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How the Grinch could steal Christmas

The Grinch

We all know about the Grinch.  The curmudgeonly green guy with a severe dislike of Christmas.   After stealing Christmas from the people of Whoville and driving it up a mountain to push it off, he hears the people celebrating nonetheless and ultimately has a change of heart and returns the trimmings of the Christmas holiday to the people of Whoville. 

That’s not the Grinch I’m talking about this holiday season. I’m talking about a Grinch who will take Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years and anything else that you value as we enter the holiday season.  There are lots of those Grinch’s out there, lurking in the shadows, just waiting to have a chance to swipe everything you need to pull off a memorable holiday season with your family.

The inflation Grinch

Gas is up over $1.00 a gallon. Beef is up an average of about 35%. Real wages have declined 1.9% since January and the consumer price index is up 5.4% this year.  In real terms, inflation is costing the average American family about $2,100 extra this year alone. This doesn’t account for the fact that we haven’t even gotten to the cold part of the year when heating bills (natural gas is up 180% year over year) are expected to soar

In other words, times are tough right now.  Families all over the country are having a hard time making ends meet. Inflation makes the dollars you do earn worth less.  The pound of beef you bought last month for $3.25 is now $3.99.  It’s costing you an extra $20 to fill up your tank every week. It’ll probably cost you double this winter to heat your home. In other words, your wallet is being stretched thinner and thinner every day. 

The garnishment Grinch

Creditors have been extremely aggressive. Garnishments in Georgia are among the highest they’ve been since the great recession.  Remember, in Georgia, a creditor can garnish 25% of your pre tax income EACH TIME YOU GET PAID.  That means if you make $2,000 a month, EACH creditor with a garnishment order can take $500 a month from your check, before you pay taxes, insurance or anything else.  

With inflation being what it is, losing 25% of your paycheck can be the difference between keeping a roof over your head and food in your belly or not.  If you’ve been served with suit papers, the time to act is now. The garnishment WILL happen sooner or later, and it’s much easier to stop before they actually take money from your check. 

The repo Grinch

Do you have a car payment? If you’re like me you do…and it’s a big expense every month.  With inflation taking a chunk out of every paycheck and the potential for a garnishment taking 25% more, you can easily catch yourself missing a car payment.  In days past, missing one payment wasn’t a big deal so long as you caught it up quickly.  Now, that’s a different story.  

Along with inflation hitting literally everything else, used car prices are up 32% over this time last year.  Guess what…your finance company knows this and they’re in a hurry to cash in.  We’ve seen cars be repossessed for being just 1 payment behind.  Why? Because finance companies see an opportunity to pick up a vehicle that has a lot of equity in it right now, selling it quick and pocketing the cash.  Leaving you with little to nothing to show for all those years of car payments. 

The foreclosure Grinch

Do you own your house? Fantastic! You’re creating generational wealth to pass on to your kids and grandkids.  The problem… you took a COVID forbearance and now your bank wants those payments caught up now or in the very near future.  Chances are, you took that forbearance to survive during COVID.  Your job was cut or at least your hours were reduced.  Now, you’ve got to come up with an extra $5,000-$10,000 to catch up the mortgage.  You know what else is a problem…the bank knows how much equity you have too. Home prices are up an average of 15% since 2020.  Just like the repo Grinch, they see an opportunity to foreclose on your house, sell it, and make a tidy profit. 

Stopping the Grinch

Now that you’ve read this far, let me give you the good news.  We can stop the repo, foreclosure and garnishment Grinch dead in their tracks. The inflation Grinch, not so much, but when everything else is going your way…you can probably manage. Bankruptcy is the law, not a suggestion like debt consolidation.  When you file bankruptcy, it puts the full force of the United States Federal Court system squarely behind you.  That means the repo man better not mess with your car and the foreclosure sale of your home is stopped dead in its tracks.  Oh, and that lawsuit seeking to garnish your wages…it’s toast. If you’re finding yourself in a tough situation, now’s the time to act.  File today and you could be debt free by Christmas.  

In the story, the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day and he realized the error of his ways.  Your creditors won’t be so altruistic. 

When you’re ready to stop that Grinch BEFORE he can load your stuff on that sleigh, give me a call. 

