Student Loan Dischargability in Bankruptcy

 

Clients frequently inquire as to whether their private and government backed student loans can be discharged in bankruptcy. Sadly for them, it is almost impossible to discharge federal student loans in bankruptcy given certain changes in the way they are structured today.  

The so called Brunner Test (named after the seminal case on the topic), which contains the standards used in bankruptcy courts to determine whether a student loan can be discharged, specifies that in order for discharge to occur, all of the following must be true:

  1. based on current income and expenses, the debtor cannot maintain a “minimal” standard of living for herself or her dependents if forced to repay the loans;
  2. additional circumstances exist indicating that this state of affairs is likely to persist for a significant portion of the repayment period for the student loans; and,
  3. the debtor has heretofore made a good faith effort to repay the loans.

Yes, you can try to prove undue hardship, under these tests, but it is now, for all practical purposes, almost impossible to do and this is why. First, under the various special repayment schemes: income based repayment, pay as you go, income sensitive repayment; you can have a zero dollar ($0) monthly payment assuming your income is low enough.  At the end of the term of these programs (20 to 25 years), any remaining student loan balance will be forgiven. So how can anyone successfully argue that a zero (or very low) monthly payment with the prospect of loan forgiveness creates an undue hardship? Secondly, now that the Dept. of Education has a workable administrative process for a disability discharge, if you are declared 100% disabled by the social security admin, you can discharge your federal student loan.  Thus, people who once would have been able to show Brunner hardships because of disability no longer need to do so.  those people don’t need bankruptcy for their student loans.

So, if you have both significant private student loans and federal loans and are a good candidate for a bankruptcy hardship discharge, you include both classes of debts in the case.   (Note:  The bankruptcy must be filed (either a 7 or 13) then an adversary proceeding (2nd lawsuit) against the student loan lenders must be filed.) Assuming you can win on undue hardship, the court is likely to only discharge the private student loans because these do not have the programs discussed above attached to them.

If you are not already on one, you need to get on a specialized repayment program.  I suggest that you visit the following site to find out more information.

            https://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/understand/plans/income-driven

Also, it is recommended that you discuss this issue with a seasoned bankruptcy lawyer.  I am Christopher C. Carr, Esq., a Chester County Bankruptcy Lawyer who can assist you with these and all other matters relating to bankruptcy and debt relief.. Call me at 610-380-7969 today!

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341 Meeting Readiness

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By Attorney Christopher Carr, a Chester County bankruptcy attorney.

Tel: 610-380-7969 Email: cccarresq@aol.com WHAT IS THE 341 MEETING OF CREDITORS? Regardless of whether you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will be required to attend a “Meeting of Creditors” or a 341 hearing as attorneys call it. THIS IS A MISNOMER….IT IS NOT REALLY A HEARING! It has that name because it is held under oath (see below.) It is scheduled about 30‐45 days after your case is filed. Though it is called a “Meeting of Creditors,” creditors rarely attend. But the Trustee is there and HE represents the creditors! You, your attorney, and the trustee attend this meeting. It can seem quite intimidating if you do not know what to expect, but the 341 hearing is actually a fairly informal meeting designed to help the Trustee better understand what’s happening in your bankruptcy. A NOTE ON TIMING OF TRUSTEE PAYMENTS FOR CHAPTER 13 CLIENTS: Remember that your first payment to the Trustee is due THIRTY (30) DAYS AFTER YOUR PETITION IS FILED, irrespective of when the 341 is held.  WHAT TO EXPECT:  There will be a pile of Bankruptcy Information Sheets at the front of the room. Take one and read it.  You will be asked if you did (see below.) You will sit at a desk or table with your bankruptcy lawyer and the Trustee. Other people will be in the room with you, generally other bankruptcy filers and their lawyers. You will be asked first off to state your name and address and verify your identity by providing your social security card and drivers license. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE YOUR ORIGINAL SOCIAL SECURITY CARD AND SECOND FORM OF ID, THE MEETING WILL NOT BE HELD AND EVERYONE’S TIME WILL HAVE BEEN WASTED SO DON”T LEAVE IT AT HOME OR EXPECT A COPY TO DO. BRING THAT TATTERED ORIGINAL AND IF YOU DON”T HAVE ONE ORDER IT FROM THE SS OFFICE. The meeting will be recorded. The Trustee will start a tape recorder going. You will be sworn in; i.e. raise right hand solemnly swear and affirm to tell the truth. Dress is business casual for you. Be well groomed. I will be in my “lawyer suit” as will the Trustee, but you are not expected to wear one.  Be on time.  It may appear that I am running late but that is because I have a better idea of when the 341 will start than you do! Try to relax! WHAT CAN THE TRUSTEE ASK AT THE 341 MEETING? The trustee will ask you some basic questions about your bankruptcy.  Here are some of the common questions that trustees ask during the meeting. They are in no particular order. These are not all of the questions that the Trustee could ask, and he/she will not ask every question on this list. In other words, this is a very generic list. The items that are almost always asked are highlighted.

