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Cosigning is ALWAYS a Bad Idea

We understand how hard it is to say no, especially to a friend or family member.  Let me say this loud and clear, when a family member of a friend asks about cosigning a loan for them, RUN FOR THE HILLS! JUST SAY NO! DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES SIGN THAT LOAN!

No matter how sure you are that they won’t default on the loan, you may even feel it in your soul, DON’T DO IT.  If a lender is asking for a cosigner, there’s a good reason. It’s because they believe that the primary borrower won’t be able to make their financial obligations.  More often than not, the lender is right.

When it comes to cosigning, you’re being asked to guarantee a debt.  If the primary borrower doesn’t repay the debt, you’re on the hook for the debt and the creditor WILL come after you. You’ll be on the hook for late fees, collection costs, attorneys fees and the principal balance of the loan.  If the debt goes into default it WILL show up on your credit report. The bottom line is, cosigning is always a bad idea.

Cosigning is always a bad idea.  Have I made myself clear up to this point? Cosigning a debt puts you in the worst possible situation.  You receive no benefit from the loan you’re cosigning. You aren’t getting a student loan to improve your education, you’re not getting a house to live in and build equity in, you’re not getting that flashy new car to ride around town in. You’re just on the hook for all of it.  You can have you bank accounts and assets seized, your paycheck garnished, you could be subject to litigation and you could ultimately end up in bankruptcy.

We understand that it’s difficult to refuse to help someone you love.  Telling friends or family members no is one of the toughest things you can do. However, it may be the best thing you can do for your relationship.  Think about what your relationship will be like if your friend or family member defaults on the loan or even just misses a payment. That’s going to show up on your credit at a minimum and will likely bring your score down 20 or more points.  The damage that cosigning can do to relationships can not be understated. You’ll be left with a loan and a relationship that will be severely damaged from here forward.

If you’ve cosigned a loan with someone who has missed payments or defaulted on a loan completely and you find yourself on the hook for their mistakes the attorneys at Harmon and Gorove can help.  We are experts in dealing with these kinds of issues through the bankruptcy code.  Contact us today for a free, no obligation consultation about how we can help you get out from under these debts and get your life back.

How to Recover from Bankruptcy

Dead end roads, dead end jobs, dead end relationships.  All these are good examples of things that can truly be a dead end.  Notice, however, how the word Bankruptcy was NEVER mentioned as a dead end.  Quite the contrary, Bankruptcy can be a fantastic new beginning that can give you a fresh perspective and fresh start on your road to financial success. Bankruptcy allows you the kind of fresh start you need after a run of bad luck or a series of bad decisions.  By using these mistakes and learning from your bad luck, you can have a great deal of success after bankruptcy. Below, I list how you can successfully recover after bankruptcy.

 

  1. First things first, you MUST learn from your mistakes and misfortunes.  It is important to identify what happened and what caused you to file bankruptcy in the first place.  Was it bad choice, a spate of ill health, a run of bad luck or just plain stupidity. The decision to file bankruptcy was hard enough and let’s be honest.  You probably don’t want to be back here again. In order to avoid this problem in the future, you’ve got to figure out how you got here in the first place.
  2. After you identify your mistakes the next thing you’ve got to do is to plan for the future.  You need to create a budget based on what you can ACTUALLY AFFORD based on your income. Making this budget and sticking to it will lead you to a lifetime of financial success and keep you out of our office in the future.
  3. Once you’ve made plans, the next thing you need to do is set some goals.  Where do you want to be in 1 month, 6 months, 1 year, 5 years or a decade? You need to set goals and work them into your budget.  Such goals should include an emergency savings fund. An emergency cushion should be at least 6 months worth of your expenses in the event you have a job loss or experience medical problems in the future.  
  4. Once you’ve set up goals, you need to work on re-establishing your credit.  The only caveat to this is that it must be done SLOWLY AND DELIBERATELY. You can start out by rebuilding your credit slowly but getting a credit card and using it for a deliberate purpose.  Only buying certain things and ALWAYS paying it off at the beginning of the month. Over time this will allow your credit score to recover once you’ve shown your responsible and able to pay off your debts each month.  
  5. Finally, it’s always best to have a positive attitude.  Bankruptcy can be stressful (although we try our best to ease that stress) and cause a lost of difficulty in life. It is, however, important to focus on the positive aspects of filing bankruptcy. If you let this process continue to kick you while you’re down, you won’t be able to complete the other 4 steps to recovery.  

