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A List Of Things You Can Keep If You File Bankruptcy

When people think about bankruptcy and how filing a case will impact their property, one of two thoughts is likely. The first is that you can file a case and keep all of your stuff without paying, and the second is that if you file for bankruptcy you will not be able to keep anything. These are two extremes, and neither is accurate. If you need to file bankruptcy to eliminate or reduce your debt load, you do have to follow the rules, but that does not mean you will lose everything you have. But, it also does not mean that you will get a free ride and get to keep things without repayment.

Here is an example of some of the things you can keep if you file bankruptcy:

• Your house.
• Your car.
• Your personal belongings.
• Pieces of artwork or antiques.
• Boats and RV’s.
• A motorcycle.
• The furniture in your house, including electronics.

In order to keep these things though, you do have to keep making the payments. If there is no payment due, you will not be required to begin making payments, but for collateral you have financed the lender is entitled to receive either payment or return of the goods. This is most typically done by signing a reaffirmation agreement, which is like a new contract for the item. You will be expected to make payments pursuant to the terms of the reaffirmation agreement and those terms might mirror the original contract repayment terms, or you might be able to negotiate a lower payment. For things like televisions and computers that are not yet paid off, you may or may not be asked to reaffirm those items. Most times this type of collateral is bought on a store credit card, and while technically the store has an interest in the property, the value may be such that the store will not undertake efforts to repossess your laptop, even if you don’t repay the credit card. This can get confusing, but we can help you sort it out so you can decide if bankruptcy is right for you. Also keep in mind that the way debts are treated are not the same in a Chapter 7 as they are in a Chapter 13 case. In a Chapter 7 all debt not reaffirmed is eliminated, but in a Chapter 13 you will have to repay part of your unsecured obligations.

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.

Is My Tax Refund Safe In Bankruptcy?

This time of year a lot of workers’ thoughts turn to whether they will get a tax refund, or have to pay in a bit more to Uncle Sam. For those of you that do get a refund, it can be a real boost to your finances, allowing you to put some money aside for a rainy day or to pay off existing debt. But if your debt load is such that it cannot be eliminated with a tax refund, you might be thinking about filing for bankruptcy. But you may not have stopped to think about whether your tax refund will still be yours if you do file a bankruptcy case. The answer depends on your specific facts, but there is a chance you will not get to keep any tax refund you have coming to you if you file bankruptcy.

The way your tax refund and bankruptcy work together goes something like this:

• When you file a bankruptcy case you will have to appear at a hearing in front of the Trustee assigned to your case shortly after filing. The purpose of this initial meeting is to take your testimony as to what lead to your need to file, and allow any creditors to ask your intentions regarding their debt. This meeting is informal and most people do not find the experience difficult. But one question you should be prepared to answer is whether you’ve filed taxes.
• If you have not yet filed your taxes and the date for doing so has passed, you will be required to finalize your return and get a copy of it to the Court.
• The Trustee will likely advise you to hang on to any return you get, while he or she determines if the return is property of your bankruptcy case and thus should be given to the Trustee to pay some of your debt.
• If you have filed and already received a refund that has been spent, just be prepared to let the Trustee know how the funds were spent. In most cases refunds are used to pay bills, and that is perfectly fine. The key is to be honest and give accurate answers.

If you are having a hard time paying all of your bills, don’t let the tax man stop you from taking charge of your money. Filing bankruptcy and dealing with tax issues is something we can help you with, call us to find out more.

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

Can I Trust My Lender To Modify My Mortgage?

If you are behind on your mortgage payments, or just having a hard time making your house payment each month, you might be a candidate for a mortgage loan modification. The way it works is that your mortgage loan is rewritten, to more favorable terms. The term modified the most often is typically the interest rate, and once your rate is lower so are your payments. There are a lot of ways to go about getting a modification of your mortgage loan, but one of the most popular is to ask your current mortgage lender for help.

A mortgage can be modified by the current holder under certain circumstances, but you do have to follow a few rules to get there. Some of these rules include:

• Filling out an application for a modification, which your current lender can provide to you upon request.
• Providing proof of your income, which can be done by providing the most recent paystubs from your employer, a W2, or a copy of your most recent tax return.
• Attending a new closing, where you will sign a new mortgage. The new mortgage will take the place of your existing mortgage and you will be bound by the repayment terms contained in the new mortgage.

