From Attorney Marc Capone
Facing your bankruptcy issues is your first step to peace of mind.
In my twenty years as a bankruptcy attorney, I've seen what money concerns do to people.
The one image I can't shake is the sight of panicked clients coming to my office for the first time. Often they're carrying a shopping bag full of three months worth of unopened bills. They tell me they could not face what they owed. They tell me about their sleepless nights. They tell me they've given up. They tell me they feel like crawling into a ball.They hope this will all go away. Some clients come without shopping bags because they've thrown out those bills altogether.
It's powerful stuff. Some of these people tell me it has taken them four of five months even to admit they have a serious problem. Like ostriches with their heads in the sand, they don't want to face their biggest fear, which is losing their homes to foreclosure. But your problem is not going to go away unless you address it.
If you have found this web site, you may be in the same predicament. How did it all start? Often, it started because of a single traumatic event. It might have been the loss of a job, a divorce, or your child's illness. The decrease or absence of income for even a short time can suddenly create a downward spiral. Even the most financially responsible individuals can find themselves in a financial tailspin.
If you're living this nightmare and don't know where to turn, you've come to the right person. I can and want to help you.
Filing for bankruptcy may not be what you think.
Many people misunderstand bankruptcy. They think they must surrender all their possessions and properties. I have had clients tell me that had they known all the things bankruptcy could do for them, they would have come to me six months earlier.
Many people ask about the new laws about bankruptcy. I'm happy to say that the new laws have not changed the protections that bankruptcy affords most people.
So, what are you waiting for?
Gain peace of mind.
The number one comment I hear after clients meet with me is that they are finally going to be able to sleep at night. The most pressing concern for most people is to stop creditors from hounding them, which bankruptcy can accomplish. But that's not the only relief. Once you realize that you're not going to lose everything, you gain peace of mind. And that means you're well on your way to restoring everything that matters to you.
Take advantage of my free consultation. Discuss your problems with New Jersey Bankruptcy
The best thing you can do when you're in serious financial straits is to address your issues early. That way your debts are not so great and foreclosure proceedings are not so far along.
One thing to keep in mind is that your case is unique. Some people who approach me for the first time are discouraged because they have friends who had a disappointing experience when filing for bankruptcy. You won't know how bankruptcy can help you unless you meet with a highly experienced professional who can address your special circumstances.
And because I offer a free consultation, there's no reason for you not to stop by.
In some other bankruptcy firms, you may never meet the attorney who handles your case.
Remember, if I become your bankruptcy attorney, you will always meet with me. I will be the person formulating your plan. I will be the one you speak with on the phone. And I stand by the expertise that I have to share with you. I am a bankruptcy attorney that other bankruptcy attorneys turn to when their cases are too complicated. My professional colleagues have this confidence in me, and so can you.
What you don't know about bankruptcy may hurt you. Let's work together so that you can reclaim your life. Below are some questions frequently asked by my clients:
Q. I have received letters and solicitations from individuals
and companies telling me that I can save my home and avoid filing
bankruptcy. Are their claims true?
A. The short answer is NO. These are
predators, preying on your assumed lack of knowledge about how bankruptcy
works, how your credit scores work and on your fear of losing your home.
These people want to “steal” your home from you and they
do this for a living. You owe it to yourself and to your family to speak
to a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney before you even consider such
a drastic step as responding to one of these solicitors. A free consultation
with Capone and Keefe can explain how the foreclosure process works,
how the bankruptcy process works and how your credit scores are affected.
Capone and Keefe can lay out all your options for you so that you
have the information necessary to make an informed, knowledgeable
decision about the course of action you should take. At the very
least, you owe that to your family and yourself.
Q. I am presently out of work or disabled and have limited
income. Is it still possible to file a Chapter 13 and save my
home from foreclosure?
A. Absolutely. While a Chapter
13 does require that an individual have regular income, that
income can come from any number of sources, including unemployment,
Social Security, family contributions, rent, etc. Additionally,
there are numerous creative plans of reorganization that can
be filed with the Bankruptcy Court, all of which will result
in your saving your home from foreclosure. Capone and Keefe takes
special pride in its ability to craft a Chapter 13 plan that fits
your specific needs.
Q. If I file a bankruptcy, will my credit
be ruined forever?
A. Absolutely NOT.
What you need to understand is that if you are presently in the
position of considering filing a bankruptcy, your credit is most
likely damaged. By filing a Chapter 13 and stopping the downward
spiral, you will actually begin to rebuild your credit. It will
depend on what you do post-filing. If you make all of your post-filing
mortgage payments in a timely fashion, you will begin to rebuild
your credit. If you make all of your trustee payments in a timely
fashion, you will begin to rebuild your credit. Our New Jersey Bankruptcy
work closely with various mortgage companies that have very good “bankruptcy
bailout” programs. We have had
very good success refinancing clients out of their Chapter 13 case
once they have re-established credit worthiness. Capone and Keefe
can place you in touch with these mortgage companies prior to filing
your case so that you can see what you will need to accomplish
within your Chapter 13 case to re-establish your credit.
