When Should You Talk To A Bankruptcy Lawyer?

Attorney Christopher Carr, a Chester County bankruptcy attorney. Tel: 610-380-7969 Email: cccarresq@aol.com

In Chancery

In Chancery

Maybe the best approach to the question is to talk about when is not the best time to talk to a bankruptcy lawyer.  You were served with the foreclosure notice 6 months ago and the mortgage company has been refusing your payments and now your home is to be sold at a sheriff’s sale tomorrow.  Your car has just been repossessed and your job is now in jeopardy since you do not have transportation to work. These are bad times to be talking with a bankruptcy attorney.  Not because a bankruptcy attorney can’t still help you.  An “emergency” bankruptcy filing can still possibly help you save your home or maybe your car can be returned to you.  It is a bad time because had you consulted with a bankruptcy attorney sooner, a different plan to help you deal with your debt issues may have been available.  That is, while we may still be able to save your home in the short term, your bankruptcy may fail over the longer term whereas had you taken action earlier, a plan could have been devised to save it long term. So when should you talk to a bankruptcy lawyer?  HERE ARE SOME bASIC GUIDES: You know your finances are not what they should be.  You know that you are falling behind on your bills or are struggling to make ends meet each month.  You are juggling, you often have to choose between putting food on the table and paying your credit cards in full. You pay one card one month but not the next so you can pay another.   Or maybe you know that, even though you are current on your bills, there will be a  disruption in your income coming:  Maybe an operation that will require you or your spouse to be out of work for a time or a coming labor union strike. These are better times to be exploring options. Talk to an a compassionate, experienced, knowledgeable attorney who can look at your particular situation before absolute disaster strikes, before you are about to lose your home, car or possessions on the morrow! And it is important to recognize that ironically you must have money to file bankruptcy. If you wait till the axe has fallen, you likely will not have the funds to file:  As Max Gardner, Esq., a keen observer of trends in bankruptcy recently noted regarding the recent fall off in bankruptcy filings: A substantial number of consumers who need to file are simply too broke to file. And, those consumers who have lost homes to foreclosure during the Great Recession simply no longer care.  Simply stated, as many consumers who have lost hope for finding new employment have also lost the need for bankruptcy relief. A skilled bankruptcy lawyer can help you plan for a future filing before you reach this point of despair.  He or she can help you prioritize to help you keep things that are important to you. If the house is most important, then in order to afford the house, perhaps a vehicle can be surrendered and a less expensive vehicle obtained.  Or, the bankruptcy lawyer may tell you to stop paying your credit card or pre-Obamacare medical bills and use the money to make sure that your house payment is made.  This can ensure that you are current on your house for a bankruptcy filing so that you do not have to pay more money for mortgage arrears or that you can file a chapter 7 with a “walk through”. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say!  Merely talking to a bankruptcy lawyer does not commit you to a bankruptcy filing and many will talk to you initially for free or at a reduced charge What do you have to lose other than your current lack of knowledge?  It is not infrequently the case that we will either decide the timing is not yet ripe for a bankruptcy or that some other tool at our disposal is a better option for your particular situation.  While every case is unique, the bankruptcy lawyer will have had experience with cases like yours in the past that will have shown him or her pitfalls of various approaches both within and outside bankruptcy. For example, certain types of debt and liens which cannot be wiped out in a Chapter 7 can be discharged or removed as the case may be in a Chapter 13. Or perhaps he will guide you in the direction of combining bankruptcy with a mortgage modification to drive down your monthly payment to the mortgage company outside the bankruptcy perhaps even to the point where you ultimately can leave bankruptcy early. The alternatives to bankruptcy could include debt settlement; debt consolidation or even debt litigation. The debt settlement company (DSC) may promise over the radio that they can knock 50% off your debt but they cannot litigate or file a bankruptcy case for you. And they will not defend you if one or more of your creditors brings suit while you are in the settlement process.  A debt consolidation company may say that their solution is the most efficient  but they cannot litigate or file a bankruptcy case for you nor generally speaking can they even reduce your debt as can the DSC.  An attorney who litigates but does not file bankruptcy cases and does not have a financial background as do I may be extraordinarily skilled in the courtroom but is ill equipped to see your bigger debt picture and likely will say litigating a single debt (a costly alternative) is best when the debt could have been wiped out with a lot of other debt in bankruptcy.  An unbiased bankruptcy attorney will be part financial analyst and advisor and can lay out all avenues and recommend a path according to your needs. So, when should you talk to a bankruptcy attorney?  Many will hide their head in the sand but the early bird gets the worm…The clear answer is sooner as opposed to later.  Bankruptcy is not for everyone nor is it intended to be.  But if you have debts, and they seem out of hand, a thorough analysis of your finances should include a visit with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.

