You’re Probably Full Of Questions Right Now—And That’s Okay, Because We Have Answers! Check Out Some Of The Questions We Hear The Most About Bankruptcy, From Clients Just Like You.
Filing bankruptcy seems like a big mystery to most people. The information online is expansive and can add to the overall confusion. Not to mention there is plenty of incorrect information and misleading articles as well! So how hard is it to file bankruptcy? How long does it take? Will I ruin my financial future by filing bankruptcy? All of these questions are legitimate concerns for American consumers. Well, we have good news for you. There is only one thing you really need in order to file bankruptcy: an experienced attorney. That’s it. You don’t need to worry about anything else if you find the right attorney. How do you know what to look for? Here are 3 easy ways to find the perfect bankruptcy lawyer:
1. Someone who gives you the whole picture. Some bankruptcy lawyers will say anything to bring you on as a client, even if you don’t really need to file bankruptcy! You need to find an attorney who won’t hesitate to tell you if bankruptcy is NOT your best option.
2. A free consultation. Bankruptcy attorneys who are confident in their knowledge and ability to give you the best information will usually offer a free initial consultation. That way you can get insight on your situation and test your comfort level with the attorney, without spending a dime.
3. Solid online reviews. Google and Facebook are great places to look for bankruptcy attorneys in your area! Both websites offer reviews upfront. Read all of them, even the bad ones. If an attorney has bad reviews, look to see how they responded to those reviews! If the reply is carefully thought-out, chances are the attorney is very careful to take care of their clients, even the upset ones!
If you have any questions, give us a call!
I frequently meet with individuals who ask me whether or not bankruptcy will stop their garnishment. My answer always surprises them a little. Not only will bankruptcy stop your garnishment, but if we file you before your garnishment hearing date, we can even get that money back for you! Now of course there are a couple of stipulations to go with this (1) we have to have you filed before your garnishment hearing date, and (2) if you have filed for bankruptcy before we need to make sure that there is enough exemption left on your Homestead Deed.
The way that a garnishment works is first your creditor has to get a judgment against you (unless they are the IRS or Student Loans). Once they have a judgment against you they can immediately start to garnish up to 25% of your take-home pay. This is a huge hit for some people.
When you are being garnished that money isn’t going directly to the creditor. Instead, it is going into a trust account with the court and it will sit in this account until your Garnishment Hearing Date when the creditor comes to pick it up. This is why as long as we file your bankruptcy before your hearing date, we can get that money back for you.
Say that it is past the hearing date though. Sometimes it is still a good idea to file for bankruptcy. otherwise, that creditor will keep coming back with a garnishment until you are paid off. Every time they file a new garnishment more and more fees are added to your bill (interest, attorney’s fees, etc.). What started off as $3,000 can quickly turn into $11,000 and more! It may seem like you will never pay the bill off.
This is why even though you might not get that money back it’s still a good idea to file for bankruptcy because it will stop any future garnishments from happening.
If you are struggling with a garnishment that you cannot pay, call us at 757-276-6555! I will meet with you one-on-one and discuss how bankruptcy can help you to become debt-free.
In certain circumstances, a creditor who has gotten a judgment lien against your house can force a foreclosure sale. This is a rare circumstance, but most states do allow this to happen. If you are concerned about a judgment lien, this is a good resource for you to find out more information. Another way you could end up with foreclosure despite paying your mortgage is if you owe back taxes on your real estate. The city or county you live in (or where the property is located) can do a tax sale of real estate for back taxes. This is also a rare situation since it requires a court proceeding.
If you have a foreclosure pending or suspect that you might get a notice of foreclosure soon, you need to get in touch with a seasoned bankruptcy attorney as soon as possible. Foreclosures can be stopped, but waiting until the last minute will put you in danger of losing your home. Request our free report on the options you have to save your home from foreclosure or contact our office at (757) 276-6555 for a consultation with the attorney!
Over the years, I have met with many individuals who have tried using a debt consolidation company to assist them with reducing their monthly payments on credit cards, and to pay off these debts. I have also had people come to me and ask if they should try using a debt consolidation program instead of filing for bankruptcy. My answer is always the same: “If you have the ability to pay your debts off in a three to five year period without using the money you need to live on, then you should do it”. However, there are some huge differences between bankruptcy and debt consolidation that you should be aware of. This article will go over most of those differences.
1) Debt consolidation attempts to work with your credit card debts to negotiate a repayment plan at a reduced interest rate, and maybe a reduced balance. They do not work with other types of debts like medical bills, payday loans, car loans, tax debt or mortgage arrears. In contrast, bankruptcy will deal with all of your debts. If you do a Chapter 13 repayment plan, you will determine the amount that will be paid back to your creditors based on your financial situation. Unsecured creditors, like credit cards, medical, payday loans, and even taxes, will not receive any interest on their balances.
2) Debt consolidation attempts to work out a payment plan that will pay the credit card debts in full and the payment plan can last for several years. In bankruptcy, you will either wipe out the credit card debt in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, or you will be in a Chapter 13 payment plan that deals with all of the debts for no longer than 60 months.
3) A debt consolidation program is voluntary for your creditors and they can opt-out at any time. For example, I had clients who had participated in a debt consolidation program for over three years before they came to see me. Prior to entering the program, one of their creditors had obtained a judgment against them. The creditor agreed to participate in the debt consolidation program. My clients never missed a payment but one month the company that they were making their payments to messed up and did not send a payment to the creditor who had the judgment. The creditor immediately implemented a garnishment against my clients, taking 25% of their take-home pay. After they came to see me, we filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which is not voluntary for the creditors. The bankruptcy stopped the garnishment and they were able to pay off all their debts in less than five years. If they had come to see me three years earlier, they would have been able to be debt-free much sooner.
