Articles Posted in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

California has had some decent growth in property values lately with the lowering of interest rates, investors buying homes, and some people trying to get into a hot market before interest rates go up. This has been somewhat a good thing for housing prices. If you are considering filing bankruptcy for other debt related issues you may want to jump in before the market continues to rise. I have had two clients in the last month who have come to me from Cathedral city and haven’t paid there mortgage in over a year. One wanted to file a chapter 7 as he was divorced, the ex-wife was living in the house and he just had too much debt to manage. Amazingly he didn’t realize that his house was an asset. Last year the house was probably worth 150 and his not was about 160. Since he had no intention of saving his house and couldn’t pay the arrears with a now split family I decided to recommend a realtor to him before we filed. He was able to put 20k in his pocket within a month and we have delayed the filing of the bk for him. Once the money is out of escrow and in his account I can file using the 703 exemptions and protect the money with the wild card. So without the bankruptcy and a good lawyer spotting the value in the house he could of either lost the house and let the bank capitalize on that or we could have just filed the bankruptcy quickly and the trustee might have sold the house and paid the 20k to unsecured creditors. Having someone on your side with your interests and not a person who is just trying to file a million cases allows these kinds of insights to manifest into truly starting over with a fresh start.

My other client is in the same boat but wants to try to save the house as the mortgage is reasonable and renting would be just as expensive. We will pay back her arrears through a chapter 13 and if when she decides we can sell the house with court approval during the process. This might allow her to capitalize even more if the housing prices start to go up.

The other thing an experienced bankruptcy lawyer will look out for and make motions should he need to is that when you file a case your house might be worth what you owe and you use the 703 exemptions with the wild card to protect cash, cars, toys etc. You feel that is the better route since the property doesn’t really have equity. The thing is the trustee could keep the case open and even though you get a discharge he doesn’t file the no asset report and the case is not closed. If in 6 months the property has gained 5 % and its got 20k in equity the trustee could make a motion to sell and meanwhile you and bankruptcy attorney were asleep at the wheel thinking you got the discharge case closed. If a no asset report is not filed at the time of a discharge I will make a motion to the court to abandon assets. You don’t want the trustee buying the benefit of time and potentially selling one of your assets. In this market its something you have to be aware of.

Raymond Lee sues a lot of people in southern california and in Riverside county where I typically practice. Most cases in my jurisdiction are heard in Indio and are often brought by American Express who sends a lot of there accounts to Zwicker and Associates. You have many options in how to deal with the law suit that you have recently been served but first thing you need to do is speak with a competent lawyer to examine those options. When you have been sued you have 30 days to answer or you could face a default judgment which essentially says you agree to everything and allow them to collect against you through a judgement. Remember a judgment is good for 10-20 years with a renewal and collects 10% interest plus when they win they tack on attorney fees, costs for bringing the suit etc so now is not the time to put your head in the sand. Many times I negotiate these cases down to 50% of what you owe. Sometimes we have to answer the law suit, other times I call them directly and work on a settlement prior to answering to save money. If they won’t come to the right number then we answer to make them realize they are going to have to work and expend money to get potential money. This often brings them back to the negotiating table quicker. Another option that I have and they realize is that I file chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy cases which either means they get paid nothing or what you can afford over either three or five years. All of a sudden a settlement sounds good to them. Raymond Lee is located in Pasadena so sending someone out to fight this case with someone that fights them every step on the way in Indio is not cheap. This is done for clients that might not be perfectly situated to file a current bankruptcy. Sometimes filing a bankruptcy case is all about timing depending on where you income is or certain financial things that you have done too recently to filing a bankruptcy case which necessitate waiting. Filing an answer to buy time in these types of cases is critical. Also, sometimes bankruptcy isn’t necessary depending on how old other debt that you have is, if you are about to meet the statute of limitations on your other debt and make above the median income, filing a 13 might not make sense so answering and negotiating becomes advantageous. If you have debt and have been served and wonder your options, call a knowledgeable riverside county bankruptcy attorney who looks at things from all angles before sending you down a one road solution.

When looking at whether you qualify for bankruptcy as a chapter 7 or chapter 13 the size of your household makes a big difference. Chapter 7 allows you to not pay any money back to creditors whereas chapter 13 requires that you do a payment plan that last either 3 or 5 years depending on whether you are above or below the median income. In the central district of california which is the local bankruptcy court for Riverside, San Bernadino County and Los Angeles County, the trustees seem to use a heads on bed approach as opposed to traditional family or what your dependents that you claim on your tax return says. Sometimes there are children that live between to households which can benefit you if you can include them in your bankruptcy even though your spouse claims them on the previous year tax returns and things like that.

In Palm Springs, many of my clients are gay which allow me to find creative ways to qualify people for bankruptcy and determining whether to include a partner or not. Some people are domestic partners, married, or just living together which all have different and varying consequences and allow me to creatively think about how to get the best result. Because bankruptcy is federal most trustees only require federal tax returns which can be helpful to gay couple that are married and file joint returns in California but as single under federal taxes since the federal government does not recognize gay marriage. This can make a big difference in qualifying for chapter 7 since an individual income can be up to 48k a year but when you are a family of two its 62k. By treating to people as single it allows the household unit to make up to 96k which can be a huge benefit.