Law Offices of Christopher C. Carr, MBA,  P.C., owned and managed by Attorney Carr since 1997, a quality Chester County Bankruptcy Atttorney, with his practice located in  Valley Township, west of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where Carr, who has over 30 years of diversified legal experience, concentrates on serving the residents of and businesses located within Western Chester County and Eastern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, including the communities in and around Atglen, Bird in Hand, Caln, Christiana, Coatesville, Downingtown, Eagle, Exton, Fallowfield Gap, Honeybrook, Lancaster, Lincoln University, Modena, New Holland, Parkesburg, Paradise, Ronks, Sadsbury, Thorndale, Valley Township, Wagontown & West Chester,  Pennsylvania. If you reside or do business in the area and need assistance with a legal issue, please call Mr. Carr at (610)380-7969 or write him at cccarresq@aol.com today!
Not Legal Advice.

©Christopher C. Carr, Attorney at Law 2013, All Rights Reserved.

 

Advertisements

HOME SURRENDER: CAN THE MORTGAGE COMPANY BE FORCED TO TAKE BACK MY HOME IN A BANKRUPTCY (or why dispossession is not nine tenths of the law)

 

By Christopher C. Carr, Esq. Chester County bankruptcy attorney.

Using bankruptcy to rid oneself of a home that has become unaffordable and/or is now worth far less than it once was is called “surrender” in bankruptcy parlance and is governed by the US Bankruptcy Code.  This procedure is nearly as commonly used as is bankruptcy to stop a foreclosure so that a home can be retained.  We practitioners are using it much more frequently since the housing market is in decline.  Why is that?

Well, the question whether to keep a home when filing bankruptcy is usually answered by comparing the amount of the home’s monthly mortgage payments with the income the debtor is able to devote to housing payments.  Also key in today’s real estate market place is a comparison of the home’s appraised value[1] as compared with the amount still owed by the home owner. Where the home is worth significantly less than the amount owed, the home is said to be “under water”.  If the payments are no longer affordable and/or the property is under water, the debtor will likely choose to surrender the home as part of either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing.

However, in practice property “surrender” is often more problematic for the homeowner[2] than it would at first blush seem.  Foreclosure means the involuntary transfer of a property in a public sale or what is commonly called in Pennsylvania and many other states a “Sheriff’s Sale” because the County Sherriff will typically sell properties by the hundreds at public auctions held in the Pennsylvania counties following advance notice of the sales published by these officials. The requirements for these notices are very precisely defined in the relevant state statutes. These sales are usually conducted monthly and the sale ENDS the legal ownership and responsibility of the debtor.  Sounds pretty straightforward does is not?  However, in reality, mortgage companies are often slow to foreclose on homes that are surrendered to the lender in bankruptcy, leaving the home vacant, and yet still technically under the ownership of the bankruptcy debtor, for months or even years after the bankruptcy was filed.  It is often said that “Banks are not in the business of owning homes” but like most generalizations this statement is not always true.  The mortgage company may prefer to retain the home in its “inventory” rather than to sell it and take a huge loss that it must report to its shareholders in its public filings, perhaps hoping for a “better day” when the housing market starts to show improvement and it can then sell at at least a breakeven. Not only that but during the hiatus it does not need to legally bear these costs and liabilities.  Rather the mortgage company or its serviather the mortgage company or its servicer can keep the unsuspecting homeowner paying long after he/she has moved on simply by “sitting on” the property virtually indefinitely.

Many homeowners (and even some bankruptcy lawyers, unfortunately) will intuitively believe that their real estate is now legally the property of the bank because it has been “repossessed” (and they have been disposed) even though no actual sale has yet occurred. They may drop or reduce important coverage’s or fail to insure the property at all and find themselves liable in a slip and fall case for example for the full amount of the damages with no insurance coverage at all.

The purpose of any bankruptcy is to provide to the debtor a fresh start but the slow-to-foreclose mortgage company will routinely create fresh liability for the homeowner/ debtor, who will be held liable for post-bankruptcy homeowners association fees, property assessments, other ownership related financial obligations (but not the monthly mortgage payments, the personal obligation for which the debtor was discharged in the bankruptcy), if and as applicable.  The debtor may even be cited and fined repeatedly by the municipality and/or other governmental agencies if the grass is not cut, there becomes an accumulation of junk or hazardous materials on the property (albeit without any participation by the debor), and so forth.