  • Did you sign the petition and the schedules your attorney is showing you?
  • Have you read the bankruptcy information sheet?
  • Did you review the bankruptcy petition and each of the schedules and the statement of financial affairs (SOFA). Is the information correct? The answer is always an assured “YES” because you will have typically signed the documents in my office and we will have gone over all of them in detail at that time.
  • Are there any corrections that need to be made to the Schedules?  There should be none.  See my piece on the importance of full disclosure within the Bankruptcy  Petition.
  • Did you list all income, assets, and debts on the Schedules? The answer is always an assured “YES” because you will have typically signed the documents in my office and we will have gone over all of them in detail at that time.
  • Have you filed all your taxes? Are the tax returns you supplied to the trustee true, correct and complete, including all schedules and W2s? (Typically we will have filed these beforehand.)
  • Are you entitled to any tax refunds?  This one is VERY popular around tax time. You and your Attorney should have discussed this one and its ramifications before the 341.
  • Have you previously filed bankruptcy? If so when?
  • Why are you filing bankruptcy?  You can be a bit creative here but see below.
  • Do you expect to receive an inheritance or property?
  • Are you a party to any law suits?
  • Do you have any domestic support obligations?
  • Have you have sold, transferred, or given away any property in the prior four years?
  • How long have you lived in Pennsylvania?
  • What do you plan to do with your house, cars, or other personal property?
  • Are you employed? What do you do?
  • How much do you earn?
  • Is your employment the same as when you filed?
  • Do you own your own home?
  • Do you own any motor vehicles? What are these?
  • Please provide appraisals for your cars and home. (Typically we will have filed these beforehand.)
  • Please provide insurance declaration pages for your home if owned and cars. (Typically we will have filed these beforehand.)
  • Do you have any retirement funds (IRA, Roth IRA, 401K etc.)?
  • Does anyone owe you money?
  • Is anyone holding money for you?

GENERAL TIPS AND CAVEATS: It is normal to be a bit nervous going into the 341 but just answer the questions put to you fully and honestly and be courteous to one and all! Do not over answer, the Trustee does not need to hear your life story. All of you financial information should be properly presented in the bankruptcy petition and there is no sense in trying to hide something from the Trustee. If you are uncooperative it may motivate the Trustee to investigate or scrutinize your petition further which will only mean more time and effort for you and your attorney. Always remember that the Trustee may act friendly but he is NOT your friend.  He represents the unsecured creditors and his job is to maximize their return from the bankruptcy (not your own). He gets paid a commission on assets he recovers from Debtors for them. I am on a first name basis with the Trustee but that does not mean we are friends! The time to report undisclosed assets, that big tax refund, debts to family or friends, that new job or the 1000 shares of Google.com or that partnership you forgot about is NOT at the 341. If you wear a big diamond ring to the 341 and didn’t disclose it, expect trouble! Other than that type of thing you have nothing to worry about! Should you have concerns about such matters you should be asking me about them NOW! See my piece on the importance of full disclosure within the Bankruptcy Petition.

 

Law 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!  

