A Chapter 13 You Can Afford?

Low Down Payment

I can go as low as required by the case plus filing fee.

I set the down payment on a case by case basis. If you’re under the gun and have to get filed and if you’re serious about debt reorganization, then the down payment is negotiable. However in most cases I won’t go lower than $500.

That can give you a powerful leverage that does the opposite of having to start with a huge pool of cash like when you are trying a debt settlement program.

Chapter 13 Attorney’s Fees

Attorney’s fees for Chapter 13 cases range from $3500 to $5000.  It’s what the US Trustee’s Office allows which in the Southern and Central Districts of California. I consider the final total for your Chapter 13 Attorney’s Fees as a fixed cost, therefore I charge what the US Trustee’s Office allows.

Because think about it, if I reduce my fees by $500 that only reduces your monthly payment by $6.67 per month.

If You Need to Stop Foreclosure for a Short Time

If you’re planning on filing a bankruptcy for the sole purpose of delaying a foreclosure so you can do a loan modification or short sale, then maybe you should do a Chapter 7. Chapter 7 straight bankruptcy gives you the benefit of delaying the foreclosure while discharging your debts at the same time and costing significantly less.

My Bankruptcy Law Office is located in Old Town Murrieta, convenient to Temecula, Menifee, Lake Elsinore, Canyon Lake, Winchester, French Valley, Moreno Valley, Riverside and Palm Desert.

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10 Reasons Why Chapter 13 is Better than Debt Settlements When You Owe a Lot of Money

Chapter 13 vs Debt Settlements; a Re-Match

What is a Debt Settlement?

A Debt Settlement is a non-judicial process whereby you or your representative contact your creditors and ask them to take a settlement.

What is a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a court process to reorganize your debts over a 3 to 5 year plan of repayment.

In the rest of this post, I will assume that you do owe a lot of money and that you do not qualify for a chapter 7 straight bankruptcy.

Round 1: Chapter 13 Can Also Cut Your Balances

With a chapter 13 you might not even have to pay all your credit cards in full in the first place. You might be able to cut your balances by more than the settlements.  On top of that Chapter 13 gives you up to five years to pay them off too.

If you don’t own a lot of property and if your income is too high to file a chapter 7 but not high enough to pay your debts in full, then in your chapter 13 plan you pay your debts whatever you can afford. Take that Debt Settlements!

Of course, you’ll have to ask your attorney how much you can reduce your debts with bankruptcy. Know your options because knowledge is power.

Round 2: No Need for Large Up-Front Cash Pool

To do a debt settlement you have to have access to a large amount of cash. Usually, 40% to 50% of the total balances on your credit cards. That’s got to come from somewhere. Often people pull it from savings, their 401k plan, or other retirement plans. Sometimes you have to borrow it from someone else like your parents or grandparents.

In a chapter 13 you set up a payment plan to pay back your credit cards. You don’t have to liquidate your family heirlooms, cars, trucks, jewelry, wedding rings and 401k plan in order to pay your chapter 13 payment plan. You pay it out of your regular earnings.

Round 3: Attorney’s Fees

Attorney’s fees in debt settlements are determined by the number of accounts settled plus the percentage of the amount saved. If the person doing the offers to settle your debts saves you 50% of a $10,000 credit card, they’re going to charge you from 10 to 20% of the $5000 savings. Plus you’re going to pay a flat amount per account up front usually from $100 to $500 per account.

For instance, if he saves you 70% of a $10,000 account, then the savings is $7,000 and 20% of that is $1400. You’re going to pay $3000 on the account, + $1400 in fees, + you paid a down payment. That’s 38% to 45% of the debt. You could have probably gotten that same deal or better yourself to begin with.

In a chapter 13, it’s $4000 to $5000 to handle all of the debts en masse.  So, if you owe a lot of money and have a lot of different accounts to settle, then file a chapter 13.

Round 4: Certainty

In a chapter 13 bankruptcy, you know how much you’re going to pay and for how long.

Debt Settlements can take a long time. You won’t know how long until it’s done. While settling one account here or there, the other accounts might sue you in the mean time too. Uncertainty leads to stress in the home and domestic quarreling.

Round 5: Your Credit Is Toast Either Way

Trading your nest egg of savings away in order to settle your debts for less than full value because you think it will preserve your credit rating is a lie. Don’t believe it.

Round 6: Retirement

If you get to retirement age with a lot less money because you liquidated your retirement savings to pay debts, you’ll kick yourself all the way to the Walmart where you’ll be applying for a door greeter job. Ooohh, Debt Settlements takes a black eye, and the crowd goes wild!

If you borrow against your 401k plan and even if you pay it back, you still lose money. If you borrowed $30,000 and if you pay it back on time at 7% but if you would have earned 10% then you’re going to lose more than $40,000 even if you do pay it back on time. If you end up defaulting on the 401k loan instead of paying it back, you would lose over a Million Dollars.

