Category : Bankruptcy

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I Just Ordered From Amazon, Can I Keep My Stuff If I File Bankruptcy?

Online ordering is a convenient way to buy many of the things you need, from groceries to dog food, to replacement light bulbs and even new clothes or shoes. More and more retailers are now offering online shopping services, and many consumers take to sites like EBay, Amazon, or a favorite specialty store on a daily basis. When orders are placed, the site requests payment upon check out and then prepares and ships the ordered items. But what do you do if you place an order and before your items arrive (or shortly thereafter), you file a bankruptcy case? You may have heard that when you file for the protection of bankruptcy you are not allowed to keep all of your things, and that in some cases there are items of property that have to be returned. This begs the question, do you have to give back things you ordered from Amazon?

If you file bankruptcy shortly after placing an order on Amazon or a similar site, you will usually not have to return the items once received. But here are some words of caution if this factor is present in your case:

• If you used an Amazon card to pay for the purchase, you will not be able to continue to use that card for future purchases.
• If you used a debit card to pay for the order, you should make sure that you do not have it set up as a recurring order that draws from your banking account on a regular basis.
• If you paid for your order with a credit card, you will not be allowed to use that credit card for future orders placed. The best thing to do would be to gather the credit cards you have used, and destroy them so you do not make a mistake and try to make a purchase with a credit card you have included in your bankruptcy.

There might be times where you buy something too close to filing, and the creditor claims you made the purchase with the intent to never pay the debt for the property. This is rare, but does happen in some bankruptcy cases. If one of your creditors decides to challenge your intentions when ordering online and using their card to pay, you will be required to explain your order. This might sound scary, but is something we are equipped to handle for you. When we file bankruptcy for you, we handle every aspect of your case, and provide you the advice you need along the way.

For more information about bankruptcy, contact us at www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We will help by coming up with solutions that work for you.

How Do I Find Out The Status Of My Bankruptcy Case?

When you are having financial difficulties and have taken steps to get back on track, you will want to know the status of that action. Once you give the necessary documents to your attorney to prepare a bankruptcy filing, you can expect to hear back from your attorney within a relatively short time that your case is ready for your review. As soon as everything is in order, your case will be electronically filed. From there you will receive notice of when you need to appear in Court, but after your initial Court appearance you may feel like your case has gone silent.

The truth is that if you have all of your documents in order, you should not need to go to Court more than once or twice. But that does not mean your bankruptcy attorney is not working hard on your case, or that the Court is not busy reviewing the matter. After you go to your initial hearing, your attorney is receiving frequent electronic updates about what action is going on in your case. Some examples include:

• Trustee review of your schedules and papers.
• Creditor action, such as asking the Court to remove the protection you receive from the automatic stay.
• Entry of orders and findings by the Trustee, pertaining to your assets and whether your case should receive entry of an order of discharge.
• Notice that your case is complete, and closed.

Along the way, your attorney will notify you of any significant need in your case, and let you know if you are required to appear in Court or provide additional documents to the Trustee. If you are not hearing any type of status update and are concerned about the status of your bankruptcy case, your attorney will be able to provide you with this information. We understand how reassuring it is to know what is going on, what to expect, and how long it might be before your case is final; so we keep you updated at every stage and make sure to provide you answers to all of your questions. If you are struggling with money, let us help.

For more information about how to manage debt, contact us at www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We will help by coming up with solutions that work for you.

Will A Lower Tax Rate Help Me Avoid Bankruptcy?

There are a lot of things in life that can get in the way of saving, paying bills on time, and having enough money left over for extras. But one of the more controversial of these things is the requirement to pay taxes. We all work hard for our money, and when Uncle Sam comes along and takes a huge bite out of your paycheck it can be hard to make ends meet. When your take home pay is not enough to cover all of your expenses, you might consider what options you have to get back on track. One option is to file for bankruptcy, which will either eliminate or reduce your debts significantly. When you have less debt, your take home pay suddenly goes farther. But what if your take home pay were more to begin with, would that help you stay on top of things?

A lower tax rate may mean you have more in your bank account after each paycheck is deposited, but it might not necessarily solve all of your financial needs. Here are some things to keep in mind when you are thinking about how to lower your tax rate to help avoid filing for bankruptcy:

• A lower rate may only have a lasting impact at tax filing time, and may not be realized on your weekly paycheck. That means your take home is still not enough, and bankruptcy could be your answer.
• A lower tax rate might not take into account other factors regarding your tax filing status, and thus have little affect on your overall financial condition.
• Paying less in taxes could mean you pay more for other necessities. If your money is increased by paying less in taxes, but increased in other areas you will still have difficulty paying all of your bills.