If you are thinking about bankruptcy and have debt problems and live in Riverside County, talk with a bankruptcy lawyer who deals with our local trustees and knows the in and outs of the bankruptcy court before walking down that path without counsel.

When you have assets that are above the amounts that the california exemptions in chapter 7 are able to protect, it puts property that you have in potential risk of being liquidated. Something that most people don’t understand though is that you have the option to buy it back from the trustee typically at a discounted rate before the trustee puts it on the market. That is what an equity buy back is. In general for most of my bankruptcy clients this is extremely rare because California has extremely generous exemptions which typically allow most debtors to protect all there assets. There are two exemption models that you can use which are known as the 703 or 704 exemptions. 704 exemptions are for people with a lot of equity in there house(not so many in riverside county). Typically for people who have no refinanced in the last 15 years and are older. Most married couples can protect 100k in equity in there home so if your house is worth 300k and you owe 200k your equity interest would be exempt. If you are 55 or older with a certain income you can get 125k in equity and 65 or older can be up to 175k in equity. Since most clients of mine do not have equity we use the 703 exemptions which give you $3500 for a car, 1400 for jewelry, 23,000 as a wildcard which you can use however you want. So if your car is worth 10k and you don’t have a secured creditor through financing then you would have to borrow 6500 from the wildcard which would still leave you with 17k to use how you wish. When you go over the wildcard then the trustee will ask if you want to buy back what he could liquidate to pay your creditors. For example I had a client who owned a 30k dollar car, had an IRA for 100k, jewelry of $1000 and 10k worth of household goods. In this situation the IRA/401k etc is protected 100%. The jewelry is protected up to 1400 so its protected 100%. The household goods are in general protected so no issue. The wildcard and the car exemption equal about 27k so the trustee could send me a letter if they are interested in 3000 dollars and let me know that we need to pay 3000 or else he will sell the car and pay my client 27k and have 3k to pay creditors. For that small of an amount the trustee typically wouldn’t do it as its to much of a pain to administer an estate that small and buy the time he paid auctioneer fees, fees to pick up and store the car etc there truly would be nothing to distribute to creditors. If its closer to 10k then the letter will come for sure. If someone did not want to lose that 10k then they could file a chapter 13 and they would have to pay at least 10k back to creditors over 5 years. If that is your only reason however to file a 13 my typical suggestion would be to do a 7 and pay the 10k over 1 year if they can afford it. These are the general issues in understanding what happens to debtors with more assets than typical and the option of the equity buy back. Call a riverside bankruptcy attorney if you have questions about how a liquidation analysis would unfold in your chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Almost 4000 default notices were mailed out in May 2012 making Riverside County the county with the most foreclosures in California. This is a 12% decrease from March and a lot better than last year but suggests as I know first hand, that things are getting much better and the real estate market for us locally will take more time to bounce back then people anticipate. California in general ranked number 2 in the country for for foreclosures with 39k filed. Statewide its 1- 351 houses in foreclosure. Riverside as you can see is doing much worse. I think its partly because 14% unemployment and many people who moved out to Riverside did so with jobs related to construction and other functions of the economy that have been slammed. Foreclosure can at times be something that you need to put into perspective when it comes to trying to keep a house that will not regain value for so long that its worth letting it go and saving for two years where you could likely be a house similar to yours for 10-15% more than the current market value of your house. If you have a second mortgage then bankruptcy is going to be the way to go without a doubt because a 2nd mortgage has recourse and can sue you personally for not paying it while a first once they foreclose cannot come after you for the difference(deficiency).

My point is I have situations and stories where people come in who have renters and they are getting $2300 for rent on a house that costs them 4400 for the mortgage and $500 for HOA’s. Every month they are losing $2600 dollars on a house that has a 2nd that has been charged off(still collectable) and the first is owed 50k more than the house is worth. To me it makes no sense to continue to lose your money every month on a house that will not regain the 140k it would need to in order to have equity. You can buy a house 2 years after a bankruptcy. So in my analysis it would be you could save close to 30k a year by not making up the difference on the rental house and wipe out your personal liability on the 2nd mortgage. In 2 years you would have 60k saved and could go and put down that towards the same house that would have 60k in equity and no bad 2nd for less than you owed the 1st. Bankruptcy under these types of circumstances needs to be a business decision and not tied to the emotional aspect of losing a house. Thats just my two cents. If you have questions about bankruptcy, foreclosure, and your rights please contact a qualified bankruptcy attorney in Riverside County. I work in Palm Springs and Palm Desert and deal with the Riverside Bankruptcy Trustees on a daily basis. I can help guide your decision.