You realize that your retirement savings is protected in a bankruptcy whether in chapter 13 or chapter 7. You could keep all of your 401k plan’s savings when you file bankruptcy.

Round 7: 401k Loans Cost More Than Chapter 13 Payments

If you “borrow” from your 401k plan in order to pay your credit cards, how much does that cost? If you borrow $30,000 from your 401k plan, what is the 401k loan payment?

ANSWER: Borrowing $30,000 at 7% interest for 60 months at 26 pay periods per year yields a $541 payment per check.  That’s over $1100/month.  60 months later you’ve paid back $66,000. This is the real cost of your 401k loan and it’s ugly.

Depending on how much money you owe, your chapter 13 plan payment may very well be lower.

Round 8: You Borrow From Your 401k then Lose Your Job

You’re screwed to put it mildly. Imagine you’ve settled $60,000 with the $30,000 you’ve borrowed from your 401k plan. You’re out of debt, sort of. Except that you’re paying the $30,000 back. If you’re on an 8 year repayment plan at 7% then your payment will be $355/check based on biweekly pay periods. Then you lose your job.

First you’ve taken a humongous hit on the amount of retirement you thought you’d have, and that’s going to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and you’re going to be applying at Walmart.

Second, if you had been in a chapter 13 bankruptcy and lost your job, you’d convert to a chapter 7 and discharge the debt. Your retirement savings would still be preserved and you’d be out of debt.  Debts Settlements takes a Right Cross to the Jaw!

Round 9: TAXES

In a chapter 13 bankruptcy, you just pop them into the plan, recent taxes will have to be paid in full, however, while paying those in full, you can also reduce your payments on your credit cards to as little as 0%.  (Depending on your circumstances). Older taxes may be lumped in with the credit cards and given as little as a 0% pay out too.

Debt settlements cannot touch this with a 10 foot pole. Debt Settlements gets a body shot and is going down!

Round 10: Rental Property Mortgage Benefits in Chapter 13

Imagine stripping the 2nd and 3rd mortgages off of your rental properties and at the same time, cutting the 1st mortgage down to the value of the property and rewriting the mortgage. Can your purveyor of Debt Settlements do that?

Chapter 13 gives Debt Settlements a rabbit punch on the way down, but the referee misses it!  Debt Settlements is down!

CALL to set an Appointment for a FREE Consultation 951-200-3613

Why You Should Use Chapter 13 to Consolidate Your Debts When You Have a Higher Income?

What if you make a lot of money but have a lot of debt?

Has a process server shown up at your door yet with a summons and complaint? When you have a higher income, this is a serious problem. If your wages get garnished and you make $9000 per month, then 25% of your check after taxes is a couple of car payments. So now the cars are about to be repossessed. How are you going to get to work? You risk losing that job if you let it move forward.

Have you ever thought that if you could just pay your credit cards what you owe them, you’d be able to handle the payments?  If they just didn’t have 12, 15, or 29% interest rates, you’d be able to eventually pay them off in a reasonable time, right?

Debt Consolidation

For many this would be true. Debt consolidation starts to sound like a great idea at that point. They promise to reduce interest rates for each of your credit cards and accounts, and cut your payments in half and when you get there the numbers just don’t work out.

Once the numbers are all added up, they tell you that you’re going to pay only about 25% to 33% less than you’re currently paying. If honest, they’ll also tell you that some of your creditors won’t play along and will just go ahead and sue you and garnish your wages instead. Some creditors will reduce interest rates to 5% but some will reduce interest rates by 5%.  There’s a huge difference.

Of course if they tell you that, then you won’t sign up and won’t pay them any money and then they won’t make any money on your case.  Clearly that’s why I’m writing this post to you, because I’d prefer you signed up and paid me instead to be perfectly honest.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

So, here’s what I can tell you about a chapter 13: Once the chapter 13 payment plan is approved by the Court which is called a confirmation order, none of your creditors are going to opt out and sue you and garnish your wages instead. They can’t.  Basically, you’ve already sued all of them yourself. It’s a pre-emptive strike sort of like suing all of your creditors as a class action lawsuit before they can sue you individually.  So, no lawsuits against you and no wage garnishments or bank levy.

Truly Reorganize Your Debt With Bankruptcy

Additionally, what I usually find is that if you are paying 100% of your credit cards and medical bills and the like, and you’re paying them at 0% interest for only 5 years, then in most cases you cut your payments in half, give or take a few percent. It’s what the debt consolidators promised to reduce your payments to, but couldn’t. The reason it works out though is that the bankruptcy court forces the creditors to take it.  The other reason it works out is that your attorney and your bankruptcy trustee are charging you far less than the interest you would have to pay if you went to a debt consolidation.  Plus the debt consolidators charge you on top of that.