Of course lower taxes are appealing to all of us, but any proposal to change the tax brackets should be looked at in conjunction with your entire financial situation. And while paying lower taxes can help you in the short term, if you have more debt than is manageable the impact of lower taxes may not be lasting.

For more information about how to handle overwhelming debt, contact us at www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We will help by coming up with solutions that work for you.

Can A Mortgage Modification Prevent Me From Filing Bankruptcy?

Mortgage loan modifications gained a lot of popularity during the last Presidential administration, because there was a record number of foreclosures in the country and America was facing a major housing crisis. Part of the problem was that homeowners from coast to coast owed more than what their home was worth, because lenders had made mortgage loans with very little documentation and paid little attention to the value of the home vs the amount being loaned. So when a homeowner needed to get out of the note, they were not able to do so because they could not sell the house for what was owed. In order to keep people in their homes, the government came up with a few programs whereby mortgage lenders had the ability to rewrite their own mortgage loan note. This process is called mortgage modification, and it has saved thousands of homeowners from being forced out of their home.

There are other benefits to mortgage loan modifications and one of them could be the ability to prevent a bankruptcy filing. Bankruptcy might be avoided if you modify your mortgage; because once your mortgage payments are lower you have more money to pay your other bills. But getting a modification can be tricky, and you should partner with an experienced bankruptcy and debt management attorney when making your request. If you are turned down for a modification, or the modification does not give you the relief you need, bankruptcy is still available to you. Here are some ways these two debt management methods can help you:

• Bankruptcy can eliminate or reduce your debts, freeing up your disposable income so that you can pay the bills that matter the most.
• Mortgage loan modifications can reduce your interest rate, thereby reducing the amount of your mortgage payment. When your mortgage payment is less, you save money and can start an emergency fund or pay your utility bill without struggling.

We know how to help with both of these types of financial relief. Bankruptcy requires computation of a complex mathematical formula to determine which type of case you qualify to file, and a mortgage loan modification requires filling out an application and providing documentation regarding your income. We know how to apply the bankruptcy laws to your situation, and also know how to hold a lender’s feet to the fire when you are asking for your mortgage loan to be modified.

For help with your questions about bankruptcy or mortgage loan modifications, contact us at www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We will help by coming up with solutions that help get you back on your feet.

How Are Unexpired Contracts Treated In Bankruptcy?

Nearly everything you agree to in your adult life requires you to sign a contract. When you buy a house, or a car, you are asked to sign a contract. The terminology may differ, as most home loans are referred to as mortgages and car loans can be called notes, but the end result is the same. A contract is a legally binding agreement whereby the parties to the agreement agree to certain terms. When purchases are the subject of a contract, the agreement consists of making payments until the purchase price has been fully paid. But there are other types of agreements that are also reduced to a writing, such as an apartment lease or an agreement for an extended warranty on your car. These types of agreements are typically month to month, or have an expiration date after a certain time. So if you need to file bankruptcy, but still owe under one of these types of agreements, you need to know how the terms are handled in your case.

An unexpired contract can be given special treatment if you file for bankruptcy. Here is a breakdown of your two main options for treatment of an unexpired contract:

• You may decide to assume the lease/unexpired contract and by doing so you agree to continue the payments as provided for in the original agreement. So if you bought an extended warranty on your car and agree to pay a certain amount for that protection, over several months, you will still have to pay that amount in order to keep the warranty.
• You can decide to reject the unexpired contract, and relive yourself of the obligation to make the remaining payments. If you decide to go this route, the lender may object to your decision. If that happens you will need to be prepared to present legal argument in your favor and obtain Court approval of your rejection of the unexpired contract.

In order to determine which option is best for you, let us help. We can take a look at your agreements and give you advice on what will work best for your case and also for your future finances.

For answers to your questions about debt and what you need to do about certain contracts, contact us at www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com.

Can A Celebrity File Bankruptcy And Keep Most Of Their Fame And Fortune?

A typical idea of what makes up “fame and fortune” requires us to look at the world of celebrities, sports figures, and pop stars. As favorite celebrities’ stars start to rise, so does their wealth and accumulation of things. Most superstars make super paydays and use those funds to buy houses across the country and outside of the states, as well as make luxury car and jewelry purchases. This is not to say that the super-rich don’t also give to charity and lend a helping hand, but the fact of the matter is that a celebrity has a lot more property than the average person. But even stars can be hit with tough times financially, and when that happens certain choices have to be made. If a celebrity files for bankruptcy, you might be wondering if they will be able to hang on to most of their assets, and if so, how?

