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Three Things To Do Before You File For Bankruptcy

When tough times hit financially it can be hard to know where to turn, or what solution to try. There are all kinds of ways to get in debt, but getting out of debt does not seem to be as easy. You can try different approaches to managing your debt, like refinancing your house or taking out a credit card consolidation loan, but sometimes the best answer is to file for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is a way to get rid of or at least greatly reduce your debt load, and it provides an instant lift from financial and collections pressures.

There are two types of bankruptcy chapters, and you will need to lay out your finances to a legal professional to find out what type of case you qualify to file. But before you do that, here are three things to do before you file a case:

• Gather all of your debt information and add up what you owe. It can be surprising to see your total debt figure on paper, but once you have the amount in front of you the decision to file will make more sense.
• Look at areas of your budget where you can cut back, because it is possible you may have to change your spending habits after your bankruptcy case ends. Being prepared for this change now will make the transition smoother.
• Decide what pieces of personal property you need to keep. Nearly everyone needs to keep their car, and you are allowed to do this during a bankruptcy provided you keep making the payments. But there may be other things you can live without, like a motorcycle or boat, and eliminating these expenses will help make your budget more manageable.

Having a good handle on what your finances look like before you file bankruptcy, and how they will look after is the first step to having a successful case. When you can see that the change in monthly expenses is a decrease in what you spend each month, saving money for an emergency becomes a possibility rather than a dream. If you are not able to pay all of your bills, if you have been hit with an unexpected expense that you can’t pay, or if your income has gone down drastically, call us for help. We will let you know if bankruptcy is right for you, and what you can expect from filing a case.

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

Is The Paperwork Different For A Chapter 7 Versus A Chapter 13?

There are two types of consumer bankruptcy cases; a Chapter 7 and a Chapter 13. A Chapter 7 is a total liquidation of all of your debts, expect the ones for things you want to keep. Most people need to hang on to at least their home and their car, even in bankruptcy, and so these loans still have to be paid. On the other hand, a Chapter 13 is a reorganization of debts, where you pay back less than the full balance for some things and the full balance for others. What you decide to pay in full is partially up to you, as you do have the ability to pay less for certain types of collateral than others in a Chapter 13. Again, it may hinge on your decision of what to keep and what to give back to the lender and we can help you come up with a plan that meets your needs.

In order to file either type of case though you will have to fill out certain forms and file things with the bankruptcy Court. Here is what you can expect to need, for both types of cases:

• Pay stubs for the past six months.
• Bank statements, including checking and savings accounts, for the past six months.
• Any investment statements, showing what assets you have saved or invested. These types of statements usually come out quarterly, and you should have the last two quarters’ worth of statements.
• Car titles and mortgages/deeds to any real property you own.
• If you own any boats or other recreational vehicles (like an ATV or motorcycle), you will need to provide copies of the title to those as well.
• A list of all creditors, with account numbers and balances due as well as an address for payment.

Once you have gathered all of this data, it is time to sit down with a professional and find out what chapter of bankruptcy you qualify to file. We will look over the documents you provide and perform a mathematical test required by the Court to determine if you are eligible to file a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 case. Once a determination as to what chapter of case you can file is made, we will explain the entire process so you can make an informed decision. If you are having difficulty making ends meet, call us today for help.

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

What Can I Do If My Chapter 13 Plan Payments Are Too High?

Most people who file bankruptcy don’t have a lot of extra money each month. For this reason a Chapter 7 case is usually preferred, because a Chapter 7 will get rid of all of your unsecured debt while a Chapter 13 will require repayment of at least a portion of unsecured balances. The amount of unsecured debt you have to pay back in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy depends on the amount of income you have as it compares to the amount of secured debts you are paying each month. But a safe rule of thumb for the most distressed borrower is that unsecured debt is paid back at pennies on the dollar in a Chapter 13 case. When you add this amount to the secured debts you are paying over the life of your Chapter 13 Plan, which can last up to five years, a total monthly payment is calculated and paid to the Chapter 13 Trustee.