 

A significant majority of people come out of bankruptcy and find themselves more successful and better prepared for the financial road ahead.  If you feel that bankruptcy might be able to help you improve your financial situation please contact us for a free, no obligation consultation so we can show you just how we can help.  The attorneys at Harmon and Gorove have decades of experience in helping people get back on their feet, recover from financial trouble and achieve their goals.  We look forward to helping you!

Protecting Assets From Creditors

Look, we all get it. When we get scared we hide.  It’s a natural reaction to trouble to take the things we value and try to keep them safe. The same thing goes when people you owe money to come calling.  You think about how you can keep those things you’ve worked hard for and value in your possession. Protecting Assets from creditors becomes a top priority.

One of the first reactions is to transfer ownership of your car or house or other items of value you have laying around the house.  You may think about giving certain things away to friends or family. In the end, you’d rather someone you love have it instead of it going to some greedy creditor.  

The only problem with protecting assets this way is that it’s illegal.

People who receive the fraudulent conveyance often get sued by someone, whether its a creditor or a trustee.  These types of transfers have been illegal for at least the last 200 years.  You simply can’t give away your wealth when you owe money to other people. The law is the same whether it’s at the state level or in the bankruptcy code.  Gifts and/or fraudulent conveyances are not effective tools you can use to put your assets beyond the reach of creditors. If you are trying to fraudulently transfer assets, all you’re doing is setting the recipient up to be sued.

You can sell if the price is right.

What all this DOESN’T mean is you can’t sell your assets, it just means that you have to actually sell them for what they’re worth.  For instance, if you have a 2 carat diamond ring, you can’t sell it to your friend Cindy for $50 and if you’re driving a Rolls Royce, you can’t sell it to your Aunt Jean for $1,000.  You have to sell the items for what they’re worth, otherwise it raises serious suspicion. If you sell these items or you fraudulently convey property to someone else, the trustee is allowed to void that sale via a lawsuit.  Generally speaking, the trustee has a period of time called a lookback. Generally that period of time is about 2 years. If you transfer items out of your name during that time period the trustee can sue the person who received your assets and get them back to use to satisfy your debts.


Another problem that can arise in transferring property in a fraudulent way is that you can run afoul of the bankruptcy code.  In 11 U.S.C. 727 the bankruptcy court is allowed to DENY discharge if they find that you made a fraudulent conveyance.  This means you just paid all this money and did all this work and you’re going to get NOTHING in return.

The best way to keep your assets is by filing a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.  You should always resist the urge to hide your assets. The United States Trustee has a great deal of power to look back through your finances through different types of hearings and examinations.  You should ALWAYS consult a competent bankruptcy attorney to find out what your options are and what property is exempt from the trustee’s reach in your bankruptcy. If you have assets with a value that exceeds your exemptions, you should consider a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.  

The attorneys at Harmon and Gorove have decades of experience in protecting assets from creditors.  We work hard to make sure that what YOU have stays YOURS. Contact our office today to set up a free, no obligation consultation to discuss your rights under the Bankruptcy Code.  

How Much Should I Pay for a Bankruptcy?

When you’re broke and you’re thinking about filing bankruptcy finding a good price is something that’s definitely on  your mind. In fact, cheaper looks good. If some lawyer is willing to do my bankruptcy for $500 why should I pay someone else $1,000 or $1,500? You may think you’re getting a deal but like answers to many questions in the law, what you’re getting may not always be best for you.

The Costs of Bankruptcy depends on your facts

Whether you need to file bankruptcy now, later or not at all depends on how your personal financial situation fits into the protections provided by the bankruptcy code. Our attorneys, during your free consultation, will gather these facts and analyze your situation so that we can figure out how to best help you using the existing bankruptcy laws. If your bankruptcy lawyer doesn’t look in the right places, know what rocks to turn over or isn’t completely familiar with the bankruptcy code, you’ll probably his some pretty big snags in your case. With the caveat that there is no direct and sure-fire connection between cost and quality, let’s talk about how much it should cost you to get back on the road to financial prosperity.

How to figure what you should pay

  1.  The person charging the least is probably not for you.  Chances are, they’re new or they are dabbling in a very complicated section of the code.  Maybe they’re trying to upsell you another product and they’re farming out the actual work of the bankruptcy to someone who knows even less than they do. Additionally, do you really want the cheapest guy in town advising you about your finances.  As with everything in life, you get what you pay for.

