Should I Hire a Non-Attorney Bankruptcy Preparer?

Prior to October 17, 2005, if your case was very simple meaning you did not own a home or cars, then, the answer was yes; however, the new bankruptcy law that went into effect on October 17, 2005 has changed that.

  1. The new bankruptcy law makes debt of creditors not properly noticed as non-discharged.  Under the previous law, in a typical chapter 7 case that had no payments or distribution to the creditors, even creditors and debt that were omitted from the bankruptcy were discharged.  The new bankrupcy law overruled that case law, and now in order to get a bankruptcy discharge of your debt, you must properly list the debt, give legally proper notice to the creditors at least 20 days before your creditors’ meeting.  Thus, relatively minor mistakes that previous had little penalty, other than requiring an amendment are now potentially mistakes that cannot be fixed.
  2. The new bankruptcy law gave the bankruptcy court the power to impose monetary fines for filing bankruptcy petitions without reasonable inquiry into their accuracy.  While on the surface this may seem like a minor detail, it gives the court the right to impose fines upon those submitting bankruptcy documents without a reasonable inquirying into the accuracy of the petition.  In addition, the same standard of reasonablenss is made for attorney-prepared bankruptcy petitions, non-attorney bankruptcy petitions, and bankruptcy petitions filed by the debtors’ themselves.  Therefore, in addition to losing your right to discharge certain debts by bankruptcy, the failing to accurately prepare your bankruptcy petition can result in fines.
  3. A well-prepared bankruptcy petition can make the process seem simple.  If you know someone that filed bankruptcy with a bankruptcy attorney, they may have told you that their case was simple without worries.  A well-drafted and accuarate bankruptcy petition have fewer problems and go through the bankrutpcy court system faster.  A few mistakes can cause problems, make your bankruptcy case linger in the court system longer, and allow the bankruptcy trustee to uncover problems that would have been missed had your bankruptcy petition been properly prepared.    The Bankruptcy Code is a complicated mesh of statutory law created by the federal legislature, and case law created by the federal district and bankruptcy courts.  If you want to know how complex it is, call any lawyer that does not regularly practice bankruptcy law and act them to prepare your bankruptcy petition.  They will either not do it, or charge far more than an experienced bankruptcy attorney.  They went to undergraduate school, law school, and passed a rigorous state bar exam.  Yet they do not feel competent to file a simple bankruptcy petition.  This emphasizes the importance and value of the experienced bankruptcy attorney’s knowledge.
  4. A non-attorney bankruptcy petition preparer cannot give legal advice.  Virtually everyone that files bankruptcy understands that having the knowledgable representation during their bankruptcy can make your case proceed smoothly and give you peace of mind.  The people who choose to havea non-attorney bankruptcy petition preparer complete their bankruptcy forms cannot give them legal advice.  There is, however, a common misconception of what constitutes legal advice.  The non-attorney bankruptcy petition preparer cannot tell you what information to include on your bankruptcy petition and schedules.  They cannot tell you which bankruptcy exemptions to use to protect your property, such as your home and cars.  Therefore, unless you know the difference between in two California bankruptcy exemption schemes and how to pick the best one for you, the non-attorney bankruptcy petition preparer will not be able to help you.  The non-attorney bankruptcy petition preparer may not help you choose the properbankruptcy court to file your bankruptcy petition.  They may not even mail your completed bankruptcy petition to the bankruptcy court.  All of these actions have been determined to be legal advice and beyond the legal scope of what a non-attorney bankruptcy petition preparer can do.  What can thenon-attorney bankruptcy petition preparer do you ask?  They can take information you give them on a bankruptcy questionaire that closely resemblesthe bankruptcy petition and put them on the forms.  Most likely if you can complete a typical bankruptcy questionaire, you can probably complete a bankruptcy petition as well as the non-attorney bankruptcy petition preparer.  Thus, the question you need to ask yourself is do you trust yourself to prepare your own bankruptcy petition?
  5. Only an attorney can appear at your creditors’ meeting with you, and appear in court for you.  A non-attorney bankruptcy petition preparercannot appear in court or appear with you to meet with the bankruptcy trustee at the meeting of creditors.  Many debtors feel that the bankruptcy attorney’s fees paid were worth their bankruptcy attorney appearing in at the meeting of creditors with tme or appearing in bankruptcy court for them.
  6. Answering questions about correspndence and taking telephone calls from the bankruptcy trustee, bankruptcy court, and your creditors can only be done by a licensed lawyer.  Only a bankruptcy attorney will receive correspondence and telephone calls during your case.  Once your bankruptcy case is filed you will receive many telephone calls and correspondence about your bankruptcy case.  If you hire a bankruptcy attorney, your creditors, thebankruptcy trustee (who represents the interest of your unsecured creditors), and the bankruptcy court will have to call or write your attorney.  Your attorney will understand and appreciate the complexities of the Bankruptcy Code and respond accordingly.  Any threats and actions will be taken in context and understood by your bankruptcy attorney.  If someone tries to take advantage of you, how will you know how to handle this without an attorney.  If you use a non-attorney bankruptcy petition preparer, your address and telephone number will be listed on your bankruptcy petition.  Thus, all calls and correspondence will come directly to you, rather than an experienced professional, such as your bankruptcy attorney.  Will you know how to evaluate the information and respond accordingly?  If not how will you get the information with a bankruptcy attorney?

