This week, our bankruptcy web video series explains how a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy can stop a wage garnishment. Justin Lawrence, the founder of Lawrence & Associates, explains how a bankruptcy can even force the company garnishing your wages to return your money to you if the bankruptcy is filed within ninety (90) days. Time is of the essence, so watch this video and call for more information today!
In the newest video in our bankruptcy web video series, Justin Lawrence of Lawrence & Associates explains how bankruptcy filers can keep a tax refund in either a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and how the tax refund can be used to pay necessary bills or even for the bankruptcy itself!
This video applies to Kentucky and Ohio bankruptcy filers; if you live in another state, please confirm that the rules given in this video will apply in your state as well.
Justin Lawrence from Lawrence & Associates explains how a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can stop a foreclosure on your home, how you can keep your home when you file bankruptcy, and how you can use a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to catch up on mortgage payments and get a fresh start.
Posted on Wednesday, January 20th, 2016 at 10:18 am
The beginning of the year is always the busiest season for filing bankruptcy. Nobody likes to think about their financial troubles during the holidays, and often the holiday spending that so many businesses rely upon is the same tipping point for balanced debt to begin spiraling out of control. But the beginning of the year is also when many people get tax refunds. If the tax refund can cover the credit card bills, disaster may be averted. But if not, Northern Kentucky debtors need to figure out how to protect that tax refund in bankruptcy.
In the Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati, trustees always watch for bankruptcies filed during the first half of the year that do not properly protect a tax refund. Although the debtor’s tax refund can be appropriately reported and exempted in a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing, do-it-yourself filers or inexperienced attorneys often fail to complete this crucial step. If the tax return is not properly reported or exempted, the trustee can seize the refund and use it to pay creditors. It is therefore very important to get an experienced bankruptcy attorney to properly file and protect the tax refund.
How can the Tax Refund Be Saved in My Bankruptcy?
A tax refund must be listed as an asset in the bankruptcy filing, even if the tax return has not been filed yet and even if you don’t know how much the refund will be. A reasonable estimate of the refund must be given, although you can also say you don’t know exactly how much the refund is. Trustees in Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 carefully review refunds for debtors that have minor children. Having minor children causes the earned income credit to be applied, and this generally provides for a high tax refund. However, the entire earned income credit can be protected from the bankruptcy trustee – again, this is something only an experienced lawyer knows how to do properly!
Chapter 7 trustees in Northern Kentucky are typically more likely to be aggressive in pursuing a high tax refund than a Chapter 13 trustee, since the Chapter 7 trustee can seize the refund outright if it is not exempted properly. This is, in part, how a Chapter 7 trustee gets paid. In Cincinnati, both the Chapter 7 and the Chapter 13 trustees are fairly aggressive in pursuing tax refunds.
There is no specific exemption in the bankruptcy code for a tax refund, so the wildcard exemption has to be used. In Cincinnati, this is a big problem because the wildcard (or miscellaneous) exemption used in Ohio is small. In Northern Kentucky, this is less of a problem because Kentucky law allows debtors to use the federal wildcard exemption. The federal wildcard exemption is very large and most tax refunds will be protected by it.
However, in Kentucky the federal wildcard exemption is also used to cover many other assets, such as the money in the debtors’ bank accounts, any firearms in the home, and any equity the debtor has in a second car. Thus, it is possible that, without proper legal advice, even a modest tax refund could go beyond the limits of the exemption and be taken by the trustee.
How Can Lawrence & Associates Help Protect My Refund?
Experienced bankruptcy lawyers make a big difference. In our consultations, Lawrence & Associates will explain how your tax refund can be spent on reasonable and necessary household expenses to protect it from seizure by the trustee. The lawyers at Lawrence & Associates have spent years learning exactly which expenses can be used to offset the tax refund and which cannot, thus avoiding the risk that the trustee will take the refund or delay the bankruptcy. Details matter, and our attorneys and paralegals are trained to find the details in your life that keep thousands of dollars of tax refunds in your bank account. Lawrence & Associates has been very successful over the years at putting money back in our clients’ pockets by offsetting their tax refunds with our attorney’s fees and thus protecting the debtor’s hard-earned cash from seizure by the Chapter 7 trustee.