4) Your credit report will take a monthly hit while you are in the debt consolidation program. A credit report shows if you are paying your creditors according to the contract. If you are not paying according to the contract, your credit report will show that an account is delinquent according to the contract terms, and every month it will show higher delinquency. Since the debt consolidation program is based on paying the creditors back at a lower interest rate and lower payment than the minimum monthly payment, every month the credit card companies will report that you are delinquent on your payments. This lowers your credit score of course. However, when you file bankruptcy your credit score will take a hit at first, but then you can begin rebuilding your credit by making on-time payments immediately. Most of my clients see significant increases in their credit score within one to two years after having filed a bankruptcy.
5) Debt consolidation programs have a large number of fraudulent companies. When going into a debt consolidation program, you have to be very careful who you are working with. There are thousands of horror stories about individuals who have paid a debt consolidation company thousands of dollars, and nothing was paid to their creditors. Bankruptcy is governed by Federal Law and any attorney who represents individuals in bankruptcies will be supervised by the Bankruptcy Court, the US Trustee, and the state bar.
There is a time and place for debt consolidation companies, and there are some reputable companies. However, you must be very careful when considering one of these programs and make sure that it will meet your needs. Likewise, filing for bankruptcy should never be an easy decision, but it can provide you with complete debt relief that is not available anywhere else.
If you are struggling with bills you cannot pay, contact Hampton Roads Legal Services at 757-276-6555. I will meet with you one-on-one and discuss how bankruptcy can help you to become debt-free!
Your credit report contains a massive amount of data, and it can be overwhelming trying to determine which tidbits of personal information will be included. The guide below outlines the different types of information that will and won’t be included in your credit report.
What Can Be Included:
Identifying information, including full name, current & previous addresses, employment information, date of birth, and social security #
Tradelines – your list of current and recent past debts and obligations
Credit inquiries (any time you give a potential creditor permission to view your credit report)
Judgments, liens, and garnishments
If the bankruptcy was ever filed
Account information when accounts are voluntarily closed by the consumer
Dispute information if a consumer has properly disputed credit information
Any key risk factors adversely impacting the credit score
What Cannot Be Included:
Your income and/or net worth
Your private medical information, although if you have medical debt, the debt may appear
Criminal record unless it involves a financial blunder
Debts of your spouse that are separate from your own
Information older than 7 years
Personal information such as race, age, ancestry, sex, ethnicity, or political affiliation
Concerned about the impacts bankruptcy will have on your credit report? Don’t be! Call us today at (757) 276-6555 for your free consultation.
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The Types of People Best Suited for Debt Management Assistance
DebtHelper.com is an IRS Approved 501c3 Non-Profit Florida Corporation dedicated to our mission to educate, advise and empower youth to seniors to handle debt, credit and housing and to provide affordable housing opportunities through the acquisition and rehabilitation of residential properties.
Are you struggling with credit card debt? It may seem as though you pay your credit card debts, but the balances never seem to budge. Often credit card debt has nothing to do with someone’s spending patterns and is instead the result of extended unemployment, divorce, an accident or long-term illness. A Debt Management Plan can help many to determine the best course of action, and regain a firm financial footing. Whether the final result is adjusting your household budget, debt consolidation, or bankruptcy. There are many options available.
If you are wondering if a Debt Management Plan could help, consider the following:
Signs that you may need assistance
There is a certain type of person that is best suited for a Debt Management Plan. These individuals struggle to make minimum payments, but may not see their balances going down. Another sign could be that they miss making credit card payments, or pay them late and suffer the penalty.
If you find yourself unprepared for unexpected emergencies, such as car repairs, you could be a candidate for a Debt Management Plan. People that write checks for necessary expenses and hope that the check doesn’t clear until the next payday may also find a Debt Management Plan helpful.
Believe it or not, it is possible to save money and a Debt Management Plan may be able to help you find ways to tuck little savings away.
Obstacles to getting out of debt
There are some barriers to pulling yourself out of credit card debt without help; the charges and fees asserted by credit card companies can inflate the balance on credit cards. This may result in consistently being over your credit limit and paying additional surcharges on these fees. It is like taking one step forward, and then two steps back.
Other obstacles to getting out of credit card debt could be life in general. A financial crisis can derail your budget and cause panic and hardship. No matter how hard you try, life can get in the way of paying down your credit card debt.
Debt management assistance options
Most creditors will work with Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies to provide financially distressed clients some relief through a Debt Management Plan. This can take the pressure off and alleviate some stress as you pay down your credit card debt, as long as the client will be able to pay off their credit card debt at reduced interest rates and lowered monthly payments, and have that credit card debt paid in full within a 5 year period.
Ways that a Debt Management Plan can help
Once you have completed a credit counseling session with an approved consumer credit counseling agency, that agency can help you pay off your credit card debt by working with your creditors to:
Lower monthly payments
Reduce or eliminate interest rates
Stop late and over-the-limit fees
Consolidate credit card payments into one monthly payment
Stop collection calls and harassment from creditors
What you need to know:
A Debt Management Plan can provide a thorough assessment of your financial situation.
A Debt Management Plan can help give some relief as you work to pay down your balances.
Enrolling in Debt Management can put an end to the stressful collection calls.
A Debt Management Plan may even help clients save money, and build a nest egg for unexpected financial emergencies.
If bankruptcy is a client’s best course of action, they can create a plan that has the best possible impact on their future.
Progress starts with action
If you suffer from some of the financial hardships mentioned above you may be a good candidate for a Debt Management Plan. These programs can help you get back on track and help get your financial future in order so you can pay off your credit card balances faster and on time. However, a Consumer Credit Counseling Agency won’t be seeking you out as your creditors may already be; you have to take the steps to make things happen.
Want a free consultation to determine if bankruptcy is a viable option to resolve your debt situation? Call us today at (757) 276-6555.