Once the decision to file bankruptcy has been made, you have to decide what things you need in order to maintain a basic standard of living. For most of us, this means a house and a car. But for a celebrity, it might mean things like personal chefs and trainers as well as houses and cars. So how does it all work? How can you keep luxury items if you file for bankruptcy? Here are a few things to know:

• If you agree to keep making the payments for an item, you are generally allowed to keep that piece of property.
• An agreement to keep a piece of collateral is called a reaffirmation agreement, and the Court does have the ability to inquire into your ability to make the payments you’ve agreed to within a reaffirmation agreement. This analysis requires evidence of your income and other debts, so a determination can be made as to whether continued payments are a financial hardship on you.
• When you are able to eliminate or reduce other debt, you free up money to put towards repayment of reaffirmed debts.

Each bankruptcy case is unique, because each person that files has a unique financial situation. The rules are designed to take your personal financial condition into account, so what you are able to keep depends on your specific situation. In the case of a celebrity who files for bankruptcy, their case is determined the same way; based off of their personal finances.

For more information about bankruptcy, contact us today at www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We will go over the facts of your case and let you you’re your next step.

Can I Reaffirm A Credit Card Debt?

When you file for bankruptcy you have to decide what things you want to keep, and which things you will return to the lender. It is a common misconception that people are allowed to keep things and not pay for them, just by filing for bankruptcy. The truth is that if you file a case you do have to pay for what you keep, so difficult choices do have to be made. Most people decide to keep their house and their cars. In so doing, an agreement to continue making payments for these items is made. The agreement is usually reduced to a writing, signed by the debtor, and filed into the case. The writing is called a reaffirmation agreement, because the debtor has agreed to reaffirm the debt. Reaffirming a debt means you are agreeing to keep paying for it, even though you don’t have to do so by virtue of having filed bankruptcy. The benefit to reaffirming a debt, as stated, is that you get to keep the collateral. But before you run out and decide to reaffirm certain debts just so you can keep your property, you also need to know some of the down side to signing a reaffirmation agreement.

It is common to reaffirm a secured debt, like a car or house, because these loans are secured by property we use on a daily basis. A reaffirmation agreement in these instances is a good idea because you get to keep living in your house and driving your car. Your lender will also be allowed to talk to you during, or even after the bankruptcy case is over, because a reaffirmed debt is not one that gets discharged and considered no longer due after your bankruptcy case is over. But what about other types of debt, like a credit card? Some of us may think keeping a credit card on hand for an emergency is a good idea, and if reaffirming is the way to keep in your lender’s good graces then reaffirming a credit card might sound smart to you. While you can reaffirm a credit card, here are some reasons it is not advisable:

• The rate may be high, which will mean you are still paying bills you can’t afford to pay.
• Many lenders will reach out to you and make credit card offers not long after your case, so if you feel strongly about the need to have a credit card you can probably get one soon after your case is over.
• Your card may be approaching its limit, so hanging on to it probably won’t provide you the security blanket you are envisioning.

Our advice is to look at your budget, and your needs. Reaffirm only what you need, and then take a look at your budget again after you have eliminated some of your debt. Rather than act fast during your case, give it some time and see how your financial picture looks after your case is over.

If you are considering filing bankruptcy to help eliminate debt, contact us at www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com.

Four Reasons Not To Represent Yourself In Bankruptcy Court

Saving money and cutting back on expenses is something we could all do a little more frequently, but you have to make sure that the areas you cut back in don’t cause more harm than good. For instance, it is probably a good idea to take your lunch to work more often rather than eating out daily because you can save money and also make healthier choices. The same could be said for your morning cup of joe, where brewing at home or electing to pour a cup from the office kitchen can cut down on the expense of going to Starbucks or some other specialty coffee shop. There are plenty of other ways you can cut out certain expenses when you need to, but it is rare to have one of those areas be something related to a professional service. Even though you can look up symptoms online and in some cases find an over the counter medication that helps, you would not take that same tactic if you needed your appendix removed. Most of us opt to see a doctor for serious health issues, and should do the same when a legal issue arises that needs our attention.