You should not put off filing for bankruptcy if your debts cannot be repaid under your current interest rates, or if you are behind on payments and in danger of being sued or having a vehicle repossessed. Lawrence & Associates can help Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati clients protect their assets. We are Working Hard for the Working Class. Call us today and learn how we can help you!
Posted on Tuesday, November 10th, 2015 at 12:20 pm
At Lawrence & Associates, we file Chapter 13 bankruptcies in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati every day, but we rarely file Chapter 11 bankruptcies. The Chapter 11 system is vastly more complicated than the Chapter 13 system, although both bankruptcies are, at their hearts, reorganizations of debt. Creditors in a Chapter 11 get to vote on the reorganization plan proposed by the debtor, where creditors in a Chapter 13 do not, and Chapter 11s have far more procedural hurdles. Although Chapter 11 bankruptcies are generally considered big business bankruptcies, in reality some individuals are also forced to file Chapter 11 bankruptcies as well.
When Does Your Unsecured Debt Force You To File Chapter 11?
Unsecured debt includes credit card bills, medical bills, student loans, pay day loans, and many other categories of debt. As a rule, you can only file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy if your unsecured debts total less than $360,475.00 (as of the date of this writing). Student Loans become a major issue under this rule, as they can often total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars all by themselves. Unsecured debt alone can sometimes force an ordinary person to file in the same Chapter 11 system normally reserved for the likes of multi-national corporations.
To avoid this trap, talk to an attorney. Consider taking out a loan on any equity in your home or car, and using that secured loan to pay down unsecured student loans. (Bear in mind that, if you take out a debt in the process of filing bankruptcy, you will absolutely be required to pay the full amount of the new secured debt, at its regular interest rate, regardless of what bankruptcy you file.) This can be a wise decision because student loans are usually non-dischargeable, meaning you can’t get rid of them in bankruptcy. Since you’ll have made part of your unsecured debt secured in this process, you may be able to stay in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy if you managed to pay your unsecured debts to less than $383,175.00. Again, talk to an attorney before taking any action so there are no unforeseen issues in bankruptcy.
When Does Your Secured Debt Force You To File Chapter 11?
Secured debts typically take the form of mortgages, car loans, judicial liens or other debts taken out at the time something is purchased for the purpose of paying for the item. The secured debt limit for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is $1,149,525.00; any higher, and you will have to file a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. If you are looking to reduce secured debts in order to fit into a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, one of the only ways to do so is to give up property secured by a debt. Upon doing so, the debt will become unsecured and no longer count toward this total.
If You Have Questions, Call Lawrence & Associates!
Lawrence & Associates has helped many clients file Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and we’d be happy to help you. We are Working Hard for the Working Class, and we want to work for you! Give us a call for your free consultation, today!
Lawrence & Associates has told you before about creditor harassment, and with a list of things the creditor can and cannot do. We’ve also talked repeatedly about illegal scams where someone calls and pretends to be a debt collector in order to swindle you out of money. This post is slightly different. Here, we talk about the debt collector’s threat of fraud and related threat of jail time. Fraud allegations are different because a debtor really can go to jail for actual fraud. However, because debt collectors generally don’t understand the real meaning of the word fraud, the threat of jail time for fraud charges is almost never a real concern for every day debtors like you. Here’s why:
What Is Fraud?
So what separates an average joe who can’t pay his credit cards on time from a criminal who is defrauding business of its hard earned money? In a word, intent. One must actually intend to commit fraud, because a necessary element of fraud is the knowledge that a representation made is false. For judges and prosecutors, there is no question that someone has not committed fraud simply because they find themselves unable to pay their bills. The real question is whether the person with the unpaid bill, at the time he or she took out credit, knew that the debt would never be paid back. As a practical matter, that is difficult to prove in the context of taking out a loan. It is one thing to show that a bad check was written when the check writer knew the account balance was too low. It is another thing entirely to say that someone signing for a loan never intended to pay it back. None of us have a crystal ball.