When you initially bought your home you also had to have an appraisal and an inspection done. However, when you are asking the lender to modify the existing mortgage, these requirements do not have to be met. This can save considerable time and expense, and can help you get to a new mortgage payment faster. And if you don’t qualify for a modification, don’t worry, there are other alternatives available to you to make paying for your house easier. One option is to consider filing for bankruptcy. In a bankruptcy you can eliminate or reduce some of your unsecured debt, making it easier to pay your mortgage and even some of your other bills. You might also be allowed to pay the back due mortgage payments out over time rather than all at once, depending on what type of bankruptcy case you file.

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.

What Is A Joint Bankruptcy Filing?

If you are married, you probably have a lot of property that is owned by you and your spouse together. Most loans are made to a couple, meaning each party is just as responsible for repayment as the other. This type of loan structure is usually the result of the need to show the most income possible, and when you have two salaries to go off of the chances of being approved by a lender are greater. The end product is a jointly held obligation, and if you and your spouse get into financial trouble, you will need a resolution that helps you both. Filing for bankruptcy is a good option when you don’t have enough money to pay all of your bills, and you can file a case by yourself or you can file one with your spouse.

A joint bankruptcy filing is one where both spouses file. The benefit to a joint filing is that the lender will no longer be able to collect the debt from either spouse. Other things to consider include:

• Whether a joint filing is best for your circumstances, because there are instances where it is better for only one spouse to file. A good example is if only one spouse signed for most of the debt. If that is the case, then it does not make sense for both spouses to file bankruptcy.
• If both of you are obligated on most of your debts but you think it might be better for only one to file, so the possibility of taking out new debt can be accomplished by the non-filing spouse it is critical to remember that only the spouse who files a case will be relieved of the obligation to pay. So the truth is the debt still has to be paid, and most times those payments come out of family funds. In order to relieve both spouses of the need to pay for jointly acquired debt, both spouses must file a bankruptcy petition.
• The exemptions you plan to claim can come into play when making the decision to file a joint or separate case. This is a tricky part of every case, and is one that is best discussed in detail with a qualified bankruptcy attorney. Claiming the wrong exemptions or claiming them improperly can cause you to lose property, so talk it over carefully with your lawyer.

Most couples do make the decision to file together because most debts are held jointly. When you make this choice, both of you are given a fresh financial start and you can put your family on the path to financial recovery. For more information about bankruptcy and how it can help you and your family, call us today.

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

What Is The CFPB And How Can It Help Me If I Am Being Sued For A Past Due Debt?

Being sued is never fun, and when the lawsuit is an attempt to collect money from you, the stakes are even higher. All too often collection suits are filed without first being properly reviewed by the lender, but consumers are not familiar enough with their legal rights to contest the suit. Fortunately, there are agencies and laws in place to keep the collection agencies and their attorneys in line, and you can also hire an attorney of your own to defend any attempt to collect a debt from you.

The law with the most “force” behind it when it comes to debt collection is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This Act prohibits certain actions by collectors, and has provisions for damages to consumers who have been the target of an unlawful collection practice. There is also a governmental agency charged with making sure the collection laws are followed, and this agency is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). If you believe you have been collected on unlawfully, here is what the CFPB can do for you:

• Provide you with information about lenders, and how to protect yourself from unscrupulous practices.
• Investigate a claim or complaint that a lender has not complied with the law, and take actions to enforce the laws. This is done through the implementation of rules and regulations, for all lenders to follow.

The idea behind the CFPB, which was President Obama’s brainchild, was that the financial marketplace needs to work for everyone. It is hard for a consumer to make a smart financial choice if important data is withheld, or not provided with full transparency. Another need for this type of agency is due to the likelihood that consumers can be taken advantage of by collectors working for large lending institutions. If you are being harassed about a past due debt you can certainly file a complaint with the CFPB, but you should also let our office help you. We can take immediate action on your behalf and hold the lender’s feet to the fire by making them prove their case and by stopping the harassment.

Call us today and let us take on the banks for you! For answers to your questions about debt, contact us at www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com.

