Archive for February, 2014

5 Things You Must Understand About Filing Bankruptcy

Friday, February 28th, 2014
article from BLN

If you want the benefits of bankruptcy, keep in mind that it’s more than just telling your lawyer, “I’d like to file bankruptcy.” As Oscar said to office manager Michael Scott on the TV series “The Office,” “You can’t just say the word bankruptcy and expect anything to happen.”

You need to understand these important things:

1. Don’t expect your lawyer to do all the work. Bankruptcy–any chapter–is collaborative. You need to discuss things with your lawyer. She’ll ask questions. There may be a need for further information or documents. YOU will have to do certain things and provide certain information. Your lawyer does not drive your car, live in your house, or open your mail. And if you’re lazy, the process will be miserable. Your lawyer will fanticize about choking you like a rubber chicken at a hockey game–and for good reason. So get off the couch, open your mail, and get the information to your lawyer.

2. Don’t expect to file bankruptcy if your tax returns aren’t filed–especially when it comes to Chapter 13 bankruptcy.  The bankrutpcy system requires that your tax returns be filed.  (For an in depth look at this requirement for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, see “IRS to Chapter 13 Debtors: File Your Tax Returns by February 5!”)

The IRS gets a bad rap for being difficult to deal with; however, they’re a pretty reasonable creditor. I’ve never been treated rudely or unprofessionally by anyone at the IRS.  But they want your tax returns filed.

Got a good excuse for not filing them?  Doesn’t matter. Get them filed. It pains me to even listen to all the “dog at my homework” excuses clients come up with for not having their tax returns filed. I know it’s a pain (for some at least), but it’s got to be done.  Apply the Nike Doctrine: Just Do It!

3. Don’t hide things from your lawyer. This is a really stupid idea, so get it out of your head. I can’t tell you how many times I find out my client bought a car, or transferred an asset, or did something else without bothering to tell me. Here’s the tough love truth: It’s just a really bad idea.  Don’t do anything without telling your lawyer! And NEVER hide anything from your lawyer.

4. Don’t expect that there will be no consequences from filing bankruptcy. Keep in mind that you’re getting out of a repaying a sizable amount of debt–at least in most cases. Don’t whine to your laywer about why your mortgage company won’t report your payments on your credit report. You discharged the debt. You don’t owe it anymore. The lien remains, but the liabilty doesn’t.  I mention this because it’s what many of my former clients complain about–especially those who unloaded a ton of debt by filing bankruptcy and feel entitled and indignant that their on-time mortgage payments aren’t getting reported.

There are some (relatively minor) side effects to filing. If you don’t want ANY side effects, then get out your checkbook an repay your creditors in full.

5. Read what your bankruptcy lawyer sends you. I can’t tell you how many times clients totally ignore my written instructions. If I, for example, tell you (in bold and in italics) that you need your social security card and driver’s license for your bankruptcy hearing, then you need those things. No, you didn’t just find out the night before your hearing when we reminded you (for the second or third time). You got a letter three weeks earlier, but just chose not to read it. READ WHAT YOUR LAWYER SENDS YOU.

The bottom line here is that bankrutpcy is WORK for you. You must, as some teacher probably told you, apply yourself.  But if you do, the rewards are worth it!

Carolyn Secor is a Clearwater bankruptcy attorney and Clearwater foreclosure attorney serving Palm Harbor, New Port Richey, Oldsmar, Tarpon Springs, Seminole, St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay area.

If you would like more information on our practice, please consult our website at:

www.bankruptcyfortampa.com
or call (727) 254-1704.

Now Might be the Right Time….. If You Are Thinking About Filing For Bankruptcy

Monday, February 17th, 2014

BLN article by admin

Filing Bankruptcy is all about timing. Sometimes, waiting to file makes good sense and will save the debtor a lot of headaches and some significant debt. Sometimes, however, the time to file is as soon as possible.

Let’s look at six reasons to file now; and six reasons to wait:

File now when:

1. Your house is appreciating and may exceed the homestead amount if you wait;

2. Your house is appreciating and you can strip a wholly-unsecured second deed of trust now, but might not be able to in a few months;

3. You are expecting a significant raise or you just got a good job;

4. You are anticipating a change in your marital status and want this done beforehand;

5. You just want to get started on being debt-free; or

6. You want to avoid litigation or collection annoyances.

File later when:

1. You just got a bonus from work and it significantly affects your income level;

2. You are anticipating some significant medical treatment and aren’t sure if your health insurance will cover all of the associated costs;

3. You need a new car and want to pay lower interest while your credit is still good;

4. You are expecting a change in your marital status and want to wait until that is resolved;

5. You gave something of value away and need to wait until it is no longer an issue in a bankruptcy case; or

6. You have income tax debt that could be discharged if you wait the requisite amount of time.

These lists are far from complete. There are many other reasons for filing now or later.

The key here is to remember that timing is everything. Consult a competent bankruptcy attorney as soon as you can to help determine the right time to file.

Carolyn Secor is a Clearwater bankruptcy attorney and Clearwater foreclosure attorney serving Palm Harbor, New Port Richey, Oldsmar, Tarpon Springs, Seminole, St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay area.

If you would like more information on our practice, please consult our website at:

www.bankruptcyfortampa.com
or call (727) 254-1704.

Protect Your Property in Bankruptcy Using Exemptions

Monday, February 3rd, 2014
article by admin

The scariest part of filing bankruptcy is losing property that one should not have lost. It doesn’t happen often or to many people, but everyone needs to know how to protect property. Everyone who files bankruptcy gets to exempt a certain amount of things, but not everyone gets to use the same exemptions. Debtors must choose between state or federal exemptions to shield things  from the bankruptcy court. But which exemption does one use? Well, that depends on the interaction between a number of complicated federal and state laws.

The US Bankruptcy Code, at 11 U.S.C. 522, requires an examination whether debtor was domiciled in the filing state within the last 730 days. Domicile is a legal term that looks to the place where a person calls home. If the debtor was domiciled for the past 730 days in the filing state, then debtor can use the laws of the filing state or federal law if the filing state allows the use of federal exemptions. Some states do allow use of federal exemptions, some do not. Do you know which ones do and which ones don’t?

If debtor was not domiciled in the filing state during those 730 days, then one must look at the last 731 to 910 days. Finally bankruptcy law requires homeowners to look at home ownership during the last 1215 days to determine how much value can be protected in a house [that serves as one’s principal residence]. If this already sounds complicated, it is, so don’t expect an amateur to come up with the right answer. But this is just a start.

The law of each state and territory can affect the outcome if the debtor no longer resides in the state whose exemption laws are used. And the exemptions might not cover property that is not located in that state. This analysis applies to every case, even a case that debtor thinks is simple. If the correct exemption is not claimed, the property can be taken and sold to pay creditors. An experience bankruptcy attorney will know how to determine which exemptions apply. Before you file bankruptcy, make sure your property is protected by the correct exemption.

Carolyn Secor is a Clearwater bankruptcy attorney and Clearwater foreclosure attorney serving Palm Harbor, New Port Richey, Oldsmar, Tarpon Springs, Seminole, St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay area.

If you would like more information on our practice, please consult our website at:

www.bankruptcyfortampa.com
or call (727) 254-1704.