As a practical matter, most creditors don’t even try to prove fraud. The bar is simply too high, and the likelihood of winning too small. Further, the fact that some debts won’t be paid back is factored into the creditor’s business model. That is why credit card companies and banks are billion dollar businesses despite the bankruptcies filed on their loans every day. Rather than prove fraud, these companies simply sue for money. The difference is profound. Fraud is criminal and involves jail time. A civil suit for money is a matter of a garnishment or lien against property.
There Is a Way Out of Crippling Debt
Debt Consolidation Companies aren’t always a solution, but bankruptcy is always the nuclear option to debt problems. Although you don’t have to worry about debtor’s prison or fraud, you do need to worry about your credit score, your debt-to-equity ratio, and many other variables that determine the kind of life you live. Although it is counterintuitive, bankruptcy can drastically improve these factors and your ability to live the life you deserve.
Lawrence & Associates has helped many clients who have been hassled by debt collectors, and we’d be happy to help you. We are Working Hard for the Working Class, and we want to work for you! Give us a call for your free consultation, today!
Many of our clients are facing the same problem: there isn’t enough money to go around, and they are robbing Peter to pay Paul. Some clients come in for bankruptcies after some financial calamity and are juggling credit cards just to put food on the table. Others come in for an injury, following a car wreck or work injury, and suddenly find that they are unable to work and don’t have enough socked away for a rainy day. And our disability clients face a year-long wait for a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge, during which they typically have no income and cannot work. Any way you cut it, if you need the services of a lawyer you are probably facing some hard times.
If you have more bills than money, you need to know how to prioritize the money you do have to maximize your chances of returning things to normal in as soon as possible.
Pay Secured Debts First – the House and the Car
Lawrence & Associates tells clients to make sure their car payment is taken care of first (assuming they want to keep the car). Missing even one car payment can cause the repo man to start cruising down your street. A repossession is one of the few ways a creditor can take your money or assets without getting a judge’s approval first, and that means it can happen fast. Clients filing bankruptcy can be forced into a Chapter 13 if they are behind on a car payment, and cars that have been repossessed by surprise are difficult (but not impossible) to get back. While repossession applies to other types of assets as well – for example, if you take out a loan on an engagement ring and fall behind on payments, the ring can be repossessed – but nothing else you own is as exposed as a car sitting on the curb overnight. Keep car payments up to date if at all possible!
The next most common secured debt is a mortgage on a house. While houses cannot be repossessed, a judicial foreclosure is a relatively uncomplicated court battle (for the mortgage company) where many homeowners have little chance for relief. A bankruptcy will stop a foreclosure in its tracks, but Northern Kentucky courts allow the mortgage company to include its legal fees in the money that has to be repaid, further increasing your burden. And like car loans, even one month arrearage on a mortgage payment can force bankruptcy filers into a Chapter 13.
Similar to the mortgage payment, it is important to keep rent payments up to date. Although a rental agreement is not a secured debt, it’s important to protect your home. Also, once an eviction is filed it cannot be stopped, even if the renter files for bankruptcy protection.
Next Pay Back Due Taxes, Student Loans, and Utilities
Taxes and student loans have one thing in common: they are non-dischargeable, which means you only get rid of them if you pay them off or die trying. Therefore, it’s a good idea to continue paying on taxes and student loans even if you are falling behind on credit cards and lines of credit. If you eventually fall into bankruptcy despite your best efforts, unsecured debts such as credit cards, lines of credit, and medical bills will get wiped out. Taxes and student loans won’t.
Utilities are important for an obvious reason: you don’t want your lights shut off. However, be sure to prioritize utilities. Electricity is more important than a cell phone, for example. Pay the utilities you can afford first. While a bankruptcy will discharge an unpaid utility bill (and the utility company cannot cut your power for filing bankruptcy), it won’t help you any if your lights are cut off while you prepare your bankruptcy paperwork.
Finally, Pay General Unsecured Debts – But Do It Right!
