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.

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.

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!  


M is for Matrimonial Property Obligations and the Discharge in Bankruptcy

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

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

    M by BigBlue Meanie                    There are two main types of domestic support obligations (‘DSO”) defined in the bankruptcy code. The first kind of DSO encompasses things such as child support payments and alimony. (To simplify, let’s just call this type: “support“). The second type of DSO comes from the distribution of property in divorce; in Pennsylvania the statutes refer to this as “equitable distribution“, which is the terminology I will use here. The latter usually consists of the spouse’s equitable share of the equity — as adjudicated by the courts or agreed to in a property settlement agreement, which also must be court approved in Pennsylvania — in the marital residence but can also include joint bank accounts and other valuable items.

In the general definitions within the Bankruptcy code 11 USC Sect.. 101(14 a-c), both support and equitable distribution appear as DSO’s, misleading one to think that perhaps the two will be treated identically in bankruptcy. However, while this is true of a Chapter 7, it is otherwise for a Chapter 13. The difference in treatment as between the two different kinds of domestic support obligations only become apparent when one looks at how they are treated those portions of the Bankruptcy Code dealing specifically with the discharge of these specific categories of debt.

At first glance in 11 USC Sect. 523(a)(5) and 11 USC Sect. 523(a)(15), the sections of the Code dealing with equitable distribution, it appears that these two subsets of domestic support obligations are treated the same. That is to say, neither support nor equitable distribution obligations appear to be discharged in bankruptcy, meaning specifically that in both a Chapter 7 bankruptcy these debts survive the bankruptcy and remain obligations of the debtor and alternately in a Chapter 13, they both must be paid in the plan and/or any amount left over so survives.

However, 11 USC Sect. 1328(a)(2) changes the picture radically, at least insofar as discharge after completion of a Chapter 13 Plan is concerned. (Note that virtually anyone who has a regular income can elect a Chapter 13 filing as versus a Chapter 7.) This provision essentially states that once all the plan payments are made and the debtor complies with its other requirements, the DSO types not listed in the statute will be discharged: one of the provisions so listed is 11 USC Sect. 523(a)(5), which again deals with with support debts. However, whether by design or inadvertence, Congress conspicuously excluded from that list 11 USC Sect. 523(a)(15), which again pertains to equitable distribution obligations.

Thus, unlike support, which cannot be discharged either in a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13, the proceeds of an equitable distribution can be discharged to the extent that the ex-spouse still owes same once the Chapter 13 plan payments have been otherwise completed. A clever bankruptcy lawyer, knowing this, will to the extent possible, draft a plan which, perhaps by favoring secured and other priority unsecured debt in order and amount of payment, provides for less than all of the equitable debt to be discharged, which has the effect of excusing the debtor spouse from his or her remaining equitable obligations, even though ironically these were awarded to the creditor spouse by a court of law. The (alas little appreciated) lesson for the family lawyer representing the creditor spouse is to require all equitable debt to be paid up before the property settlement agreement is authorized, so as to avoid eventual loss of some or all of their equity in a potential Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

©Christopher C. Carr, Attorney at Law 2009, 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.

Others blogging on M include:

  • Bill Balena,      CLevand Bankruptcy lawyer tells us that M      is for Mistakes .
  • Omaha and Lincoln,      Nebraska Bankruptcy Attorney, Ryan D. Caldwell says M is for Means Test.
  • Marin County      Bankruptcy Lawyer, Cate Eranthe blogs M is for Means Test, a popular topic.
  • New York Bankruptcy      Lawyer, Jay S. Fleischman agrees M is for Means Test too.
  • Colorado Springs bankruptcy      Attorney Bob Doig says M is for Meeting of Creditors.
  • Northern California      Bankruptcy Lawyer, Cathy Moran believes M is for Modify & also for Monthly Income.
  • Hawaii Bankruptcy      Lawyer, Stuart T. Ing says M is for Mortgage Arrears.

Picture credit: Bigbluemeanie

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY

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

WHAT IS CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY?

Lucky Number 7 by ganesha.isisThe avowed goal of bankruptcy is to give debtors a “fresh start.” What is a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and how does it go about accomplishing this? The “automatic stay” in bankruptcy applies immediately once a Chapter 7 case is filed and generally halts all collection activities, foreclosures, repossessions, sheriffs’ sales, and etc. while in effect. Let’s first look at the different types of bankruptcy proceedings.

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 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. If you think you might be a candidate for a 13, you might wish to visit my article on the topic.

