New Year Thank You After Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Mr. Jackson.

I wanted to start my New Year with a Thank You!!

I was a client in 2013 and so much appreciated and relied on your help.

When I first called your office for information you were so professional, I never felt judged or disrespected.  I guess we beat ourselves up for our situations.

Thanks again for your professional help.

SHOULD I HIRE A BANKRUPTCY ATTORNEY OR BANKRUPTCY PETITION PREPARER

As a general rule of thumb, if you are planning to file for bankruptcy protection you should hire an experienced bankruptcy attorney. You can hire a bankruptcy petition preparer or do it yourself, but these two options generally may not save you money in the long run and the experience may not be pleasant.

Filing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is not an easy task. My Chapter 7 case filings average about 50 pages in length. They contain a tremendous amount of information. But filing alone is not the end of the process. Provided that all of the required documents are filed, you still have to send copies of certain information to the Chapter 7 Trustee by a specific date. You are required to appear at the Bankruptcy Court for your Section 341 Meeting of Creditors, which is where the Chapter 7 Trustee will question you about the information filed. Even if all goes well, you still may need to file additional documents before you receive your discharge.

WHAT COULD GO WRONG

Whether you proceed on your own or hire a bankruptcy petition preparer, chances are that something will go wrong.
I witnessed “something going wrong” today during a Section 341 Meeting of Creditors at the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Ohio. The debtor had hired a bankruptcy petition preparer. They paid the BPP $650.00. What the debtor got was the three page Petition and the two page Exhibit D. That’s about 1/10 of the required documents for $650.00. The debtor had to take her papers to the Bankruptcy Court and file them herself. When she got to the Section 341 Meeting, she had no-one there to help her when the trustee started asking questions. (I do commend the trustee in this case who was extremely courteous). Although the Chapter 7 trustee and the Assistant U.S. Trustee were trying to get this lady back on track, it is hard to say what will happen. The meeting of creditors will probably be rescheduled, causing her to come back to court again. It is also possible that her case will be dismissed.

And, the she still owes the Bankruptcy Court $306.00 for the filing fee.

YOU COULD LOSE YOUR PROPERTY

Keep in mind that the Chapter 7 Trustee works for your creditors. Her job is to find assets of yours that can be liquidated and paid to your creditors. Fortunately for Ohio debtors, you get to keep most if not all of your stuff. There are limits however, and I have had many clients with exposed assets. Because they hired an attorney they were aware of the risks before the case was filed.
So, the very minute you file for protection under Chapter 7, the trustee is theoretically in control of all of your assets. The Chapter 7 Trustee has a lot of power, and remember she works for your creditors. Her job is to find assets for your creditors. She is not interested in protecting you.

If you have assets that cannot be protected or you fail to assert your protection, and you file Chapter 7, the trustee is going to take your stuff. Well, maybe not everything, but things of value like cars, cash, and your home.

YOU MAY NOT GET A CHAPTER 7 DISCHARGE

As I mentioned earlier, if you don’t file all of the required documents and/or fulfill your duties, your case could be dismissed. You don’t get a discharge of your debts if your case is dismissed.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Hire an experienced bankruptcy attorney. One that will explain the bankruptcy process and answer your questions. Hire an attorney you can trust, someone that will be with you when you meet the Chapter 7 Trustee at the meeting of creditors. If you want to reduce the headaches and frustrations and get a fresh start, you should hire a bankruptcy attorney.

Creditors Will Put A Lien On Your Property

Many creditors will put a lien on your property.  They are trying to ensure they get paid for the debt you owe.  There are judgment liens when you lose the lawsuit.  And there are tax liens when you don’t pay your income taxes.  A lien against your property creates many problems for you.

A lien can be placed on just about anything you own.  Usually liens are placed on your home and/or cars.  They make it hard for you to sell the property.  They also give the creditor the right to take your property and sell it.

A lien on your house gives the creditor the right to foreclose on your house.  Even if the creditor does not foreclose the lien causes other problems.  If you try and sell your house the creditor gets paid.  If you try to refinance your mortgage the creditor gets paid.

Liens are very costly.  Some creditors obtain the lien and wait.  They sit back until you to try to sell or refinance.  The whole time the debt is getting bigger with interest.  That $5000.00 credit card debt is now $7000.00 five years later.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy will prevent liens from attaching to your property.  However, once attached liens are not discharged in Bankruptcy.  A lien may be able to be removed during the bankruptcy process.  This generally requires additional procedures.  Creditors will put a lien on your property, it’s a cheap way for them to get paid.

Will I Lose My House if I File Bankruptcy?

This is a common concern for many people who are contemplating whether or not they should file bankruptcy.  The vast majority of people who own a home have one or two and sometimes three mortgages secured by their home.  Because of these mortgages, there is generally little equity or value beyond the amount owed on the mortgage(s).

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is available to most people who have a steady stream of income.  One of the goals of Chapter 13 is to allow people to keep their property while they pay some money back on the debts they owe.  So no you will not lose your house if you  file Ch 13 as long as you have sufficient income to meet your basic living expenses and can still afford to make the mortgage payments.

If Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the option you prefer, you will generally not lose your house as long as you are current on the payments, and your income is enough to allow you to continue making the mortgage payments and cover your basic living expenses.  In Ohio you also have exemptions of approximately $20,000.00 (single) and $40.000.00 (married) that allow you to claim as exempt against any equity you have in your residence.  So unless your house is will sell for an amount far exceeding the amount you owe on it, and you can continue to make the mortgage payments, you should not lose you house if you file Ch 7 bankruptcy.

But what about the Trustee, can’t he/she take my house anyway?  The trustee works for your creditors.  The Chapter 7 trustee’s job is to find assets he/she can turn into cash to pay to your creditors.  In order for the trustee to benefit from taking your house he has to be able to sell it for a profit after he pays the mortgage(s), taxes, and you for your exemption amount.  Typically you will not lose your house because the trustee will not profit from selling your house.

Please contact me at 740-369-6812 to discuss your situation and answer any further questions.