For example

If you owe $60,000 in credit cards and you pay them the regular monthly payments, by the time you’re done you’ll have paid them something like $194,000. That’s a payment of at least $1800 to 2100/mo depending on how many different accounts, who they are with, varying interest rates and so on. Worse it would take 538 months or 44 years to pay it off. I checked the minimum payments at Bankrate.com.

Debt consolidation on the same debts will probably yield a payment plan of $1400 to $1600/mo for about 5 to 6 years and probably at least one lawsuit.

Your chapter 13 bankruptcy plan would pay back about $70,000.  You do that for 5 years only, and your payment is about $1167.

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8 Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Pitfalls You Can Avoid

Chapter 13 is a Great Tool, Unless . . . 


There are pitfalls to avoid. Getting your case dismissed when you thought it was your last hope to save your house is a disaster.  Yet, it happens much more often than not.

Pitfall 1: Losing Your Job

Such a no-brainer, yet it may sound like something you cannot avoid. However, we all know that sometimes it is.  If you don’t get along with your boss, take a deep breath.  Take an anger management course.  Take a Tylenol. Take a break. Take a nap. Because it could be a case of lose your job, lose your house. If you’re in a chapter 13 bankruptcy to catch up the arrears on your house, then you must keep up your mortgage payments current and you must keep up your plan payments.  Quit paying either one and your chapter 13 will be dismissed.  Once it gets dismissed, and you no longer have bankruptcy protection, you go back into foreclosure.

Pitfall 2: Don’t Get a Divorce

Again, while it may sound like something that probably can’t be avoided, often it can be. Be the best spouse that you can be. Bring flowers. Bring chocolates. Bring movie tickets. Read, How Full Is Your Bucket?  On my wedding day, the officiant gave me 5 little magic words for when you come home and find the baby in the highchair, his food is everywhere, the dishes aren’t done, and the other kids have homework, and you’re just back from work and the 5 little magic words are: “What Can I DO To Help?”

Pitfall 3: Re-evaluate Your House Situation Carefully Before You File

Before you file the case, you should reevaluate the house situation carefully. Chapter 13s are designed to put you on a seriously Draconian budget. So, unless you’re making great money, a budget that is too tight will ruin your marriage or your relationship to your significant other in a big fat hurry.  Don’t lose your spouse over a house.

If you DO qualify for a Chapter 7 but want to file a Chapter 13 to try to save the house, then your budget will be under a huge strain, there won’t be any money for fun, recreation or vacations and I’ve seen that lead to divorces and split ups over and over again and then neither of you will end up with the house.

Pitfall 3: Make Your Chapter 13 Plan Payment On Time Every Time

Get behind, you’re toast.  Nuff said.

Pitfall 4: Get Health Insurance If You Don’t Have It Yet

If you’re not properly insured, with health, life, auto and disability, you’re an accident waiting to happen. If you get sick or injured, you’re outta there.  If you cannot pay the plan, then you will lose that house. 

Pitfall 5: Not Filing a Chapter 13 When You Should

If you make great money, and if you could just get all of your credit cards to agree to zero interest (0%), then you’d be able to pay everyone no problem, then do it.  That’s exactly what a Chapter 13 can do for you.  If you pay the regular payments it will take forever and you’ll pay almost 3 times what you owe before you’re through.  If you go to a Debt Consolidation, they’ll be able to reduce your interest rates, but not to zero percent (0%).  Paying at zero percent interest (0%) for 5 years usually will cut your payments by a little under half.  Take the deal.

Pitfall 6: Including Your Car 

If you can file a Chapter 13 without having to include your car, then avoid putting it in the Chapter 13 payment plan like the plague. If your bankruptcy gets dismissed, you’ll find that you’re now perhaps months or years behind on your payments on your car.  You’ll also find that you’ve got mega late fees now attached to the car note.  Also the repo guys will be on their way soon after your Chapter 13 gets dismissed for non-payment. I had clients who wanted save a house, but to do that they had to lower the car payment by including it in the 13.  I suggested that they move out from the beginning.  When the case finally got dismissed the balance on the car was approximately twice what it was before filing.

Pitfall 7: Technical Tricks and Traps

Most of these are things your attorney is going to have to be familiar with and help you avoid them.  However, my favorite is one that you can help avoid: In the Central District of California, in Riverside, you are required to pay your plan payments directly to the Chapter 13 Trustee at the hearings until the judge approves your payment plan. This approval is called a Confirmation Order. Your Chapter 13 plan payments are due 30 days after your case is filed and then ever month on the anniversary of your filing date. However, your hearing date will be approximately 45 days after you file.  If for some reason your judge continues your confirmation hearing, it will most likely be for another 45 days.  When you show up to that hearing, you must bring two (2) payments with you to the 2nd hearing, not just 1.  Because 45 + 45 = 90, your plan requires that you pay 3 plan payments by that 2nd hearing date, not 2.  If you don’t bring the 3rd with you, your case will be dismissed.