Can I Get Credit Cards, Loans, and Mortgages After a Bankruptcy?

After Bankruptcy

At first, it’s a relief—you file bankruptcy, and the creditors stop harassing you. Your phone stops ringing, you’re no longer afraid to pick up the mail, and the juggling act ends. You can devote your income to keeping up your living expenses and trying to get your financial life back on track.

But many people who file bankruptcy are worried about what comes next. They’ve heard rumors like, “You can’t get credit for ten years after you filebankruptcy.”

Naturally, when you’ve just filed bankruptcy, your credit won’t be strong. Of course, your credit probably wasn’t strong when you were dealing with the crises that forced you to file bankruptcy, so that’s nothing new.  Your bankruptcy will not erase your good credit or make your report blank.  Whatever negative and positive information that was on your report regarding your payment history will remain there.  Your accounts instead of saying “Paid, as agreed,” “settled in full,” “settled,” or “charged off,” will read “Discharged in bankruptcy.”

Here’s what you can realistically expect after your bankruptcy discharge:

  • Unscrupulous creditors will likely flood you with offers of low-balance credit cards to help you “rebuild” your credit after bankruptcy. Unfortunately, many of these offers come with activation fees and membership fees that will push you near your credit limit before you’ve ever used the card…and then late charges and over-the-limit fees will kick in, putting you right back where you started: in debt, and with late payments on your credit. So what can you do? Choose your new credit accounts with care. There are reputable lenders who will give you a chance to re-establish credit afterbankruptcy. Don’t get so eager that you abandon your better judgment.
  • After bankruptcy, you won’t immediately be able to qualify for most conventional mortgages, car loans, and the like. For most people who file bankruptcy and then pay their bills on time, however, those loans will be within reach 2-3 years after discharge. It’s not a quick fix, but it’s also a far cry from the ten years many people have been led to expect.
  • You’ll probably pay a higher interest rate for your first few loans or credit accounts—those rates are dependent on your three-digit credit score, and those scores will be low right after bankruptcy. However, negative items on your credit—even bankruptcy–have less and less impact as they age. More recent items will carry more weight, so make sure that you keep your current accounts current.

The bottom line is that if you’re like most bankruptcy petitioners, not much will change right after your discharge. Your credit was probably weak before you filed bankruptcy, and it will be weak immediately after. Without those old debts hanging over your head, though, you’ll have the opportunity to start to rebuild your credit. In time, if you handle those early accounts carefully, your credit can be stronger than it was before you filed and you’ll begin to see not only more credit available, but lower interest rates and more favorable terms.

Contact us for a free bankruptcy consultation.

Learn About California Bankruptcy Exemption Law

California has two different bankruptcy exemption schemes (Code of Civil Procedure section 703 and 704).

Exemption Statutes are California Bankruptcy Laws that Protect Your Property from Your Creditors.