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A concern we hear often is that debtors feel that if they file bankruptcy, there will be negative implications on the economy. It’s great to be socially responsible and have concerns regarding your decision to file. What most debtors don’t realize is that in most cases, the decision to file bankruptcy is actually beneficial for the economy.
The basis of our economic system stems from the ability to buy goods and services.
If your funds are tied up paying creditors and high-interest rates, you are unable to buy additional goods and services to help stimulate the economy. By having debts discharged or significantly reduced, frees up money to put back into the economy which is actually more favorable than paying a few creditors with high-interest rates.
The inability to have debts forgiven does not increase a debtor’s likelihood to pay their debts; however, the ability to discharge debts ultimately allows for more money to circulate and fuel the economy. Additionally, most creditors realize that a percentage of the money they lend will not be repaid, and that is accounted for in their high interest rates.
Filing individual bankruptcy is only detrimental to the economy when it happens in mass, which typically stems from a recession and/or depression. While this has happened in recent history, our economy has seen an uptick in the last few years.
If your decision to file bankruptcy has been halted because you are concerned that it will have an overall negative impact on the economy, you can rest easy. Bottom line – if you are drowning in debt and want to help the economy, it may be most beneficial all around if you actually file for bankruptcy.
Ready to file? Call us today at 757-276-6555 for a free consultation!
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Bankruptcy is intended to help honest debtors get a fresh start, but there is no hard and fast rule on who will benefit most from bankruptcy. These are some of the warning signs that I look for when advising someone that it may be time to file bankruptcy.
You are struggling to make rent or mortgage payments.
When someone is faced with mounting bills, some debtors will play a game I call the Credit Card Shuffle, randomly choosing which minimum payment to make based on how nasty the collection call will be. Some debtors will even pay credit card bills before paying their rent or mortgage rather than face those harassing collection calls. This is simply wrong. Your family’s food and shelter should take priority over credit card debt.
Are you losing sleep or constantly arguing with your spouse because of your debt problems? Money problems are a leading cause of divorce. Bankruptcy is not a cure-all, but it can help remove your financial problems as a source of difficulties and stress in your marriage.
I have seen far too many clients losing sleep and suffering stress‑related health problems because of their financial struggles. A willingness to work multiple jobs or crazy overtime hours may be a sign of good character, but it can lead to burnout, exhaustion, and anxiety. Anxiety over debts can also lead to depression which can cause numerous health problems. Do not let bills cause you to suffer physical health problems.
Changes in your normal behavior.
Are you considering doing something illegal to fix your debt problems or something that could put your health or the health of your family at risk? Have you taken up gambling or drinking? Are you doing things that are “out of character” for you? These may be signs of desperation and it may be time to see an attorney.
The Balance Transfer Shuffle.
Are you constantly applying for new credit cards to take advantage of low balance transfer rates? This may be a sign that you are in over your head in debt.
If any of these apply to you, call us today at 757-276-6555 to schedule your free no-obligation appointment with our experienced attorney. We will meet with you, analyze your situation and explain how bankruptcy can help you to regain control over your finances.
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If you’re buried in debt, your best option may be to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This type of bankruptcy is designed for individuals who do not have the ability to repay their creditors. The vast majority of our clients are able to protect all of their assets so that they do not lose anything. However, in order to allow you to keep your belongings, the necessary documents must be correctly prepared and filed. Don’t lose your assets. Before you attempt to file, consult with an experienced attorney.
If you have fallen behind on your mortgage payments but now have the ability to make your regular monthly payments, cover your living expenses and make a payment to catch up on what you are behind, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can help you to keep your home. If you have missed payments on your car and the repo man is on his way or just took your car, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can help you get it back. If you have tax debt or debts that can not be discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, there’s a good chance that Chapter 13 bankruptcy could be a good option for you. Chapter 13 offers a repayment plan over three to five years that helps you pay the debts that have to be paid in a way that you can afford and help you to become debt-free.
If you are struggling to repay your creditors, I can help you. Call me today at (757) 276-6555.
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There is a misconception that people file for bankruptcy because they overspend and use credit cards irresponsibly. Although that can be the case, it is only #3 on our list.
Medical Expenses – Serious and/or rare illnesses that come with hefty medical bills covered by insurance typically also come with hefty co-pays. According to a Harvard University Study, medical expenses account for 62% of bankruptcies. Out of these, 78% of bankruptcy filers had medical insurance. With rising health coverage costs and co-pays, a serious hospitalization can cause severe debt. Once savings have been exhausted, the only option left to deal with medical bills may be bankruptcy.
Job Loss – Termination, layoffs, and resignations are the second leading cause of bankruptcy. Most Americans don’t have enough money in savings to survive an unexpected job loss (especially without severance) and therefore turn to credit cards for survival. Even once a new job is obtained, sometimes the debt incurred in between jobs is too much to catch up on.
Excessive Credit Card /Unsecured Debt – This is third on the list. Although the debt to income ratio may be considered excessive, it doesn’t necessarily equate to irresponsible spending. An expensive car repair or medical bill charged on a credit card with high interest can get out of hand quickly for a person with a low income.
Divorce – When one household suddenly becomes two, you’re essentially doubling expenses without doubling the income. Combine that with the associated legal costs, alimony, and child support, the bank account dwindles quickly.
Unexpected Disasters – These are the rare occurrences that most people don’t think about or plan for… and assume if they do happen, their assets would be covered under insurance. These include natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes and other disasters such as death. Most people don’t realize that property loss under these circumstances isn’t covered under most homeowner insurance policies – typically separate insurance policies must be purchased in order to cover property & asset loss under these circumstances – in addition to covering the cost of new clothes and shelter.
If any of these sound like your situation and you are struggling with debt, WE CAN HELP YOU! Contact us today at (757) 276-6555.
