Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Seven Habits of Highly Unsuccessful People* (a "How To" for Going Broke)

I'm old enough to remember Romper Room -- a kids show on TV back in the dark (as in "black and white") ages.  Romper Room had a regular segment called something like "Do Bee vs. Don't Bee" -- the idea being that you should be a "Do Bee" (generally exhibiting good character traits, and avoid being a "Don't Bee". 

Well here's a tribute to that Do Bee vs. Don't Bee segment, except that these mostly "Don't Bee" examples rolled off my laptop this morning as I was thinking about some bankruptcy clients.  If you want to go broke and end up in bankruptcy, here's some helpful pointers based on my years of experience:
  1. DON'T bother opening your mail every day -- especially not your bills or bank statements or anything from the IRS. If you don't know about it, it can't ruin your day, right?
  2. DON'T balance your checkbook -- it's just a bunch of depressing stuff anyway. Certainly don't keep a running balance in there -- what a buzz kill it would be to know that you're about to incur a bunch of service charges!
  3. DON'T do a monthly budget -- just send out the money as it comes in. Bills come in, money goes out. What's the difference? They all gotta get paid anyway. Don't worry about prioritizing with your food, shelter, transportation and clothing and savings first. If you take care of Master Card, they'll take care of you!
  4. DON'T worry about saving any money. If you have an emergency, that's what Visa and Master Card are for. Besides, there's always tomorrow and you've got a good job, right? Trust me, it'll work out.
  5. DON'T waste your money on health or disability insurance. After all, you're healthy right? You don't smoke or eat too much, and you exercise regularly. (Didn't I see you at that 5k run last week?) It's not like you're ever going to end up with a serious illness or get in an accident or anything. That'll never happen to YOU.
  6. DO get as much car as you they will let you finance. (Leasing's a good way to do this. Why drive a beater when you can drive a "Beemer"?) You need something "reliable" -- and that means "new". Besides, your car is a reflection of you and your status in the world, and you deserve it.
  7. DON'T use cash -- put it on plastic. After all, you can use Visa's money for 30 days or so, preserve your own cash and pay it off in full at the end of the month. So what if they're betting that you forget to pay it off -- you're WAY smarter than they are; they're just a dumb ol' Fortune 100 company.
If you've been a "Don't Bee" for awhile now and want to turn it around, send me an email at or call me toll free at 918 409-2462 by clicking on the "Call Me" widget in the left corner of this blog page. I promise you that I can help with compassionate and sensible advice, that doesn't talk down to you or make you feel like a child.

After all, this isn't Romper Room anymore.

*With apologies to Stephen Covey.

Ben Callicoat
918 409-2462

Friday, October 30, 2009

Real Garnishment, Real Life: Can the Bank Really Take My Kid's Money?

Some clients were in the office and were consulting me about some business debts they'd personally guaranteed from a failed business. Facing the prospect of multiple lawsuits, they wanted to know if a bank could garnish their son's bank account.

"Can the bank really take my kid's money?"

The answer is "YES" -- any time two or more persons share a joint bank account, they both (all) own 100% of the amount in the account. Therefore, even though the kid has earned every cent in that account through a long, hot summer of mowing lawns, if Mom or Dad's name is on the account it is subject to being garnished to pay Mom or Dad's debts.

In other words, even though their teenager has spent his entire summer slaving away mowing lawns, and even though Mom and Dad have put precisely NONE of the money that currently exists in sonny boy's bank account, the mere fact that Mom or Dad's name is on the account with their son, means that the entire amount is subject to a creditor's garnishment action. This is because a joint bank account (and its contents) are owned jointly and severally -- meaning that all named account holders hold the money equally, whether they contributed to its contents, or not.

To illustrate, it's helpful to understand garnishment as a legal tool used to collect assets from a third-party (such as a bank) holding someone else's money or property. Stay tuned for a post about garnishment next week, and the landmark legal battle of Popeye vs. Wimpy.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Help! My Landlord told me to get out by tomorrow!

