Month: May 2019

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The Rings, After the Divorce

There are a lot of decisions that have to be made when a couple decides to divorce.  There are marital debts and the division of assets that must be discussed and negotiated.  What do we do with the wedding videos, pictures and other momentos? Do I hold on to the dress? Who gets the dog and who gets the cat?  I want the sofa and you want the bed. One of the things that often gets overlooked is what to do with the rings. The wedding rings hold a great deal of symbolism and quite possibly, monetary value.  

There are lots of options for dealing with now unwanted wedding rings and lots of questions as well.  Does the woman automatically hand her wedding rings back to her soon to be ex considering that he gave it to them.  Do exes keep the rings to give to their children one day when they get married? Do they go down to the nearest pawn shop or jewelry store and ry to get as much monetary value from them as possible.  Honestly, there’s no one right answer. What works for you may not be what someone else does and you have to make your own decision based on your personal feelings.

All things considered, what are my options?

The feelings you have about your wedding rings are very personal.  Some people may look back and remember, “the good times” in the relationship.  Some people, especially those with children may want to hold on to the ring(s) to pass down to children due to sentimental value.  On the other hand, if your marriage was tumultuous, stressful or even abusive, you may have no desire whatsoever to hold on to a reminder of just how tough things were.  

Here are some possible options for what to do with your rings:

  • You can always give the ring back to your spouse.
  • You may save the rings and give them to your children when they decide to get married.
  • You can sell the rings and use the money to make some positive steps like paying off debt, investing in yourself, or buying something special.
  • You can have the ring melted down and used to created a new piece of jewelry.
  • You can sell the rings and donate the money to charity, especially if you were in an abusive relationship.

Even if the rings remind you of a bad marriage, it doesn’t mean you should toss them into the nearest body of water. They’re likely worth some money, so it’s more productive to sell them and use the money for something positive.

If you find your marriage is struggling and you and your spouse have decided to end it, give the attorneys at Harmon and Gorove a call today to discuss how we can help you file an uncontested divorce to end your marriage in an amicable and cost effective way.  

Three Parts of a Basic Estate Plan

Every person, no matter how significant they may feel their assets are, absolutely needs to have a well thought out estate plan that covers three very basic documents that will serve your best interests and make the lives of those you care about that much easier when the time comes. The three main planning instruments you should have include a durable power of attorney, a health care directive, and a last will and testament. These instruments will cover an array of subjects in our lives and our family’s lives after we pass away and should be taken very seriously, regardless of what you believe you may leave behind.

Power of Attorney

 

The first thing you need to include in your estate plan will be a power of attorney. This allows you to designate a person of your choosing to manage your property, assets, and finances during your life in the event you are incapacitated and unable to act in your own interest. A power of attorney carries a lot of weight and gives someone almost complete control of your financial life and should be vested in a trusted individual you can be sure will act solely in your best interest should a time come where you can’t handle these situations yourself.

Healthcare Directive

 

The second thing you should look into is a health care directive. A healthcare directive is essentially a type of a power of attorney that deals only with health care decisions. A healthcare directive allows you to appoint a trusted person to direct your medical care and make important end of life decisions should you be unable to.

 

Last Will and Testament

The third and most essential piece of estate planning is your last will and testament. A last will and testament is the most basic mechanism used to transfer property to family and friends upon our death. There are numerous other ways to pass along our assets and other parts of our estates, including various forms of trusts, a last will and testament is still necessary to direct our loved ones whom we leave behind about our final wishes including whether we wish to be buried, cremated or shot off into space, types of memorial services and other ways in which we want to be remembered.

It is important to understand that these are just the essentials of an estate plan and what you will ultimately need will vary depending on what your leave behind and who you wish to leave it to. Significant assets like large bank and investments accounts, your home or other real estate assets, your business, and other valuables like expensive jewelry or art may need even more extensive estate planning that satisfies everything from family dynamics and business partners to tax and legal considerations.

If you find that your basic estate planning is not where you want it to be, schedule a no pressure, complimentary consultation with one of our attorneys today so we can go over your wishes and create a basic estate plan that will leave you with peace of mind and your family with valuable information about your wants and desires when the unthinkable happens.

Protecting Assets in Bankruptcy

Many people believe that bankruptcy is a sign of hitting rock bottom but they would be wrong.  Bankruptcy is a tool in the law that can be used to actually protect assets and wealth from creditors.  Many famous and wealthy people have filed and survived bankruptcy with many emerging from bankruptcy and building an even greater net worth than they had prior to filing. While you may not be a celebrity or even extremely wealthy, bankruptcy bankruptcy can be a useful financial tool to help you get back on track. Yes, being financially depleted and bankruptcy often go hand in hand but It doesn’t have to be that way.  In other words, you don’t have to wait till you’re broke in order to file bankruptcy. In fact, it would probably be a better financial decision to file before you hit rock bottom.

Don’t wipe out your savings to stave off bankruptcy

Nearly 60 percent of Americans have saved less than one thousand dollars for an emergency. It is a side effect of the rising cost of living and the stagnation of wages in this country. If you’re one of the lucky people who actually do have a savingings, it would be highly advisable to file for bankruptcy before you wipe that savings out. In many cases a good bankruptcy lawyer will be able to find a way to protect most or all of your savings, especially savings you have in retirement accounts.  Any payments you make to creditors that would otherwise be discharged in a Chapter 7 are effectively just a donation to that creditor. Beyond that, even if you wanted to pay your creditor, any payments made to a specific creditor within a certain period of time of a bankruptcy filing can also be “clawed back” by a bankruptcy trustee which negates what you were doing to begin with.

DO NOT use your retirement funds

Your retirement account is a nest egg that you and/or your spouse has been building for decades. There are extremely few circumstances where it would be advisable for you to use your retirement account to pay down short term debts.  Virtually every retirement account in use today can be exempted from the bankruptcy which means you get to retain the value of that account for its intended purpose, your retirement.  Generally speaking, it makes much more financial sense to file bankruptcy to liquidate your retirement savings.

Don’t sell off your assets

The majority of Harmon and Gorove’s clients are able to keep most or all of their assets. Harmon and Gorove’s attorneys work hard to protect your assets from the trustee and creditors. Selling your assets to pay off creditors isn’t something that you have to do in most cases.  The attorneys at Harmon and Gorove work hard to make sure that your assets stay your assets. Protecting your assets in bankruptcy does require a good deal of expertise and planning, especially if you have a good deal of assets. If you have a significant number of liquid assets or rarer assets like a cash value life insurance policy or a pending lawsuit in which you could recover money, talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. Timelines are important in bankruptcy and anything you do to delay could cause you to lose irreplaceable assets. You should always be upfront with your lawyer about what assets you have, knowing beforehand is imperative to your ability to retain your assets.

Don’t ever give up

Bankruptcy provides many people with a clean slate.  Scrambling to sell off your assets or using up your savings isn’t using your money wisely, it’s panicking and making decisions that can change your life for the worse. Most people can see the need for a bankruptcy on the horizon. The warning signs are usually there long before people hit rock bottom. If you’re facing debts that seem insurmountable you should consider speaking with an experienced bankruptcy attorney before you get to the end of your rope. The staff of Harmon and Gorove are highly trained in exemption planning and asset protection.

Don’t wait

When your Bankruptcy is concluded, you will want to have as many tools to restart your financial life as possible. Keeping your retirement account, cash savings, homes and automobiles will provide you a new and fresh means of getting ahead after a bankruptcy. If you wipe out your assets before you file bankruptcy, the fresh start that bankruptcy provides won’t be as effective and won’t give you the advantages you need to get ahead.  Contact the attorneys at Harmon and Gorove today to see how we can help you get rid of your debts and get you started down a new path to financial success.

 

Chapter 7 or 13: Which Bankruptcy is Right for Me

For people who are considering filing for bankruptcy protection the advice of a competent attorney can help them decide which type of bankruptcy is right for them. There are significant differences between a Chapters 7 and 13 bankruptcies and only the expert advice of an attorney trained in bankruptcy can help you decide which route to follow.  

Generally, a Chapter 7 bankruptcyis known as a fresh start or straight bankruptcy. Chapter 7s allow for the discharge of unsecured debts like credit cards, utility bills, medical bills, personal loans or other debts that aren’t being guaranteed by secured collateral. In Georgia, most Chapter 7s last between four and six months and most debt will be eliminated. The only types of debt that can’t be discharged are student loans, some criminal penalties, child support arrearages, recent tax debts, Alimony, and other types of non-dischargeable debts that can be discussed with your attorney.

Chapter 13s are a debt reorganization plan which will last at a minimum 36 months to a maximum of 60 months. Each month, the debtor makes a payment to the Chapter 13 trustee that consists of all of your disposable income left over after paying reasonable living expenses each month. The Chapter 13 Trustee uses this money to pay your creditors and your attorney according to a plan which is filed with the bankruptcy court.

What can go wrong with a Chapter 7

The difference between a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy which provides near immediate relief, and Chapter 13 plan, which  lasts 3 to 5 years is a significant difference. When you come in to speak to one of our attorneys, you are relying on their significant experience to help guide you towards the best outcome for yourself and your family. There are significant ramifications for filing the wrong type of bankruptcy. One of the first major problems is filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy when you’re not eligible.

There are income guidelines that vary from district to district and state to state which ultimately decide whether you can file a Chapter 7. In the bankruptcy reforms laid out by congress in 2005, they created a means test. The means test is a mathematical formula used to determine whether someone is able repay a portion of their debt over time. This complicated figure is based upon income, the size of your family, and certain IRS guidelines for everyday necessities such as housing, food, clothing, grooming, transportation and other odds and ends. There’s also the a second part in the test. This determines whether you have the available income per month to repay your creditors. If you fail either these tests, then you will be forced to convert to a Chapter 13 or your case will be dismissed.

What Can Go Wrong in a Chapter 13

There are also some issues that come up in filing a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. If your income is too low to provide the necessary funding for a Chapter 13 plan your case will likely never be confirmed and you’ll be back to square one. Often people trying to save property such as a house or a car propose Chapter 13 plans that are completely beyond the scope of their ability to fund.

Knowledge is Key

A good attorney who is an experienced bankruptcy practitioner can advise you on when a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 is unfeasible. There are some attorneys out there who will try to push you into one type of bankruptcy or another for reasons ranging from the ability to make more money off your case to just trying to make the client happy.  The attorneys at Harmon and Gorove will ALWAYS advise you on the best course to take regardless of what our fees will be and we will do our best to explain to you why a case may or may not work out.

There are many variables that go into deciding whether a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is appropriate for you and your financial goals. This isn’t a simple issue that can be taken lightly. Attorneys must have the expertise and experience to know the intricacies of Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies. It is a massive disservice to clients to file under the inappropriate section of the bankruptcy code. Doing so is going to lead to a terrible result for the client that could end up causing the client significant financial loss. This is where the expertise of a competent attorney is invaluable. You should always be cautious about using an attorney who doesn’t have significant experience in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies. The attorneys at Harmon and Gorove have filed more than 6,000 successful bankruptcy cases and provide expert advice on how you can best secure your financial future. Contact us today for a free consultation with our caring and competent staff.