  • 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. 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.  For those who do not qualify, there is only one option:

  • 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 than consumer perceptions that bankruptcy is somehow unethical or “wrong”, the primary issue with filing bankruptcy is that it 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.

In summary, the automatic stay provides an effective if temporary refuge from foreclosure and other debt collection activities and many debtors ultimately do obtain the permanent solution to their debt problems, the “fresh start” which is the ultimate objective of the US bankruptcy laws.

©Christopher C. Carr, Attorney at Law 2009, 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 Mod Services.

Photo by ganesha.isis

N is for Negative Impact of Bankruptcy on Credit and How to Overcome it.

N by procsilas in Bankruptcy is for the Negative Impact of Bankruptcy on Credit and How to Overcome it.

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

Most people are aware that filing bankruptcy can hurt their credit and it is well known that this can take its toll for up to ten years. But then why is it that the credit card apps start arriving again just a few weeks after a discharge in bankruptcy? Is it really true that a bankrupt is doomed to being deemed uncreditworthy for ten years? We will explore these questions below but first a bit of background.

The information contained within your credit report is generally governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This federal law specifies how long a bankruptcy can appear on your credit report. This in turn varies based on type of bankruptcy as well as disposition of the case. Chapter 7 and 11 bankruptcies will appear on the report for up to 10 years from the filing date. Non-discharged or dismissed Chapter 13 and 12 bankruptcies also appear on a credit report for up to 10 years. Discharged Chapter 12 and 13 bankruptcies can remain on the report for up to seven years.

Does this mean that your credit will be impaired for 7 or 10 years? Does it mean you will not be able to purchase critical items on credit?    Certainly not, at least for the debtor who learns from past errors.

Note that the period starts running from the date of filing not discharge so, for example, if you filed a a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition 4 years ago and completed a 3 year plan 6 months ago, you only have three years to go. And during this time, you will, with persistence, be able to get credit for the things you really need (see below.)

You can begin to rebuild your credit rating immediately upon the date of your discharge order.  In a Chapter 7 this will be granted 3-4 months after your petition is filed, typically.   If you are in a Chapter 13 your plan payments will be reported even while still in bankruptcy.

Don’t even think about hiring a “Credit repair” agency. The money you might pay them can actually be used directly to repair your credit in the one way the experts agree really works.  The crucial thing you can do to rebuild your credit quickly and at no added cost is to pay all your bills on time. No exceptions.  It is not uncommon to see former clients who have rebuilt their ratings within 2 to 3 years after a bankruptcy. Their secret?  They paid their mortgage and car loans ON TIME and didn’t miss a payment. Some ideas: Send the checks EARLY in case the mail is delayed. Set up an emergency fund, perhaps in a short term CD, say with your tax refund to give yourself the “float” needed to make the payments in case you are short one month and then replenish it in flush months. Have the mental discipline to reserve it just for this purpose! If worse comes to worse, borrow against your IRA, 401K at work, life insurance policy  or pension.

As an example, a recent Chapter 7 client finished his case; obtained his discharge order and exactly 30 months later (2 years and 6 months), purchased a new home and obtained a competitive mortgage rate for a 30 year fixed mortgage.

You will be able to get a new credit card after your bankruptcy case has been completed.   It is true that you are likely to be rejected once or twice, but you should be able to obtain approval for a small credit card as long as you are persistent. Your best bet may be to talk to that friendly bank manager you have known for years. And you may need to ask more than once.

There are also ways to surrender that car you are driving now and its high rate loan and purchase a new car even while in bankruptcy, believe it or not.  You will pay a somewhat higher interest rate but rates are at historically low levels now anyway.

You will also be able to obtain student loans, for yourself or for a child, the Bankruptcy Code (11 U.S.C. Section 525) specifically prevents the government from discriminating against individuals on the grounds that they have filed for bankruptcy relief.  I have yet to hear of anyone being denied a student loan on bankruptcy grounds.

There are in addition certain “tricks of the trade” that a competent and compassionate bankruptcy attorney can impart to you once you have retained him or her which will speed up the process of restoring your credit even further.   Be sure to ask!

In conclusion, your payment history will be crucial after (and in a Chapter 13 even during) a bankruptcy discharge, because prospective lenders really will  be looking  to see that you have paid attention to the mandatory debtor counseling sessions and have well and truly learned the lesson of how to use credit responsibly. It often will be easier to rebuild credit after a bankruptcy discharge because you will no longer have debts that hopelessly exceed your credit limits.  In this way and in general (certainly, not in every individual case) over the long haul, the consumer bankruptcy laws prove their worth. This writ large then is why the “fresh start” offered to debtors by our system of bankruptcy is a necessity to a healthy capitalistic system.