Exemptions are laws passed by every state that allow you to protect certain types of your property from your creditors when you file bankruptcy-such as your home, car, pensions and IRAs, motor vehicles, clothing, tools, and other important property. California law provides a number of exemptions that protect your property, and I will be able to advise you on which exemptions are best for you to use on your bankruptcy petition.

California Homestead

Exemption is $75,000 for family member living with one or more non-owner family members; $150,000 for a person who is 65 or older, disabled, or who is 55 or older with an annual gross income of $15,000 or less if single or $20,000 or less if married. $50,000 for all other persons.

Wages

75 percent of all “paid earnings” are exempt.

Automobiles

Up to $2,300 of the equity in all automobiles.

Other Property

Household furnishings, appliances, provisions, wearing apparel, and other personal effects are 100% exempt if they are ordinary and necessary. $2,300of the aggregate equity in one or more automobiles is exempt. $6,075 each for jewelry and personal property used in the debtor’s trade or business is exempt.

Learn About Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Personal or Business Reorganization Bankruptcy

STOP FORECLOSURES AND REPOSSESSIONS – KEEP YOUR HOME & CARS!

Pay your creditors and attorneys’ fees over 3 to 5 years without interest!

If you have a job or some source of regular income, but are overwhelmed bydebts you can’t handle, Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be right for you. You can use Chapter 13 bankruptcy to reorganize your debt, force your creditors to accept a reasonable debt repayment plan, and get a fresh financial start. If you’re considering Chapter 13 bankruptcy:

Find an experienced Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney like me!

The Chapter 13 bankruptcy process should begin well before you enter the bankruptcy courtBankruptcy law can be both complicated and simple–much like a tax law.  It seems rather simple to file a tax return, but when you start breaking down the process it becomes extremely complicated.  You should hire an experienced Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney to file your bankruptcy. Your family lawyer or someone you found in the yellow pages may not have the necessary familiarity with all of the requirements, schedules, forms, filings, distributions, and deadlines associated with the bankruptcy process. An experienced bankruptcy lawyer can meet with you to assess your financial situation, explain the bankruptcy process to you, and work with you to set up a debt repayment plan that you can live with.

An Experienced Bankruptcy Attorney can help make bankruptcy EASY for you!

Chapter 13 bankruptcy case begins with the preparation and filing of your bankruptcy petition. The Chapter 13 bankruptcy process involves some of the same forms you would file in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, and some additional forms and information. In your bankruptcy petition, you are required to list certain personal information about yourself, your spouse, and your family, and you must set forth all of your income, your property (assets), your expenses, and all debts (liabilities). Additionally, you must select the specific exemptions to which you are entitled. Exemptions are statutes that protect your property from your creditors.  As your bankruptcy attorney, I will explain exemptions to you and let you know what property is protected. Once all of this information has been gathered and the petition and schedules prepared your bankruptcy attorney will file your bankruptcy petition.

Bankruptcy law stops creditors from harrassing or suing you.

Shortly after you file your petition, the bankruptcy court clerk will send a notice of your bankruptcy case to all of the creditors you listed on your bankruptcy petition.  After that, your case will be assigned to a bankruptcy trustee, who will review your case. In most cases, the bankruptcy court will also issue an Automatic Stay order. This order prohibits most of your creditors from collecting their debts from you, from repossessing your car or other property, and from starting or continuing any legal actions against you while the bankruptcy case is pending.

Learn About Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Liquidation or “Simple” Bankruptcy

Keep your home, car & other property! Eliminate credit card debt, tax debt, and other debt!

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is often referred to as liquidation because a bankruptcy trustee can liquidate (convert to cash) your non-exempt assets to pay part of the your outstanding bills. The term liquidation is rather misleading, since most people who file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy do not have any non-exempt assets.  So, there is no actual liquidation.

STOP: Foreclosures, Repossessions, Garnishments, Bank Levies & Creditors’ Calls

Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases move relatively quickly, and you may receive your discharge in just a few months. A discharge will eliminate unsecured debts like credit card debt, medical bills, most personal loans, judgments resulting from car accidents, deficiencies on repossessed vehicles, some older tax debts, payday loans, and garnishments. Certain debts are classified “non-dischargeable” and cannot be discharged, or can only be discharged under very specific circumstances. These include child support, most student loans, and some tax debts.