When it comes to a chapter 13 payment plan for my clients who are well over the median income and clearly have enough money to pay something to creditors it is clearly a balancing act between a debors attorney and the chapter 13 trustee. The means test determines what a food budget, transportation budget, etc. will be and after (mortgage) or standard rent, Health care, taxes, life insurance, financed vehicles etc are taken out that is what your chapter 13 plan will be. 401k loans are repayable as a priority creditor. You can cram down cars to current market value. You can get rid of 2nd liens that are so far upside down that your house is worth less than you owe the first. There are many benefits, but to gain them you have to be willing to pay your disposable monthly income to the trustee. There is no budget for alcohol or vacations or christmas presents but you can find ways in other parts of your budget to fit those things in. For some people 13’s can be extremely easy especially if you are not a lot over the median income and you get the benefit of stripping your 2nd lien while paying 1% to your creditors. For other clients who are used to making alot of money and living the high life it can be difficult.

Many people are under the mistaken belief that you can only keep one car in bankruptcy. While the bankruptcy code in California only give you an exemption for one car at $3550 this does not mean that you can only keep one car. I have had clients with 8 cars that have filed chapter 7 and kept them all. Because california has a wildcard exemption for 23,500 its not a question of how many cars but how much value in your cars that you can exempt. Many people have financed cars with no equity in them as they owe the banks more than the cars are worth. Under that analysis you can have as many cars as you have financed as its of no value to the estate since its your equity position in the car that the trustee cares about and not the cars that are overly financed. The wildcard exemption can be pieced and parceled however you like so if you have a car worth 10k we would use the 3500 for the car exemption and the 6500 for a wildcard exemption which would still leave 17k on the wildcard. We could then exempt 2000 dollars that you have in the bank which would leave 15k on the wild card. You could have 5 cars worth 3k a piece and then that would use all the exemption amount. So you can see by my examples its not a matter of how many cars but what the values are and if we can protect everything with the wild card exemption as well as the car exemption. Call my office if you have further questions as to what you can keep in bankruptcy.

When doing google searches about Palm Springs Bankruptcy attorney’s I seem to find more and more attorneys who are paying to advertise via the web in Palm Springs regarding bankruptcy service but do not live or practice in Palm Springs. Many of these law firms use virtual offices and have a paralegal show up once a week to do the intake process. I don’t have any issues about taking cases out of town and actually do practice in all four federal districts doing chapter 7’s in all four but 13’s only in the Northern and central District, but I do recommend that if you are going to hire an attorney for something as intimate and potentially consequential as bankruptcy that you are dealing with an attorney and not a mass marketing mill that strives to take your money with little consequence to what happens with your case. Many attorney need paralegals to do the day to day work such as correspondence, drafting letters, filing cases, entering data etc. I have heard more and more from clients who have gotten their cases dismissed that there was a lack of communication between the paralegals and the attorney managing their cases which sometimes has gotten their case dismissed. I have had at least 3 cases in the last month from people in palm springs who have filed bankruptcy with attorneys who are an hour or more drive and have had communication break downs which lead to case dismissals and in one case a house which was sold at auction because an attorney didn’t file an response for a motion for relief from automatic stay. Make sure that whoever you decide to use in your bankruptcy that they have your best interest at hand. There is some money to be made in bankruptcy these days with as many cases as we are seeing, but my belief is that if you want to make this a lasting practice you have to take a very individual approach with each client which I strive to do, even as I get busier. Call my office at 760-459-2438 and you will speak with me directly. I live and work in Palm Springs and plan on staying in bankruptcy for the long haul and you will see that in my personal service and attentiveness that I take on your case. Although we will get out of this recession and tough economic times, there will always be failed businesses, divorce, medical issues and the standard things that cause people to file bankruptcy. The mills will fade and the sole practitioner who is serious about bankruptcy will rise to the top and that is how I am building my practice.

The general rule in bankruptcy is that the most recent tax return needs to be turned into the trustee one week before the 341 hearings. Failing to do so can get your case dismissed or if you are lucky the trustee will give you a few days to do it and continue your case. If you comply with the tax return requirement then they will remove the continued date off calender and everything moves forward to you getting a discharge. That is if you file your 2nd credit counseling class along with the B23 certificate where you swear that you took the class and put the certificate number etc. These are some of the things that pro se(clients that represent themselves) forget to do and end up getting their cases dismissed. Looking up the local rules on the bankruptcy court website can help but the more prudent aproach in my opinion is to hire someone to do it for you. As a riverside county bankruptcy attorney I do this every day and make sure that everything is done correctly. Today I was in court for 3 cases and one one of them my client gave me a declaration that they were not required to file tax returns for the previous two years because they made under the 9k IRS limit which allow you to not file. I have dealt with this before with clients just making social security income or low income enough to not file. What I have typically done is just file a declaration claiming them exempt from returns. Today the trustee told me that I was in his opinion still required to mail the most recently filed return which was for 2008. I will do that tomorrow and the case will move forward smoothly. Even a seasoned practitioner can be challenged and he might be right. I find it hard to believe that the trustee would be interested in the income my client made three years ago as its irrelevant to the current bankruptcy case but if that is what he wants then I’ll be faxing that to this office tomorrow. Typically I have my clients file tax returns before we file. I might go back to that.