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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.

Stopping Creditor Harassment

 

Not much is more stressful that feeling the heavy burden of unmanageable debt. When you add the prospect of non stop harassment by creditors on top of the burden of debt the situation becomes unbearable.  People who have been victims of creditor harassment and bill collectors know how uncomfortable it is when the phone rings, especially when it keeps rings all day long. A number of people assume there isn’t a way around being constant creditor harassment, there are provision in the law to make it stop.

What you have to do first is to realize that doing nothing will not fix the problem. The sad reality of it is that collection agencies have hundreds of staff members whose sole job is to make phone calls and harass you into paying a debt that you may not even owe. The question is, how do I make it stop?

Creditor Harassment: know your rights

You DO NOT have to accept being bullied by collection agencies. One thing you have to understand is that while they may be rude to you and harass you, you are not under their control. Don’t ever scream at them, lose your temper or threaten them; always keep a level head.

You must remember that you have rights that they absolutely must respect. There are a number of things that collectors can’t do when attempting to collect debts. They are not allowed to call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless you have given them permission to reach out to you at those hours. You should always establish boundaries on the very first phone call. You also have the right to tell them they are not allowed to contact you at work or reach out to your family. Finally, and most importantly, if you wish for the calls to cease, you can tell them not to contact you.  Once you have completed the phone call send a follow up letter via certified mail asking for proof that you explained to them how they should contact you in the future. Under Federal law all notices must be in writing to retain full legal effect.

You are protected by the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. Under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, creditors are not legally allowed to do the following:

  • Repeatedly call you
  • Call you at unreasonable hours or late at night
  • Call your employer if you’ve told them not to
  • Call without identifying who they are
  • Contact your friends, family or neighbors unless you give them permission
  • Employ deceptive tactics
  • Threaten you with child custody, arrest, or loss of welfare benefits
  • Threaten with self-help repossession when not authorized by the law
  • Use derogatory, obscene, or insulting remarks
  • Directly contact you after you’ve told them to call your lawyer instead

Always make sure you receive proof of debt

Don’t just assume that you owe a debt to someone just because a debt collector has called you. The cold hard truth is that you should never pay the collector anything until they can prove that you actually owe the debt. Debt collectors often try this tactic to scare people into paying a debt by mistake. If the company calling you is unable to provide you with real proof of the debt you can simply tell them to stop calling you. .

I would even go so far as to say that even if you are pretty sure that you owe the debt, make them prove it to you anyways. As I have previously stated, sometimes debt collectors try to collect on fraudulent debt. Additionally, third party debt collectors often buy debt without ever receiving proof that someone owes it. This situation gives you a huge leg up and can often times result in you not having to pay the debt.

You should always be honest. If there isn’t any way you can pay the debt tell the person who called you the truth. If you think there may be a time when you’ll have some money then give them an estimated time when you might be able to pay. By doing this you could eliminate the incessant phone calls.

You can try to make a deal

There are some creditors that are not impossible to work with.  They may be inclined to make a deal with you. Some companies may allow you to make small payments over time or they may forgive a portion of the debt they say you owe if you’re willing to pay right then.  Generally speaking, third party companies are usually more willing to work with you since they often buy debt in bulk for much less than it was previously worth.

If all else fails, see a lawyer

If you feel you’re a victim of creditor harassment and you can’t find a way to get them to stop contact the Attorneys at Harmon & Gorove today.  We can assist you in filing bankruptcy so that your creditors will stop harassing you, ruining your credit and garnishing your wages.

If You Die With Debt, Here’s What Happens

When you are making your plans and enjoying the present with your loved ones you build a legacy.  One of the things that people often don’t consider when building that legacy is the debt that they may leave behind in the event that they die with debt.  Unfortunately, many of your debts can and will out live you and the people you leave behind could be affected by those debts. If you have already created a will you will likely have named an executor who will be responsible for taking care of your debts and disposing of your assets when you pass.

When I Die, What Happens to My Debts?

If you die with debt, these are the most common types of debts that can have an impact on the ones you love:

Student Loans: If your student loans were obtained from the Federal Government, they will be forgiven upon your death.  If you took out private students loans, they can recover money from your estate or from a co-signer or guarantor. In the event that your estate has exhausted its resources, the private loans will also be wiped out.

Home Loans and Mortgages: If you own a home jointly with someone else or you wish to pass your home to a loved one and you die with debt on the property, they are responsible for continuing to pay your mortgage(s) after you pass. While the government protects you from having the loan called in upon your death, the note will have to continue to be paid until those you leave behind decide what to do with the property

Car, Boat, Motorcycle Loans: If the payments on these types of loans are not made then the person who lent you the money can take possession of the vehicle.  The person you leave the vehicle to will have the option of continuing to pay on the note but there are other probate concerns that often arise with transfer of title but that is something you may need to speak with a qualified probate attorney about.