Pitfall 8:  Mal-Adjusting Your Tax Withholdings on Your Pay Checks

Whenever you pay less than 100% of your credit cards and medical bills and so on through your Chapter 13 payment plan, the bankruptcy trustee will want to intercept your tax refunds as you get them from the IRS every year until your case is over. Phew!

Many people try to adjust the withholdings so that they end up zeroing out their tax refunds. However, if you reduce it too much, you end up creating a new creditor for yourself, and it’s the biggest most powerful collection agency in the world, the IRS. But at least it’s not the meanest, that distinction goes to the Franchise Tax Board of the State of California.

What pitfalls did you encounter?  Pin, Tweet, Plus and Share This Article.


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10 Things You Must Know About Chapter 13 If You Do Not Qualify for Chapter 7

So, Attorney Gandalf has told you that “You Shall NOT Pass!”

That’s what Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings told the Demon-Balrog as it attempted to cross a narrow bridge deep in the Mines of Moria. So now you’ve been told by another attorney that you don’t qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You’ve failed the Means Test. Perhaps based on your own research you think your income might be too high. But it’s not like you’re wealthy and or made of money. You’re struggling just like everyone else, just at a higher level of income. At the end of the month, you have the same amount left over as everyone else; nothing.

What now?

Get a 2nd Opinion About the Means Test

I’ve seen cases where a client’s initial consultation with another attorney missed a couple of key items that made all the difference. When you come in for your free consultation, we’ll go over them together. Attorneys are not supermen, we’re fallible.

Okay, I’m not but some are. Some of the lawyers who are newer in the field of bankruptcy might not know all the ins and outs yet. I’ve filed several Chapter 7 cases where the first attorney thought that the clients didn’t pass the Chapter 7 Qualification Test called the Means Test.

Let me have a look at it if you’re in California, maybe I can help you. I’ve been a bankruptcy attorney since 1994 and I’m located in Murrieta conveniently close to Temecula, Riverside, Wildomar, Menifee, Lake Elsinore, Canyon Lake, Santa Ana and San Diego.

Sometimes Your Only Bankruptcy Option is Chapter 13

There are worse things, just ask Gandalf, more importantly ask the Balrog.  But if you have to file a Chapter 13, there are things you must know.  Here are the first 10 that come to mind off the top of my head.
First: It’s not the end of the world.  The sky will not fall. The police will not show up and arrest you (there is no debtor’s prison). Your friends will not laugh at you. In fact more of them have filed or are about to than you might imagine. You won’t walk around with a watermark of a B on your forehead. Frankly, if you make too much money to file a chapter 7 then that’s a good problem to have. You’re going to get to do what you promised to do in the first place; pay your debts.

Second: A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a bankruptcy with a payment plan attached. If you don’t qualify for a chapter 7, your payment plan must be 60 months unless you’re able to pay it off earlier. You might even be able to strip your 2nd mortgage lien off of your house.

Third: If you don’t qualify for a chapter 7, your chapter 13 bankruptcy has a version of the Means Test too and it is used to determine, at least in part, how much of your unsecured non-priority debts you must pay back through your chapter 13 payment plan.

The definition of unsecured is any debt that is not attached to something that can be repossessed if you don’t make the payments. Priority debts, roughly speaking, are debts that either you owe directly to the government or that the government must pay if you don’t. So for instance, credit cards and medical bills are unsecured. So are student loans. Recent taxes are priority debts, which you do owe directly to the government. Child support is a priority debt too because if you don’t pay, then the custodial parent may be forced to go on welfare. But student loans on the other hand are not priority debts because if they were a lot of people would never qualify for Chapter 13. But that’s a whole nuther ball o’ wax!

Fourth: You may not have to pay all your credit cards, medical bills, student loans, old taxes (under the right circumstances and conditions of which there are many) and so on in full. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able pay off lates on your mortgage, back child support and recent taxes in full while paying only what you can afford to on your credit cards, medical bills, student loans, and old taxes.  Of course, you will still owe any unpaid student loans after your chapter 13 payment plan is over.

So, “it puts a book mark in the student loan.”  ~Anna.

Fifth: The other thing that determines how much of your unsecured non-priority debt is how much stuff you own. If you have accumulated a lot of stuff or a lot of unprotected savings, you may have to buy it back again. So, never ever have unprotected savings. Basically if you could protect only $50,000 worth of stuff but you have $75,000 then you must pay at least $25,000 into your chapter 13 bankruptcy. So, whichever requires you to pay more is the one that you go with.

