Dsouza and Strachan Lawgroup | Legal Blogs | Bankruptcy Attorney FL | Page 46


Can The Bankruptcy Court Take My Personal Injury Settlement?

If you have been hurt on the job or in any other type of accident that wasn’t your fault, chances are you have made a claim against the negligent party. Most personal injury cases are settled out of court, but do take time. If you have filed for bankruptcy and have a pending personal injury case, you are smart to be concerned about what will happen to any settlement you receive.

The bankruptcy laws require certain things of the debtor, among those things are the following:

  • Full disclosure of all assets and all debts.
  • Listing any potential windfalls you might receive, such as an inheritance or settlement from a lawsuit. This includes a worker’s compensation case or a personal injury matter.
  • Claiming an exemption for assets that fall within the exemption rules.

If you fail to disclose any of the above, you run the risk of having your bankruptcy case dismissed. With regard to personal injury settlements, the ability to claim the any award as exempt lies within not only the bankruptcy laws but also applicable state laws. Sometimes the state law provides more favorable treatment to what can be exempted, and sometimes taking the standard federal bankruptcy exemptions is more advantageous. It is crucial to know which exemption is best for you, because personal injury settlements are considered an asset and a part of your bankruptcy. The role of the bankruptcy trustee is to administer the assets, and this includes locating any assets that are not exempt or encumbered by a lien. When the trustee finds such an asset, it is within the trustee’s power to seize that asset and use it for the benefit of repayment to your creditors. Depending on the severity of your injuries, and likely settlement amount, it could make more sense to try and hold your creditors at bay by negotiating repayment terms with them. We can help, by contacting your lenders and handling the negotiations. We know fielding those calls is time consuming and can cause added stress when you are injured. Let us help you by contacting us today for more information about how a personal injury lawsuit impacts your potential or pending bankruptcy case.


If you have questions about bankruptcy, call our office for answers. Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today for more information.

How To Make The Most Out Of A Raise

Being called into the boss’s office is no one’s idea of a fun day at work, unless it is to learn of a promotion or a boost in salary. Getting a raise can really help keep your finances on track, and can even give you the means with which to start a savings or emergency fund. While it may be tempting to put that extra money towards a new car or bigger house, there are other things you can do with your raise that will help you make the most out of the extra dollars on your paycheck.

Some things you can to do make sure your dollars aren’t stretched too far after you get a raise include:

  • Budget, budget, budget! When you have extra money in your pocket it is critical to know where it will be spent. Identifying where your money goes gives you the chance to find ways to cut back, and start putting something aside for a rainy day.
  • Designate a portion of your newfound wealth to a savings or retirement account every paycheck. You can even set this up to happen automatically, by a recurring transfer from your checking to your savings account or by increasing the amount you contribute to your 401(k). If you never see the money hit your account, you will be less likely to overspend.
  • Put the extra cash towards debt. Whichever debt repayment method works best for you, take the extra boost in your income and put it towards those goals. You will pay off your debt faster this way, and once the balances are eliminated you will have the extra income from your raise as well as the extra money from not making monthly payments on recurring loan balances.

The key is to behave rationally. If you need to sit down with pencil and paper to figure out how to best use the money from a raise, do so! Financial planners can help you make the right choice, and we can help if you need to negotiate with lenders or take other action regarding your debt. Call us today to learn more.


If you have questions about budgets and how to save for a onetime expense, call our office for answers. Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today for more information.



What Is Your “Debt Personality”?

Have you ever noticed how some people are more cheerful than others, or how there always seems to be that one person at work who keeps to themselves? Your personality type depends on what interests you, what activities you enjoy in your spare time, what type of people you feel most comfortable around, and a host of other characteristics that make you unique. People come in all shapes and sizes, as well as with all types of personalities. And, most people exhibit personality traits depending on the issue. For instance, your views on romance will vary from your views on what type of vacation to take. The same can be said for how you feel about debt, and your “debt personality” can determine the choices you make in not only incurring debt but also in how you become debt free.