But what can you do if the Chapter 13 Plan payment is too high, and you are still struggling to make the payment? Bankruptcy is supposed to help a struggling consumer get out of debt, not make it more difficult to make ends meet. So here are your options if your Chapter 13 Plan payment is calculated at an amount you cannot afford:

• Surrender a piece of secured collateral. Maybe your family can get by with one car instead of two for a while, and when you agree to give one vehicle back to the lender you no longer have to pay for it through your Chapter 13. Surrendering collateral will remove the need for repayment and lower your overall plan payment.
• Ask the Court to modify your plan, to terms that fit within your budget.
• Seek conversion of your case from a Chapter 13 to a Chapter 7, so the unsecured debts are not part of your repayment total and you only have to pay back what you actually keep.

These choices can work, but do depend on the particular facts of your case. Not every case will qualify for a modification or conversion, and we can tell you what will work for you. Your success and financial recovery is our priority, so call today to find out more.

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

What Happens After My Chapter 13 Plan Gets Confirmed?

A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is like a reorganization of your debts. In a Chapter 13 you put together a repayment plan, and the Court approves the terms. Once the Court approves the terms of your plan, you will be required to abide by those terms and make the payments you proposed. This is done by making a payment each month to the Chapter 13 Trustee assigned to your case, and the Trustee then pays your lenders whatever portion of the payment they are entitled to receive pursuant to the terms of your Plan. It sounds simple enough, but there are some things to watch out for so you are able to successfully complete all of the payments required under the Plan.

Here is what you can expect to happen after your Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan gets confirmed:

• The Trustee will expect your payment by a certain date each month. This is so your lenders can get paid as they expect. If you do not make the payment, the Trustee or creditors (or both) might ask the Court to dismiss your case.
• Things that are not included in your plan, such as daily living expenses like car insurance and your cell phone bill, will still have to be paid by you directly to the creditor.
• If all of your payments are made on time, your case will end as scheduled.

Once your plan payments are complete, you will get a discharge of debt. The discharge is the official entry in your case that the debts you included in your plan are no longer due. This applies to credit cards, medical bills, your car payment and any other bill you provided for repayment of over the life of your plan. If you had some debts that were not able to be paid off over the course of your bankruptcy case (most typically a house payment), you will be required to continue making the payments on that debt directly to the lender. Bankruptcy is a beneficial tool for helping you get your debts in line, but there are a lot of rules to follow if you want to have a successful case. Let us help you decide what is right for you, so you are certain to get out of debt without adding to your stress load.

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

ARTICLE: 4 of 10 DATE: September 15, 2017

Is There Such A Thing As Debtors’ Prison?

Being unable to pay all of your bills is scary. If this is your situation you are probably all too familiar with collection tactics such as calls at all hours of the day, letters demanding payment in full, and threats of collection lawsuits. Once you begin experiencing any of these things, it can be hard to concentrate and come up with a plan to get out of debt because your time is consumed with fending off lenders or collection agencies. And to make it worse, some lenders or collectors go a step too far and make threats they cannot back up legally.

One such threat is the threat that you will go to jail if you do not pay your debts. Generally speaking there is no such thing as “debtor’s prison”, but you do need to take any collection activity against you seriously. Here are some of the possible consequences if you fail to take heed of collector’s efforts to contact you for repayment:

• Repossession of your car.
• Foreclosure on your home.
• Collection lawsuits for credit cards, medical bills, and other unsecured debts.

If you are sued, you have to answer the lawsuit. Failure to answer will result in a judgment being entered against you, and then the creditor will try to collect what is due. Collection remedies can include garnishment and asset hearings. A garnishment is where the judgment creditor gets court approval to have your employer hold out part of your paycheck, and pay it to them directly. This means you bring home less money, and that can add to your money problems. An asset hearing is the creditor’s way of finding out what assets you have and this can include learning where you work or bank so a garnishment can be sent to your employer or financial institution. The thing about these hearings is that if you don’t go, the Judge may find you in contempt of Court and that is the one time a bench warrant for your arrest is a possibility. So while no true “debtor’s prison” exists, there are ways for a lender to resort to this remedy in certain circumstances. Before you let things get this far though, call us for help. Maybe bankruptcy is the answer for you, or perhaps we can negotiate more favorable payment terms with your lenders and stop a lawsuit in its tracks.

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.

How Does Bankruptcy Affect Credit?