Not Legal Advice. Copyright © 2010, 2014 by Christopher C. Carr, Esq., All rights reserved. You may reproduce materials available at this site for your own personal use and for non-commercial distribution. All copies must include this copyright statement.

Web:westchesterbankruptcyattorney.orgBlog: christophercarrlaw.wordpress.com Member: National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, Phi Beta Kappa & Beta Gamma Sigma.*************************************** “WE SAVE HOMES”

This is a Federally Designated Debt Relief Agency which is proud to assist individuals in need in filing for bankruptcy protection.


[1] Up to ½ hour.

Prepared 2‐25‐2014.

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.

 

Gamblers & Bankruptcy

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

Why do some people already in dire economic shape gamble?  Prudence suggests that they should not do so but gamblers are notoriously imprudent. Well ironically they often do so because they foolishly believe that they can gamble their way out of debt.  Other gamblers think they can win enough money to pay back their gambling debts– debts they may have rung up on their credit cards, money owed to casinos or riverboats, loan debt, and even home equity debt all associated with gambling problems–but quite the opposite happens. You only end up creating more gambling debt to repay. And even if you actually did win enough money to pay off your debt, you would most likely gamble that money away too, thinking if you won once you could win again. GA and other organizations can help to cure the addiction but the debt that persists is a slippery slope tempting the gambler to return to the game of choice and chance.  So oftentimes it is necessary to cure the debt problem to alleviate the addiction. And there is only one way to effectively do so, a Chapter 7 (or 13) bankruptcy, which if successful can wipe the slate clean in one fell swoop.  Thus, Bankruptcy may be the only option for dealing with gambling debt.

If you owe bookies or loan sharks, you may be forced to borrow money from a friend or family member to pay the gambling debt, especially if you’re being threatened with reprisals if you do not pay up . But borrowing money from a loved one, while perhaps better than having your legs broken, may not be such a good idea because all such debts will be discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy leaving them high and dry.

I tell such clients that they should pay some of the money they are gambling away to me instead.  Gambling is risky and the “odds are stacked in favor of the house” but I am a sure thing, or nearly so.  What stands in the way of a fresh start in Bankruptcy for the gambler?

  1. Fraud: Gambling debt, including debt incurred from casinos or charged on credit cards and loans, can be discharged in bankruptcy. It’s important to know that any creditor can object to the bankruptcy filing by claiming you incurred the debt under false pretenses or through fraud. For example, if you took out a credit card cash advance knowing you didn’t have the money to repay the advance when you borrowed it, the creditor can ask the court not to discharge the debt. Creditors owed gambling debts may file “adversary proceedings” to challenge the dischargeability of their debts under Bankruptcy Code section 523(a)(2)(A) provides an exception to discharge for debts obtained by “false pretenses, a false representation, or actual fraud.”  These suits, historically filed by casinos, are rare today. They are expensive, cast the casino and its entire industry in a bad light and with the rise of legalized gambling, are no longer favored by the courts.  The gambler’s creditor has the burden to prove that the gambler actually committed fraud, in other words that you had the intent not to repay the debt when incurred and that is barring some lucky (or more likely stupid) admission, very difficult to do.
  2. Reporting Requirement: All gambling losses within the previous year must be reported on the Statement of Financial Affairs which is part of every bankruptcy filing.  This is required so the bankruptcy trustee and court can determine whether any fraud was involved in the bankruptcy filing.  Bankruptcy trustees have broad powers to avoid transfers which appear fraudulent because they are transfers for which the debtor received “less than reasonably equivalent value,” which is the basic benchmark for determining fraud under the Bankruptcy Code. This requirement may pose obvious difficulty for the gambler who has been dealing with loan sharks who may act aggressively to keep from having their names become a matter of public record.
  3. Luxury Debts: However unlikely it is that the casino will win an adversary action, there is another bar standing in the way of clearing very recent gambling debt. Bankruptcy Code section 523(a)(2)(C) makes a debt non-dischargeable if the debts was for a “luxury good or service” over $1,225 and purchased within 60 days of the filing of the bankruptcy.  That section also precludes discharge of cash advances over $1,225 obtained within 60 days of the filing of the bankruptcy.  In most cases, the exception can be avoided by simply waiting the requisite 60 day period of time
    to file the bankruptcy.  However, this may not be as easy as it sounds for the compulsive gambler. Often the lawyer must demand a turnover of all credit cards, etc. so that the problem is cut off at the source.
  4. Chapter 13: Impossibility of fulfilling the plan because of compulsive gambling:  oftentimes a gambler who is behind in house or car payments because of money diverted to gambling will have no choice but to file a Chapter 13.  This requires a 3-5 year plan wherein the gambler promises to repay some of his debts.  But the plan must be funded by the gambler’s income and little threatens income as effectively as compulsive gambling.  Thus, may trustees and courts (tipped off by the required gambling disclosures…see above) will closely scrutinize such a plan and may demand that the gambler be under the treatment of a psychiatrist and/or regularly attending GA meetings before they will give it the go ahead. A clean recent bank and/or credit card statement(s), not showing large withdrawals, can also be very helpful in showing that the gambler has the self control needed to suceed with a plan in a Chapter 13.