Unsecured debts are the lowest of the low under the law. This category includes credit cards, medical bills, lines of credit and personal loans, debts related to old repossessions, and pay day loans. If you have the money to pay them, you should. But there are some limits on this line of thinking. First, it is a bad idea to cash in a retirement fund, or to stop saving for a child’s college education via a 529 fund, in order to catch up payments on a debt. This is not just opinion: the law makes these types of funds completely exempt from seizure even when filing a bankruptcy. Uncle Sam wants you saving for your retirement to ease the pressure on the overburdened social security system, not sacrificing your retirement to add a few bucks to a billion dollar company’s bottom line.
Before you take big risks to pay back creditors, talk to an attorney. Lawrence & Associates has represented thousands of Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati residents just like you. We are Working Hard for the Working Class, and we can help. Call today!
A few weeks ago, a Lawrence & Associates blog discussed the interplay between marriage and bankruptcy. At the time, Kentucky and Ohio were two of only four states in which courts had upheld bans against same-sex marriage, and we noted that a case before the United States Supreme Court could change the status of same-sex married couples in a bankruptcy:
At this time, same-sex couples are not allowed the right of marriage in either Kentucky or Ohio and therefore do not get the benefit of filing together. They do not get the cheaper filing rates of opposite-sex married couples, although the rules regarding household income are the same. The United States Supreme Court is currently considering this issue, so that rule may change. If so, we’ll update this blog in a different post to reflect that change.
Last week, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples have a right to marry under the United States Constitution. This landmark decision, similar to Brown v. Board of Education decades ago, advanced the goal of equality for all American citizens.
What Does this Mean for Bankruptcy Filers?
What this means for you depends on who you are. If you are not in, or about to enter, a same-sex marriage, then this ruling has no effect on your rights whatsoever. However, if you live in the Northern Kentucky or Southern Ohio areas, are in, or about to enter, a same-sex marriage, and are considering filing bankruptcy, then you have gained rights that had been previously denied to you. Insofar as it relates to a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you now have the right to file together, with only one filing fee. (This applies to both attorney fees and court costs.)
You will also be recognized as one household by the bankruptcy court once you have been married. By contrast, couples that are just dating are treated the same as roommates in the same household. Married couples, however, must list their spouse’s income on their bankruptcy, even if the spouse is not filing. This has no effect on the spouse’s credit, but it does affect one’s ability to file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. A Chapter 7 debtor must be under median income for his or her household size in the state in which he or she lives. Household income includes a spouse’s income regardless of whether the spouse files. Thus, a same-sex couple may be forced to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy where before they could have filed separate Chapter 7s.
What Does this Mean for Those with an Injury?
In Workers’ Compensation, spouses of an injured worker do not have a claim for damages, so nothing will change for Workers’ Comp filers. In Personal Injury claims, however, a spouse historically has a right to damages called loss of consortium. This is the loss of the injured person’s household services, affection, ability to have sex, etc. Same-sex married couples are now going to be afforded the same loss of consortium rights that other married couples have enjoyed for centuries. Loss of consortium is a small factor for small injuries (and in fact can be worthless in many small injury claims), but is a major factor for major injuries, sometimes totaling millions of dollars. The adopted children of same-sex couples also enjoy a version of loss of consortium based upon the loss of a parent’s affection, or vice versa.
In disability claims, married same-sex couples will likely enjoy the same spousal benefits that opposite-sex married couples enjoy.
Find Out How the Supreme Court’s Ruling Affects You Personally Before Filing Bankruptcy
Being recognized as a same-sex couple can have beneficial or negative effects on any court action. At Lawrence & Associates, we give free consultations on all our cases. Please call us to get more information on how the Obergefell v. Hodges case applies to your legal proceeding. We take pride in representing Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati couples. If you are getting married and have questions about bankruptcy, please give us a call today!