An interesting article from Business Insider hints that the way you pay off your debt depends on your personality. The article highlights include:

  • People who tend to be savers will feel more comfortable with the avalanche method of debt repayment. This method requires paying off the highest interest rate debt first, and then taking the money that would normally be applied to that debt to the next highest rate debt. The avalanche method also allows the debtor to save, by making only the minimum payment on the lower rate debts while focusing on the debt with the highest rate.
  • People who like to track their results, and get a sense of personal satisfaction by seeing results quickly tend to use the snowball method of debt repayment. This method calls for paying off the smallest balance first, regardless of the interest rate. For some, seeing a balance of zero gives them the psychological and emotional boost needed to stay on track of their debt repayment plans.
  • Using a combination of repayment methods is used by people who tend to have personalities that value both saving, and fast results.

Who knew your personality might play a role in how you decide to pay off debt? A quick read of the above shows that who you can touch nearly every aspect of your life. If you are experiencing financial difficulty and need help determining what works best for you, we can help.


If you have questions about debt and debt management, call a knowledgeable attorney to discuss your options. We can help you understand your choices and make a decision that works for you. Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today for more information.



Is Taking A Loan From My 401(k) A Good Idea?

Sometimes life throws you a curveball, and events can leave you wondering which way is out. This is especially true in the world of personal finances, where the job market is such that it is hard to make enough to cover monthly obligations. You have several options if you are facing overwhelming debt, from seeking the protection bankruptcy has to offer to downsizing your home, and perhaps even taking on extra work in order to pay bills or establish an emergency fund. For some, looking at taking out a loan to roll multiple debts into one is an attractive option, but it can be hard to obtain credit when your pay history is less than perfect. One place some people look to take out money is their 401(k), but is this really a smart financial move?

Most financial industry professionals would advise against taking out a loan from your 401(k), but there are some instances where it might be your best option. For instance:

  • If the return on your investment is less than the interest you are paying on your debt, you can save more by taking a 401(k) loan to pay off high rate debt, and then putting those payments towards retirement.
  • The interest rate on a 401(k) loan is usually much lower than other types of loans, and if you have no other resources for funds it is a good idea to take a loan from the most cost effective option.
  • If you have job security, the chances of repaying your 401(k) loan are great. What this means is that you can save money in interest payments, pay down higher rate debt and free up disposable income, and still go to work every day and contribute to your retirement.

A word of caution though, if your plan prohibits you from contributing until the loan is repaid, you may want to rethink your decision to take a loan against the funds in your 401(k) account.  You should also look at the cost of the loan in terms of missing out on having that money in your account, making money for your future. Even when the return is lower than the interest you are paying, most experts say give it time. Retirement accounts fluctuate in value, and over time you might end up losing more than you’ve gained. In order to make a decision for your finances that works, call one of our knowledgeable debt management attorneys. We can help you decide what is best for you, and help come up with a plan for your financial future.


If you have questions about finances and if taking a loan from your 401(k) is the right answer, contact our office for help. We will explain your options, so you understand your choices and can make a decision that meets your needs. Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today for more information.

What Is The APR?

When you apply for loans it is important to know the terms of repayment, and how your payment will be calculated and applied each month. Knowing where your money goes helps you to keep better track of what you have, and to manage your finances each month. One of the most important loan terms is the interest rate, which is the “cost” of borrowing money. The higher the rate, the higher your payment. Having a basic understanding of how interest impacts the balance of your loan is beneficial, because it helps you to figure out how much of the amount borrowed you are actually repaying with each payment versus how much of your hard earned money is going towards interest.

The APR on a loan stands for the annual percentage rate. Here are a few facts about how an APR works:

  • Be wary of credit offers that have a different rate at the beginning of the loan versus 6 or 12 months later. Credit card companies are notorious for making offers with introductory rates that are low, only to increase that rate some time later. This is only worthwhile if you are able to pay the entire balance in full before the introductory rate expires. If there is a balance remaining upon expiration of the introductory rate, the balance is then subject to the higher rate and this can end up costing you more money than if you’d opted for the same rate over the life of the loan or extension of credit.
  • Those people with better credit scores tend to get offered lower interest rates. Keeping an eye on your credit report will help you to identify and correct errors, and knowing your credit score is a powerful tool when negotiating loan terms.
  • Fees are not included in APR’s, so be careful when transferring balances from one account to another and be sure you know up front the entire cost of the transaction.

Not all things in life are things you can control. But, maintaining control of your finances allows you to maintain a small portion of control over a very important aspect of your everyday living. We can help by working with you to develop debt management plans that fit your budget, including consolidation or bankruptcy.