It is clear that the cure of the gambling addiction and its economic fallout go hand in hand.  One cannot easily be repaired without the other. We are experienced in dealing with the problems of and in counseling gamblers and would be happy to discuss the issues facing you or a loved one challenged by this affliction.

Law 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 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!  


Now that you Have Your Bankruptcy Discharge: 10 (actually 11) Things to Do to Make the most of it!

 

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

So You Finally Got that Bankruptcy Discharge
Congratulations!
You’re on your way to a fresh start.
Now you’ve got more to do? See why below:
1. Check debts that didn’t get discharged: Child or spousal support, student loans, or taxes for years for which you did not file a return (unless the IRS exceptions are met) are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. The discharge order will not tell you which debts survive and which do not, nor will the Court provide this information so you may continue to require the services of a knowledgeable bankruptcy lawyer to help you to assess this.
2. Verify lien balances: The discharge eliminates your personal liability for dischargeable debts; liens survive. If you plan to keep a house or car encumbered with liens, find out what you owe and resume payments. Otherwise, the creditor can enforce its lien by foreclosure or repossession.
3. Reset Banking Priveleges: Online banking and automatic bill pay may have been disabled while you were in bankruptcy but can be restarted at your request now..
4. Do Some Record Keeping: Save your bankruptcy papers and keep a copy of your discharge paper handy: You’re likely to encounter efforts by buyers of to collect debts that have been discharged in your case, or so called “zombie debt”. You need to be able to show that the debt was discharged in your case. Creditors with notice of the bankruptcy, and likewise those who buy up their worthless accounts and try to collect on them, were discharged (unless they fall within Rule #1 above). The services of a knowledgeable bankruptcy lawyer may be necessary to stop these collectors, or even under some circumstances to sue them for unfair practices and potentially turn the tables by collecting from them, including your legal fees.
6. Join a credit union: Credit unions are owned by their members. They are in the business of extending credit to members (hence the name, “Credit Union’: “Credit” stands for what they do and “Union” for the members they lend to) and the profits from such loans flow to members. Rates are almost always lower and terms better than the commercial banks, savings and loans and private lenders. Start out with a savings or checking account. Sooner or later you will probably need a car loan or even a home loan. Joining now will give you the longevity that adds credibility to a credit union.
7. Maintain insurance coverage: Even though you may have elected to surrender property through the bankruptcy that still stands in your name, make sure that you are insured for liability. Liability insurance covers you for claims of anyone injured on your property. Electing to surrender property doesn’t take you off title until someone else goes on title. Post bankruptcy claims arising from property you’re trying to offload can potentially ruin the fresh start.
8. Get a credit report: Several months after your discharge, check your credit report to make sure all discharged debts reflect a zero balance. The bankruptcy history can properly remain on your credit for up to 10 years, but you are entitled to a showing that you now owe nothing on all discharged accounts (but see Factor #1 above) This is crucial because your debt to income ratio (“DTI”),one of the primary if not THE primary factor lenders look to in extending credit. Getting erroneous entries corrected may be facilitated using the services of a knowledgeable bankruptcy lawyer. You are entitled to a truly free credit report annually from each of the 3 major credit bureaus which you can get by clicking here and credit experts recommend that you check it at least once a year.
9. Budget and Learn to Spend Within Your Means: Studies have shown that people who go bankrupt only do so ONCE in their lives. WHY? Well debt relief is only one side of the coin. On the flip side are the lessons people take from bankruptcy. So, like these now money wise people, take advantage of the fresh start that bankruptcy has provided, and make lifestyle changes so that it does not happen again. Follow Rule # 10 below and stop using trade credit (AKA: Credit Cards). Get a debit card instead and be you own bank, there is no interest that way!
10. Use credit Wisely. Once Lenders see that you have received a discharge, they may well start sending you “preauthorized” credit card applications. However, if you start to load up on credit again, you will soon be right back where you started. So the rule of thumb is to have just one credit card that you keep in a drawer somewhere for emergencies; If you do use it, make it “free credit”, that is: plan to pay it all back in the same month as incurred so that you are not left carrying a balance ant interest. That way you are living within your means. See Rule # 9 above. The only other credit to use generally speaking is for major purchases such as car or home loans.
11. Build up a reserve for emergencies and start saving again. Set up automatic savings Bankruptcy probably brought home to you how little net worth you have and how thin the safety net is. Arrange for automatic savings for both an emergency fund and for retirement.
Since you no longer have trade credit, it will be easier to devote some of your income to savings…follow the rule “Pay yourself first”. Experts recommend a reserve of 6 months salary and at least a 10% savings rate. Contributions toward your IRA or 401K at work count as you can withdraw these funds (with penalty if applicable) in an emergency.
If you follow these rules, you are more likely to take full advantage of your fresh start and not ever be back to see your friendly local bankruptcy lawyer!