Credit Card Debt and Medical Bills: While these types of debt are not secured by collateral (a car, house, etc.) if your estate has remaining funds they can be recovered by the credit card company or medical firm.  If the estate has no remaining assets then your debts are generally wiped out. In the event that that you have a JOINT credit card account, the non-deceased person will be on the hook for the debt incurred by you.  This generally doesn’t apply to an authorized user but if the primary passes away and you do not intend to continue to pay on the credit card, you shouldn’t continue to use that card.

Taxes: If you die with debt owed to the IRS or your state department of revenue it can create a headache for those you leave behind.  If you die owing back taxes and you have filed jointly with a spouse, your spouse is liable for the entire amount of the taxes.  Additionally, the IRS can try to collect any tax debts owed from your estate, even if you did not file jointly with your spouse. The IRS does allow certain exemptions but it would be advisable at that point to consult a qualified tax attorney to discuss your options.  

These situations can be avoided

If you need to file bankruptcy, get help now. Reach out to a qualified bankruptcy attorney, tax attorney or financial planner to discuss your particular situation. Ridding yourself of debt before you pass might be a good option for you.  The best thing you can do for your loved ones is to prepare your estate so they aren’t hit with unpleasant surprises in a time of profound grief. At the very least, you should have a last will and testament in place. You should also keep those you love apprised of your financial situation.  Provide them with a list of assets and liabilities, where you keep safe deposit boxes, a list of passwords and combinations to safes and lockboxes to assist your loved ones in closing out your affairs when the time comes. While your creditors are allowed to contact your heirs about collecting on debts when you retire, they must follow the guidelines set out the the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

How much debt does it take to file Bankruptcy?

Tons of people ask the question each day, “Do I have enough debt to file bankruptcy?”  The long and short of it is that the US Bankruptcy code lists no minimum amount of debt to be able to qualify for bankruptcy. However, in consumer bankruptcy, there is a debt ceiling that prohibits an individual from filing a Chapter 13.

The Minimum Amount of Debt

As we stated previously, there’s no minimum amount of debt you have to have to file for bankruptcy. That being said, the amount of debt you have should be a determining factor in whether or not you decide file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Should you have creditors who are unwilling to work with you, you find yourself owing more debt than you can pay back during the the next five years, or you are facing lawsuits due to debts in collection the time may be right to file bankruptcy. There is, however, only one way to decide if the time is right and that is to contact a local bankruptcy attorney to analyze your individual situation.

The Maximum Amount of Debt

Some people find themselves faced with insurmountable debts. One thing you should understand is that there is a limit to the amount of debt you have have in order to file a consumer bankruptcy. Owing more than $1,184,200 in secured debt or $394,725 in unsecured debt as of 2018 disqualifies you from being able to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you find yourself in this situation then you may be forced to work on settling your debts or reducing outstanding principal in order to lower your debt load before we can file a Chapter 13. .

Bankruptcy in Georgia

Making the decision to file for bankruptcy protection is one that has long lasting implications and therefore shouldn’t be rushed into. Making contact with a local bankruptcy attorney like Harmon and Gorove can give you a better idea of where you stand financially and will allow you to determine which of your debts can be eliminated during bankruptcy and which ones you will have to pay back.

Don’t let holiday debt get your 2019 off on the wrong foot

A lot of Georgians enjoy the holidays but for others it can be a bit of a season of mixed emotions. For many, it’s an opportunity for people to have extra time to spend with family members that they might not get to see often or to attend fun holiday celebrations with friends, co-workers and family. For many though, there can be a substantial monetary cost to the holiday season.  That cost goes beyond even the standard gift buying that Americans are unable to avoid. It includes things like planning and hosting parties or travelling great distances to visit loved ones. People already struggling to make ends meet often find themselves in an untenable situation and all of this added expense during the holidays can lead to significant holiday debt that can put a strain on their already difficult financial situation.

According to the The Motley Fool, nearly 50 percent of all people will find themselves in serious debt by January, nearly all of it related to holiday spending. 8 in 10 of those people will have driven up their debt load buying presents for friends and family. About 3 in 10 will have gone in debt to fund holiday travel and another 20 percent will have incurred new debt in order to fund events and celebrations during the holiday season.

Bloomberg, a major financial news outlet, states that the relatively healthy economy gives consumers the confidence to spend significant amounts this holiday season, especially compared to years past. Amazon has indicated that 2018’s Cyber Monday was the biggest shopping day ever for the company in its history and many other retailers are reporting extremely strong holiday spending during their Black Friday sales.

Mastercard  has put out news that online shopping in the holiday season exceeded 2017 spending levels by 19 percent. Total shopping sales for the entire year of 2018 rose by more than five percent over 2017 levels, as reported by Mastercard.

As we celebrate a new year, don’t let the prospect of serious holiday debt drag you and your family down.  With the average credit card interest rates exceeding 20% and rising, your financial future hangs in the balance with each passing day.  Don’t let the scourge of credit card debt ruin your 2019. Come see the attorneys at Harmon and Gorove today for a free consultation and let us develop a plan that can help you get your finances back on track and secure a bright future for you and your family.