Sixth:  Even if you have to pay everything in full, 100% of the principal on your unsecured non-priority debts, but if you can do it with 0% interest, then you will most likely have a lower payment than if you go to a debt consolidation program outside of a bankruptcy.

Seventh:  If you pay less than 100% of the principal they will take your tax refunds away from you every year you are in your chapter 13 bankruptcy so sometimes it’s better to bite the bullet do a 100% payment plan.

Eighth: If you owe more than $1,149,525 to secured debts such as your houses and cars, you can’t file a chapter 13.  Or if your credit cards and medical bills and other unsecured non-priority debts come to more than $383,175 then you cannot file a chapter 13. In those circumstances your options are consolidate your debts outside of bankruptcy, settle some of the debt and then file the 13 or try a 7 anyway and hope they don’t try to force you into a chapter 11 where you will have to pay more than $20K in attorney’s fees (and that’s just the beginning).

Ninth: If you’ve been behind on your payments to your houses and cars then in some jurisdictions your bankruptcy judge will require that you pay your regular monthly payment on your mortgage to your bankruptcy trustee rather than directly to your mortgage bank.  In the Central District of California in the Riverside Division, there is one judge that does require this.  Called a conduit payment, it helps to insure that you don’t get into any further trouble with your mortgage payments.  However, if you haven’t been behind in your house payments, then you are still allowed to pay directly even in that Judge’s Court.

Tenth:  A Chapter 13 bankruptcy has a qualification test too, it’s called the feasibility test, which means what it basically sounds like.  You have to be able to pay the payment plan.  If you can’t, then they dismiss your case or suggest that you convert to a chapter 7 bankruptcy.  So, if at a later date you lose a job, or your spouse loses their job or that second job, then maybe you can request that the judge assigned to your chapter 13 reduce your plan payment based on the new lower income or even request a conversion to chapter 7.

I’ll be expanding the list, so if there’s something you think should be on the MUST KNOW List, please put it in a comment below.  I look forward to your thoughts.

5 Ways Chapter 13 is Better than Debt Consolidation

First Way

Protection of the Automatic Stay when filing your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is a much better solution than signing up for a traditional debt consolidation. The Automatic Stay is a Temporary Restraining Order prohibiting Collections!  The order comes from a federal court and therefore preempts or supersedes state laws allowing creditors to collect.

A Debt Consolidation program, is a wish and a phone call to beg the creditor not to sue you while you are in repayment.  While most creditors will play along, there are many that will not.

A Debt Consolidation is a mangy dog begging for scraps at the doors of justice.  “Stay Boy! There’s a good doggie!” 

Second Way

When your chapter 13 bankruptcy payment plan is completed in 3 to 5 years, your temporary restraining order is made into a permanent injunction called your Discharge Order. Even better these Court Orders have teeth.  If a creditor violates one of them whether during or after your bankruptcy, you can sue them in the bankruptcy court and they have to pay your attorney to sue them to get them to back off or even pay you back. When you hear the word “stay” think of the word “stop”.  The Automatic Stay stops foreclosures, repossessions, wage garnishments, bank levies, creditor harassment and driver’s license suspensions.  Debt Consolidations do not provide the same protection as that of a Federal Court Order.  Debt Consolidations can possibly help you reduce your interest rates if you beg. 

Third Way

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy forces your creditors to work with you and your attorney whether they like it or not.  While in debt consolidation which is voluntary, some of your creditors aren’t going to work with you.  The debt consolidators pretty much know which ones and under what circumstances they won’t work with you.  The debt consolidators that have been working the deal for a while should already know which ones are not going to play along.  But for some reason, they never tell you:    “Oh and by the by, Equable Ascent Financial (or Asset Acceptance or Your Creditor Here) is not going to take your offer and they’re going to sue you now.  But just keep paying the monthly payment so that I can take my percentage and pay the other creditors slowly but surely while you get sued.  And I also told them that you have a new address, but oh ya, I forgot to tell you that too, even though you didn’t move or anything . . . but just keep paying your monthly payments so that I can get my monthly percentage of your payments, okay, thanks.”  

Fourth Way

The Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment plan reduces interest rates down ZERO 0% and can reduce principal balances down to as little as ZERO 0% on your credit cards, medical bills, personal loans to private lenders, even older taxes as well.  Debt consolidations outside of bankruptcy can reduce interest rates too, so long as the creditor in question goes along with it.  On rare occasions principal balances might be reduced too for the few creditors who decide to go along with it.

Fifth Way

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy can reorganize all of your debts, such as repaying and restructuring your recent back taxes, your missed house payments, and even spread the last 2 or 3 years on your car payments out over 5 years thereby reducing the car payments by half or more. Often even if you repay your credit cards and medical bills in full but cut the interest rate down to 0%, in every case I’ve seen, you will have a lower payment than if you go to a debt consolidator outside of a bankruptcy.