Keep Your Home, Cars & other property!

Before getting your Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge, you will have to pass a Chapter 7 bankruptcy means test.  Although there was a lot of media hype about the means test disqualifying people from filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy when it was introduced in 2005, the truth is that more than 96% of potential Chapter 7 petitioners still qualify nationally.  In my practice, I have found that number is even higher in the Central Valley of California, Kern County and Bakersfield.  So if you have considered bankruptcy as an option to solve your financial problems, call my office to set up an appointment for a free bankruptcy consultation.  The new bankruptcy law has made filing for bankruptcy more complicated, but if you do things properly, you may still get rid of your debt and keep your property.  An experienced bankruptcy practitioner can help you navigate the more complex bankruptcy system, and get your debts discharged in bankruptcy.  In the unlikely event that you are one of those few who do not, you may still file under Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

ELIMINATE CREDIT CARD DEBT, ELIMINATE TAX LIENS & LEVIES, ELIMINATE MEDICAL BILLS, ELIMINATE OTHER DEBT!

Is Filing Bankruptcy Right for Me?

As an experienced California bankruptcy attorney, I will help you decide whether bankrutpcy is right for you with a free consultation.

The decision to file bankruptcy is not one that’s easy to make. Somehow, you want to save face or “do the right thing.” So, you struggle along while your creditors turn up the heat. Pretty soon, with all the late fees, penalties and mounting interest, keeping your head above water becomes almost impossible.

Who’s paying the consequences for your debt?  You and YOUR FAMILY.

Ask yourself this. If you could eliminate your debt without permanently damaging your credit, why wouldn’t you? The stigma related to bankruptcy is not what it was 30 years ago.  Every year millions of Americans file bankruptcy to stop foreclosures, repossesion, garnishment, and bank levies.  By filing bankruptcy, you can eliminate credit card debt, tax liability, medical bills, and other debt.  Most people filing keep their home, cars and other property.  A clean slate is the ultimate tool of empowerment. Bankruptcy may not be the right decision for you, but you owe it to yourself to become educated about all of your options so that you can make an informed decision.  After all, your spouse and children are paying the consequences for your debt.  Are you able to pay your monthly bills, and give your children everything they want?

First, assess your financial situation including your income and debt

Taking a close look at the bottom line is a courageous first step. But, it’s a crucial first step. You can start the process yourself. However, the best avenue is to seek legal counsel even in the early stages. An experienced attorney can help separate panic from reality and even advise that you might not be in as bad shape as you think.

Some initial questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you heavily in debt, with little prospect of getting out of that debt in the near future?
  • Have you had, or are your creditors threatening, a foreclosure on your home, a repossession of your car or other legal action to take your property?
  • Have you experienced a dramatic drop in income that you don’t anticipate replacing anytime soon?
  • Are you frequently late paying bills?
  • Do you only pay the minimum on your credit cards?
  • Are you unable to make even the minimum payments?
  • Do you have to sacrifice basic necessities just to make ends meet?
  • Are you paying more money than you make on just your monthly living expenses?
  • Are you losing sleep at night wondering how you’re going to make it?
  • Have you bounced more than one check in the last two months?
  • Are your wages currently, or in jeopardy of, being garnished?
  • Have you recently become partially or totally disabled?
  • Are you going through a divorce resulting in a decrease of income but an increase in expenses?

If you answered yes to some or a number of these questions, bankruptcy could be right for you. Your next step is to talk to an qualified bankruptcy attorney to assess your rights and determine if bankruptcy is right for you. Bankruptcy is not for everyone, but you need to be an informed consumer to make the right decision. Don’t wait until your wages are being garnished or your car is repossessed. Be proactive and resolve the situation now.

How can the U.S. Bankruptcy Law protect me?

