Archive for December, 2013

Oil Drilling on Your Illinois Property

Around a hundred years ago, speculators bought nearly all the oil rights to most of Southern Illinois around the time coal mining was developing. There were a few exceptions, but back then when someone came to your door, and said, “Sign here and I’ll give you a hundred dollars for your oil rights,” most people thought the guy was “touched in the head” and took “advantage” of him. Years later, the speculators, who owned not the land, but the rights to the oil beneath, began drilling oil wells. That lasted for a few decades, then the oil was depleted, the price was low, and the Southern Illinois oil boom ended.

Now that the price of oil has risen, the speculators are again knocking on our doors, not offering us $100 for oil rights, but to tell us that strangers will be drilling on our land to extract the oil – and there’s not a thing we can do about it! They ask for your signature on a contract and maybe offer you a few hundred dollars for your trouble while you listen to clanging, drilling, and are kept awake by flood lights all night long, ultimately leaving an oil pump to permanently deface your property.

Years ago there was no Environmental Protection Act to protect your land, so the drillers used the land as they pleased, and then moved on, leaving your land a mess. Now the E.P.A. and Illinois law require that the drillers protect the property, and leave it in the condition they found it.

If you have potentially oil rich land, when the oil driller asks you to sign a form contract (while reminding you that “this is the same contract your neighbors signed”) call those neighbors, take your time, read the fine print in the contract, and if it is not to your liking, suggest changes. Remember that the oil people, if they have the right to your oil, can’t destroy your land or crops without compensating you. If they have oil rights, they can drill, and if they abuse those rights, you can sue under Illinois Law “765 ILCS 530, the Drilling Operations Act” (use the preceding quote as a search term to find a copy of the law on the internet).

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JPMORGAN CHASE TO GIVE $4 BILLION TO HELP DISTRESSED MORTGAGES

It was recently announced that JPMorgan Chase & Company settled a civil liability claim with the U.S. Department of Justice. Chase was sued for signing mortgages with a high probability of foreclosure, and selling them in bundles to unsuspecting investors. As the mortgages failed, the investments lost their value, and soon our whole economy was injured by the 2008 financial crisis.

This $13 billion dollar settlement is the largest settlement of fines and damages negotiated by the U.S. Government in a single civil suit. Illinois is to receive $100 million dollars of the settlement. The agreement requires Chase to allocate four billion dollars to consumers to help distressed mortgages and properties. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan says that the settlement “could benefit more than 100,000 borrowers.”

About a billion and a half dollars of the settlement is to be made available to aid borrowers whose mortgage balance exceeds the value of their properties. Chase presumably would renegotiate the principal and possibly the interest rate for such mortgages. Another half billion dollars is to be made available to restructure mortgages to reduce monthly payments.

The remaining two billion dollars will be allocated to assist low and moderate income borrowers to obtain affordable mortgages in areas that been most affected by the housing crisis. Another portion of the settlement will be used to demolish abandoned properties in blighted areas.

If you have a Chase mortgage that you cannot afford, or if you are interested in getting a new mortgage, there may be money in the settlement for you. As of this writing, the deal had just been struck, so if you believe you might be eligible for the benefits under this settlement, contact Chase, or the Office of the Illinois Attorney General.

If you are worried about your stock in JPMorgan Chase, rest assured that much of the settlement will be tax-deductible for Chase, our nation’s largest bank.

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CAR REPO

Suppose the wind blows your trash can lid over onto your neighbor’s yard. Technically you must trespass to obtain your lid, but to do so you will not breach the peace so there would usually be no crime. Once you have defaulted on your car loan, it has the legal status of that trash can lid, when the creditor wants to repossess the car. If the creditor, using his repo man, gains entry to your property, or some other property (your employer’s parking lot, or a public parking lot, or your brother’s driveway) without a breach of the peace, he has a right to take your car. And remember, if you have defaulted on the loan, it is not your car!

When you file a bankruptcy, most attorneys will perform a trace of your registered property (cars, land, etc.) to be sure you have not failed to list any property in your bankruptcy. When we make that trace, the tracing agency usually provides a list of all your relatives and their addresses. The repo guys do the same thing. They will know where you are likely to hide the car if it becomes the subject of a potential repossession.

And yes, if your car is parked on your driveway, the repo man can enter your property and take the car. The same applies to leaving the car parked where you work. The law will usually take the side of the repo man because he is simply returning a “lost” valuable automobile to its rightful owner.

There is really no reason to oppose a potential repossession. If you drive the car, you can assume that it will remain on the list of a repo driver, and when business is slow, he will check to see if your car is located at the many different possible sites he is aware you might be found. If you can delay the repo long enough you may be able to regain possession of the car through a chapter 13 bankruptcy.

If you choose to keep the car, and plan to protect your right to do so in a bankruptcy, you should leave the car where no one would expect to find it (at a non-relative’s house, or inside a locked garage, or blocked in where a tow truck would not be able to remove it). If it is hidden at a place where no repo man would have a reason to look, you can probably keep the car, but what good is the car if you have to keep it hidden?