What to do When You’ve Forgotten a Creditor

FORGOTTEN CREDITORS

Chapter 7

If you forgot a creditor, do you still owe it when your case is over?  In most Chapter 7 cases, no you don’t.

Of course the analysis is different for the different chapters of bankruptcy.  In Chapter 7 bankruptcy if you inadvertently leave a creditor off your petition, whether you have to pay them back or not depends on two things:  1. Did you rip this creditor off or cheat them out of their money or intentionally injure their person or property? OR 2. Did the Trustee assigned to your case set a deadline for creditors to submit claims for money.

Pretty much, if a creditor is left off your chapter 7 bankruptcy and if you didn’t cheat them out of their money in some way or intentionally harm them, then in most cases your debt will be discharged even though it was left out of the petition.

This is true only when your bankruptcy trustee did NOT set a deadline for creditors to make claims for money. The debt is automatically discharged. You don’t even have to reopen your case and add them to it, you just send them a copy of your discharge and remind them that you owed them before you filed your bankruptcy.  See Beezley v. California Land Title Co, (In re Beezley), 994 F.2d 1433, 1434 (9th Cir. 1993) (per curiam).

A bankruptcy trustee will only set that deadline if you have money or property that he can take away from you, sell, and pay the proceeds to your creditors.  For the vast majority of you, this will never happen.

To make the issue just a little clearer than mud, here’s a copy of the statute, 11 USC Section 523(a)(3):

[A debt is not discharged in bankruptcy if it is]

(3) neither listed nor scheduled . . .  with the name . . . of the creditor to whom such debt is owed, in time to permit—
(A) . . . timely filing of a proof of claim, unless such creditor had notice or actual knowledge of the case in time for such timely filing; OR
(B) [if you did commit fraud, embezzlement or intentional injuries or damage] . . . . , timely filing of a proof of claim AND timely request for a determination of dischargeability of such debt . . . unless such creditor had notice or actual knowledge of the case in time for such timely filing and request; 

11 USC Section 523(a)(3)(A)

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE: A bankruptcy trustee only sets a deadline for creditors to submit proofs of claim when he finds that you property that he can take away from you, sell, and pay your creditors.  This deadline is called a claims bar date.  So, for instance, you have a house with $50,000 in equity and you also have a cabin in the woods worth $10,000.  More typical is your home has $50,000 in equity and when that happens you can only protect about $3000 in cars.  If your car is worth $10,000 then your trustee is going to sell it and pay you a $3000 check.  You won’t be able to keep both the house and the car.

Your bankruptcy trustee will sell your car or cabin and split the proceeds among your creditors and that is true even if it would only pay your creditors 1% of what you owe them. Of course, if your cabin really is only worth $10,000 then he might not find a buyer.  What if he doesn’t?  Your trustee will still have already set the claims bar date anyway because he sets that long before he finds out that no one wants to buy your cabin afterall.

Your bankruptcy trustee might not set the claims bar date until months after your case has already discharged.  Once the trustee notifies the court that there may be assets, a claims bar date is set.  That date is usually 90 days after the bankruptcy trustee notifies the court.  At that point, you should definitely make sure that every creditor listed in your case is listed with the correct address.  Double check all of your records to make sure none were left out.  If you listed a creditor at the wrong address, then they won’t know about the bankruptcy and won’t get a share. So, Google all their corporate addresses.  Go to AnnualCreditReport.com or FreeCreditReport.com and to help make sure no one is missing.

If your creditor was not notified or if you used the wrong address, or if you found the right address but notified them too late to submit a proof of claim, then that creditor will not be discharged and you will owe them in full.  That is the start of a bad day.

Unless you can prove that the creditor had notice or actual knowledge.  So, for example, you had a business partnership and you listed both of your partners as creditors.  If however one of them moved but then he finds out that you filed from the other partner who didn’t move . . . then you just have to be able to prove that he knew in spite of the move.

It could be as simple as getting the one to testify and say that he told the other. Good luck with that one, they’ll probably collude to testify that he didn’t and then split what you owe the guy who moved.  Or if the move-away partner telephoned and left a snarky or nasty message about it.  You’ve got him.  If you scanned the notice of commencement of case and emailed it to him, then you’d be able to prove that you’d done that.

Best of course, if you realize that a creditor has been left out, and if you know that the bankruptcy trustee is setting the claims bar date, double check everything and amend your bankruptcy as necessary.  That’s going to cost some money, but it’s better than paying them back.