“Help! My landlord has given me 48 hours to leave my apartment and I have no place to go!”

Unfortunately, this was a real life plea I received just the other day.

The man on the phone told me that he’d had a dispute with his landlord (who occupied the bottom floor of a two-story dwelling) that the tenant and his pregnant wife and baby had rented the upper floor.

“Is that legal”, he wondered?

No, it is not legal. Not under Oklahoma law.

In order for a landlord to evict someone, they must file a Forcible Entry and Detainer action with the Small Claims court. That means that must get a court order. And although that is an abbreviated process, it’s going to take more than 48 hours. They cannot just summarily throw you out, or lock you out. If they do, they’re liable for big punitive damages. Nor can they try to “smoke you out” by cutting off the electricity or other utilities.

Bottom line: hold your ground. They cannot throw you out or take any other action to force you out without a court order.

If you have a consumer law issue that you’re concerned about, give me a call. I’d be glad to talk to you without an initial charge.

You can reach me at or 918 409-2462.

Weasel Words (aka disclaimer): This is not legal advice. This is a general interest blog post. Unless we have a signed representation agreement, I am not your attorney and you are not my client.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Real Life, Real Bankruptcy: Can I Keep My Car?

It's a question I get all the time: "Can I keep my car if I file bankruptcy?"

That answer is a definite "Maybe."

The good news is that in most cases, in Oklahoma where I practice, most debtors have sufficient exemptions to cover their vehicles. In other words, they don't have to worry about the bankruptcy trustee being able to seize and sell their cars for the benefit of their creditors.

Let's back up a bit.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is known as a "Liquidation Bankruptcy" because theoretically the debtors' property can be seized and sold to satisfy their debts. Certain property is exempt from this liquidation process, however. This is because bankruptcy has a public policy purpose of giving honest debtors (people who owe money) a chance at a "fresh start", i.e. by wiping away their unsecured debts.

For example, in Oklahoma you have an exemption for your home, your clothing, and your furniture. A person couldn't very well make a "fresh start" without clothes on their back, and a roof over their head, and furniture to sleep on. Similarly, Oklahoma law allows each debtor (husband and wife) to exempt an automobile that is worth up to $7,500 each, or $15,000 together. You gotta have transportation, after all.

But that's not the end of the story.

In bankruptcy, you have three -- count 'em, (uno, dos, tres) THREE -- options with secured property (property which is collateral for a debt, like your car): Abandon, Redeem, or Reaffirm.

To heck with the cheese, get me outta this trap!

Let's say you've got a car note, and the new-car-smell and a slick salesman talked you into buying some real genuine faux woodgrain plastic trim, and Corinthian leather seating and a 500 CD changer that you just can't afford. (Never happens, I know, but humor me.) Under bankruptcy law you have the right to abandon or surrender the collateral (in this case, the car) back to the creditor and discharge any remaining obligation to pay the note. It's a quick and relatively painless way to get out from under a car note which is "upside-down", i.e., on which you owe more than the car is worth. But what if you want to keep it?

Let's Make a Deal: Redemption and Reaffirmation

But there are two more options, other than simply abandoning the property back to the creditor. You may also choose to either redeem the property for its fair market value, or reaffirm that property by entering into a negotiated contract with the creditor to keep paying for the collateral.

Pursuant to your redemption rights under 11 U.S.C. 722, you can offer a lump sum payment to the creditor for what the car is actually worth -- as opposed to what you owe on it. This is done by motion, and requires a court order to accomplish. Nonetheless, this could be a good deal if the property has a fair market value that is substantially less than what is owed, AND you have the ability to find a lump sum to offer to the creditors. (For obvious reasons, this is not often possible when the value of the automobile is thousands of dollars. Works great with consumer items like furniture and appliances.)