If you are having a hard time paying the bills and are behind on certain things, chances are your credit score has taken a hit. Your credit score is what lenders rely upon when making loans, and a higher score usually results in being offered more favorable lending terms. The most important of these terms is typically the interest rate, and people with credit that is considered good usually get loans at lower rates. This translates into a lower monthly payment, which can save the borrower hundreds or thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. For these reasons, it is important to pay your bills on time and keep your budget manageable. However, we understand this is not always possible and can help you if you are struggling financially.

A good way to take control of your finances and get back on track with the payments that matter the most is to file for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy gives you the ability to either eliminate or seriously reduce most of your debts. But there is an impact on your credit score when you file a case. Here are some things to know about how bankruptcy can affect your credit:

• Your credit will reflect that you have filed a case.
• Once your case is over, your credit will show that you have successfully completed bankruptcy and that certain debts are no longer due.
• The number of points your credit score goes down due to filing bankruptcy is specific to you, not everyone has the same experience and your prior credit history also plays a role.

In most cases the impact on credit is not terrible, and in all likelihood you will be able to get a new loan or an extension of credit not long after your case is finished. We only recommend doing this though if you are capable of making the payments on a new loan, because anything you borrow after your bankruptcy case is over will be due. Debts taken out after bankruptcy are not subject to the bankruptcy discharge, and lenders will expect payment. If you are unable to make the payments, the creditor has all of the same remedies available to them just as if you had not filed bankruptcy. If you have more questions or need to know whether bankruptcy is the right choice for you, call our office today. We can let you know what to expect, and prepare you for what lies ahead.

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.

Five Signs You Need Bankruptcy Relief

If you are in financial trouble you need to know there are things you can do to ease the burden. You can refinance your home, take out the equity in your house to pay off high rate credit cards, consolidate debt to a lower overall monthly payment, or file for bankruptcy. The option you pick needs to give you immediate and long term relief, so you can not only get out of debt but stay out of debt. Achieving this goal takes some planning, and it also requires you to notice the signs along the way that will help you determine what type of relief is best for your situation.

Five signs bankruptcy is the type of relief you need include:

• You are consistently behind on one or more of your monthly obligations.
• You have been sued for a past due debt, had your car repossessed, or have received notice that your house is going into foreclosure.
• You have to borrow money to pay monthly bills.
• Everyday purchases, such as gas and groceries, are made with a credit card rather than with cash or on a debit card transaction.
• You cannot pay off your credit card balances monthly, or even in a few months’ time or your credit cards have all reached their maximum credit limit.

If one or more of these apply to you, it might be time to file for bankruptcy. If you ignore the signs you will only end up in more financial distress, and could even lose some of your assets if you do not act fast. Filing bankruptcy allows you to eliminate debt, or at least pay back only a portion of the full balances due. When you do this, you free up your income to put towards the things you absolutely have to have to live, like your house or car payment. In many instances those that file for bankruptcy are also able to put aside some money for savings or an emergency fund, and can thus avoid the need to refile a bankruptcy case down the road. Let us help you get back on your financial feet, call today to talk to us about whether bankruptcy is right for you.

For help with your questions about finances and how to get out of debt, contact us at www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We will help by coming up with solutions that help get you back on your feet.

What Age Group Files For Bankruptcy The Most Often?

There’s nothing we like more than a good list, or categorization of certain things. It makes it easier to keep track of things when they are grouped with similar things, and having a list is always handy. And if you have a paper or research project to do, you are likely to find articles and other bits of information on the topics you are researching together in one spot. Statisticians live by grouping things together, and this type of compilation of data is helpful when you are looking for a snapshot of a certain issue.
One grouping that is in the news nearly every day is of people, and in particular, millennials. It seems like every time you sign on to social media or read the news there is a story about the work ethic of millennials, or how the millennials are living at home longer than other age groups (such as the baby boomers or Gen X). With all of these stories out there it might be easy to jump to the conclusion that millennials are the biggest group of people who file for bankruptcy, because the misconception is that millennials don’t work hard and are just out for a free ride.

But the real stats on who files bankruptcy the most might surprise you. In fact, you might be surprised to learn the category of bankruptcy filing on the fastest rise is retailers. Here are some reasons why:

• Consumers have a lot more options than just the mall in today’s marketplace. Many buyers are turning to online boutiques for apparel purchases, and even grocery stores and big chains now offer online shopping assistance with curbside pick-up.
• Filing bankruptcy does not necessarily mean these companies will go out of business, as most have filed for reorganization. So for a while at least it will probably be business as usual at your favorite store, but the economic climate is such that we should all expect a few more companies to take bankruptcy before the end of the year.
• As salaries cap out or stagnate, people are holding on to their money rather than making large purchases. This hurts the bottom line for retail stores, and can cause the need for a retail establishment to seek bankruptcy.