Creditors and Senior Citizens: Lying in Wait to Steal from your Heirs.

Everyone has an idea about the legacy they wish to leave behind.  What that legacy is in reality and what you want it to be can be two different things. Is your legacy to your kids an encounter with your unpaid creditors?

Often, problems with creditors for people over 65 may not be problems the elderly debtor at all. Most types of income and assets are protected by law from creditors.

Usually though, that doesn’t bother creditors.  They’ll just wait until you’re dead to steal your assets from those you wish to inherit from you. 

Seniors enjoy protection from collection

Elders  in Georgia have significant legal protections from creditors.  Exemption laws, pension law, and the Social Security Act often make it hard for creditors to seize the assets of elders, even to pay legitimate debts.

People often make the argument against seniors filing bankruptcy because of the following reasons. 

  • Social security is 100% protected from creditors (unless you owe the government).
  • Your Pensions and other retirement accounts are beyond the reach of even those with a judgment against you. 
  • Houses are not liquid assets and it’s extremely difficult for creditors to make you sell your house.
  • Seniors usually don’t have an income outside of these aforementioned sources so there’s nothing to garnish.

Because of these generous protections, senior citizens often ignore debts and use their money to pay for today’s expenses, at the expense of what they’ll leave their heirs. 

However, just because you can ignore old debt, is that really a part of the legacy you wish to leave behind?

Some debts outlive the debtor

So, what happens when you die? Does the debt go to the grave with you?  Turns out, the debt lives on.

That doesn’t mean your heirs inherit your debt; in other words, your heirs don’t become personally liable for your credit card balance.

What many people don’t realize is that debts are paid in full before heirs will receive anything.

As per probate laws, debts are paid before the estate is distributed to your heirs.  If the deceased created a living trust, the trust usually provides that the successor trustee pay the deceased’s debts first.

When debts survive the debtor, the intended heirs inherit a significantly diminished estate, or a ticking time bomb of debts that are owed to the deceased person’s creditors.

Creditors lie in wait

Everyone has heard about interest. Interest is a creditors best friend. Interest on outstanding debt is often meaningless to the senior citizen who can avoid paying it while they’re alive. The downside to this is the fact that time and interest silently eats up the senior citizen’s estate.

Who cares if there aren’t any real viable means of collection.

Waiting works for a creditor.

  • Wait til the senior dies.
  • Wait while the interest compounds.
  • Wait til the records conveniently get lost.

Creditors are often adept at lying and manipulation. They will work hard at making your heirs feel guilty and convince them to pay off the debt from their own pockets after you’ve passed on.

The generosity gene

The impulse to pass along something to your children seems to be genetically implanted in the human soul. It’s something that drives many seniors to live frugally, save and work hard. But under our legal system, paying debts is higher priority than leaving something behind for your heirs.

Despite arguments to the contrary, bankruptcy is not only appropriate for a senior with debts and assets that are protected from creditors during their lifetime, but highly advisable. 

The exemptions that protect the assets under state law and the laws that made the senior judgment proof to begin with are also there to protect you should you file bankruptcy.

Without filing bankruptcy, all the exemptions will do is just hold the creditors off during the life of the debtor.  That debt will lay in the grass, hiding like a snake, waiting to collect from your estate and ultimately, your heirs. 

Another thing you have to remember is that bankruptcy exemptions vastly more generous than probate exemptions. In fact, unless there is a surviving spouse, there may be no exemptions in probate at all. Exemptions are designed to protect the surviving spouse, not their heirs. 

Bankruptcy flips the equation

A bankruptcy, by its very nature, eliminates unsecured debts. Things like credit cards and medical bills are magically gone, while the exemptions protect assets.

One a debt is discharged that debt is gone, forever, never to be heard from again. Bankruptcy law returns complete and total ownership of exempt assets back to the debtor.

Your Social Security payments both current and future, doesn’t even enter the bankruptcy equation.  All of your Pensions and 401(k)s are also not subject to the bankruptcy. 

One thing you need to know is that in order to successfully pass your assets on to the next generation by using bankruptcy, you need a good bankruptcy lawyer who doesn’t dabble but actually KNOWS the law. It’s hard work and requires planning but the results are worth it.

By eliminating your debts before you die, there’s more left for your family, and that’s always a good thing.