 

  1.  The more you’ve got, the more protection you’ll need.

If you have substantial assets, it more than likely that you’re going to have to pay more for a bankruptcy attorney.  If you’re filing to save your house or stop big money lawsuits, you need to call in the big guns. You don’t need to hire someone who occasionally files a bankruptcy for buddies or someone who is fresh out of law school. It’s one thing to just discharge old credit card debt, but when real money’s on the line, you don’t want to go cut rate.

  1.  If you’re involved financially with lots of people, you’re going to need a good lawyer.

Do you have business partners? Do you own property with someone else? Have you set aside a chunk of change for your kids? All of these situations can fall under specialized parts of the bankruptcy code that most people who only do bankruptcy part time don’t know about.

  1.  Who is coming after you for money?  

If you’re up against the big boys like the IRS, Child Support collections, wealthy ex business partners or investors or an angry, well funded ex spouse you better lawyer up in a big way. The stronger your opposition, the more money they have to investigate you and dig through your life for money they can recover.

What should you actually get for your money?

When you choose a bankruptcy lawyer you need to look for someone who is familiar with the law and has the skills to see how the law applies to your individual case. The more you pay, the more likely you are to feel entitled to access to the attorney and their responsiveness to you, no matter how crazy your question sounds or how frequently you need questions answered.   Price alone isn’t always indicative of good customer service. In fact, some of the most expensive lawyers in the area are the most likely to farm your work out to others. On the opposite end though, low fees don’t usually leave room for the attorney to develop interpersonal relationships and give you excellent customer service.

So, how much should I actually pay?

At the risk of sounding cliche, it all depends on your situation. It can depend on the cost of living where you are, legal fees just cost more in Atlanta than they do in Newnan.  It also depends on your individual circumstances. If you have easy debts like credit cards, if you’re a W-2 employee or if you don’t have a ton of assets, you’ll usually find that your bankruptcy will cost less.  Another thing to consider is the legal market where you are. Be prepared to meet with several lawyers. The best Bankruptcy attorneys in the area offer free consultations. You should meet with at least two bankruptcy attorneys before you decide which attorney should represent you.  Finally, be prepared to reject law firms that don’t speak with you candidly and offer you up front pricing and fees. You should also feel comfortable with your attorney and quiz them about their experience.

Finally, just because someone charges the most doesn’t mean they’re the best. It just means they charge the most.  

If you find yourself needing quality representation, I hope you’ll give our attorneys a chance to earn your business.  Contact us today to schedule a free, no pressure, consultation to determine how we can help get you back on the road to financial prosperity.  

Cleaning Up Finances Before Bankruptcy

There’s good reason to tidy up.  The popular show on a major streaming service has made tidying up a national sensation. Many people try to cleaning up finances before bankruptcy but that isn’t always a good idea. In fact, don’t waste your time cleaning up finances before bankruptcy and especially before you consult with a bankruptcy attorney.

Doing this could result in you wasting money or losing options under the bankruptcy code if you make any last minute changes to your financial situation. Your situation has the most options available to you if your attorney sees your financial picture in its totality.  What looks like a mess to you may look like major opportunities and significant advantages to your bankruptcy counsel.

There’s a potentially high cost to trying to tidy up.

The most sickening feeling I get when consulting with a client is when they tell me they just paid off a debt to a family member, borrowed against their retirement to satisfy debts, or paid off taxes in lieu of something else while cleaning up finances before bankruptcy. None of these things should be done without seeing a competent bankruptcy attorney.

Paying off debts to family

Paying off our family seems like the right thing to do.  We want to take care of our family, especially when they took a risk by loaning us money.  People do this for many different reasons. Some do it to hide the fact that they had to file bankruptcy while others do it to potentially protect assets from the bankruptcy process before you file.  

The most likely outcome of this situation is that paying off these people (friends, family, business partners) will actually hurt you and them more than it helps anyone. The Trustee can sue family members and friends you’ve paid off for during the preceding year to recover the money you paid them. These payments are often known as preferential payments and they are not legal under the bankruptcy code.  Under bankruptcy, there must be fair payments to ALL creditors, not just the ones you want to pay off.