11 USC Section 523(a)(3)(B)

THE DARK SIDE: Basically the gist of this is: If you cheated a creditor either by fraud, theft, embezzlement, or intentional injury to person or property, then leaving them off your bankruptcy is not going to protect you from them.  You cannot beat these kinds of creditors by adding them late by amendment with only a week or two to go to the end of your case.  If a creditor would have a claim for this kind of debt, they must ask a judge to exclude them from your discharge.  But they must make that request in writing and file it with the court during the 60 days after your first hearing date.

Your first hearing date is called your first meeting of creditors.  The request that a creditor must file against you is a special type of lawsuit called an Adversary Proceeding.  If they were notified properly AND don’t file this lawsuit, then they have already lost.  It’s like a mini-Statute of Limitations, but it only works if they in fact knew about it.  If the creditor knew that you filed, and does not sue, then they lose by Default.

But subsection (B) of the statute has that little word, “and” in the text, what does that do?  “filing of a proof of claim and timely request for a determination of dischargeability”.  Does that mean that if you cheated a creditor out of money that the bankruptcy trustee must still file a notice to set a deadline to file proofs of claim in order for their claim to survive the bankruptcy discharge order?

Basically it works this way: Above on the lighter side, where there was NO fraud, NO embezzlement,  and NO intentional harm, the debt was discharged with nothing more happening.  In the dark side, where you DID cheat the creditor or you DID intentionally harm the creditor, the debt is NOT discharged.  However, the creditor has the same requirement to file an adversary proceeding to prove it.

When do they have to file that lawsuit though?  Since they didn’t get notice, then whenever they file it, it will be timely.  So, my recommendation is to reopen the case, add the creditor, and ask the court to determine a last date for that creditor to file their lawsuit against you.

Most creditors even when they have pretty good cases will still never bother to sue you in the bankruptcy court.  Especially when we’re talking about institutional creditors like the big banks.  A small creditor like The Piano Credit Company will sue you for fraud even when anyone can see that you never did it.  Your best friend who lent you some money or your former business partner, those are the ones that sue you.

Chapter 13

In chapter 13 bankruptcy, every case is an asset case and every case has a deadline set automatically for creditors to submit proofs of claim.

So, it is very important to make sure that your addresses are all correct, and that you have listed every one you might owe money or property.  You can download each of your three credit reports for free at AnnualCreditReport.com, and for a small fee you can download them at FreeCreditReport.com.  Keep in mind however that not all of your creditors will have reported to the credit reporting agencies and sometimes they are temporarily off of the reports.

If you are in bad financial circumstances, do not throw anything away.  Keep every invoice or billing statement that you ever get.  Keep every collection letter and every letter from an attorney.  If ever have to come and see me, you may wish you still had them someday.  Do not throw them away.

$100 Starts

Bankruptcy $100 Starts

You may have read this before. But what does it really start? You think you’re getting a cheap bankruptcy or an affordable bankruptcy, but what are you getting really?

Your chapter 7 case will not be filed until you have paid the attorney’s fees, plus the filing fee, plus the credit counseling in full and completed the credit counseling. Period. This is true whether you come to me or anyone else.

Some of the $100 Starts guys (definitely not all) might file your case for you for $100 but only if you pay the $281 filing fee for a chapter 13 bankruptcy which is a bankruptcy with a payment plan for 3 to 5 years. Do you want a bankruptcy with a payment plan for 3 to 5 years just so you can afford to pay your attorney to file the case?

$50 Starts

$100 or $50 starts you making your payment plan against your attorney’s fees to your attorney, and that’s all. In my case it starts me taking your creditor phone calls when they start coming in which is usually the following day. Many attorneys won’t even do that. They say they’ll take the calls but then don’t do it until you’ve paid in at least half of your attorney’s fees. Or they’ll straight up tell you that they won’t take any calls until you’ve paid in half of the attorney’s fees.

For $100 will they send letters or make phone calls to your creditors for you? Of course not, neither will I . . . well, maybe one if it’s urgent. But it sounds like that’s what you’re getting doesn’t it? Immediately a bunch of phone calls and letters going out from the attorney’s office to beat down the bad guys. But all you get for it is a payment plan.

What I will do is this; once you have made the down payment to me, I’ll take your creditor phone calls for you. You must start taking your own calls again and when the collection agents call, tell them that you’re going to file for bankruptcy and that your attorney’s name is David Nelson and ask them to call me and verify it at 951 200 3613. Of course, don’t do this until we have met, signed retainers and you have paid me at least a down payment. 98% of your creditors will never call you back directly once you do that. They call me and verify it then leave you alone. Every now and again, one of them gets overzealous and then I write that one a letter. Once they receive the letter they leave you alone.

Affordable Bankruptcy

But even if all you did was start your payment plan, how much of a dent have you made if the attorney charges you $2000 for your affordable bankruptcy? Nada mucho. My prices generally start from $700 for widows, orphans and cancer patients or disabled folks plus the filing fee, up to My usual range which is $1000 to $1500 in attorney’s fees plus the filing fee for most cases and of course if you have several houses or a ton of cars or a lot of income, it can go up steeply from there.