Four reasons not to represent yourself in bankruptcy court include:

• There are certain rules that have to be followed, and if you don’t know them your case might be dismissed.
• Bankruptcy Court requires filings to be done electronically and while you may be successful in getting that requirement waived you need to know how to ask for that waiver and what evidence is needed in support of your request. If denied, you will have to abide by the electronic filing rules, which can be hard to understand if you have not done this before.
• A misstep could lead to missing a court date, and that can lead to a dismissal of your case. Many of the deadlines you need to follow will be pursuant to the federal rules or a local rule, and these are not always the same.
• Attorneys who regularly practice bankruptcy law are known to each other, and this can be helpful if you need a continuance or are planning a strategy. When you know your opponent and how he or she typically reacts to certain requests, you stand a better chance of having your case run smoothly.

If you are going to go through the effort to gather the financial data and documents needed to file bankruptcy, so you can get some financial relief, why risk it by doing it alone? The better approach is to allow a trained professional take on these burdens for you, so you can rest easy knowing there won’t be any surprises and that you will ultimately reach your goal of being debt free!

For more information about bankruptcy, contact us at www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com.

Did Trump Report Bankruptcy On His Taxes?

One of the biggest issues of the most recent Presidential election was the release of Donald Trump’s tax returns. Not that long ago some of that data was released, and the debate on whether it was done voluntarily or was leaked continues. Another point of contention surrounding President Trump’s tax returns is the information contained in those returns. By and large most Americans are still not satisfied with what has been made public, and more questions than answers remain. Among the things most of you are wondering are how much he made, how much he paid, and what types of “breaks” he got when he filed. Another hot topic about the returns are whether filing for bankruptcy played a role in the final figures.

So what’s the real story? What exactly do the Trump tax returns show, and is there any notation of the bankruptcy he referred to in one of the debates as being something that made him “smart”? Here is some general information about President Trump’s tax returns, so you can decide for yourself if you are satisfied with what has been reported:

• In 2005 the President made around $150 million.
• Of that amount, the taxes paid adds up to about $38 million. This is an effective tax rate of right around 25%.
• The rate of taxes paid was largely due to the alternative minimum tax, which is a tax provision the President has stated he’ll change.
• Whether any bankruptcy or other debt relief was utilized is not something that the two page return which has been “released” shows.

We all know the tax rules and regulations are complex, and that in order to get a return done right it usually takes the help of a trained tax professional. Whether things like depreciating assets or filing for bankruptcy have any impact on your tax liability is something best left to a professional. This might include an accountant, but should certainly include a knowledgeable bankruptcy and debt management attorney. In most cases a bankruptcy will not play a large role in your tax return, but should still be an issue that is raised with your attorney when you are deciding whether to file a case. The most common tax issue faced by the average bankruptcy filer is whether they will get to hang on to any refund they receive. We can help you figure that out, and also answer any other questions you have about how bankruptcy can help you.

For more information about bankruptcy, contact us at www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We will help by coming up with solutions that work for you.

Why Do Celebrities File Bankruptcy?

Most of us tend to think that the only people who have money problems are those of us with lower paying jobs. But the truth is people from all walks of life experience financial pitfalls, and need help getting back on track from time to time. It might be that you have just gone through a divorce, and it took not only an emotional toll but also left you financially bereft. If that is the case, then filing for bankruptcy can help sort out your bills and make repayment more manageable. When you do that, you can also alleviate some of the emotional baggage you may be carrying around from having to have ended a marriage. Or, your case may involve an unexpected medical crisis, which leads to a large hospital or doctor bill balance. That type of event is not uncommon, and can happen to anyone. So you see, all sorts of things happen to all sorts of people, and the need to file bankruptcy can arise at any time. In fact, the need to file for bankruptcy relief is even something that some celebrities have dealt with in their past.

A quick list of celebrities and other famous people who have filed for bankruptcy include:

• 1980’s pop singer Cyndi Lauper.
• 90’s rap star MC Hammer.
• Boxing champ Mike Tyson.
• Movie director Francis Ford Coppola.
• Actress Kim Baysinger.
• Former major league pitcher Curt Schilling.

The reasons for these filings are likely just as varied as why you need to file vs. why your next-door neighbor may need to file a case. Mismanagement of money, and at a young age, is a leading cause of bankruptcy and might have attributed to some of these celebrity filings. Or a bad investment might be the reason a star had to file bankruptcy or maybe even something as ordinary as a divorce or child custody battle played a role. The bottom line is we don’t know why someone else needed to file a bankruptcy case, but certainly know our own needs. If you are not able to make ends meet, or are struggling to do so and just barely keeping your head above water, it is probably time to think about filing.

For more information about Chapter 7 and Chapter13 bankruptcy cases, and to find out what you can keep and what you have to give back if you file a case, contact us at www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com.