Law 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!  

Z is for “Zealous”, How far can your Lawyer go in representing you in Bankruptcy?

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

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

“Have Gun, Will travel”

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Richard Boone as Paladin

Z is for Zealous.

Subsection 2 of the preamble to the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct: (“RPC”) “A Lawyer’s Responsibilities” states thatas advocate for his/her clients, “a lawyer zealously asserts the client’s position under the rules of the adversary system”.

Sounds simple enough but of course, the RPC nowhere gives any guidance as to the meaning of the word “Zealous”. Encarta defines the term simply as: “actively and unreservedly enthusiastic”. It is a sort of “boundary” term in the law in that we come to understand what it means more by understanding what we as lawyers serving bankruptcy clients can and cannot do in its name.  So let’s approach it from that angle.

A prerequisite for zealous representation is competence: RPC Rule 1.1 states that a lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal expertise, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation. In the bankruptcy context this means that a lawyer must have studied and understood the aspects of the Bankruptcy Code that are implicated in any representation.  Even if this requirement is met in general, should he or she not be well versed in a particular sub-area, there is a duty to seek the assistance and mentoring of another attorney who has the requisite skill set. For example, the implications of divorce for bankruptcy are so complex and localized/varied to the laws of each of the several United State as to be beyond the ken of most bankruptcy lawyers and equally so for most divorce specialists…cross disciplinary expertise must often be sought to answer these questions.

However, it is clear that the lawyer who is competent is not thereby necessarily zealous.  Zealous representation, which is not defined in the RPC, serves for most as the benchmark for excellence. Perry Mason may not have had all it its legal points correct but it does stand in the eyes of the public as the more dinified epitome of this attribute. For those who consider law practice more a profession than a business, it evokes the image of a crusader for justice. To others, however it suggests a fanatical, “no-holds-barred” advocate, willing to do anything for a client (for a fee). A hired gun… Have gun, will travel. 