Is It Better To File Bankruptcy Or Try To Settle With My Lenders?

Even though the idea that bankruptcy is a last resort is no longer a common thought, many people still prefer to tread water and squeak by financially by paying only the minimum amount due, to avoid going into default. But the truth is that if you are only able to pay the minimum payment, you will be spinning your wheels for years and making no real headway with your budget. The benefit of filing for bankruptcy rather than engaging in this cycle of never getting ahead is that after a bankruptcy case is over, you start fresh and can make different financial choices.

That said, there are still options to fix your finances that fall just short of filing for bankruptcy. One of those options is to pick up the phone and call your lender to offer a settlement of the debt, for less than what is owed. Some creditors are agreeable to doing this, but is it really a better choice than bankruptcy? Here are some things to consider in this regard:

• Not every lender will agree to work with you, but may lull you into believing they are reviewing your file and until a final decision is made you need not make any payments. The problem here is that if you stop making payments, and the lender then declines to accept a lesser amount, you will have to pay all of the past due amount at once along with accumulated interest and maybe even late fees
• If your lenders are agreeable to taking less than what is owed, you still have to come up with a lump sum to make the payment. If you are already financially strapped this can be a tall order, and could require you to take out a refinance loan. Unfortunately, taking out more debt has never proven an effective way to get out of debt.

But, with bankruptcy, you can eliminate or reduce your debts altogether. If your debts are reduced in bankruptcy, the type of reduction received is not the same as what a lender may offer you outside of bankruptcy. This is because the bankruptcy laws allow you to pay the value of certain things rather than the balance, and the value is most times less than even a reduced offer from a creditor outside of filing bankruptcy. Once your debts are reduced or eliminated, you can take the extra money you have from not having to make large payments, and set it aside for savings or use it to pay your other bills. If you need help with your financial situation, call our office today.

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.

Do I Have To Repay My EBay Or Amazon Account I File Bankruptcy?

When you file for bankruptcy, you are required to list out every debt you owe. So if you have a past due account with EBay or Amazon, you have to state so on your bankruptcy. And, part of filing bankruptcy includes giving notice that you have filed to all of the creditors you have said you owe. This means EBay and/or Amazon will get notice that you have filed a bankruptcy case. Depending on the type of case you file, you may or may not have to pay back what is due on your EBay or Amazon account, as these are considered unsecured accounts.

That said, bankruptcy can have an impact on the following things as far as EBay is concerned:

• You may not be permitted to list items for sale any longer. EBay is not a public company, and so can decide who they allow to be a seller, and part of their decision may be based on their perception of your creditworthiness. Filing bankruptcy does go on your credit, and might be a factor EBay considers when allowing people to use the site as a seller.
• Any denial of your right to sell on EBay has to be based on factors that are not discriminatory though, so be sure to get a good explanation from them if your account is suspended after filing for bankruptcy.

Another way notice of your bankruptcy may have made its way to EBay, if you did not list them because you do not have a past due amount owed, is via PayPal. These two services are linked, and likely share information. But, chances are if your finances require bankruptcy your debts are more serious than simply owing EBay or even Amazon. Let us help you find a way out of debt, and give you the tools needed to stay on track. We can explain the different types of consumer bankruptcy to you, and let you know what you need to get a case started. For more information about how bankruptcy works, call our office today to talk with one of our knowledgeable legal professionals.

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

Tips For Keeping Your Finances Safe From Identify Theft

Identify theft is a huge problem, and security breaches on many of your electronic devices are becoming more common each day. In order to keep yourself safe, electronically speaking, you have to set up firewalls, install certain software, and make sure your passwords are not easily guessed. The problem with doing all of this is that it can be confusing, expensive, and with the complexity required for most passwords you may wind up forgetting how to log in to your devices. But the effort is worth it if it if keeps your identify safe, especially since part of your cyber footprint includes your finances.