Law Offices of Christopher C. Carr, MBA,  P.C., is a quality Chester County Bankruptcy Practice, located in  Valley Township, west of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where Attorney Carr, who has over 30 years if diversified experience as an attorney, concentrates his practice 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, 2011, 2012, All Rights Reserved.

Other Bankruptcy Lawyers writing on the letter N include:

California Northern Bankruptcy Court  Marin County Bankrupttcy Lawyer, Cate Eranthe http://marin-bankruptcy-law.com/803/bankruptcy-a-to-z-n-is-for-california-northern-bankruptcy-court/ NACBA Wisconsin Bankruptcy Lawyer, Bret Nason http://nasonlawfirm.com/archives/813 Naked New York Bankruptcy Lawyer, Jay S. Fleischman http://www.consumerhelpcentral.com/bankruptcy-alphabet-naked/ Negative Notice Jacksonville Bankruptcy Attorney J. Dinkins G. Grange http://jacksonville-bankruptcy-grange.blogspot.com/2012/02/n-is-for-negative-notice-local-rule.html Never Cleveland Bankruptcy Attorney William Balena http://ohiobankruptcysource.com/?p=2418 No Asset Metro Richmond Consumer and Bankruptcy Attorney, Mitchell Goldstein http://www.morethanbankruptcy.com/bankruptcy-a-z-n-is-for-no-asset-case.html No Asset Report Honolulu Bankruptcy Lawyer, Stuart T. Ing http://www.bankruptcyhi.com/2012/01/n-is-for-no-asset-report/ Non-exempt Property Miami Bankruptcy Attorney, Dorota Trzeciecka http://dorotatrzeciecka.com/2012/02/05/bankruptcy-a-z-n-is-for-non-exempt-property/ Nondischargeable Metro Richmond Consumer and Bankruptcy Attorney, Mitchell Goldstein http://www.morethanbankruptcy.com/bankruptcy-a-z-n-is-for-nondischargeable.html Nondischargeable Northern California Bankruptcy Lawyer, Cathy Moran http://www.bankruptcysoapbox.com/bankruptcy-alphabet-n-for-nondischargeable/ Nondischargeable Debt Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska Bankruptcy Attorney, Ryan D. Caldwell http://bankruptcyblog.caldwell-lawfirm.com/2011/11/16/bankruptcy-alphabet-n-is-for-nondischargeable-debt.aspx Notice Colorado Springs Bankruptcy Attorney Bob Doig http://springsbankruptcylaw.com/?p=1227 Notice San Francisco Bankruptcy Attorney, Jeff Curl http://www.jclawgroup.com/blog/bankruptcy-alphabet-n-is-for-notice/ Notice Taylor, Michigan Bankruptcy Attorney, Chris McAvoy http://downriverbankruptcy.com/n-for-notice-creditors/#axzz1mtGwtQjh Notice of Rights to Claim Exemptions Charlotte Bankruptcy Attorneys, Collum & Perry http://www.collumperry.com/firm-news/notice-of-rights-to-claim-exemptions Numbers and New Bankruptcy Laws Los Angeles Bankruptcy Attorney, Mark J. Markus http://www.bklaw.com/bankruptcy-blog/2012/03/numbers-and-new-bankruptcy-laws/ Non-Attorney Bankruptcy Livonia Michigan Bankruptcy Attorney, Peter Behrmann http://www.livoniamichiganbankruptcy.com/n-is-for-non-attorney-bankruptcy-livonia-michigan/

The “F” in Bankruptcy Alphabet is for “Failure” (and “Fresh Starts” in Bankruptcy)

F 2724770810_f84d80d958_t[1] is for Failure and “Fresh Starts” in Bankruptcy {Perhaps also for “Favorite”  because of all the articles I have written, this is my favorite”}

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

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

Many people in our culture still believe unfortunately that it is a mortal “sin” to declare bankruptcy; akin to a financial death sentence, to admitting failure as a human being and as a member of the larger economic enterprise. But in fact bankruptcy has been “built into” the US capitalist system since its beginnings with the Bill of Rights because it is essential to the very success of that model, which is in turn based on encouraging individual risk taking.

Being a success is a basic assumption of American life. We are taught almost from birth that at all costs we must be winner! But In fact, it is a harsh irony of life that success is built on trial and error and consequently upon failure. Some companies have even adopted corporate cultures which actually encourage failure so that employees will be willing to take risks and innovate.  See Why I Hire People Who Fail.