Reaffirmation (see 11 USC 524(c)(3)) is a binding contract that survives the bankruptcy discharge. It is voluntarily entered into by the debtor and creditor, and it must be approved by the court in some circumstances. Theoretically, they are negotiated anew with new terms for payment, interest rate, term, etc. When a debtor reaffirms a debt, they agree to relinquish their right to a discharge of that debt, and in return keep the collateral (car, etc.) that serves as security for the note or obligation. Because of this "waiver" of their discharge rights, courts are increasingly looking on reaffirmation agreements with a jaundiced eye -- after all, why bother filing bankruptcy if you're going to emerge on the other side with the same debts you had going in to the process? An approved reaffirmation agreement will allow the debtors to continue enjoying that new-car-smell -- for a price.

Yes, No, and Maybe

And that leads us directly to the "Maybe".

Since the courts are increasingly disinclined to approve reaffirmation agreements, there are some big hoops to jump through if a debtor wants to enter into one of these agreements. First and foremost, they must prove to their attorney and to the court that the reaffirmation agreement is in their best interest. This is more difficult than it may seem -- especially so if the car payment is way outta whack (a technical term of art I favor) with the debtor's budget. Let's face it -- if you're making $25,000 a year, you've got no business with a $300 car payment.

Part of that decision necessarily involves whether or not your budget and future income will allow you to pay for the car. If your bankruptcy Schedule I (Income) and your bankruptcy Schedule J (Expenses) don't show sufficient excess income to cover the car payment, prepare to say goodbye to those Corinthian leather seats and that 500 CD changer installed in the trunk, or that $18,000 Harley you bought for Mother's Day. It ain't gonna happen, Bro.

If you are facing financial difficulties and having trouble paying your bills, give me a call. I've been there, done that, and can help you. Whether it's bankruptcy or defense of a lawsuit, I can let you know what the options are. As I often say, I know where the rocks are in this particular river. Let me be your river guide.

Call me at 918 409-2462 or write to me at for free consultation.

Weasel Words (aka disclaimer): this is not legal advice, this is a general information blog post on the internet. (And if it's on the internet, it's gotta be true, right? Uh ... no.) If you haven't paid me a retainer, you are not (yet) my client and should not rely on any of this information to make any decisions. The law is complicated. The facts even more so. If I could have learned the law by reading blogs, I'd ask for money back from those three plus years of hell I paid for in law school.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Secret History of the Credit Card

From PBS Frontline: The Secret History of the Credit Card

  • Ever wondered why you send your credit card payments to South Dakota instead of Wall Street?
  • Why credit card companies are able to change the rate of interest on stuff you already bought?
  • Why your credit card can raise its interest rate because you were late on another company's credit card?
These questions and more are answered in a 2004 PBS Frontline Documentary The Secret History of the Credit Card

If you're struggling with credit card debt, give me a call at 918 582-6131 or send me an email ( My vocation is helping people find financial peace of mind in their lives by eliminating debt. Don't let debt destroy your family's peace. FBC

Thursday, May 14, 2009

An Economics Reporter's Personal Financial Crisis

New York Times reporter, Edmund Andrews is about to lose his Silver Springs, MD home to foreclosure.

My Personal Credit Crisis
Published: May 14, 2009

If there was anybody who should have avoided the mortgage catastrophe, it was I. As an economics reporter for The New York Times, I have been the paper’s chief eyes and ears on the Federal Reserve for the past six years. I watched Alan Greenspan and his successor, Ben S. Bernanke, at close range. I wrote several early-warning articles in 2004 about the spike in go-go mortgages. Before that, I had a hand in covering the Asian financial crisis of 1997, the Russia meltdown in 1998 and the dot-com collapse in 2000. I know a lot about the curveballs that the economy can throw at us.

But in 2004, I joined millions of otherwise-sane Americans in what we now know was a catastrophic binge on overpriced real estate and reckless mortgages. Nobody duped or hypnotized me. Like so many others — borrowers, lenders and the Wall Street dealmakers behind them — I just thought I could beat the odds. We all had our reasons. The brokers and dealmakers were scoring huge commissions. Ordinary homebuyers were stretching to get into first houses, or bigger houses, or better neighborhoods. Some were greedy, some were desperate and some were deceived.