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When you file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must list everyone that you owe money to. There are no exceptions. If you have a balance on a credit card, you have to list it on your bankruptcy petition. However, if you have a credit card that has a $0 balance, you do not owe money to that creditor and you are not required to list the account. Most major credit card companies, MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and Discover, automatically receive notice of every bankruptcy that is filed anywhere in the United States. They compare those filings against their accounts and close any credit card accounts for individuals that have filed a bankruptcy regardless of whether they were listed in the bankruptcy.
If you are considering filing bankruptcy, do not attempt to pay off a credit card so you don’t have to list it. You are far better off using the money to pay for bankruptcy. If you really need to have a credit card, you can apply for a new credit card after your bankruptcy is filed. However, remember what caused you to have financial problems in the first place, and do not run up balances on a new credit card after filing bankruptcy.
If you are having trouble paying your credit card debt, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be the solution for you. Contact Hampton Roads Legal Services today at 757-276-6555 to schedule an appointment with our attorneys. She will explain how a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can help you.
There are times when it is better to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy than a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you have a mortgage or car loan that you are behind on and you want to keep the house or the car, you may need to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you have significant equity in a house, car or other asset, you may need to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to protect that equity. If your income is above a certain level based on the size of your household, you may be required to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
However, you do not have to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy simply because you own a house or have a car loan. There are some attorneys who will tell virtually every client that they need to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy regardless of their circumstances. I have even heard of attorneys who go so far as to tell a client that they have to file a Chapter 13 because they own a house or because they have a car loan. This is not the case. If you are advised that you have to file a Chapter 13 simply because you have a house or a car loan, you need to make sure that you understand the reason for the Chapter 13. If you are unclear about why you have to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you should seek a second opinion.
It is normally less expensive to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy upfront since most attorneys collect their attorney fees from the Chapter 13 plan payments. However, the attorney fees for a Chapter 13 are normally much higher than for a Chapter 7 overall. Before you file a Chapter 13, you need to understand how much you will have to pay if you decide later that you want to convert your case to a Chapter 7.
If you have been told that you have to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and you want a second opinion contact Hampton Roads Legal Services at 757-276-6555 for a free consultation on what is best for you!
The practice of taking money from a bank account to pay a debt owed to the bank is called “setoff”. While many loan agreements may provide for a set-off of funds, the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) prohibits a bank that issued a credit card from removing funds out of a deposit account to satisfy its credit card claims. This prohibition is very broad and contains only minimal exceptions. For example, the bank is prevented from exercising set off after the termination of the credit card, unless the debtor has incurred additional debt after the termination of the card. The law also prevents financial institutions from taking money the consumer intends to deposit before it is formally deposited. For more information on setoff, read our article.
If you have a bank account and a credit card issued by the same bank in Virginia, you need to review your agreement and make sure that you have not authorized the bank to take funds out of your account to pay your credit card debt. If you are struggling to pay your credit cards, it may be time to file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Contact Hampton Roads Legal Services today at 757-276-6555 to schedule a free consultation to see if bankruptcy will help you!
You would think that the best time to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is as soon as you can no longer afford to pay your bills. However, there are many different factors to consider when deciding the best time to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Here are a few of the factors to consider.
1. You have tax debt for several years. Many people, accountants included, believe that tax debt cannot be wiped out or “discharged” in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. That is not correct. After a certain period of time, taxes become dischargeable. Filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy too soon could leave you responsible for thousands of dollars of tax debt that could have been discharged if you had waited a few months. You should talk to an experienced bankruptcy attorney if you owe several years of taxes to find out when is the best time for you to file. The attorney will need to know how much you owe for each tax year and when the tax returns were filed for each year.
2. You have anticipated receiving a large tax refund. Filing before you receive the refund could prevent you from keeping the refund. I have seen many people who filed bankruptcy, without the assistance of an experienced bankruptcy attorney, lose thousands of dollars because they filed their bankruptcy before they received their refund.
3. You are being sued over a debt. When a creditor obtains a judgment against you, they have several options for collecting on that judgment. One of the most frequently used methods is to initiate a garnishment. While bankruptcy will stop a garnishment, there are times where you need to file before the creditor can start the garnishment process.
As you can see from these three examples, the decision as to when to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is not always simple. Before you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you need the assistance of an experienced bankruptcy attorney. Contact Hampton Roads Legal Services at 757-276-6555 to schedule a free consultation with our experienced bankruptcy attorney.
There are two factors that must be considered when you want to keep a house when filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The first factor is whether there is equity in the house. When you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the court appoints an individual, called the trustee, whose job is to try to find assets that he can sell to pay something to your unsecured creditors. If you own real estate, the trustee will determine if he thinks there is equity in the property. This means that he wants to see if he could sell your house for more than is owed on it. If the trustee thinks that he could sell the house for more than is owed on the mortgages and for enough to also cover the costs of selling the house, he will market the house. An experienced bankruptcy attorney will normally determine if there appears to be enough equity in the house that could cause the trustee to attempt to sell the property. Many people owe more on their mortgage than their house is worth so it is unlikely that a Chapter 7 trustee will attempt to sell the property.
The second factor that will play into whether you can keep your house after filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the status of your mortgage. If you are behind on the mortgage payments when you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the mortgage company may elect to proceed with foreclosure. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, there is no way to prevent a mortgage company from foreclosing if the payments are not current. Your mortgage company may be willing to work with you through either a loan modification or forbearance agreement but that is the mortgage companies choice. You can not force them to work with you after filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you are behind on your mortgage payments and you want to keep your house, you should consider filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
If you own real estate and are considering filing bankruptcy, you need to consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney. Contact Hampton Roads Legal Services and we will schedule you a free consultation to discuss how bankruptcy may be able to help you. Give our office a call at 757-276-6555!