Q. Are there alternatives to filing bankruptcy?
A. Yes. If
your financial problems are only temporary, it is sometimes possible
to negotiate with each individual creditor and request that each
creditor accept lower payments or grant an extended payment schedule.
If you are in foreclosure, most mortgage companies have a Loss
Mitigation Department, whose purpose is to help customers who have defaulted on their mortgage loans. These departments
will generally request a significant amount of financial information
from you, similar to when you originally applied for the mortgage. Normally, it then takes months before they inform you of whether
or not they can help you. Be very wary of counting
on this route being the solution to your problem. For starters, the
mortgage company will be proceeding with its foreclosure action the entire
time you are dealing with the Loss Mitigation Department. Secondly,
more often than not, the best deal the mortgage company will offer
you is to pay half of your arrears immediately, with the other half
paid out over 6 months, in conjunction with the resumption of your
regular monthly mortgage payments. However, by the time the Loss Mitigation
Department makes this type of offer, the arrears are so significant
that most people can’t come up with that type of lump sum payment.
Q. What is the difference between a Chapter 7 bankruptcy
and a Chapter 13 bankruptcy?
A. Primarily the difference
is that a Chapter 7 is liquidation and Chapter 13 is reorganization.
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a trustee is appointed to administer the assets of
your estate. The Chapter 7 trustee's function is to determine
if there is any value in your personal and/or real property above
and beyond what the bankruptcy code allows you to exempt. The Chapter
7 trustee will liquidate any non-exempt property and use those proceeds
to pay your creditors. Upon completion of the liquidation process
or upon the Trustee’s determination that there are no assets
to be liquidated, you will be discharged from your remaining, unsecured,
In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a trustee is appointed, however, you remain in
possession of all of your assets. In return, you file a plan with
the bankruptcy court outlining how you will reorganize. Certain debts
have to be paid back, like mortgage arrears, real estate tax arrears,
and certain income tax debts. Other debts such as credit card
debt, medical bills, and certain income tax obligations may be paid
back in full, partially, or not at all, depending on factors specific
to your particular situation. Upon completion of your plan, which
can take from 36 to 60 months, you will receive your discharge.
Q. Can an employer refuse to hire me because I filed a bankruptcy in the past?
A. If you review 11 U.S.C. Section 525(b) again, you'll see that the answer is not quite as clear.
The code says an employer cannot discriminate "with respect to employment." It could be reasonably argued that this would prevent any employer from discriminating in hiring practices just because a candidate was filing for bankruptcy. Most cases interpreting this provision, however, indicate that the statute only applies to the debtor's current employer and not any employer, [In re Merriweather, 185 B.R. 235 (Bkrtcy.S.D.TX 1995), In re Briggs, 143 B.R. 438 (Bkrtcy.E.D.MI 1992), In re Patterson, 125 B.R. 40 (Bkrtcy.N.D.AL 1990]. Thus, it is questionable whether this protects the debtor from discrimination in applying for new employment.
However, keep in mind, that prospective employers pull credit reports. Many employers will rescind offers of employment or refuse to hire a person merely because of a bad payment history. Thus, if you find yourself considering a bankruptcy case, you are probably having trouble paying your debts as they are due. Even if you are current on payments right now, you likely won't be in the future and any delinquent payments could equally affect an employment decision in the future.
In fact, some employers would prefer that you have discharged your debts. Many employers would rather not deal with creditors calling its employees during work hours on the job and don't want the administrative headaches associated with processing wage garnishments. These employers would rather hire someone who is debt-free, instead of someone who has debt problems.
What Bankruptcy Can and Cannot Do
Bankruptcy may make it possible for financially distressed individuals to:
1. Discharge liability for most or all of their debts and get a fresh start. When the debt is discharged, the debtor has no further legal obligation to pay the debt.
2. Stop foreclosure actions on their home and allow them an opportunity to catch up on missed payments.
3. Prevent repossession of a car or other property, or force the creditor to return property even after it has been repossessed.
4. Stop wage garnishment and other debt collection harassment, and give the individual some breathing room.
5. Restore or prevent termination of utility service.
6. Lower the monthly payments on debts, including secured debts such as car loans.
7. Allow debtors an opportunity to challenge the claims of certain creditors who have committed fraud or who are otherwise seeking to collect more than they are legally entitled to.
8. If you residence is worth less than what you owe on your first mortgage a bankruptcy can allow you to strip off secondary mortgage liens and discharge those liens as part of your Chapter 13 plan;
Bankruptcy, however, cannot cure every financial problem. It is usually not possible to:
9. Eliminate certain rights of secured creditors. Although a debtor can force secured creditors to take payments over time in the bankruptcy process, a debtor generally cannot keep the collateral unless the debtor continues to pay the debt.
Discharge types of debts singled out by the federal bankruptcy statutes for special treatment, such as child support, alimony, some student loans, certain court ordered payments, criminal fines, and some taxes.
Protect all cosigners on their debts. If relative or friend co-signed a loan, which the debtor discharged in bankruptcy, the cosigner may still be obligated to repay the loan.
Discharge debts that are incurred after bankruptcy has been filed