As for me, I had two utterly compelling reasons for taking the plunge: the money was there, and I was in love.
You can read the rest of Mr. Andrew's story at
It's an admirable example of courage and a service to those who will tread the same paths after him; he is writing
about his personal crisis and thus serves as a warning bell in our long, collective financial night.

Mr. Andrews is in the same boat as so many Americans today, who are losing or about to lose their homes to foreclosure. Go read the rest of the story. And then ask yourself,

"Am I so different that this couldn't happen to me?"

If you need assistance with a foreclosure or credit crisis, please call or email me. I can't help Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, but I might be able to help you (or a friend or loved one facing the same difficulties.) FBC; 918 582-6131

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Frugal Living

Here's a local TV News segment on a local couple who have learned to live within their means. How?

Driving older, paid-for cars; eating at home; paying off credit cards, and perhaps most important of all: saving money.

Good for them -- exactly the sort of "pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps" recipe I recommend to my clients.

Watch the video for the financial experts -- one of whom cautions that we shouldn't go too far with this sort of thing. (Hah! What nonsense. Take care of your family first; the economy will take care of itself.)

It made me think of a book I listened to a couple years ago entitled, The Millionaire Next Door.

In that book two academics systematically studied the habits of real millionaires around the country and found that by and large, they lived VERY frugal lives -- driving older cars, not borrowing money, saving, and not living ostentatiously. Nelson Bunker Hunt - the silver speculator and billionaire was famous for flying coach (first class was too expensive, he thought). More recently, Warren Buffet is also known for his very frugal lifestyle.

Want to be rich? It's pretty simple. Do as the rich do. Don't borrow money. Don't waste money. Most important of all: save, save, save.

Want to be poor like everyone else? Just keep doing what you're doing.


Kudos to Scott Thompson, the NewsOn6, and of course, the Ball family.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Real Bankruptcy, Real Life: Are my Social Security benefits safe from garnishment?

I'm introducing a new blog series today that I'm calling "Real Bankruptcy, Real Life." These are going to be blog posts about real-life questions that arise during the course of my practice. If you have a question you'd like me to address, give me a call at 918 582-6131 -- I'd be glad to help! -- Ben Callicoat


Had a client call me the other day whom I'd spoken to previously. As always, I try to help people realize that bankruptcy is not the ONLY option they have -- but instead an emergency tool of last resort to be used in extreme situations only. Bankruptcy is the parachute you pull when the fourth engine of your financial airliner has caught fire and you're going down. And in fact I'd recommended that this particular client avoid filing a bankruptcy case -- not the least of reasons being that his social security benefits were the only source of income and therefore exempt from attachment or execution.

Let me to take half a step back here and explain.

Garnishment and Exempt Property

When you're being sued for indebtedness (because you are not paying some debt that is owed) the plaintiff's purpose is to get a judgment (a court decision and order) to force you to pay them. In order to collect on this judgment, the plaintiff will usually have to find some assets or property to attach. They do this by garnishment -- issuing a court order to someone holding property (such as a bank or an employer) also known as a "garnishee", for the judgment debtor. The court orders the garnishee to turn over the funds in that account to the judgment creditor / plaintiff.

However, among other defenses, each state has a set of exemptions -- laws that make certain property exempt from being taken from you to satisfy a debt. The law recognizes that some things are too basic, too important to being subject to seizure -- usually the basic necessities of life: food, shelter, clothing, for instance.

Oklahoma's excellent exemption statutes -- principally found at Oklahoma Statutes 31 O.S. sec. 1, and following, set forth all of the property interests that the Oklahoma legislature has decided a creditor should NOT be able to get in order to satisfy a judgment. For instance, under Oklahoma law your home and your home furniture are exempt. Also exempt is 75% of your income -- reason being, a person needs income lest they become wards of the state. (See OSCN link above.)