However, a ruling handed down by a Hawaii bankruptcy court this month approved one strikingly clever resolution to the problem.  This Chapter 13 decision, In re Rosa, No. 13-00630 (Bky. Hawaii July 8, 2013), approved over the objections of the trustee a Chapter 13 plan which contained a provision designed to force play the situation by in effect arranging to convey the home back to the first mortgage holder. That is, In the Rosa case, the debtor’s Chapter 13 plan ingeniously stated that title to the real estate “shall vest in City National Bank/OCWEN Loan Service upon confirmation, and the Confirmation Order shall constitute a deed of conveyance of the property when recorded at the Bureau of Conveyances.”    The Chapter 13 trustee objected, arguing that“surrender” under the bankruptcy law did not transfer ownership of the surrendered property until the lender actually foreclosed.

The court disagreed with the trustee and pointed out that here, the debtor had gone beyond merely “surrendering” the property in the Chapter 13 plan.  Rather, the Plan unequivocally stated that confirmation of the Plan by the court would automatically transfer ownership to the lender, and that the order confirming the plan could be recorded like any other deed or conveyance.  While the Plan was drafted by the debtor (or more likely his/her attorney), the lender had been properly served with this plan and it had the opportunity to and had not objected to the Plan in court.  The Plan was therefore confirmed giving effect to this provision.

The result of this strategy for this particular debtor was the complete avoidance of the ills caused by the foot dragging Mortgage Company and its servicer, noted above.  One would think that a majority of the bankruptcy courts and jurisdictions, when presented with this issue, will adopt the new Hawaii precedent as it tends to remedy such evils without placing any undue burden upon or depriving the lender of any of its due process rights, in the eyes of this commenter at least. Perhaps we will even see the Eastern District of Pennsylvania or one of its 3 subdivisions adopting the new rule.

©Christopher C. Carr, Attorney at Law 2012, All Rights ReservedLaw Offices of Christopher C. Carr, MBA,  P.C., is a quality bankruptcy and debt relief practice, located in  Valley Township, west of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where Attorney Christopher Carr, a Chester County bankruptcy attorney, who has over 30 years if diversified ;egal experience, concentrates on serving the residents of and businesses located within Western Chester County and Eastern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, including the communities in and around Atglen, Bird in Hand, Caln, Christiana, Coatesville, Downingtown, Eagle, Exton, Fallowfield Gap, Honeybrook, Lancaster, Lincoln University, Modena, New Holland, Parkesburg, Paradise, Ronks, Sadsbury, Thorndale, Valley Township, Wagontown & West Chester,  Pennsylvania. If you reside or do business in the area and need assistance with a legal issue, please call Mr. Carr at (610)380-7969 or write him at cccarresq@aol.com today!  

I also provide Mortgage Modification Services.


[1] There are several on line services such as Zillow.com for example that purport to provide property values.

[2] Note that this term used in this context is not inaccurate or imprecise…these persons are still in the eyes of the law owners of the properties they once occupied.

Filing Bankruptcy: Pros and Cons

 

Christopher C Carr, Bankruptcy Guest Contributor

By Christopher C. Carr, Esq., Chester County Bankruptcy Lawyer

Tel: 610-380-7969 Email: cccarresq@aol.com Web: carrlaw.org

NACBA 1f18af63-1ee5-4ce2-8294-7eae8365f678

 

Christopher C. Carr , Esq., MBA explains the types of bankruptcy and weighs the pros and cons of filing bankruptcy.

In these troubled economic times many people are having difficulties paying their bills and may be wondering whether a bankruptcy will help them. To examine the various strategies available to avoid bankruptcy, we must first understand what bankruptcy is and what it can and cannot do. The United States Bankruptcy Code offers several types of debt relief. The United States Bankruptcy Code offers two primary paths for consumers:

  • A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: In a so called “straight” bankruptcy, the Trustee in bankruptcy seeks to liquidate the debtor’s non exempt property and distribute the proceeds to the creditors in order of priority, in exchange for discharge of all of the debtor’s eligible debt. (Exemptions for various property classifications are set out in federal and state law.) However, certain debts such as guaranteed student loans and domestic support obligations are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. Most 7’s are “no asset” bankruptcies.

Certain higher income debtors who do not meet the new Means Test must instead file a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

  • A Chapter 13 “debtor in possession” Bankruptcy: Here, unlike in Chapter 7 proceedings, the debtor retains possession of the assets (hence its nickname). In order to be confirmed by the court, the debtor must prove sufficient income to support a 3-5 year plan wherein payments on secured debt such as mortgages and auto loans (including arrears) and non-dischargeable items continue and unsecured creditors typically get paid a small portion of their debts. For debtors facing mortgage foreclosure, Chapter 13 may be the only choice to halt the process while seeking other remedies within or outside of bankruptcy such as a Home Affordable mortgage modification is obtained. However, recent statistics indicate that only about 35% of all 13 plans are ever completed.

