplish through a Trust can be accomplished through other much simpler and cheaper means. Additionally, you need to consider the expense of a trust, which you have to pay for now, compared the expense of Probate, which is paid for after you’ve spent everything you can and have passed on. Be wary of any attorney who immediately tells you that you need a trust if they have not taken the time to ask what your goals are and discuss alternatives with you.
Every week I meet with someone who has been the victim of home repair fraud. Unfortunately, there is rarely a real remedy available when this happens because those committing the acts know how to skirt the criminal laws and rarely have any assets to recover. If there is one bit of practical advice that can actually protect you, it is this: make sure that if you are hiring someone to do repairs on your home, that they are BONDED. A lot of companies like to confuse consumers by stating that they are “insured”, however, this is in reality absolutely no protection to you against fraud. The liability insurance that most contractors carry simply provides that if they hurt someone, or destroy your property while they are working that they have insurance to cover that. It will not, however, pay you back if they rip you off. Making sure that a contractor is “bonded” is your best protection against fraud. However, do not accept their “word” that they or bonded, or even a document that purports to show they are bonded. Take a few minutes and contact the bonding company and verify that they are bonded, and notify the bonding company immediately once you have signed a contract with the contractor, so that the contractor is not able to go revoke the bond after he takes your money. In Oklahoma, General Contractors are not required to have any type of licensing, so it is incumbent upon you to protect yourself.
While nobody likes to think about the possibility of death, the fact is, it is inevitable. The only question is . . . ”when”, and for the majority of us, that is an uncertainty. Accordingly, waiting until you are “ready” is not advisable when it comes to Estate Planning. One of the simplest and most cost effective ways to ensure that your loved ones are subjected to as little hassle and frustration as possible, while also trying to deal with the grief of losing a loved one, is preparing a Last Will and Testament. While having a Last Will and Testament will not avoid probate, it will make the process simpler by dictating exactly what should be done with any Real Estate or Titled property and in many instances specific gifts of personal items. If you have young children, it will also enable you to state a preference as to whom their guardian will be and make certain that their inheritance is protected for when they get older. While Oklahoma does recognize “holographic” Wills (hand written) there are requirements that must be met or they will be disregarded in their entirety. Likewise, simply purchasing a “form” Will, will most likely not be adequate as Oklahoma Law requires certain formalities in the execution of a non-holographic Will. Make sure, however, that if you are going to hire an attorney to prepare a Last Will and Testament that it isn’t something they just do “on occasion” or “just for friends” as they may not be aware of all the potential pitfalls and requirements of a properly drafted and executed Will. If you have specific questions on how a Will can be of benefit to you and your family, please feel free to call or email us.
The question was asked, that if a person was purchasing a home which was “for sale by owner” do they need an attorney. My advice would be yes. One of the most frequent phone calls that we receive are people whom have attempted to purchase a home which was “for sale by owner” either through a contract for deed, lease/purchase, or owner financing. There are many potential issues that can arise when a person does not use a Realtor or a Title Company when purchasing a home. This is not to say that a person should by any means avoid purchasing a home simply because it is “for sale by owner” but there are precautions that should be taken. Since purchasing a home is usually the largest investment any of us will make, it only makes sense that you would want to protect yourself as much as possible. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in the world who make a lot of money off of owner financing and/or lease purchase contracts on homes because the buyer didn’t understand what they were getting into. An attorney who is knowledgeable in Real Estate can give you advice on whether a certain arrangement is in your best interest or not. Personally, I refuse to draft Contracts for Deeds and advise buyers to avoid them at all cost. There are so many potential issues that it is hard to list them out here with sufficient detail. In cases where people cannot qualify for traditional financing and do owner financing, or simply purchase the property out-right and do not go through a title company, I cannot stress enough the importance of having a knowledgeable real estate attorney assisting you.