Many people wonder how they can protect their credit during a bankruptcy. There are actually several steps you can take before, during, and after a bankruptcy to help reduce the bankruptcy’s impact on your credit to the greatest extent possible. The Fort Mitchell, Kentucky offices of Lawrence & Associates can help you find ways to mitigate credit damage based on your particular circumstances. In the meantime, here are some tips:
Tips Before Bankruptcy
A Fort Mitchell, Kentucky resident with credit card accounts that have zero balances should stop using them immediately! If the balance is less than six hundred dollars, paying it off may be a good idea before the bankruptcy. However, you should never pay more than $600 toward your debts prior to bankruptcy, and you should always consult with an attorney before doing so. Many credit card companies will keep a person’s account open during bankruptcy if the card has a $0 balance when the bankruptcy is filed. If the account remains open until after the bankruptcy, then that card can be used to rebuild credit.
Tips During Bankruptcy
A Northern Kentucky resident can help to improve credit as well. Reaffirming on a loan or lease for a car will help to improve your credit rating. Future car payments will also help boost your credit score. It is not wise to reaffirm on a vehicle if the payments are beyond your ability to pay, but with a careful budget in place payments toward a mortgage or a car loan will continually improve your credit score. A good Northern Kentucky Bankruptcy attorney will prepare a budget that allows for such payments.
Tips After Bankruptcy
In Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, almost everyone that exits a bankruptcy gets credit card solicitations immediately. If the solicitation comes from a legitimate and well known credit card company, they might help you improve your credit. You’ll need to make sure that the company reports the credit line to the credit bureaus, so the payments on the card will help your credit. If you do accept such a credit card, be sure to charge only minimal amounts to it such as gas or groceries. Most importantly, ALWAYS pay the card off at the end of the month to avoid interest taking a big bite out of your budget. Finally, be sure to always pay all loan or credit card payments on time, as timeliness is important to your credit rating.
Unfortunately, our office does not provide additional services for rebuilding your credit after bankruptcy, although we can help you file bankruptcy or preserve your credit rating before filing bankruptcy. If you’d like more advice on filing bankruptcy or maintaining or preparing to preserve credit during bankruptcy, call Lawrence & Associates at our Fort Mitchell, Kentucky or Warsaw, Kentucky today!
If you are overwhelmed by mounting debt and tired or receiving harassing phone calls from creditors, contact Lawrence & Associates today. We can help you obtain that fresh start that you deserve!
There are many reasons that individuals and families find they can no longer afford to pay monthly bills. Some may have recently gone through a divorce or been saddled with overwhelming medical bills. Others have been injured at work or in an accident and are unable to earn an income. Many are facing increased interest rates on mortgages or credit cards and cannot keep up. There are also people who simply let spending get out of control and cannot find a way out. We want to share a recent case we handled to give you an idea of what we can do for our clients. We will supply as many details as possible while still respecting our clients need for privacy.
Our client needed to stop a foreclosure on her Northern Kentucky home. She was behind on her mortgage because she had unexpectedly gotten laid off, and it had taken her a few months to find a new job. The foreclosure had been filed and she had no way to defend it.
What We Did
When out client called Lawrence & Associates, we let her know that she could save her home with a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, so long as she filed the bankruptcy before the Master Commissioner’s sale on her home. Even if the mortgage company gets a judgment on the foreclosure, they cannot take the home so long as the mortgage arrearage is repaid inside a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Our client got to keep her home and she was able to repay her mortgage arrearage. With her new job and reduced debt, F.S. has gotten the fresh start through the bankruptcy court.
Providing You With Debt Relief Solutions Through Bankruptcy
Regardless of the reasons that brought you to financial distress, filing for bankruptcy does not make you a bad person. In fact, the government created bankruptcy in order to help people recover from unmanageable financial problems. At Lawrence & Associates, we help our clients understand how bankruptcy laws are made to protect them and will allow for a brighter financial future.
A man was injured when a piece of construction equipment collided with his vehicle and crushed him.
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A woman was killed while driving due to spillage left on the road.
A man developed a rare nerve condition due to his employment, which made it impossible for him to use one arm.
A man was a passenger in a rental car when it spun out of control and killed him.
A barge worker (Jones Act Seaman) was climbing down a ladder from an empty to a loaded barge when the improperly secured ladder collapsed. The worker’s head injury which caused...
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