The Bankruptcy Code is a set of federal laws with very broad powers that entitle you, and others with severe financial problems, to obtain relief from debt and rebuild your credit and your life. For individuals, the options are either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. In a Chapter 7 case, most of your unsecured debts are discharged and assets beyond allowable exemptions are liquidated to pay some or all of your debt. Usually most of your assets are exempt-meaning they cannot be liquidated.

Exempt property usually includes:

  • Primary residence
  • Vehicles
  • Certain items of personal property
  • Tools and work equipment
  • Numerous other categories of property

After your case is completed and all dischargeable debts are forgiven, the bankruptcy case is closed. You can make a new start with a commitment to avoid getting in this situation again.

In a Chapter 13 case, you can reorganize your debts and repay them in an affordable payment plan that lasts 36 to 60 months. Your creditors cannot take any action against you while you repay your debts.

I am an experienced bankruptcy attorney that offers the know how to help you navigate the sometimes tricky waters of bankruptcy, eliminate the majority of your debts and help you keep as much of your property as possible. I can also help you emerge from bankruptcy with a plan for a healthier financial lifestyle.

What Can Bankruptcy Do for You?

  • Stop foreclosures, evictions, repossessions, utility shutoffs, and other creditor actions.
  • Discharge most debts.
  • Protect against wage garnishment and enforcement of judgment liens.
  • Add flexibility in dealing with secured creditors.
  • Stop utility terminations.
  • Enable you to keep some or all of your property.
  • Discharge some student loans.
  • Discharge some tax bills.

So, get started today. Call our my office today at (661) 323-3200. You can also request for free bankruptcy consultation using my online form.  Simply fill out this online form, and someone from my office will contact you to schedule your free, confidential, no-obligation consultation. It couldn’t be any easier.

Feel free to explore my site for more information. When you do, I am sure you’ll make the right move toward a better future.

How Can Single, Separated, or Divorced Women Avoid Bankruptcy?

Single women — and particularly single mothers — face serious financial hurdles and are at serious risk of declaring bankruptcy. Here are the key warning signs, and ways to avoid filing bankruptcy.

Since the 1981, the rate women file bankruptcy rose dramtically.

Nearly 1 million women filed Bankruptcy in 2001.

Some 69,000 women filed for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in 1981. By 2001, according to research by Harvard law bankruptcy professor Elizabeth Warren, women filing Bankruptcy independently or as part of a couple numbered close to a million.

What can women do to avoid Bankrutpcy filings?

One’s gender does little to predispose you to a Bankrutptcy filing any more than one’s eye color.  But the statistical evidence shows that women are more likely to end up in certain financial predicaments that often lead to declaring Bankruptcy.

Contrary to the stereotype that those who file Bankruptcy have irresponsibly spent themselves into a hole, nine out of 10 women were forced into Bankruptcy by a job loss, medical emergency or divorce.

These same factors tend to be present in many male filed bankrupties. Women, however, often have less economic security-particularly if they have children- according to Professor Warren.

Warren’s data, based on Chapter 7 and 13 filings, make it scarily clear:

  • For unmarried men, the bankruptcy rate was 6.3 cases per thousand.
  • For unmarried women, it was 7.2 cases per thousand.
  • For married couples without children, it was 7.4 cases per thousand.
  • For married couples with kids, the rate about doubles to 15.3 per thousand.
  • And for single women with kids, the bankruptcy rate nearly triples to 21.3 cases per thousand.

Single women alone comprise almost 40% of all bankruptcy filings.

Bankruptcy’s warning signs

Women often have lower incomes, and after divorce, often bear more costs of child-care than men.

  • SINGLE MOTHERS.  While divorce is not easy for men or women,  women are more likely to be to care for children and aging parents.  These single mother still have most of the costs of the married couple, but they are forced to do it on one (usually lower) income.
  • LACK OF STEADY INCOME.   A lot of mothers with very young children, either do not work outside the home, work-part time, or help their husband out in their own business.  Therefore, the single mothers often are less employable or have diminshed earning capacity because of these facts.  Marian worked from home, helping out in her husband’s business.
  • NOT WORRING ABOUT MONEY MATTERS. With children in the home, and other demand on their time, mothers often push aside the financial management or allow their husband to do it.
  • TAKING ON TOO MUCH DEBT. Taking on more debt than you can reasonably handle is another major cause of bankruptcy.  Often times people with families spent money based upon their belief that the expenses are justified and needed by the family.  They will charge credit cards or take equity out of their home without having a reasonable plan to repay those debts.
  • FAILING TO ADJUST YOUR LIFESTYLE QUICKLY BASED UPON CHANGES IN INCOME.  Many people end up filing Bankruptcy because they fail to adjust their expenses, such as their home or cars, based upon their change of financial condition.