There are overall limits as to how much unsecured and/or secured debt a debtor may have and still utilize Chapter 7 or 13. If either is exceeded then the debtor will have but one alternative if they wish to file for bankruptcy:

  • Chapter 11, a third type of Bankruptcy, is primarily used to help in debt businesses restructure. An example is the bankruptcy from which GM has successfully emerged with the help of a massive US bailout. It is much more complex, time consuming and expensive than Chapter 7 or 13, but is the sole resort for individual debtors with debt which exceeds the limits mentioned above.

Other Advantages to Bankruptcy: The overall goal of every bankruptcy case is to give the debtor a “fresh start.” The “automatic stay” in bankruptcy will apply once your case is filed. This generally halts all collection activities, foreclosures, repossessions, Sherriff’s sales, etc. while in effect.

Disadvantages to Bankruptcy:

  • Many people wish to avoid bankruptcy because of the social stigma perceived to be associated with “going bankrupt” even though it is perfectly legal and in fact is guaranteed by the US Constitution.
  • Bankruptcy remains on the debtor’s credit for up to 7 (Chapter 17) or 10 years (Chapter 13) from filing and may interfere with efforts to obtain credit, purchase or refinance a home or even obtain employment. However, it should be noted that most who seek this relief already have impaired credit and, more importantly, in reality new credit is generally extended to debtors who keep their payments current for a year or two following discharge. So, in effect bankruptcy can work to “repair” credit where nothing else can.

A real life example would be where the debtor has amassed so much debt that they cannot qualify for a mortgage.  Their debt to income ratio is just too high. At tins point there is little reason to hold off from filing as the likelihood of obtaining credit resources at competitive rates are almost nil. However, once the debt is cleared by a discharge in bankruptcy this ratio can return to normal or better and given sufficient time and a good post petition payment profile, the debtor will once again be an attractive loan candidate.

Homeowners, who have racked up large arrears in their mortgage payments which have to be repaid in full over the 3-5 year plan period in a chapter 13 , may find the payments too high to afford causing the bankruptcy ultimately to be discharged or converted, perhaps thus only delaying the ultimate loss of their home in contrast to a Home Affordable (HAMP) mortgage modification where as the name implies ideally a long term affordable solution is reached.

  • Not all types of debt are dischargable in bankruptcy, a good example being guaranteed student loans.
  • While perhaps not strictly speaking a disadvantage,  there is a substantial waiting period once a bankruptcy has been discharged…the debtor has to wait to file if they wish to again obtain a discharge from new debt, the timeframes varying with the type of bankruptcy initially undegone. For this reason, bankruptcy should be considered strategically.  When its gone, its gone, at least for a good long time!

The key point is that each debtor’s situation is unique and deserves special consideration. Further, because the process is hardly ever as smooth as it is supposed to be because of the complexities and pitfalls involved, it is advisable to consult a competent and compassionate attorney who has experience in bankruptcies and/or in negotiating modifications to guide you through the process and help you properly complete the paperwork.


MY AVVO.COM ANSWERS FEED:


©Christopher C. Carr, Attorney at Law 2009, 2016, All Rights Reserved

Christopher C. Carr, Esq. is a  Chester County Bankruptcy Attorney owner of Law Offices of Christopher C. Carr, MBA,  P.C., a quality Bankruptcy & Debt Relief Practice, located in  Valley Township, west of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where Attorney Carr, who has over 30 years of diversified experience as an attorney, concentrates his practice on serving the residents of and businesses located within Western Chester, Southern Berks and Eastern Lancaster Counties in South Eastern Pennsylvania, including the communities in and around Atglen, Bird in Hand, Caln, Christiana, Coatesville, Downingtown, Eagle, Exton, Fallowfield Gap, Honeybrook, Lancaster, Lincoln University, Modena, New Holland, Parkesburg, Paradise, Ronks, Reading, Sadsbury, Sinking Spring, Thorndale, Valley Township, Wagontown, West Chester, West Lawn, & Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. Carr also has experience in many other areas of the law. If you reside or do business in the area and need assistance with a legal issue, please call Mr. Carr at (610)380-7969 or write him at cccarresq@aol.com today!

I also provide Mortgage Mod  and Debt Settlement Services.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not your bankruptcy lawyer, and nothing within this site creates that relationship.  Bankruptcy law requires that for me to be your lawyer, you and I must have a written contract.  So, unless we both agree in writing, you are not my client. Therefore, nothing written herein is to be relied upon as legal advice such as I might give to a client.

I am a debt relief agency. I help people file for bankruptcy relief under the bankruptcy code.