Beware "free" Legal Advice

So back to the story. The client having previously been advised (by yours truly) that his Social Security was safe from attachment, calls me one recent morning and says that his brother is a bank president. And that he, his brother, and another close friend -- by happenstance a retired attorney -- were talking about my advice, and the bank president told my client that I was wrong: his Social Security WAS in fact able to be garnished from his bank account, contrary to what I'd said. And to make matters worse, their mutual friend the retired attorney agreed with the bank president brother.

Whoa! Trouble in River City, Bankruptcy-Man! Had I given this man bad advice? Was I mistaken somehow? Are social security benefits exempt from being attached or not? All of these questions that were raging in someone's mind, if not my own.

Nonetheless, I knew that my previous advice was correct in spite of the fact that two people who should know disagreed with me. (One of them a lawyer!) But I stuck to my guns anyway. "They're wrong" I told the client flatly. "Your brother and the lawyer are just flat wrong." I repeated. "I will look up the exemption statute and call you back," I promised the client.

A quick check of Westlaw (Westlaw search terms "'social security' w/s exempt") pulled up the relevant Oklahoma case law. First case up was a March 2009 Oklahoma Court of Appeals case Ultra Thin, Inc. vs. Lane, 2009 WL 987387 (Okla.Civ.App. Div. 3).

Ultra Thin's fact pattern is substantially similar to my client's query: a judgment creditor had sought a garnishment against a debtor's bank account which had contained social security benefits held for his grandson. On the court's order, the garnishee bank had seized the contents of the account and forwarded them to the judgment creditor. The judgment debtor appealed this seizure on the grounds that the source of the funds was social security benefits which were exempt from attachment by reason of tit. 47 U.S. Code section 407, et seq.

Social Security Benefits Exempt from Garnishment

The Oklahoma Court of Appeals agreed. Social Security benefits are exempt under the federal law cited. In its opinion, the court specifically cites several federal court of appeals cases which held that not only were social security benefits from attachment or execution, they were even exempt after they had been commingled with other non-exempt funds. Case closed.

A quick call back to the client to confirm: "I was right; your brother and lawyer friend are wrong." "Social Security benefits are 100% exempt from attachment or garnishment." A creditor is prevented by federal law from seizing these funds to satisfy a judgment even when a court orders otherwise. Dead bang correct.

Moral of the Story: Don't try this at home

The law is complicated and it changes or evolves with each new opinion or court decision on a given topic. Lay people often mistakenly assume that the law is a simple "cut and dried" matter, when in fact it is not. If the law were that simple, lawsuits could be decided by computer programs. As it is, facts and context matter greatly.

Another lawyer I consulted later -- a creditor's lawyer who had spent years of litigating exactly these sorts of cases -- confided that he had long ago attempted to argue that once the funds were commingled with other non-exempt funds, that they lost their exemption. (He admitted that he had lost those arguments, even back then, however.)

Nonetheless it points out the dangers of relying on other people for your legal advice. Your brother in law who just passed the bar is probably not qualified to answer this relatively simple question unless he has just recently researched this precise question. Even a long-practicing attorney in another field is probably not qualified to say. Similarly, the retired attorney friend of my client in this real-life example, had either not looked at this issue recently, or never looked at this issue and was apparently shooting from the hip when he agreed with their banker friend. And if you're going to rely on non-lawyers -- even if it is your brother (maybe I should say "especially" if it is your brother) for legal advice, I don't know what to tell you -- that's just plain crazy.

It all goes to show, as the ever-wise late, great favorite son of Oklahoma Will Rogers once said, "It's not what folks don't know that's the problem. It's what they know that just ain't so."

Ah yes -- that's it exactly, Will.

Again, if you have a particular debt problem that you need some competent advice about, please call me at 918 582-6131 or send me an email: I'm all about helping people and would love to help you as well. fbc

Weasel Words Disclaimer

Disclaimer (a/k/a "Weasel Words"): This is NOT legal advice. This is a general interest blog post. If you haven't paid me a retainer, I'm not your lawyer. And come to think of it, if you are relying on a blog for legal advice without speaking to a lawyer, you are stupid. Or crazy. Or maybe both. You deserve every bad fate which will almost certainly befall you. In fact, please put this blog post down and back away slowly. Thank you.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University

There's one name that I hope my clients never forget.