Some helpful tips for keeping your finances safe from identify theft include:

• Make sure when you transact business online you are on a secure site. You can tell if a site is secure by taking a look at the address; if it starts off with https:// then it is a secure site. The “s” stands for secure, and is a safeguard many financial institutions and other online service providers have put in place as part of their efforts to help keep their customers safe online.
• Avoid writing down your passwords, or store them in a secure location.
• Passcode protect your cell phone, so if it gets lost it cannot be browsed for personal information.
• Always log out of your banking app, and never store the password in your phone. Doing so opens the door to identify thieves because a misplaced phone can be opened and your banking information revealed.
• Never use a public computer for banking, or at the very least do not check the box that asks if you want your login and password to be remembered on a public computer. If you do utilize a public computer for conducting personal business, be sure to log out of all websites, clear the search history, and close the browser when you are finished.

Identify theft can take a lot of work to unwind. If you have been the victim of identity theft or know someone who has, you are probably all too familiar with the headache of closing banking accounts, getting new debt and/or credit cards, or disputing charges that have been made. All of these activities take time, and not all of us have our days free to run from bank to bank or to make calls to cardholders to report the theft.

For more information about identity theft and your finances, contact us at www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com.

Will Bankruptcy Save My Family Owned Business?

Most people think of bankruptcy as an option only for individuals or for large corporations. But small businesses can also benefit by filing bankruptcy, and doing so can keep your family business afloat. A good majority of small family owned businesses are structured in such a way that a Chapter 7 or perhaps a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case will be an option. In either of these types of cases a business can reduce or eliminate its debt, which can allow it to stay open and build up its cash flow.

The way filing bankruptcy can save your family owned business is as follows:

• The instant a case is filed your creditors are prohibited from contacting you. This break in collection calls or even collection lawsuits gives you a chance to take stock and come up with a plan to get back on track.
• All debts in the name of the entity that files a case are subject to the discharge, meaning they are no longer due once your case is over. Depending on the type of case you file, you can either eliminate certain debts all together or at least pay a reduced balance.
• For the things you need to keep in order to run your business, you can do so through the bankruptcy and often times the terms will be more desirable. Once you file a case your attorney will be in a position to start negotiating with your lenders and coming to solutions that are manageable financially.

Keep in mind that if you have personally guaranteed any of the debt of your family owned business, you will still be personally liable for that debt if you do not file a case of your own. A case filed in the name of your business will not act as a case filed on your behalf personally. But a lot of times you can stave off creditors by filing a business case, because during that process an agreement can be made regarding repayment of the debt or surrender of the collateral in lieu of repayment. When properly negotiated, these types of agreements can work to relieve you of any deficiency balance that may be due after the collateral is recovered and resold, or after your business pays a lesser amount. For more information on what to do if your family owned business is struggling, call our office.

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

What Price Will I Have To Pay For Things In A Chapter 13?

One of the misconceptions about bankruptcy is that you can file a case, but still keep your property without making payments. The truth is that if you have things you want to hang on to, like your house or car, you do have to keep making payments. If you do not make the required payments, the lender will seek permission from the Bankruptcy Court to seize the collateral. And while your lender cannot ask you to pay the debt after they get permission to take it back, they do have the right to repossess or foreclose if payments are not made. One way to avoid this situation is to enter into a reaffirmation agreement with your lender, whereby you agree to keep making the payments just the same as you were before the case was filed. This means your contract is still enforceable, even after your bankruptcy case is over. Many people are hesitant to reaffirm a debt for this reason, but doing so can be beneficial if you negotiate more palatable repayment terms.

A reaffirmation is common in Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases, and it is possible to get the lender to agree to more manageable terms. But not all lenders will let you pay less than what you owe in a reaffirmation agreement, or even agree to reduce the interest rate. Thus, many consumers who reaffirm can expect the same payment terms as the original contract. If you want to pay a different amount, Chapter 13 may be your best option. In a Chapter 13 you can:

• Pay the value of your vehicle rather than the balance due.
• Reduce the interest rate on your car loan, which will lower the payment amount.
• Pay a portion of your unsecured debts, such as credit cards, rather than paying the full amount owed.

Paying a lower balance and rate for your car and less than what is owed on your credit cards, will put more money in your pocket each month. When you have money left over, you can pay other bills and get ahead. If you are having a hard time making your dollars stretch as far as they need to, call us for help. We will explain the differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and let you know what type of case you are eligible to file.

For more information about Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, contact us at www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We will help by coming up with solutions that work for you.