A dismissal with prejudice means that the court has made a final determination on the merits of the case, and the debtor is now forbidden from filing another bankruptcy for a designated period of time. This bar from refiling will be set by the Judge in the dismissal order and can be from a couple of months to several years. The dismissal of bankruptcy cases with and without prejudice is authorized by the Bankruptcy Code (the Code). Generally, dismissals are ordered without prejudice. However, if the Court feels that the individual is abusing the bankruptcy process, they may dismiss the case with prejudice. Your attorney can give you a more detailed explanation of a dismissal with prejudice, and every situation is different. If you are concerned, be sure to give us a call at 757-276-6555!
Most attorneys offer a free consultation to discuss the bankruptcy process and how it can help you in dealing with your debts. If this is a free consultation, the attorney will normally not spend a great deal of time going over the specifics of your case with you. This is more of a time for you to decide if this is something you want to do and for the attorney to decide if your case is one that he/she will take. When you go to this first appointment, you should have an idea of what types of debts you have and how much you owe. You should also be able to tell the attorney if any of your debts are co-signed with someone else. The attorney will need to know what your income has been over the last few months and from what source you receive income.
I have a short questionnaire that I ask individuals to complete before I meet with them. This questionnaire has been designed to give me a quick summary of the person’s debts and areas that I need to discuss with them. We also ask what is the main problem when you schedule your appointment so I have an idea of what your concerns are. This allows me to focus on what will help you the most.
Regardless of your situation, the attorney should explain at least what a Chapter 7 and a Chapter 13 bankruptcy will do and how they would apply to your situation. The attorney then should recommend a course of action for you and explain to you why that is the best option for you. It may be that bankruptcy is not the best option and the attorney should tell you that if that is the case. I know of some attorneys who will try to fit everyone into the same chapter of bankruptcy regardless of their situation. I believe that each situation is different and you should know what will be best for you, not what fits my practice the best. While bankruptcy is Federal Law, the procedures may vary based on where you live. The attorney should be able to advise you what the procedures are in Virginia.
Finally, the attorney should explain the cost of the bankruptcy to you and explain the process that you will need to go through to file a case. This should include the timeline for the case. I believe that you should be in charge of this process. When I meet with you, I will give you options so you can decide what best fits your budget and timeline.
If you are struggling with bills you can’t afford to pay, contact our office at 757-276-6555. I will meet with you and make sure that you understand what is best for your situation.
There are three ways that a creditor can place a lien on real estate. First, you can consent to the lien when you borrow money and pledge your real estate as collateral. This is normally a mortgage or home equity line of credit. However, you may also not realize that you are allowing a creditor to place a lien on your property when you borrow money to finance some type of home improvements. Many times, individuals sign what is called a deed of trust as part of the financing arrangements for a home improvement loan. This is recorded in the land records and gives the creditor a lien against your property that is treated the same way as a mortgage.
The second way that a creditor may obtain a lien against your real estate is by obtaining a judgment against you and then having the judgment recorded in the city or county where you own real estate. In Virginia, if the Judgment is obtained in the same city or county where you own real estate, it automatically attaches to your property.
The third way that a creditor can obtain a lien against your property is by a statute or law that allows them to have a lien on your property. For instance, the IRS can file a tax lien in the city where you live and it will attach to your property. The city can also place a tax lien against your property for unpaid real estate taxes.
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Virginia, you may not remove a voluntary lien such as a mortgage or home equity loan. However, you may be able to remove an involuntary lien such as a tax lien or a judgment lien. If your property is worth less than you owe on the mortgage(s) or if it’s value is very close to the amount owed, you may remove an involuntary lien from the property. There are two major factors that must be considered when seeking to remove an involuntary lien. First, is the value of the property. You will have to have an appraisal done to show the actual market value of the property. The second factor is the date that the lien was recorded. The liens attach to the property in the order of the date that they were recorded. I have seen cases where a client had a judgment lien and a second mortgage. The judgment lien was recorded before the second mortgage and could not be removed because the property was worth more than was owed on the first mortgage, even though the property was worth less than the two mortgages combined.
It should be clear that the removing a lien from your property is something that requires the assistance of an experienced bankruptcy attorney. Before you can even seek to remove a lien, you must know if there is one. I have a lien search done for any of my clients who own real estate that they want to keep so we find out if there are any hidden liens out there.
If you have tax debt or have been sued over a debt and you own real estate, contact me or call my office today at 757-276-6555! I will meet with you to evaluate if you can remove a lien from your real estate in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
One of the best aspects of a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is what is referred to as the automatic stay. When you file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your creditors are immediately prevented from taking further action against you. This means that they cannot call you, continue to send you bills or take you to court over your debt. If they have a garnishment in place, they must release it. In addition, they cannot repossess your car or foreclose on your house without permission from the bankruptcy court.
Of course, the creditor has to know about the bankruptcy so that they know to stop all collection actions. After your case is filed, the bankruptcy court will send out notices to all creditors listed on your bankruptcy petition. This is why it is so important to list everyone that you owe money to along with all collection agencies. If there is a pending foreclosure or a garnishment, we will notify the creditor immediately after your case is filed to stop the creditor’s action. Many times we stop foreclosure sales right before the sale is scheduled to take place.
One downside of the automatic stay is that many creditors feel that they cannot send monthly statements, like a mortgage statement, even if you indicate that you intend to keep the house. This means that you have to make sure that you are sending your monthly payment to the creditor even if you do not get a statement from them.
If you are facing a foreclosure or being garnished, we can make them stop. Contact me or call me today at 757-276-6555 to schedule your free consultation to see how a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy can stop creditors in their tracks and help you keep your house!