Raising the child suppot payments will not greatly help.  The increased costs of raising children has far outpaced the increase in child support awards.  The reality is now two households must be supported on what used to support one household.  Therefore, financial ruin, and filing bankruptcy is almost of a product of a terminating marriage.

Any good parent is at much greater risk of having to file Bankruptcy because the parents are pushing themselves to their financial limits to buy their children the best.  They want to buy houses in the best school districts, the newest games for the PS3, or Wii, and maybe even a car and insurance for their teenage children.

How to Avoid Filing Bankruptcy

Obviously, there are some times when filing Bankruptcy may be a woman’s best or only solution. But despite being financially at risk, if most of your debts are secured, like your home or car, if you want to keep them, will not be discharged or wiped out in Bankruptcy.  Women with unsecured debt, like credit card debt, can eliminate their credit card debt and have their financial slate wiped clean.

But a new Bankruptcy law that took effect in late 2005 makes filing Bankruptcy more complex.  If you feel that filing Bankruptcy might be your best choice, you should consult a full-time Bankruptcy lawyer who can help you decide if it’s worth the consequences.  You can generally get a free bankruptcy consultation from most Bankruptcy lawyers.

Meanwhile, if you feel you’re at risk declaring Bankruptcy based on these five financial risk factors, and especially if you’re a married woman on the brink of divorce, act now to protect yourself:

  • Get savvy. If you’re not on top of your finances, now is the time to take a crash course on personal financial management.
  • Divide your debts. Cancel all joint credit cards and other debts.
  • Claim your assets. Make sure your name is on the title to the house and on all investment accounts.
  • Shore up your career now. Don’t wait for divorce, layoff or illness to strain your income.
  • Scale back your lifestyle now. If you’re getting divorced, you need to live on 50% of what you’re used to live on..
  • Know your rights. In the event of divorce, the IRS allows you to file an “innocent spouse” claim, if you feel you don’t owe certain taxes.  An expert in Tax Law like Phillip Gillet, a Bakersfield Tax Attorney, can provide you with a consultation to tell you about all the different solutations to your tax problems.
  • Get financial and Bankruptcy counseling . Depending on your circumstances, you may not need Bankruptcy if you can learn to live within your means.  While it may seem wierd a Bankruptcy Lawyer is an excellent person to tell you what declaring Bankruptcy can and cannot do for you.  A Free No-Obligation Bankruptcy Consultation can provide your with the information necessary for determining whether declaring Bankruptcy is right for you.

Learn About Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Personal or Corporate

This post about Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing is under construction.  Check back later for link to Chapter 11 Bankruptcy information below.

  • Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Background
  • How Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Works
  • The Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Debtor-In-Possession
  • The U.S. Trustee or Bankruptcy Administration
  • Bankruptcy Creditors’ Committees
  • The Small Business Bankruptcy Case & The Small Business Bankruptcy Debtor
  • The Single Asset Real Estate Debtor Bankruptcy Case
  • Appointment or Election of a Bankruptcy Case Trustee
  • The Role of the Bankruptcy Examiner
  • The Automatic Stay
  • Who Can File A Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Plan?
  • Avoidable Transfers
  • Cash Collateral, Adequate Protection, and Operating Capital
  • Motions During a Bankruptcy Case
  • Bankruptcy Adversary Proceedings
  • Bankruptcy Claims
  • Equity Security Holders
  • Conversion or Dismissal
  • The Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Disclosure Statement
  • Acceptance of a Plan of Reorganization
  • The Discharge
  • Post Confirmation Modification of the Chapter 11 Plan
  • Post Confirmation Administration
  • Revocation of the Confirmation Order
  • The Final Decree