No, not mine -- Dave Ramsey's.

To say I'm a big believer in Dave Ramsey and his "advanced common sense" approach is an understatement. He's awesome. He's right. And he's freeing people from the bondage of debt on a daily basis.

So tonight I finally dragged my wife to a local Financial Peace University class -- a 13 session DVD class that lays out the Ramsey Financial Peace plan. Very exciting!

Now, some might wonder about a bankruptcy lawyer who promotes Dave Ramsey. Isn't that like a field-mouse running a red-tailed hawk fan club? A seal who promotes killer whale worship? A rabbit being a hunting dog groupie?

Nah, actually Ramsey and I both agree on this point: bankruptcy is very, very painful. And it is not the cure-all to debt problems. Let me repeat that last point:


Shocking? Well, maybe. But years of watching bankruptcy clients come and go has led me to the understanding that something important is missing. Something is not working the way it should.

Why do I say that? Why wouldn't eliminating your unsecured debt be a huge head-start to getting your life in financial shape?

Well, because as Ramsey says, "Personal Finance is about behavior." Of course if you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you CAN get out of debt. Maybe even quicker than Ramsey's famed Debt Snowball technique. (MAYBE - see article comments. fbc)

So why doesn't it work? Why don't my Chapter 7 clients find that bankruptcy is a life-changing experience -- in a good way, I mean?

Because they don't change the behaviors that brought them to me in the first place. If they file bankruptcy, they don't have to budget, they don't have to work with their spouse, and they don't have to learn to save for emergencies.

So when they take the short-cut of Chapter 7, they bypass a lot of important lessons and habits they need to instill to ensure success.

Now, none of this is to say that bankruptcy is unnecessary. Nor did I say or imply anywhere that people who are filing bankruptcy are "deadbeats" or somehow unsavory. (Quite the contrary -- my experience shows that most people would gladly cutoff their right arms if they could avoid bankruptcy.) They just don't see how that is possible. And they wait too long to take action. Many of them are already being sued by creditors or even having their paychecks garnished. These are NOT deadbeats. They're people who've made a couple of unwise decisions with money, and gotten trapped.

No - they're not deadbeats; they're good people with families and homes and dreams. They are professionals and housewives, mothers and fathers, blue collar and white collar. They are university educated, many of them. They're not stupid. They're not crooked. (Something I can't say about insurance companies and some credit card banks, by the way, many of whom have "lie, cheat, and steal" as a part of their business plans.) No, my clients aren't the bad-guys. They're just people who don't know how to find Financial Peace.

I'm going to be blogging about my experiences in Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University class over the summer. Please come along and follow me as I dive in.

If you need some Financial Peace; if you're one of those good solid people who have nonetheless found themselves in extreme financial distress -- give me a call. I'll try to find a way out of your predicament and get you set back on the road to financial strength. I'll also try to map a way out that doesn't include bankruptcy. But sometimes, bankruptcy is all there is left. In that case, at least you'll know that you didn't really have another choice and that you did all you could to avoid it.

Call me, I can help.

In the meantime, check out Dave Ramsey's site: ; go here for a link to his Financial Peace University intro: here

Ben Callicoat
918 582-6131

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Foreclosure: What do I do now? (Part 1)

It's an unfortunately an increasingly common problem. You were behind on your house payments -- maybe you lost your job, or had some extraordinary medical expenses. Perhaps you recently suffered through an expensive divorce, and you're now having to survive on less income.

Whatever the reason, you've spent the last several months "robbing Peter to pay Paul" -- doing the best you could, paying the bills that you could with the resources you had. But you just couldn't hold it all together and today you've been served with a foreclosure petition? Now what? What can you do?

Several things, actually. Given the right circumstances, you may well be able to save your home from foreclosure.