Unlike a Chapter 7 bankruptcy which discharges your obligations on unsecured co-signed debts, it is possible to protect a co-signor in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. There are several different ways that the co-signor can be protected. If the debt is a secured debt, you may want to continue making the regular monthly payments directly to the creditor to protect the co-signor. If the debt is unsecured, it can be paid in full through the Chapter 13 bankruptcy. This will protect the co-signor while you are in bankruptcy. However, the Chapter 13 bankruptcy will not pay the interest on the co-signed debt. Once you have completed your bankruptcy and receive a discharge, the creditor can collect the unpaid interest from the co-signor.
If you have a co-signed debt, it is important that you discuss this with your attorney. You have many options and an experienced bankruptcy attorney can help you to choose the best option for you.
If you are struggling due to debts that you co-signed on, contact us or give us a call today at (757) 276-6555. We will schedule you a free consultation with an attorney with almost 20 years of bankruptcy experience!
Yes. When you file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, any garnishments must be stopped. In addition, we may be able to get back the money that has been withheld from your wages or bank account. Garnishments normally run for 90 to 180 days and at the end of the garnishment period, there is a hearing. If your case is filed before that hearing date, we can normally recover any money that has been withheld during that garnishment period. However, these funds must be protected for you and must come out of your wildcard exemptions which have a lifetime limit on it. If the amount that has been withheld exceeds the amount that you can protect, you may have to turn some of the money over to the Chapter 13 trustee as part of your Chapter 13 plan.
It is important that you meet with an experienced bankruptcy attorney if you are currently being garnished. If not handled correctly, you could lose hundreds of dollars. Contact me or call my office today at 757-276-6555. I will meet with you and discuss how to stop the garnishment and recover the money for you!
A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a repayment plan. Normally you would file this type of case if you have debts that need to be paid back.
If you are behind on your mortgage payments and want to keep your house, you can file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and catch up on the missed mortgage payments through Chapter 13.
If you are behind on your car payments and want to keep your car, you can pay for the car through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Depending on how old the loan is, you may be able to reduce the amount that has to be paid back or you may be able to lower the interest rate on the loan.
If you have a large amount of tax debt, you can pay it back through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. In addition, if you have a tax lien, you may be able to pay it off for far less than the amount of the lien.
There are other benefits from filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. You may be able to remove a second mortgage lien from your house. You can also discharge some debts that can not be discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
You may need to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy if you have equity in a home or have other assets that need to be protected. You may also have to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy if your income is above a certain amount based on the size of your household.
Chapter 13s are very complex cases and should not be attempted without the assistance of an experienced bankruptcy attorney. Contact us or call us today at 757-276-6555! We can meet with you and discuss your situation. There is no charge for the initial consultation and we will let you know what will be best for you.
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When you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, one of your options for keeping collateral, like a car, that secures a loan is to do what is called redemption. Redemption is based on the premise that if the collateral was returned to the creditor, all they would be able to recover is the market value of the collateral when they sell it. Since the bankruptcy would prevent them from recovering any additional money from you, the recovery is limited to what they can sell the collateral for. The Bankruptcy Code allows you to redeem the collateral by paying the creditor the current market value of the collateral in full satisfaction of their lien. However, you have to make one lump sum payment to the creditor. Most people do not have the ability to make a very large lump sum payment on something like a car but there are creditors who will loan you the money necessary to redeem a car under certain circumstances.
If you have a car that is worth far less than what you owe on it, redemption may be a good option for you instead of reaffirming a debt. Don’t agree to pay back far more than you have to in order to keep a car.
For more information or to request an appointment, please contact Hampton Roads Legal Services at (757) 276-6555 to see if redemption is a good option for you!
When you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will have to notify your secured creditors (car loans, furniture loans, and mortgage companies) as to what you intend to do about the loan. For loans that are secured by personal property (a car or furniture), you have to indicate whether you intend to reaffirm the debt, redeem the property or surrender the property. I will address redemption in another post. A reaffirmation agreement is an agreement to repay the creditor according to the terms of the reaffirmation agreement. Some creditors will offer better terms to get you to reaffirm the debt. For instance, one furniture loan company will cut the interest rate on the loan in half and reduce the monthly payment also. If you sign the reaffirmation agreement and it is entered by the court, you are bound to pay the debt as if you had not included it in the bankruptcy. This means that if you default on the debt, the creditor can take you to court, get a judgment against you and garnish your wages or bank accounts. Some car companies take the position that if you do not reaffirm on the car loan, you have defaulted under the terms of the original loan and they can repossess the car even if you are current on your car payments.
You are not required to reaffirm on a mortgage loan since the collateral securing the loan (the house) is not personal property. It is not a good idea to reaffirm on a mortgage loan unless the creditor has offered you some type of loan modification to do the reaffirmation.
If you are concerned about a decision to reaffirm, contact an attorney to discuss your options. Every situation is different, and an attorney can give you the best advice for your circumstances. Call us at (757) 276-6555!
Most people who want to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy will discover that they are eligible to do so. This is much different than Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which has strict guidelines when it comes to qualifying. There are just a few major requirements when it comes to figuring out whether or not you can file for Virginia Chapter 13 bankruptcy:
You must have a reliable, steady source of income.
The whole principle of Chapter 13 bankruptcy is making a regular monthly payment over three to five years. You must have enough income to pay your regular living expenses as well as the payment to the bankruptcy court. When determining if you qualify for Chapter 13, your bankruptcy lawyer must review how much you pay for necessities like food and shelter and how much you will have left to pay on your debts. These expenses will be based on where you live in the Tidewater area.
There’s a waiting period if you’ve filed for bankruptcy before.
You are allowed to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy if you’ve filed for bankruptcy before, but there are waiting periods between filings that must be bet in order for you to receive a discharge. If you previously filed for Chapter 13 and received a discharge, you must wait two years from the filing date of the first case to be able to file a second case and receive a discharge; if you previously filed for Chapter 7, 11, or 12, that length of time is extended to four years. If the required time period has not passed since the filing date of the previous case, you may still file a new Chapter 13 case but you will not receive a discharge at the end of your payment plan. These time periods only apply if you received a discharge in the previous case. If the case was dismissed, you may refile at any time unless the earlier case was “dismissed with prejudice”.