There is no one definition of who files for bankruptcy, and it is available for companies and consumers alike. If you are having a hard time paying the bills, you are not alone. Call us to find out how bankruptcy can help you.

For answers to your questions about debt, contact us at www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com.

Can I Buy A New Car If I File For Bankruptcy?

Houses and cars are the two biggest purchases most of us make during our lifetimes. A lot of research goes into making either of these purchases, and both can be life changing. When you buy a new home you are making the decision to plant roots, and maybe raise a family in one spot. When you look at new cars, you have to decide which one will be just right for you as far as size and safety. Safety is usually an overriding factor for car shoppers, especially if your current car is older and does not have the newest safety features. But if you are struggling financially, a new car may be out of the reach of your budget. And if your cash flow is negative, your focus may be on getting out of debt so you can afford a newer car or be better able to pay your bills. One way to get out of debt and back on track with your money is to file for bankruptcy. If so, you may be wondering what options you have for making a house or car purchase if you file a bankruptcy case.

While you are not prohibited from buying a new car if you file for bankruptcy, you should consider these things:

• If you file a Chapter 13 case and that case is not yet complete, you will have to ask the Court for approval to incur new debt. To obtain this permission you will need to show you can afford the payments, and that you have a need for incurring the debt other than just the desire for a new set of wheels.
• Regardless of whether you file a Chapter 13 or a Chapter 7, you need to be prepared to pay a higher interest rate for any new auto loan.
• Any loan you take out to buy a new car will not be subject to the bankruptcy discharge. This means that even after your case is over, you will still owe the debt. If you are not able to make the payments, the lender can repossess the vehicle and can also sue you for the balance due.

Taking on additional debt during or after a bankruptcy is only a good idea if you have exhausted all of your other options, and also only if you are sure you can repay the debt. Bankruptcy is designed to get the honest, but unfortunate debtor out of debt and give them a fresh start. A fresh start may not always include a new car, a new house, or taking out a new credit card. Each case is different, so you should only take on new obligations after careful thought and consideration. Call us today to find out more.

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

How To Keep My Future Income Safe If I File Bankruptcy

When it comes to issues of safety, the top of the list usually starts out with car and home safety. For instance, when new parents take a newborn home from the hospital they do so by buckling the infant safely in a car seat. Another good example of how we all like to keep safe is seen by looking at how many of us have home security systems. Many private residences have an in home monitoring system, designed to alert the homeowners to a break-in. These examples make perfect sense, and instantly come to mind during a discussion on safety. But it is also important to keep your money safe. You might be thinking this means maintaining accounts in insured banking institutions, but there is more to financial safety than where you bank.

In addition to keeping the money you have today safe by picking a secure financial institution, you also need to think about how to keep your future income stream safe. This might mean making wise investments, but should also include learning how to hang on to your money if you become financially distressed tomorrow. Here are some ideas on how you can keep your future income safe if you file bankruptcy to relieve financial distress:

• Discuss your bankruptcy exemption options with your attorney before you file. You are allowed to exempt certain items from bankruptcy, and this might include an inheritance or the proceeds from a pending lawsuit. But there are restrictions and you need to have a good understanding of these things before you file a bankruptcy case.
• If you are filing a Chapter 13, your future income will be used to make the Chapter 13 Plan payments. In order to safeguard your income so you can make the payments, you need to report your salary accurately. This will give you the chance to continue earning a wage, and keeping a part of that income for yourself after your Plan payments are made.
• Assets you own that are easily converted to cash, or an income stream such as a rental property, have to be properly disclosed when you file a bankruptcy case. If you fail to do so, you risk losing not only the asset but also the future income that accompanies that asset.

Talk to a qualified bankruptcy attorney today to find out how filing a case can impact your future income. We focus on helping people get out of debt, by filing bankruptcy or some other debt management plan, and can help you too.

If you are considering filing bankruptcy to help eliminate debt, or want information on other options, contact us at www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com.