Foreclosure: What it means

Foreclosure is the legal mechanism by which the mortgage holder (usually a bank or mortgage company) gains legal title to a piece of real estate from the borrower who has defaulted on the terms of the original agreement. When you borrow money to finance the purchase of a home, you granted the bank or mortgage company, a "mortgage" -- the legal right to repossess the property itself, if you failed to keep making the payments. We call this failure to make payments a "default".

Unlike the bank who holds a car note or promissory note for some other piece of personal property, a mortgage holder / creditor cannot merely "repossess" your home if you default on the contract. They have to "foreclose" (or to get back) their interest in your property in order to be able to get possession of it and sell it to someone else. State laws understand how important home ownership is in a free society, and therefore every state has laws to protect people from losing their homes too quickly or, as lawyers say, without "due process." (Note that there is a special kind of mortgage called a "power of sale mortgage" which ostensibly gives the mortgage holder a short-cut to foreclosure. Fortunately for Oklahomans and the residents of many other states, a homeowner can opt out of the "power of sale" foreclosure, and thus they're rarely used here.)

OK, so you've got the terminology down. The next thing to understand is that you're being sued. Bad as that may seem, however, it is not without it's "up-side", insofar as with any lawsuit, you have certain rights and abilities to defend yourself. And, the plaintiffs -- in this case presumably the mortgage holder -- has to fulfill certain minimal requirements before they win.

IF -- that is -- you fight back.

If on the other hand, you do nothing, then you've already lost. You might as well call the movers or the in-laws and prepare to leave. Fortunately, that probably doesn't apply to you because if that were the case, you wouldn't be reading this blog post.

Fighting Back

In a lawsuit, the plaintiff -- the person or company who is suing you -- can win by default only if you don't defend yourself. One of my law school professors -- an émigré to the United States from Eastern Europe -- used to harangue us complacent Americans for not realizing that the beauty and nobility of our judicial system is that it provides a man the ability to defend himself. But defend yourself, you must. For if you don't, no one else will do it for you. And just as you would lose a fist-fight by not fighting back, so will you lose a lawsuit in the same manner. Because, at bottom, a lawsuit is indeed a fist-fight -- but one whose consequences go way beyond any schoolyard scuffle.

In every lawsuit, the Defendant (that would be the homeowner in this example) has a certain amount of time after being served in which to "answer" (or defend) the suit. The summons will tell you how long you have to do so -- either 20 or 35 days from the date of service, depending on which the Plaintiff elects to allow.

Further, a Defendant has the right under Oklahoma law to extend that time by filing an Entry of Appearance and Request to Extend Time which will gain the Defendant an additional 20 days time to file their answer. (See 12 O.S. sec. 2012(A)(1)(b)).

Watch for Foreclosure: What do I do now? (Part 2) to be posted

If you are facing foreclosure or other serious collection related problems with creditors, call me for assistance. I am a bankruptcy professional with years of experience in this field. I love my work, and I love my clients. And they love me.

Ben Callicoat
918 582-6131

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Kill the Billable Hour

Great post over at Forbes by a top attorney for one of the largest most prestigious firms in the world. The subject? How the time-tested, age-old law practice standby, the billable hour, must be eliminated.

This is a topic we've been kicking back and forth at Jarboe & Stoermer for some time now. The problems with billable hours are legion, but just to name two off the top: first, that there is something fundamentally unfair about charging the same rate for sending an email or checking my schedule on behalf of a client, as we do arguing a motion in court. Why should both activities -- the latter of which is the product of the cumulative weight of years of practice and skill, and the former which could be done by any fool with a keyboard and an internet connection -- be charged at exactly the same rate?

For another objection, the overhead and lack of productivity that trying to keep track of time builds in is highly counterproductive. Some estimate that tracking billable hours adds a non-productivity cost of up to 10% to any given work product. (I actually think it a bit higher.)

Anyway, here's the article: read it and see for yourself - Kill the Billable Hour

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Collecting from the Dead

A recent New York Times Business article points out a growing area for debt collections: collecting from the relatives of the recently deceased. (New York Times March 3, 2009 article: "Your Dead? That Won't Stop the Collector")

I'm not kidding. Yes, they will actually call up the grieving relatives and ask for money.