Debts cannot exceed caps set by the government.
There is a limit to the amount of secured and unsecured debt that you can have if you want to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The specific amounts increase every year based on the Consumer Price Index. Currently, you can have up to $360,475 in unsecured debts and $1,081,400 in secured debts.
There are other requirements, but these are the primary ones that should help determine if you are eligible to file for Chapter 13. If you’d like to learn more about filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Virginia, contact Hampton Roads Legal Services at 757-276-6555.
Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy can be a great option for many people who are severely in debt, but you do have to qualify for it.
The main idea of Chapter 7 is that you can have many of your debts discharged. Who wouldn’t want that? Prior to 2005, all you had to do to qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy was to show that your living expenses equaled or exceeded your income. There was a perception that people who had the ability to repay some part of their debts were abusing the system by filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Congress made it harder to file a Chapter 7 with the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005.
Determining your eligibility to file for Chapter 7 generally comes down to how much you make. Your income is compared to the median income in Virginia. If you make more than the median amount, you have to take a “means test.” The means test will look at how much you make, but also what deductions you can claim. Some of the deductions are set by the IRS and some of them are based on your actual expenses. If there are enough deductions, you could still qualify, even though you make more than the average income level.
If the means test shows that you still do not qualify for Chapter 7, don’t worry! You still have other options. A more popular choice for someone who earns too much to qualify for Chapter 7 is Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 bankruptcy takes your debt and helps you repay it in manageable monthly payments.
If you are thinking about filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Virginia, contact the Hampton Roads bankruptcy attorneys at Hampton Road Legal Services. Call us at 757-276-6555 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation!
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy usually takes about 4-5 months, although your creditors cannot attempt to collect on the debts once your case is filed. Once your case is filed, the Bankruptcy Court sends out a notice to all your creditors with certain dates on it. One is the date for your Meeting of Creditors, normally referred to as a 341 hearing. A second date listed is the date for objections to the discharge date. This is a date by which your creditors and the trustees must decide if there is an issue with you receiving a discharge. If no objects to your discharge, the Court will normally send it out shortly after that date. The Court may hold the discharge if there are matters pending in your case such as a reaffirmation hearing.
One requirement to receive a discharge in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is completing a Personal Financial Management Workshop and filing the certificate of completion with the Court. Another requirement, and one of the main reasons for people not receiving a discharge, is cooperating with the Chapter 7 Trustee’s requests for documents or for the turnover of property.
Don’t lose your discharge because you don’t understand what is required. Let us guide you through the process. Contact us today or call our office at 757-276-6555!
Yes! When we file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, any garnishments must be stopped. In addition, we may be able to get back the money that has been withheld from your wages or bank account. Garnishments normally run for 90 to 180 days and at the end of the garnishment period, there is a hearing. If your case is filed before that hearing date, we can normally recover any money that has been withheld during that garnishment period. However, these funds must be protected for you and must come out of your wildcard exemptions which have a lifetime limit on them. For more on protecting assets, check out my article on “Keeping your things in Bankruptcy”.
It is important that you meet with an experienced bankruptcy attorney if you are currently being garnished. If not handled correctly, you could lose hundreds of dollars. Contact me or call my office today at 757-276-6555. I will meet with you and discuss how to stop the garnishment and recover the money for you.
When you file a chapter 7 bankruptcy, everything you own becomes part of what is called “the bankruptcy estate”. The Chapter 7 trustee, who is appointed by the court to review your case, controls the bankruptcy estate. Until the trustee releases his or her interest in an asset, you may not do anything with the asset. This includes selling an asset or borrowing money against the asset such as refinancing a house. There are two ways that the trustee can release the interest in an asset. One is by formally abandoning their interest in the asset. This can be done at the Meeting of Creditors or later through the court. The trustee may also issue a no-asset report. This tells the Court and everyone else involved in the case that the trustee has reviewed the case and does not believe that there is anything the trustee wants to take to recover money for the asset. Until the trustee has taken one of these actions, you may not sell anything you own or refinance a loan.
For more information on the trustee’s role in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, read my article on the role of a Chapter 7 trustee.
If you are considering filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, do not attempt to do this on your own. Contact me or call me today at 757-276-6555 to schedule a free consultation on how bankruptcy can help you.
A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy will remain on your credit report for up to 10 years. However, you can immediately begin re-establishing your credit after your case is filed. Due to the fact that you are wiping out your debts and cannot file again for 4 to 8 years, credit companies want to be first in line to extend credit to you again. By not filing Bankruptcy, your credit report may show negative information for 7 years from the time you become current. By filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, negative reporting stops immediately. This allows you to begin re-establishing credit faster by keeping house, auto, or other payments current. One of the best ways to rebuild your credit is by making payments on student loans.
If you have filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you should check your credit report after your case is discharged to ensure that everything has been corrected on the credit report. After that, you should check your credit report once a year to make sure that you are getting positive reporting. Normally you should have your credit score over 620 (acceptable credit) within one year after your discharge and you may be able to get your score over 700 within two years after your bankruptcy! Give our office a call at (757) 276-6555 if you need to speak to someone about possibly filing bankruptcy.
There are some debts that cannot be eliminated or discharged in bankruptcy. For example, child support and spousal support obligations cannot be eliminated nor can arrears on those payments be discharged. Taxes for the most recent three tax years cannot be discharged. Student loans cannot be discharged except under extreme circumstances.
If you have liens on real estate or a vehicle, you will have to deal with those liens. If you have purchased furniture and financed it, you may also need to deal with that debt to keep the furniture.