Our lawmakers from the very founding of our country have been mindful of the necessity to provide this “escape path for risk takers”:

The United States Constitution provides a method whereby individuals, burdened by excessive debt, can obtain a fresh financial start and pursue newly productive lives unimpaired by past financial problems. It is an important alternative for persons mired deep in financial difficulty.

The federal bankruptcy laws were enacted to provide debtors with a fresh start and to establish a ranking and equity among all the creditors who are clamoring for the debtor’s limited resources. Bankruptcy helps people avoid the kind of permanent discouragement that can prevent them from ever reestablishing themselves as hard-working members of society.

Source: Purposes, Benefits and Costs of Bankruptcy Disclosure pursuant to U.S. Code § 527(a)(1) & § 342(b)(1).

Some disagree with this proposition stating based on empirical findings that bankruptcy only helps about 2/3 of all who apply to get a fresh start and that is only because they find a steady income source.  See “The Failure of Bankruptcy’s Fresh Start”.  But for me, this only proves the point for i.) 2/3 is a pretty high rate of economic “resussitation”, ii) a study design like this just looks at a single point in time, it does not do follow ups to see what percentage ultimately do see improvement in their financial condition and iii.) how do you get people to pull themselves out of the economic mire (see quote above) unless society provides a safety net which is after all what bankruptcy really is? Not everyone will try and of those who do not all will make it but then there are no guarantees in life (or the law).

In my practice I represent many hard working small business people (from screenplay writers to truck stop owners) who are heavily engaged in the capitalist system. And what is capitalism at its core but the willingness of people to take chances in hopes of making money?  Someone–a small business venture–comes up with an idea for a business, obtains the financing and other myriad necessary resources to get that business up and running, strives to generate sufficient revenues to cover expenses over time, all in the hopes of making a profit from engaging in the business. At any point things may not work out as expected, causing the business to founder and ultimately sink.  Failure lurks in waiting at every corner!

Indeed some historians of note have argued that the American Revolution was in large part fought for debt relief:

The idea that debt is necessary for trade, and is to be forgiven liberally when necessary, is a key driver to the rise of our market economy. Americans fought to provide the same debt relief to everyone because we believe in equality and because bankruptcy protection takes the risk out of risk taking. Our historic willingness as a nation to forgive debt lies behind a good part of our prosperity. One good example is John Pintard, a state legislator and stockbroker, who was one of those who fell for William Duer’s financial scheme, which helped trigger the Panic of 1792, the nation’s first stock-market crash. Pintard ultimately landed in debtors’ prison in Newark. He got out of jail in 1798, and he filed for bankruptcy in New York in 1800. Among his many other post bankruptcy accomplismments, Pintard  founded the New-York Historical Society in 1804, and was a founder of the New York Bank for Savings in 1819.

In 1841, Congress passed a sweeping federal bankruptcy law that offered bankruptcy to everyone. Meanwhile, in 1831, the New York State Legislature abolished imprisonment for debt. Other states soon followed. Debtors’ prison was abolished, and bankruptcy law was liberalized, because Americans came to see that most people who fall into debt are victims of the economic cycle or misfortune like Pintard, and not of sloth, greed, or other negative personal attributes.

What would happen if there were no bankruptcy laws, no bankruptcy courts and no chance for people to obtain a fresh start?  Would people be as eager to innovate, to take chances and to possibly fail with no safety net to catch them? It is a fundamental premise of the capitalist system that they would not. That is why people who cannot pay their debts should not feel that they are ethically “challenged”, especially in this difficult economy, if they find they must seek the protection from their creditors for which our bankruptcy laws so prudently provide. For, failure is only the first step on the way to a fresh start!

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, 2011, 2012, All Rights Reserved.

More attorneys playing the bankruptcy alphabet game at letter F (HEY GUYS WE ARE 25% OF THE WAY TO Z!!!):

Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska Bankruptcy Attorney, Ryan D. Caldwell: F is for Family Farmer/Fisherman.

New York Bankruptcy Lawyer, Jay S. Fleischman: F is for Future Flow Agreement .

Northern California Bankruptcy Lawyer, Cathy Moran: F is for First .

Kauai Bankruptcy Attorney, Stuart Ing: F is for Foreclosure

Jacksonville, Florida Bankruptcy Attorney, J. Dinkins G. Grange: F is for Forms .

Colorado Springs Bankruptcy Attorney Bob Doig: F is for Foreclosure .

Los Angeles Bankruptcy Attorney, Mark J. Markus: F is for Forgiveness of Debt .