If you have questions about money and bankruptcy, let an experienced attorney help you. Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today for more information.

How To Dispute Debt

Have you ever received a pay history from one of your lenders and been unable to determine how your payments are being applied? If so, you are not alone. In fact, the majority of consumers that are contacted about past due balances and request a printout of their payments is unable to decipher what the lender sends. A typical pay history from a credit card company, mortgage holder, or auto lender seems to be written in “code” that only the employees of the company know how to crack. If you find yourself in this position, and believe the debt is either not valid or that payments have not been properly applied, you do have the right to dispute the debt.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) gives consumers 30 days to dispute the validity of any debt trying to be collected by a third party. What this means is:

  • If someone other than the lender has contacted you to collect a debt, that entity is defined as a debt collector. All debt collectors are required to follow the rules set forth in the FDCPA.
  • One of the most basic rules in place is that the collector give you a notice that specifically and clearly tells you that you have the right to dispute the debt, or even just a portion of the debt being collected.
  • In order to dispute that the debt is owed, you must send a written letter to the collector telling them that you dispute the debt and are asking for proof that it is owed.
  • The collector is not permitted to take further action until they are able verify the debt, and provide you with that verification.

Unfortunately, many debt collectors fail to reply to a dispute, or fail to give a satisfactory verification. This failure exposes the collector to liability under the FDCPA and the consumer has the right to bring an action against the collector for any damages that resulted from the collector’s oversight. We have experience fighting collectors, so you don’t have to shoulder that burden. Call us today to find out more.


If you need help disputing a debt, call our office. We can offer solutions, legal and practical, that meet your needs. Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today for more information.


Will I Get To Keep My Retirement If I File Bankruptcy?

When people faced with too much debt make the choice to file bankruptcy to get a fresh financial start, many questions arise. Some of the more common questions deal with your property, and what you can and cannot keep if you file for bankruptcy. The short answer is that for personal property you are able to keep things you continue to pay for (like your car), and the same is true for your real estate (which generally includes your homestead). But, there are other assets that are not easily defined as either real or personal property, such as a 401(k) or trust account. You work hard for your money, and to be able to set a little bit aside for retirement. So, it is only natural to wonder if you will be allowed to hang on to your retirement if you seek the protection of bankruptcy.

The current bankruptcy laws provide for certain exemptions; which means there are some things that are simply off limits, or exempt, from a creditor’s reach. As far as your retirement goes, the following types of accounts are exempt:

  • 401(k) accounts.
  • IRA accounts.
  • Monies put into a profit sharing plan.

There are some exceptions to these rules, but they have to do with the amount in the account and not entire account itself. Any amount over the limitation is not considered exempt, but the rest of the account is yours to keep. There is also an exemption for retirement funds that are paid out as income rather than being set aside for your use later. Establishing what amount of money is needed for your support and living expenses during retirement is part of the equation also, and it is helpful to have a consistent history of living expenses to support your claim for what you need. For a full explanation of what parts of your retirement accounts are off limits, call to speak with one of our knowledgeable debt relief attorneys. We will examine your finances and give you advice on which type of bankruptcy suits you best, and tell you what you can expect to keep.


Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today for more information about what to expect during and after filing for bankruptcy. We have helped others, and are here to help you too.



Top Ten Celebrity Bankruptcy Cases

The summer of 2015 was full of celebrity news, and the majority of it had to do with break-ups and weddings. An unusual number of celebrity singers filed for divorce (the list includes Reba McEntire, Christina Aguilera, Gavin Rossdale, Blake Shelton, and Miranda Lambert), and one of the most famous Friends finally tied the knot. It seems every time you turn around a superstar is making headlines for one reason or another, and if it is not for their personal relationships it is often about their personal finances. If you think bankruptcy is only for the ordinary guy, think again. Plenty of celebrities have had their turn in bankruptcy court, and the list might catch you by surprise.