You should discuss your specific debts with an experienced bankruptcy attorney before you attempt to file a bankruptcy to make sure that you know what debts will not be discharged.
Contact Hampton Roads Legal Services at 757-276-6555 to schedule a free consultation with our experienced attorney!
Yes. You must list all creditors when you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. There are no exceptions. You must list everyone that you owe money to including taxes and student loans. However, if you have a $0 balance on an account, you don’t owe that creditor money and they don’t have to be listed. If you no longer owe an individual or company money, they are not a creditor. Our office will assist you in obtaining a credit report so that you are certain to list all your creditors. It is important that you review your credit report carefully and list any additional creditors that do not appear on the credit report. There are many companies that do not report to credit reporting agencies, such as medical providers, taxes, and payday loans.
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, if you leave off a creditor, like a medical bill, they will still be included in your bankruptcy. However, since they did not receive notification of the bankruptcy, they may still try to collect from you. It is very important to list everyone that you think you owe money to so that you don’t have problems later with a creditor trying to collect because they were not notified about your bankruptcy.
Yes! In a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy case, we can stop the foreclosure by proposing a plan whereby you bring your mortgage current over time while continuing to make the regular monthly mortgage payment. You will have to resume making your regular monthly payments after your case is filed. You must have the ability to make those regular monthly payments, pay your basic living expenses, and make a payment to the Court to bring your mortgage current. Your payment plan to the court will go from three to five years, depending on your income and other debts.
In a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy case, if you are not current on your payments, the Bankruptcy will postpone the foreclosure until your case is discharged or until your creditor/mortgage holder files a motion for, and is granted, “relief from stay.” Your mortgage company may be willing to do a loan modification after you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. However, if you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy when you are behind on mortgage payments, you may not be able to keep your house.
If you are concerned about losing your home, please contact us as soon as possible. Foreclosure deadlines are not something to take lightly. Once your home is foreclosed, there is very little we can do to help you. Read our testimonials to see other clients whose homes have been saved at the last minute, and be sure to request one of Attorney Pfeiffer’s books to guide you through the process. Again, it is very important that you contact a reputable attorney about your foreclosure before it is too late.
Call us at 757-276-6555 to schedule your free consultation today!
There are three basic types of liens on real estate. There is a mortgage lien where you have borrowed money and pledged the house as collateral for the loan. This may be the loan to purchase the house or a refinance of the original mortgage. It also includes home equity loans or lines of credit and second mortgages. You may also have a mortgage lien if you have borrowed money for home improvements. The second type of lien on real estate is a judgment lien. This is where someone you owe money to has filed a lawsuit against you and obtained a judgment. The creditor can then record the judgment as a lien against your real estate. The third type of lien is a tax lien. This can be established by state law or by recording the lien in the public records. If you owe real estate taxes, the city or county that you owe the taxes to has a lien under state law against the real estate. If you owe money to the IRS or the state taxing authority, they can file a lien against all of your property, including your real estate.
If your property is worth less than is owed on the first mortgage, there are ways to remove the subsequent liens in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. How and when these liens can be removed depends on the type of lien. If you have a second mortgage or home equity line of credit, judgments, or tax liens, you need to meet with an experienced bankruptcy attorney to discuss what can be done in your situation. Give us a call at (757) 276-6555 to discuss your particular situation!
Many people mistakenly believe that filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy will “wipe the slate clean” and free them of all their debts, but that is not necessarily true. There are some debts that will still be owed after a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Even if you file, you will still need to pay your child and spousal support and any arrears on the support (late fees, etc), most back taxes, student loans, debts that you agreed to pay in a Separation Agreement or were ordered to pay in a Divorce Decree or criminal fines or restitution payments. In addition, a creditor may seek to have a debt declared non-dischargeable in your bankruptcy under certain circumstances. If you are not clear on which debts will and will not be discharged, speak with an attorney or reputable credit counselor before filing.
If you have debts that may not be discharged, you may have other options. Contact us or call us today at 757-276-6555 to schedule a free no-obligation consultation. We will discuss your debts with you and advise you of the best course of action for you based on the debts you have!
After your bankruptcy is filed with the Court a date and time for the Meeting of Creditors, commonly called the 341 hearing, will be set. You must appear at this hearing. If you file a joint case with your spouse, you both must attend. Failing to show up or properly prepare for your hearing will not buy you more time. If you are not present at the time of your hearing, your case will be dismissed, and you will have to either re-file at a future date or seek the Court’s permission to have your case reinstated.
If you have filed your case without the assistance of a bankruptcy attorney, you will receive information about documents that must be provided to the trustee assigned to your case before your hearing. You must provide all the requested documents well in advance of your hearing. If you fail to provide the required documents, you will either have to attend a second hearing or your case could be dismissed. If you are represented by an attorney, they will normally have collected these documents or notified you of any additional documents that are required.
You must go through security to enter the Federal Building in Norfolk. If your hearing is there, it is very important to arrive at least 30 minutes before the hearing time to allow sufficient time to get through security. You must bring a valid government-issued photo ID to enter the Federal Building. If your hearing is in Newport News, you do not have to go through security to enter the hearing room.
You must also provide a photo ID at the hearing and proof of your social security number. Valid documents to prove your social security number are: Original Social Security Card, Medicaid or Medicare card with your full Social Security Number on it, a W2 or 1099 or a tax transcript from the IRS. A copy of your tax return is not acceptable. Be sure that that the document you want to use has your full Social Security Number on it. Many documents only list the last four of your number.
If you have any questions about your hearing, make sure to contact the paralegal assigned to your case. If you have tried to file without an attorney and you are struggling with how to handle your case, please call our office and ask about your options, and be sure to read Attorney Pfeiffer’s book on the subject of filing without an attorney! You can request a copy in the link to the left of this page. Give our office a call at 757-276-6555 if you have any additional questions.