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Telephone calls may violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Richard M. Alderman Interim Dean of the Law Center

Richard M. Alderman
Interim Dean of the Law Center

Q. Is an oral lease valid? I want to move early but my landlord says we have a valid lease for a year.
A. An oral lease for a year or less is just as enforceable as a written lease. Of course, the person who is trying to enforce the lease must prove the oral agreement. Maybe you can get the landlord to agree to terminate the lease early by forfeiting the security deposit or paying a month’s rent. If the landlord does not agree to terminate the lease, you may owe damages for moving out early.

Q. My boy friend and I bought a house two years ago. We recently broke up and he kept the house. He has been late on the mortgage payment, and the bank is now calling me. How do I get my name off this loan?
A. As you have discovered, signing a loan with another person can have serious legal consequences. Whether it is buying a house or co-signing for a car, the simple answer is that you can’t get your name removed from the loan unless the other person refinances in his own name or the lender agrees to release you. The fact that you are no longer together is between you and your boy friend. It does not affect your liability to the bank.
Q. Can I name my husband as executor of my will if he is also going to be the beneficiary?
A. This is a very common question from people who are preparing a will. A person who is a beneficiary may also serve as executor. In fact, it is common for a spouse to be both a beneficiary and executor. Almost anyone may serve as the executor of a will. Basically, the only people who may not serve as executors are minors, incompetents, convicted felons, and others a court finds unsuitable.

Q. About fifteen years ago I did business with a company and never paid my bills. I was shocked to find out that they still refuse to deal with me until I pay the old debt. My credit is now excellent and I pay all my bills. Isn’t there some sort of limitations period for collecting a debt?
A. There are limitation periods for any type of legal action. For example, most debts cannot be enforced after four years. There also are limits on how long such information may be reported on your credit report. In most cases, after seven years the information becomes obsolete and cannot be reported.
There are no limitations, however, on how long you “owe” a debt. In fact, until it is paid or discharged in bankruptcy, the money is owed. If the person to whom you owe the money does not want to deal with you until the debt is paid, he has a legal right to do so. It may seem “shocking” to you, but it is obviously a matter of some importance to the person to whom you owe money.

Q. I buy lottery tickets every week. If I win the lottery does my spouse have any interest in the money I win?
A. Assuming you purchased the ticket with money you earned while you were married, the lottery winnings would be considered community property, jointly owned by you and your spouse. The only exception would be if you have a premarital agreement saying otherwise.

Q. What is a Power of Attorney for Health Care?
A. This is a document that allows you to designate another person to make medical decisions regarding your health care in the event you are unable to do so. For a free copy of a Medical Power of Attorney for Health Care, check out the “Legal Topics” section my website below.

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