The top ten celebrity bankruptcy cases include the following:

  • Rapper 50 Cent filed a business bankruptcy, or Chapter 11. This is an example of how bankruptcy can help you to reorganize a business, rather than give protection to a consumer debtor. Sometimes this type of filing is done for business purposes rather than for the fact that the company is actually out of money.
  • Presidential hopeful Donald Trump has sought the protection of bankruptcy in the past.
  • Singer Billy Joel has filed for bankruptcy more than once, and says the cause for the filings were his divorces. This is a perfect example of how divorce and bankruptcy can often go hand in hand.
  • Actress Kim Bassinger filed in the 1990’s.
  • Marvin Gaye attributes his need to file bankruptcy to a past due alimony bill of over half a million dollars!
  • Favorite novelist of History and English teachers everywhere, Mark Twain, filed for bankruptcy later in life.
  • TV talk host Larry King has filed bankruptcy.
  • Joe Francis, of Girls Gone Wild fame has had to declare bankruptcy.
  • Child star Gary Coleman is on the list of celebrities that have filed bankruptcy to clean up their finances.
  • Aaron Carter, who also rose to fame as a child, claims he filed bankruptcy because he was not in charge of his finances.

These stories should illustrate to you that the stigma once associated with filing for bankruptcy is long since gone. If you are facing overwhelming debt and need a breather, bankruptcy is a real solution. Call us today to find out what’s right for you.


For assistance with bankruptcy issues, call our office today. Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today for more information.

How To Lower Student Loan Payments

One of the fastest growing types of debt is student loans. The cost of college has risen astronomically over the years, and in order to get ahead in life many students are resorting to taking out loans to pay tuition and other expenses. While this type of loan is generally better than most in that the interest rate is typically lower than what a bank would offer, the amounts being accumulated are far more than what an average starting salary right out of college is being reported. The disparity between what you owe and what you make is causing many college graduates to move back home after graduation, just to be able to make their student loan payments. This type of living arrangement is not ideal, for both the parents and the student, so looking for alternatives is a must.

One thing you can do is to take steps to lower your student loan payments. A lower payment can free up part of your salary, so you can provide for yourself and/or your family. Some ways to obtain a lower payment are:

  • Request an income sensitive repayment plan, rather than going with the monthly payment amount calculated at the end of your deferment period. An income sensitive payment takes into account what you make, and your household size. If you have dependents at home and make very little, you are likely to be given a reduced payment that is more in line with your budget.
  • Consolidate your loans, which gives you a longer repayment period and lowers the monthly amount due.
  • Request an interest only payment for a period of time, until you can make a higher payment.
  • Opt for a payment plan that starts off with smaller payments, and ends up with higher payments towards the end of the life of the loan. This allows you to pay less when you are just starting out, and then increase your payments as your salary increases.

Any of these methods can work for you, but the key is to find the type that works best. We can help by analyzing your income and debt, and working with your lender for a solution that makes sense. Call us for more information.

If you need help making your student loan payments, contact our office. Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today.



What To Do When Lenders Discriminate

Unfortunately discrimination in today’s world is not limited to the school yard, your job, or even a public event. For years some consumers have been the victim of lender discrimination, which means they were either denied a loan or given less than favorable terms based on their race, religion, or gender. This type of lending practice is not only frowned upon, but it is against the law. As a borrower, you do have a remedy, and should take action to send a message to the lender that these practices are not tolerated.

One of the biggest purchases most people make is their home, and to do this a mortgage loan is required. A mortgage lender has the following obligations when considering your application for a loan:

  • If you are receiving income from a social program, that income must be taken into consideration just the same as income from your job. A lender is not allowed to leave this income out of the calculation, or make a determination based on the fact that you receive public assistance to make ends meet.
  • If you decide to disclose that part of the income you will rely upon for repayment of the mortgage loan is spousal or child support, that income must also be given the same weight as your salary.
  • If you have a co-signer who is willing to obligate themselves on the loan, the lender owes the same responsibilities to that person as they do to you as the primary applicant.

If you have been denied a loan, or were offered a loan at terms higher than the norm, you should complain to the lender and tell them you believe you have been discriminated against. We can help you make this complaint, and follow it up with legal action if needed. A thorough examination of things like your pay stubs and credit report will be needed, as well as a review of the loan documents. When discrimination is identified, you are entitled to an award of damages for this action and that could include punitive damages for your suffering. Consult with one of our qualified debt relief attorneys today to learn more about lender discrimination and what you can do if you are a victim.

Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today if you believe you are the victim of lender discrimination. Schedule an appointment to learn more.