Often, the exemptions allowed in Georgia will protect more of your money than you expect.  Once your case is concluded, you can pay off your family or friends without any kind of adverse consequences.  In other words, hold onto your money until AFTER you’ve consulted with an attorney.

Most settlements before bankruptcy are a waste

One of the most troubling scenarios I’ve seen in recent times involved an older couple who had spent more than 5 years trying to pay off credit card debt through a debt settlement agency.  They did this in lieu of meeting with a bankruptcy attorney. What they didn’t realize was that despite all the thousands of dollars they had spent, not all of their debts were being paid through the settlement. They had to file bankruptcy anyways and they got no credit from the money they spent trying to pay off their credit cards.  During this time they struggled to pay their property taxes and student loans and they ultimately fell into default as well.

The better option for that would have likely been to file bankruptcy and use the excess money they had to retire the tax debt or pay off their student loans as those two types of debts are not dischargeable under bankruptcy.

Generally speaking, your bankruptcy will be no simpler, less expensive or less damaging to your credit based on the number of creditors you have.  If you have to file bankruptcy, reducing the number of creditors you have isn’t going to matter to your case.

Tax debt can actually be useful

Generally speaking, people usually think owing the government is bad business.  However, in your bankruptcy case it could actually be an asset if your income is above the average in your state.  This helps with the means test that helps determine if you make too much money for a Chapter 7. You can deduct the tax debts you owe from your income in order to qualify for a Chapter 7 in certain cases. The same thing goes for mortgage arrearages and property taxes you owe on your home.  These types of debts can be useful in getting you into the type of bankruptcy you want to file. If you eliminate this type of debt before you consult with an attorney and it leaves us with fewer tools to adjust your income when working with the means test.

Stop trying to clean things up

Don’t make the mistake of cleaning up finances before bankruptcy if you haven’t consulted with an attorney.  We need to see all the pieces, broken or not. Don’t try to sweep debts under the carpet or pay them off before you consult with a competent bankruptcy attorney. The attorneys at Harmon and Gorove have decades of experience in helping people clean up their financial mess and get their life back.  Contact us today for a free consultation to see how we can help you.

 

Bankruptcy: How it Affects your Spouse

Marriage means much more than just living with someone, it means sharing a life together and that life includes your finances. Still, sometimes one spouse may need to declare bankruptcy to get out from under their debts, even if husband or wife does not. There are any number of reason why this may be the case.  The filing spouse may have racked up credit card debt as a college student or may have incurred medical expenses that the other spouse isn’t liable for. If you are married, you often can file for bankruptcy without your husband or wife. Even when you file and individual bankruptcy case, it may still have a profound effect on your non filing spouse.

How Bankruptcy can Affect your Spouse:

Generally speaking, if you are filing for an individual bankruptcy case, it will not have much of an effect on your spouse in many cases. One of the areas in which it may have an impact is If you have joint debts discharged in the bankruptcy. By doing this,  the bankruptcy may appear on your spouse’s credit regardless of whether they have filed.

Also, when you file for bankruptcy, it only eliminates your personal debt, but your husband or wife is still obligated to pay back their own debts and any joint debts that they may be on with you. Your creditors can pursue legal action against your spouse to collect your joint debts once you have filed for bankruptcy. While this past statement is true if don’t life in a community property state, if you do live in a community property state and discharge the debts you owe jointly with your spouse, the creditors cannot pursue collections against your marital community property after your bankruptcy. In this case, your spouse benefits from discharge of your joint debts.

Filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection can protect your spouse from creditors with the Co-Debtor stay. A Co-Debtor protects the debtor against almost all types of debt collection activity by virtue of you having filed for protection yourself. A chapter 13 also prohibits creditors from pursuing your co-debtors during the course of your bankruptcy. However, in a chapter 7 bankruptcy, the co-debtor stay is not included. At that point a collector will not be able to collect the debt from you, but it can collect it from your spouse.

Finding Financial Freedom:

Filing for bankruptcy is a last resort for many and a challenging process for everyone, especially if affects your loved ones. Understanding what your options are helps you both make good decisions that can get you back on the road to financial prosperity and security. If you are considering filing bankruptcy, contact our experienced bankruptcy attorneys today so they may explain the different options you have available to you under the law. Harmon and Gorove has helped thousands of families recover from difficult financial situations over the course of the last 35 years.  Contact our office today for a free, no obligation consultation.