Never mind the fact that the surviving relatives don't actually OWE their loved one's debts. And, never mind the fact that they don't actually ADVISE the survivors of this lack of legal obligation. They still hold their hands out, waiting for you to make a "payment arrangement".

If you're being harassed by debt collectors, give me a call. I'd be happy to help you sort out what you do owe, from what you don't.

Ben Callicoat
Jarboe & Stoermer PC
(918) 582-6131

You’re Dead? That Won’t Stop the Debt Collector

Allen Brisson-Smith for The New York Times

At DCM, Brenda Edwards, a collector, on a call.

Published: March 3, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS — The banks need another bailout and countless homeowners cannot handle their mortgage payments, but one group is paying its bills: the dead.

Dozens of specially trained agents work on the third floor of DCM Services here, calling up the dear departed’s next of kin and kindly asking if they want to settle the balance on a credit card or bank loan, or perhaps make that final utility bill or cellphone payment.

The people on the other end of the line often have no legal obligation to assume the debt of a spouse, sibling or parent. But they take responsibility for it anyway.

“I am out of work now, to be honest with you, and money is very tight for us,” one man declared on a recent phone call after he was apprised of his late mother-in-law’s $280 credit card bill. He promised to pay $15 a month.

Dead people are the newest frontier in debt collecting, and one of the healthiest parts of the industry. Those who dun the living say that people are so scared and so broke it is difficult to get them to cough up even token payments.

Collecting from the dead, however, is expanding. Improved database technology is making it easier to discover when estates are opened in the country’s 3,000 probate courts, giving collectors an opportunity to file timely claims. But if there is no formal estate and thus nothing to file against, the human touch comes into play.

New hires at DCM train for three weeks in what the company calls “empathic active listening,” which mixes the comforting air of a funeral director with the nonjudgmental tones of a friend. The new employees learn to use such anger-deflecting phrases as “If I hear you correctly, you’d like...”

“You get to be the person who cares,” the training manager, Autumn Boomgaarden, told a class of four new hires.

For some relatives, paying is pragmatic. The law varies from state to state, but generally survivors are not required to pay a dead relative’s bills from their own assets. In theory, however, collection agencies could go after any property inherited from the deceased.

But sentiment also plays a large role, the agencies say. Some relatives are loyal to the credit card or bank in question. Some feel a strong sense of morality, that all debts should be paid. Most of all, people feel they are honoring the wishes of their loved ones.

Read the rest of the article: Here


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Welcome to Tulsa Bankruptcy and Consumer Law Blog!

Welcome! If you're reading this blog, you are probably facing some pressing financial issues. Perhaps a foreclosure, or garnishment or some other debt-related problem has caused you to start seeking help.

Well I've got great news for you, and that is: It's going to be fine - you're going to be OK!

Ben Knows Bankruptcy
My name is F. Bennett Callicoat and I'm a Tulsa attorney dedicated to helping families and individuals who are in crisis. I've spent my entire legal career (and then some) in this particular field. Years ago, Nike ran an ad campaign based on then superstar multi-sport professional athlete Bo Jackson. The ads all began with the tagline: "Bo knows football [or baseball]." Well sometimes I'm tempted to tell people "Ben Knows Bankruptcy." Prior to beginning my law practice in 2000, I spent 11 and a half years working as a senior administrator for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma.

I was admitted to the Oklahoma Bar in 2000 and since 2002, I have been primarily engaged in bankruptcy and commercial litigation with the firm of Jarboe & Stoermer, PC. In all those years, I've gained a wealth of knowledge and experience about bankruptcy and bankruptcy-related litigation. I put that knowledge and experience to good use every day, helping families and individuals who are facing financial crisis.

If you have a problem like this, or simply need someone's opinion about these kinds of issues, please give me a call. I'd love to help. My office number is 918 582-6131 and my email address is:

I look forward to helping you!

Member, National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys