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Forgiven

Forgiven

There is a need to be forgiven in the world.  Forgiving others as well as yourself is so important to your mental health.  I discuss mental health a lot on this blog and I believe that it is one of the most important health topics in our country.  

The “forgiven” in bankruptcy goes beyond just the debts.  We need to forgive ourselves in the bankruptcy process.  

A bankruptcy attorney named Rachel Foley wrote about forgiveness in the context of bankruptcy.  

She wasn’t just talking about relieving yourself of debt but also relieving yourself of the negative emotions of the debt itself.  

She advises that we shed anger at the people who threatened the wellbeing of our family and she encourages us to look forward. 

Where she and I differ is on the point of forgiving not just your creditors, but forgiving yourself. 

It Starts at Home

Clients come to me in times of trouble.  They assure themselves that even the act of making an appointment makes them guilty of some unspeakable crime.  That they are guilty of some heinous act. 

But what are they guilty of?

Job loss?

Surviving a Pandemic?

Crashed investments?

Getting sick?

Going through a divorce?

Yes, hindsight is always 20/20 and sometimes there is a choice we make that maybe wasn’t the best decision.

But that doesn’t make us a bad person.  We ALL make bad choices sometimes in life. 

Even some of the biggest corporations in history have filed for bankruptcy and they’re all run by people who are supposedly the best and the brightest.  

If Presidents, businessmen and corporations file for bankruptcy, why do we make ourselves feel guilty?

Living in the Imagination

People believe that bankruptcy will end like the biblical day of judgement.  They stand in front of some Judge and confess their sins, hoping not to be cast into a lake of fire.  

Frankly, this isn’t how bankruptcy works at all.  For nearly all people who file bankruptcy, you’ll never even see the judge. The judge will likely never even give a moment’s thought to your situation.  There is absolutely NO subjectivity in an unchallenged bankruptcy…and most are unchallenged. 

My clients imagine bankruptcy like the Day of Judgment, lined up before the bench to be sorted into those who are worthy of forgiveness of debt and those who are not.

As the debtor, you are presumed to be entitled to discharge.  It is only rarely that someone is scrutinized and generally you must have filed the case in a deceptive or dishonest way in order to be put under the microscope. 

“Forgiven” starts with you

If you’re feeling guilty about filing bankruptcy, it’s all self inflicted. You must start with forgiving yourself and then let that feeling rush over you and extend to others.  

The past is in the past.  

You can’t change what happened now. 

You can only move forward.

When you’re ready to begin your journey towards forgiveness, call me

 

 

Before Bankruptcy Essentials

Before Bankruptcy

If you make a plan before you file bankruptcy you’re more likely to end up coming out on the other side much better off. 

Even if you’re just dipping your toe in the water it’s better to take some time and learn the rules and lingo of bankruptcy.  After all, we want to maximize the amount of relief available.  

If you don’t plan ahead, you’ll have fewer options than you might otherwise have had.  

Below, I provide an essential checklist for you to reference before you file.  

What’s your income?

The means test determines whether you have access to a Chapter 7 or if you’re relegated to filing a Chapter 13 (Thanks Joe Biden).

The means test looks at your gross income (not take home) and any other regular contributions from others to your family’s cost of living.  

You’ll need to look at paystubs, commission checks, stock dividends, even child support and any gig jobs you may have.  We’ll compare all of that to Georgia’s median income ($58,700 in 2019) to see if you qualify for a 7. 

FILE. YOUR. TAXES

Your returns can tell you, me and the trustee lots of information.  

Do you withhold too much from your income?

Do you not withhold enough and have to pay?

Taxes are a deduction on the means test and can be very useful if your income is above the median.  Same if you operate a business.  All of these things help with the means test. 

Exempt Income

Not everything counts in the means test.  SSI is exempt from creditor claims and is excluded from the means test.  

Some military pensions, VA disability and other pensions are exempt as well.  We’ll need statements from them to determine their exemptability. 

Set aside funds for attorneys fees

If you need to file, you’ll need a lawyer. 

I’m not just saying that because I’m a lawyer.

Bankruptcy was made endlessly more complicated by the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act otherwise known as (BAPCPA).

Again, thanks Joe Biden

This so-called “reform” stuffed the bankruptcy code with negative consequences and tons of gotcha clauses.  You can no longer safely file bankruptcy by yourself without exposing yourself and your assets to significant risk.  

Don’t pay off debts

Trying to tidy up your finances before you file can open you up to lots of risk.  You run the risk of having the recipient of the money getting sued by the bankruptcy trustee.  The other risk you take is that you’ll end up paying off a debt that will go away as a result of the bankruptcy. 

Additionally, the means test pops up again.  Some debts are actually good deductions on the means test.   If you inadvertently pay off one of those you could cause your means test to fail. It’s better to not eliminate potential advantages. 

Replace Aging Cars

Bankruptcy can mean that credit costs more in the short term.  If you think you’ll need a new car, it would probably be better to buy one before you file than after.  

You’d be shocked at how good a deal you can often find just before filing bankruptcy, despite your credit risks.  Check the terms of the loan though, you can’t discharge the car loan and keep the car.  

The means test also plays a role here as well.  Payments on a secured vehicle can be deducted from the means test but hear me out on this; be 100% honest on your credit application and absolutely don’t buy a Mercedes when a Kia will do the job. 

Plan for the Future

Before you file, you need to know what your goals for the future are.  Do you want to keep your house or are you planning to move anyways? Are you going to try to keep your business up and running? Do you have a timeshare you want to get rid of? What do your future career prospects look like?

Planning for the long term can weigh on the route you take in bankruptcy and telling me about those plans can help guide the advice I give you.  

In the end, Bankruptcy is an extremely useful tool that helps out hundreds of thousands of Americans each year.  If you’re ready to do more than just dip your toe in the water, call me

A “Nasty Divorce” isn’t inevitable

A Nasty Divorce

Ending your marriage, even the uncontested way, can be overwhelming.  You’re finding a number of issues popping up that you never thought about, despite the fact that you and your spouse agree on most everything.  You’ll hear from friends who have been through it and plenty of others who always seem to have an opinion.  Make no mistake, there’s nothing wrong with having friends support you…in fact, we encourage it.  However, below we’ll list a few steps you can take to keep this from becoming a nasty divorce.  

Get Educated:

There’s an old saying, “knowledge is power.” That’s true in every aspect of life, especially divorce.  Educating yourself is something that should begin before you even sit down with a lawyer.  This includes knowing your financial situation, knowing about insurance policies, pension and retirement account beneficiaries as well as other important financial information. 

Tell the truth:

Sometimes the truth hurts.  The truth can be painful and difficult and hard to live with.  But you must tell the truth, especially to your attorney and to your spouse in an uncontested divorce.  If you’re going to keep things civil, you don’t want to be hiding things from people.  Keeping it open, honest and civil is how we get through this process without it becoming a nasty divorce.  

Listen to me:

I’m the attorney. You’re not paying me for my good looks and charming personality. You’re paying me to help you get through this process in a quick and efficient manner with as little drama as possible. You may not always like what I have to say, but remember, I’m doing this to help you. 

Think Big Picture:

The choices you make during this time will have an impact on you going forward, especially if you have children.  Focus on what matters now, not what happened in the past.  You and your spouse have thus far gotten through this in an uncontested manner, saving yourselves thousands of dollars and tons of drama.  Listen to your attorney and just understand that getting this right is what matters most.  

Find a good lawyer:

This is a critically important time.  If this isn’t done right it can have long lasting repercussions in your life and future relationship with your new significant others as well as your former spouse, assuming you have to continue to see them. Do your research and ask around.  You’ll find that word of mouth is better than fancy advertising.  Finding a good attorney who will listen to you and focus on your needs can make all the difference in getting this divorce done right, the first time.

If you’re considering ending your marriage, we understand that it’s hard.  We want to make it as easy as possible for you and your spouse. A nasty divorce isn’t inevitable and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.  Contact the attorneys at Harmon and Gorove today for a low cost initial consultation and see how we can help you through this difficult process. 

A QDRO in Uncontested Divorce

QDRO

Many people who get divorced often squabble over money.  Not only is money one of the main causes of divorce, it’s also one of the things that people fight over the most during a divorce.  One of the biggest assets most people have are retirement accounts and they’re also the asset that is hardest to divide up.  Below you’ll find some information about these retirement accounts and what a QDRO does. 

The types of accounts

There are two types of retirement accounts that most people are familiar with, savings plans like 401(k)s, IRAs, 403(b)s and 457(b)s are generally offered by employers to their employees. These types of accounts are chock full of benefits.  You don’t pay taxes on the income you contribute to the plan and you won’t be taxed on the income you build over the course of the plan. You only pay taxes when you withdraw the money at age 59 ½.

A different type of employer sponsored retirement account is called a pension.  Pensions are calculated based on a formula set out by the employer and are usually based on the number of years worked and the amount the person earned. Unlike 401s and 403s, you don’t have to wait until you’re 59 ½ if the terms of your employment allow you to start taking your pensions payments earlier.  

Finally, there are IRAs.  IRAs are used by people who do not have an employer sponsored plan and offer similar tax benefits although they have a lower contribution limit than employer sponsored plans.  

What’s eligible for a QDRO

Almost all of these plans can be divided as a part of your divorce settlement.  Qualified plans like a 401 or 403 can be divided using a Qualified Domestic Relations Order or QDRO for short.  QDROs tell the administrator of a plan to pay a portion of the plan to a non-employee.  The non employee (i.e. your spouse) can then roll this money over into an IRA.  Most IRAs can be divided without a QDRO by using just the divorce decree and some other paperwork. 

Pensions can also be divided by QDROs providing that the pension plan qualifies.  In Georgia, firefighter and police pensions as well as military pensions are subject to QDROs while teacher pensions are not as per O.C.G.A. § 47-3-28. 

Once you discuss how you want to divide your assets with your spouse, we can help you get the QDRO done so that everyone walks away in agreement.  Uncontested Divorce can be a peaceful and less stressful way to end your marriage.  Once you have discussed your options with your spouse, reach out to us for a low cost initial consultation so we can help you complete the process in an efficient and dignified way.  

 

On your side

Get someone on your side

When clients seek me out to discuss their uncontested divorce I often advise them about some other professionals they should seek out.  I tell them frequently that besides me, they need three other people on their side through this process.  While uncontested divorce is by far the simplest, fairest and most amicable way to end your marriage, it’s still a stressful time. 

A Therapist

Why on earth do I need a therapist? Whether you want to admit it or not, you’re going through a significant life change and there will be complex emotions to deal with.  You’ll need to sort out your feelings about life, love and any future relationship you’ll have with your spouse (this is especially true if you share children). A therapist can provide you with objective advice on how to best handle your change in life circumstances. 

A Best Friend

You need someone on your side.  Someone who will listen to you, support you and tell you the truth about situations.  While a therapist will give you objective advice, sometimes you just need someone to be 100% on your side. You’ll also need help handling everything.  Remember, you and your spouse probably did a lot for each other and now you’ll need a helping hand with the kids, remembering appointments and just someone to go blow off steam with.  

A Financial Advisor

Your finances are about to change.  Your tax situation will change, your income will change and your expenses are going to go up now that you’ll be splitting your household and going out on your own.  You need someone to help you figure all this out in an objective manner.  If you’ll be receiving a lump sum payout from a spouse’s retirement account or from equity in the marital residence you’ll need to know what to do with that money.  You’ll also need help planning for the future if you’re going to have a support obligation. In all, a financial advisor can help you figure out what’s happening in your financial life so you don’t get behind the ball with your financial future.  

Obviously, you’ll need me as well.  I’ve explained in previous articles why it’s important to have a divorce attorney, even in an uncontested divorce.  We will all work in concert to support you in this time of need.  

If you’re considering ending your marriage in an amicable way, contact us today to set up a low cost initial consultation.  We specialize in keeping things as low stress and lost cost as possible. 







What does a Bankruptcy Lawyer Do for You?

I don’t work for free, at least not often.  After all, my kids have to eat too.  That said, you’re looking at filing bankruptcy because you don’t have much money, or any at all. So…What can I (a bankruptcy lawyer) do for you?

Lots of people think I’m just a paper pusher.  Don’t get me wrong, I do handle lots of documents but that’s missing the forest for the trees. So besides pushing paper, what does a bankruptcy lawyer do for you?

Assessment

As a bankruptcy attorney, it’s my job to determine whether or not bankruptcy is right for you.  Some lawyers will always say bankruptcy is right.  

That’s because they want your money and don’t really care about you. While I want to earn your business, I also need to sleep at night.  

The fact is, Bankruptcy won’t help everyone and if you’re one of those people, I’ll be honest with you.  I’d rather not have your money than lie to you to make a quick buck. 

Beyond the issue of ,”is bankruptcy right” there’s also the issue of timing.  

Is it the right time or should I wait a few months?

Should I file with or without my spouse?

Is Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 going to be my best bet?

How will my bankruptcy affect my family and business associates?

None of these so called forms can make those kinds of determinations, that’s where I come in. 

Avoidance

A good bankruptcy lawyer helps you avoid mistakes, sometimes big ones, when you’re completing your petition.  

Ill founded assumptions and bad choices can cause significant harm to your financial situation.  Got equity in your house you want to keep? Better not file Chapter 7. Get nuanced things like this wrong and suddenly you’re in over your head and face losing your assets. 

Speaking of assets, if you get the exemptions wrong, you may give up more than you have to, especially if you’ve moved recently.  

After you file, you have to provide paperwork like tax returns, pay stubs and other forms to the trustee.  Most of the trustees all have certain ways they want things submitted.

Whiff on any of these and your case may be dismissed. 

Understanding

Bankruptcy can be a challenging process and is fraught with potential landmines.  I’m here to explain how it works, what happens and how it will affect you.  

Bankruptcy is stressful without having to worry about what happens when you go to court and how the trustee will administer your case.  

A good bankruptcy attorney is able to anticipate what’s going to happen and explain the process to you in a way that makes you feel comfortable. 

Finish the Drill

Filing for bankruptcy is the easy part.  It’s the rest that starts to get hairy.  If you left a creditor off your bankruptcy or forgot to disclose an asset we can help.

We are there to make sure your filing fees get paid and that the right people get served with notice of the bankruptcy in a timely manner.  

We are here to make sure that liens that can be wiped out get wiped out.  That’s a lot more complicated than just picking up the phone to let the lienholder know you’ve filed…and beyond that, there are no forms for stripping liens. 

Are you trying to keep your car? I can walk you through the positives and negatives. Do you go the redemption route, reaffirm your existing loan or just surrender your car.  

What happens if you don’t remember to complete your paperwork at the end.  There’s more than just filing the paperwork at the beginning.  You have to complete debtor education courses and other paperwork at the end.  

We’re even here for you after the fact.  What happens when an old creditor tries to come back and collect after the bankruptcy is over? 

I’m here for you from the day you file until your case is complete and then beyond.  It may sound like a lot to pay an attorney to file your case, but I’m more than just a paper jockey.  We add real, lasting value to what’s likely to be the biggest financial decision you ever make outside of buying a home.  

Call us today to discuss