Thus, being overly “zealous” clearly can land a lawyer in deep trouble.  Some attorneys have attempted to use it to justify unacceptable conduct even though it may have disciplinary or malpractice liability consequences (or both).  For example, we bankruptcy lawyers frequently are asked clients for advice on what might be called “pre-bankruptcy asset protection planning.”  While the ethical dangers associated with advice in this area are very real [See, for example, Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct (“ORPC”) Section 8.4(c), prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in conduct involving fraud], the consequences can reach beyond the realm of ethics and involve actual criminal liability for both transgressing client and counsel. This will reach to knowingly assisting a client who wishes to perpetrate a fraud on the bankruptcy court.  See my blog on the topic of Bankruptcy Fraud for more information. For example, in a recent West Virginia case a bankruptcy lawyer was criminally indicted for advising his clients to transfer a mobile home to a relative before bankruptcy so as to attempt to “remove” the asset from the reach of the Trustee in Bankruptcy.

Thus while lawyers clearly have an obligation to advance their clients’ cases with competence and enthusiasm, they also have an obligation as officers of the bankruptcy court they serve to refrain from knowingly counseling or assisting a client to commit a crime or fraud. RCP 1.2 (d).

Picture credit: Wikpedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Have_Gun_%E2%80%93_Will_Travel

Law 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.

©Christopher C. Carr, Attorney at Law 2012, All Rights Reserved

Picture credit: Wikpedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Have_Gun_%E2%80%93_Will_Travel

How Do Creditors Manage to Find Debtors with Such Seeming Ease?

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

One of the prime indicators that someone may need to file bankruptcy is when they start to get bombarded by calls and letters from creditors.

Well, just how do creditors manage to locate debtors? Especially in our mobile society where that have moved to a different city or even state, with no forwarding address.

  1. Social Media: Think creditors (and others) are not monitoring the information you post publicly?  Think again, virtually any information you might post, such as where you work, live, shop, etc., can unwittingly provide vital clues as to your whereabouts.
  2. Credit Card Applications: This is one of the most fruitful resources for your creditors. Not only is your residential address and contact information listed, so are references, contacts and acquaintances that creditors can use to track you down if you have relocated. Banks, credit references or relatives may also be detailed on the application and these also can provide promising leads.
  3. Relatives, Friends, Acquaintances, Neighbors, Etc.  These types of contacts are still acceptable if done properly. Collection agents may contact any number of people to get information on you, though there are some restrictions as to how/when they can do this under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and correlative state laws regarding debt collection, such as Pennsylvania’s Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act.
  4. Self supplied information such as Phone Numbers. If a collection agency has or obtains your phone numbers, they may be able to then get your address using a reverse lookup. This is one reason why creditors will so frequently ask if they can add a phone number to your information on file.
  5. Voter Registration Forms: Any time you register to vote in a new area, that information can potentially be accessed by your creditors. Even if you move, your old county retains these records.
  6. Department of Motor Vehicles: These records are available to registered collection agencies in many states across the country. So when you get your license and register your car  in that new state, you may be automatically giving them the information they need to find you.
  7. USPS Change-of-Address forms: Many major credit agencies receive change of address forms when you move from your previous location. They may also take the initiative to check with the post office themselves.  Obviously, this is one of the best ways for creditors to track you down because you thereby tell them exactly where you are going.
  8. Skip Tracers:  Creditors also employ skip tracers.   These are professionals whose job it is to locate a person’s whereabouts for any number of purposes. The term “skip” refers to the person being searched for, and is derived from the idiomatic expression “to skip town”, meaning to depart (perhaps in a rush), leaving minimal clues behind to “trace” the “skip” to a new location. Records that “skiptracers” use may include phone number databases, credit reports (including information provided on a loan application, credit card application, and in other debt collector databases), job application information, criminal background checks, utility bills (electricity, gas, water, sewage, phone, Internet, and cable), social security, disability, and public tax information.  Much of this information is not available or not easily obtainable by the general public or comes from data bases that are not widely known.  Source: Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skiptrace

Once credit agencies do locate a debtor, their contacts are supposed to be in conformity with the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and correlative state laws regarding debt collection, such as Pennsylvania’s Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act (PFCEUA), both of which prohibit debtor harassment.  (The PFCEUA extends the requirements of the FDCPA to direct creditors.) However, many collectors are now evading the law by setting up shop in foregn countries and then calling in to the US.

©Christopher C. Carr, Attorney at Law 2012, All Rights Reserved

Law 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.