But even so, I’ve had clients with a half a dozen houses and even those cases were only $2100 in attorney’s fees. So, still a strong affordable price compared to most. Normally, I don’t charge for extra creditors or extra collection agencies. Most people don’t have more than about 50 anyway. So, it’s not that much extra work from 20 or 25 to get to 50 data entries in a keyboard.

Of course, If you have a garbage bag full of unsorted collection agents, it’s going to cost you a bit more if you want me to pick through it, sort the duplicates and type up more than that range. Just bring me one statement from each account. IF you bring me your credit report make sure it has the addresses of the creditors on it so that I don’t have to search the web for them. IF it doesn’t, make sure you seach the web for those addresses and put them on the credit report or make sure you bring extra money to pay me to do it.

A great way to know how many creditors you have is to go to AnnualCreditReport.com to get your free annual credit reports. Make sure that you check mark all three credit reports on the page that asks which ones you want. Last I saw if you tried to check one at a time, it wouldn’t let you go back again. Also FreeCreditReport.com is a good place to go. They charge for a credit rating monitoring service but then allow you to get a free credit report with all three merged reports, once you have that, go back immediately and cancel the service before they charge you.

So what makes more sense to you? $100 starts you on a payment plan to pay off $1500 or $2000 in attorney’s fees or $100 starts you on a payment plan to pay off $700 (if you’re disabled or a widow or sick) to $1200 .

Bankruptcy Attorney David Nelson on Google+

Which Chapter in Bankruptcy is Right For Me?

Chapter 7 vs Chapter 13

Automatic Stay

The moment that you file your case, whether in chapter 7 or chapter 13, a temporary restraining order is issued by the bankruptcy court prohibiting collections of any type with a few exceptions. Exceptions include things like child and spousal support and certain types of government debts.

Chapter 7

A chapter 7 bankruptcy, also called a straight bankruptcy, and also called a liquidation bankruptcy is the one that most people are thinking of and talking about when they discuss bankruptcy. Over in about 4 months, this is it’s primary advantage, you’re in and you’re out again.

In a chapter 7, you’re allowed to keep only so much property. Whatever you own over and above what you get to keep, the bankruptcy trustee takes away from you, liquidates or sells it, and uses the proceeds to pay your creditors a pro rata or proportional share of the funds based on the percentages of the total debt that’s owing from you to your creditors. Suffice it so say that if you owe $100,000 and the Trustee is able to collect $25,000 from your property, then your creditors will get about 25% of the debts that you owe them.

Most of you will keep everything you own and your creditors will get nothing.

Any portion of the debt left over after the trustee administers your case, whether it’s 95% of the balance or 100% of the balance that’s unpaid, that portion is discharged by the bankruptcy.

So in a small nutshell a Chapter 7 is a bankruptcy where the bankruptcy trustee may take property away from you (if there’s any to take) and when it’s over, your consumer debts are discharged or in other words, you receive a court order which is a permanent injunction prohibiting collections.

Remember that there are exceptions to the discharge. Certain kinds of debts are exempt from the discharge and will remain a personal obligation for you to have to pay once your case is over. Child Support, Spousal Support, Student Loans, Recent Income Taxes, and a number of things which are similar in nature are not discharged. You will still have to pay your mortgage if you want to keep your house, you will have to pay for your car if you want to keep your car as well. For more details (but only if you’re in California) and to discuss specific debts, call me 858 452 4500.

You must qualify for a chapter 7 by showing that your income is sufficiently low or that certain expenses are sufficiently high or both. This test is called the Means Test.

Chapter 13

With Chapter 13 you get to keep everything. If you would have lost it in the chapter 7, you can still keep it in the chapter 13 as long as you pay the bankruptcy trustee for it instead of giving it to him and letting him sell it. A chapter 13 case is a bankruptcy with a payment plan. Payment plans last from 3 to 5 years.

If you file in Riverside, the Trustee is Riverside has produced a Chapter 13 Handbook to help guide you through your case. Read it. It is specifically for the Riverside cases, and much of the information is tailored specifically and applies only to Riverside. If you file in Santa Ana, LA, San Diego or San Francisco, ask if there is a different handbook. There may be by then.

The payment is determined by your income and expenses. If you don’t qualify for a chapter 7, then your payment is determined by what the means test states you have to pay.

There are other reasons you might file a chapter 13 instead of a chapter 7, in a chapter 13, you are able to propose a payment plan that allows you to catch up unpaid payments on your home and thus at the end of the payment plan, you are current on your first mortgage again. If you have a 2nd mortgage and your home’s value is lower than the balance on the first mortgage, then you may qualify to have the 2nd mortgage removed from your home.