Month: April 2019

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Don’t Make and Estate Planning Mistake

In life, it’s easy to make a mistake. Estate planning is one of the most important things you can do in life.  It should be taken very seriously in order to avoid hassles or other delays that can come when you probate your will and begin transferring assets to family and friends.  With the correct planning, most people are able to avoid the costly mistakes that can lead to a prolonged and painful probate battle.

One of the most common estate planning mistakes you can make is adding a friend or young family member’s name to a joint account.  You may think that it will make it easier to transfer assets or even pay final expenses. Often that isn’t true. It can cause confusion about your intentions once you pass and can complicate the probate process.  It could also open you up to potential unscrupulous conduct by those you put on your account. The better alternative would be to give a trusted person a power of attorney to make financial decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to.

Another common mistake is not updating beneficiaries.  By having the wrong beneficiaries listed on bank accounts, life insurance policies and retirement accounts you can prevent your assets from being transferred to your intended beneficiaries. Often, individuals will create a single will and never bother with  updating it when major life events happen like having children or grandchildren, divorcing or remarrying or the death of a loved one. If you don’t update your will when these types of things happen your estate could essentially become intestate and you could be setting your heir up for a legal fight or a situation where the state itself decides what happens to your assets.

Out of all the mistakes listed above, the biggest mistake is having no plan at all.  Yes, there are legal mechanisms that will provide for your surviving spouse and your children and grandchildren but the state can’t possibly understand all your wishes and what you wanted may ultimately not happen.  Estate planning is essential to your piece of mind and also to those family members and friends who will survive you. If your estate plan is lacking, contact the caring and competent attorneys at Harmon and Gorove today for a free consultation about what your estate planning options are.  

Why does Bankruptcy Exist?

Why does bankruptcy exist?  I can tell you from more than 10 years of legal experience, that is the question most often asked by creditors who are baffled as to why they lose out when someone files bankruptcy against a debt that is owed to them.  While it can be unfortunate for the creditor, for the person needing protection that bankruptcy offers, the choice is stark.

First, let’s look at a little bit of the history of bankruptcy.  For hundred of years, if you couldn’t pay back your debts, your assets were often seized to satisfy those debts and if you didn’t have enough assets to cover the debts owed, you’d be thrown in jail.  While this doesn’t make much sense, being that if you’re imprisoned you can’t exactly work to pay off your debts, it was the law in Great Britain and even in colonial times here in America. This all changed with the Financial Panic of 1837.  This was the first time that debtors were able to file for bankruptcy protection voluntarily. Changes have occurred over the past 180 years that have made bankruptcy fairer for the debtor and the creditor.

At times, a person’s debts can become so overwhelming that they become paralyzing.  Debts can feel like a type of financial bondage that steals a person’s hope for future prosperity and ability to take care of his or her family.  From my ten years of experience, I have found that none of my clients actually want to file bankruptcy and all of them desperately want to have the financial capacity to repay their creditors. Unfortunately, they have reached a point in their life where they feel that this is simply impossible.

This is where bankruptcy becomes a type of safety net.  The reasons for bankruptcy are numerous. First, bankruptcy serves to provide a debtor with a fresh start and renewed sense of hope.  The Supreme Court has stated that this fresh start is the “essence of modern bankruptcy law” and that debtor is provided with special protections in bankruptcy called exemptions “to ensure that bankruptcy will provide a fresh start.” Local Loan Co. v. Hunt, 292 U.S. 244 (1934).

From the perspective of macroeconomics, bankruptcy is an essential part of capitalism. In an economy without bankruptcy protections if a business fails you’re out of luck but in our country bankruptcy can serve as a fail safe.  Without this fail safe what business person would ever take a risk with his or her money? It is obvious that no one starts a business just to file bankruptcy, bankruptcy itself provides for an invaluable safety net that will allow a person to take the debts from the past and move forward into a brighter future.

Many creditors often ask, what about me?   While it is not obvious why bankruptcy would benefit creditors, creditors are protected by the law as well.  First of all, we assume that a person who is looking at filing bankruptcy has exhausted all other financial options.   For the most part, debtors generally don’t have much more than their household goods and furniture, a car, and a home, if they’re lucky. The reality of the situation is, no one is going to get paid back in full. By assuming bankruptcy is unfair for creditors, must also acknowledge that the alternative probably wouldn’t be better either.

Understanding all this we realize that bankruptcy is an equalizing force among creditors. Creditors are broken up into roughly three different classifications: The first is secured creditors like your mortgage or car loans, the second is a priority creditor like alimony or child support, and the third is just unsecured like a credit card or medical bill.  An example of this works would be a situation like this. A debt collection law firm is attempting to collect on a credit card issued by a bank and the debt collection law firm pursued a garnishment suit against the debtor in magistrate court. They won and got a judgment, and started garnishing the debtor’s paycheck to the fullest extent allowed by law.  By doing this the debt collection law firm collected $1,500.00 in three months for the bank.  The problem with this is that there is a section of the bankruptcy law that says that if an unsecured creditor is paid more than $600 within 90 days of the debtor filing bankruptcy (even if it’s court ordered), that creditor was given preferential treatment.  This means that the bankruptcy trustee can force the bank to turn over the $1,500 so the trustee can distribute that money to the unsecured creditors in equal shares. So, from that perspective, even creditors may benefit by some equalization under the bankruptcy code.

With all this said, I hope I’ve answered the question, Why does bankruptcy exist. It exists for both the creditor and the debtor.  It helps to ensure fair treatment of the creditors and to help the debtor get a fresh start. If you feel that you may be in need of a consultation with a bankruptcy attorney give the caring and compassionate attorneys at Harmon and Gorove a call to schedule a free, no obligation consultation with an experienced bankruptcy attorney. With our expertise you may be able to regain your financial freedom and start down the road to prosperity.

What About My Life Insurance?

A life insurance policy is one of the most important assets you can invest in.  Life insurance often provides a monetary safety net for families facing the prospect of losing a parent or spouse to keep them from facing financial hardships.  If bankruptcy appears to be on your radar it is imperative that you tell your attorney about any and all life insurance policies, you hold and what types of policies they are.

A good number of assets are not subject to be taken in bankruptcy and others can be protected, including your life insurance.  Protecting your life insurance is something that can easily be done but you have to notify your attorney about these policies before the case is filed in order for the attorney to make the necessary adjustments. In the event that your policy is whole life with cash value, it is imperative that your attorney know the actual cash value amount of your policy to ensure that you can cover that amount with your exemptions when you file for bankruptcy protection. If you are thinking about filing bankruptcy, you’ve already made a positive choice to improve your family’s financial position.  If you’re someone who doesn’t have life insurance, purchasing a policy can be another wise financial decision you can make after your bankruptcy is concluded.

Whether you must protect a life insurance policy or not, if you think bankruptcy is an option, make an appointment to speak to one of the experienced bankruptcy attorneys at Harmon and Gorove to find out more about how bankruptcy can be the first step toward renewed financial success.  The decisions you make today will make a world of difference in your and your family’s financial future.  At Harmon and Gorove, we have helped thousands of individuals and families file both Chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcies.  Our clients have often weathered severe hardship that has resulted in overwhelming debts. They made a decision to address their debt head on and give themselves the fresh start down the road of financial freedom.

If you are interested in learning about your options through bankruptcy, make an appointment to speak with one of the experienced bankruptcy attorneys at Harmon and Gorove today.  Call us today at 770.253.5902 for a free consultation with a professional and compassionate bankruptcy attorney.