The car will have a lien on it in the name of the creditor, so if you can’t drive it, and can’t sell it, and the debt is diminishing your credit rating – eventually you will probably decide that returning the car to the creditor might be the lesser of evils.

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NOTARY PUBLIC

A Notary Public is a state official, who is authorized by law to legally certify that the person signing a document, has provided the notary with proof that the name being signed is the name of the signer. This proof is established either through the notary’s personal knowledge, or with a legal identification card that provided the notary with a sample of the signer’s signature, and his photograph. A notary’s function is to protect against fraud by acting as an impartial witness that the signer is authentic, and is not signing against his or her will.

Sometimes you will need a notarized document that will have to be sent to a different state where there is no state record that a particular Illinois notary is actually a state appointed notary public. In order to obtain proof the notary is qualified, you can contact the Illinois Secretary of State, or the local county clerk.

For a notary to notarize (sign and provide her seal) a form document, it must not have any blank lines. If you have a form document you need notarized, simply insert the words, “not applicable” to the spaces that do not apply to you.

Notaries usually certify signatures on the following kinds of documents: quit claim deeds, trust documents, property transfers, wills, powers of attorney, legal affidavits, loan modifications, and visa and passport documents.

Many people make the mistake of concluding that by obtaining a notary certification; somehow the document that is being signed becomes legally binding, or is proven to be accurate and true. In reality, a notary’s certification has nothing to do with the substance of the document being signed. The notary seal does not say that the document is true, or that it is false. The notary only certifies that the person alleged to have signed the document, actually signed it.

Remember that if you need a document notarized, not to sign it until you are in the presence of the notary.

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USE YOUR LIBRARY TO GET LEGAL FORMS AND INFORMATION

To those of us who use the internet, we recognize that with a little experience, and a good internet connection, most of the public information in the world is only a click away. Another way of stating this point, is that with an internet connection, you have access to all the information in all the encyclopedias ever published, all the phone numbers and addresses in all the current (and some old) phone books, nearly every user’s manual and parts list to every product in your home – and here’s the point germane to this series of articles – the internet provides you access to a blank form for nearly every public document you could need to file – tax forms, divorces, deeds, and the subject of my last two articles: Power of Attorney forms.

Most of us are adept at using the internet. I am of the age that if not for my profession, I would not have had the schooling, or motivation, or influence to learn to use the internet. When I was in law school, we were aware of the ability to use computer based legal research, but it was a new field. Now that I have been writing this article, I understand how frustrating and foreign the use of a computer is to the older generation (and remember I include myself in this group). I was basically forced to learn to use a computer and the internet to serve my clients, and if not for them, the internet would be as complicated to me as a V8 engine.

When your V8 breaks down or is not working properly, you have to pay a mechanic hundreds of dollars to find out what is wrong and get it fixed. When you need to use the internet, you do not have to pay a lawyer or accountant or internet expert to get on line. There is a secret that you need to become familiar with. Your local library has internet access, usually free to the public, and they have experts available to help you find whatever you need on the internet.

Thanks primarily to Bill Gates of Microsoft fame, virtually every library in the United States has computers connected to the internet, available for patrons to use. In the past, libraries had access to only the books housed in their building, and every book was listed in a card catalogue. Later the libraries formed library systems, shared the books among all the libraries in the system, and the library helped you search through maybe all the libraries in the state to find the book you wanted. Today the librarians will do the same thing, but using their internet connections can help you search nearly all the information in the world.

Don’t be intimidated by the internet. Most of the people in this world have no home internet access. Call your local library and explain that you know nothing about the internet, but that you would like help finding information about, “______” or that you need to get a particular government form. Ask them when would be the best time to visit the library to get some help searching the internet. They will suggest when the librarian is not on break, or when the kids are not there playing video games on computers, or chatting with friends using social media (Facebook, etc.). Those computers are research tools and you have a right to use them, and the right to the help of the librarians whose salaries you pay through your taxes.

And this brings us to the point of this article. I came to realize that the forms to create a Power of Attorney documents mentioned in my last articles are not easily available if one has no internet connection – so just visit your local library, mention the citations I have provided in the articles, and the librarian can help you print one. I called a government agency a few days ago, and if you do not have access to the internet, and do not want to visit the library, to get a draft of the Power of Attorney for Health Care form, you can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 217-785-2083 and they will mail you one.

There are more websites than I can mention available to help you through legal problems – none as good as consulting an attorney – but if you cannot afford to pay a professional, find a reputable site, and do your best. I can recommend www.law.siu.edu/selfhelp/ , the Southern Illinois University Law School Legal Clinic’s website for help with divorce, child support, visitation, custody, name changes, child guardianship, credit history, small claims, enforcing money judgments, power of attorney, adult guardianship, service of process, immigration, employing non-citizens, suing as a poor person, how to answer a complaint, defending a foreclosure, landlord tenant rights, eviction, Illinois gun laws, and expungement.

While you are researching an Illinois legal matter you might want to visit these sites: IllinoisLegalAid.org, IllinoisLegalAdvocate.org and IllinoisProBono.org.

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