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GEOFF MORRIS

 

Do I need to complete credit counseling prior to filing bankruptcy?

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

You must receive budget and credit counseling from an approved credit counseling agency within 180 days before your bankruptcy case is filed. A pre-bankruptcy counseling session with an approved credit counseling  organization should include an evaluation of your personal financial situation, a discussion of alternatives to bankruptcy, and a personal budget plan.  A typical counseling session should last about 60 to 90 minutes. Different agencies provide the counseling in-person, by telephone, or over the Internet. If you decide to file bankruptcy, you must have a certificate from the agency showing that you received the counseling before your bankruptcy case was filed. Most approved agencies charge between $30–$50 for the pre-filing counseling. However, the law requires approved agencies to provide bankruptcy counseling and the necessary certificates without considering an inpidual’s ability to pay. If you can not afford the fee, you should ask the eagency to provide the counseling free of charge or at a reduced fee. If you decide to go ahead with bankruptcy, you should be very careful in choosing an agency for the required counseling. It is extremely difficult to sort out the good counseling agencies from the bad ones. Many agencies are legitimate, but many are simply rip-offs. And being an‘‘approved’’ agency for bankruptcy counseling is no guarantee that the agency is good. It is also important to understand that even good agencies won’t be able to help you much if you’re already too deep in financial trouble. Some of the approved agencies offer debt management plans (also called DMPs). A DMP is a plan to repay some or all of your debts in which you send the counseling agencya monthly payment that it then distributes to your creditors. Debt management plans can be helpful for some consumers. For others, they are a terrible idea. The problem is that many counseling agencies will pressure you into a debt management plan as a way of avoiding bankruptcy whether it makes sense for you or not. You should not consider a debt management plan if making the monthly plan payment will mean you will not have money to pay your rent, mortgage,utilities, food, prescriptions, and other necessities. It is important to keep in mind these important points:

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What Will Happen to My Home and Car If I File Bankruptcy?

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

In most cases you will not lose your home or car during your bankruptcy case as long as your equity in the property is fully exempt. Even if your property is not fully exempt,you will be able to keep it, if you pay its non-exempt value to creditors in chapter 13.  However, some of your creditors may have a ‘‘security interest’’ in your home, automobile, or other personal property. This means that you gave that creditor a mortgage on the home or put your other property up as collateral for the debt. Bankruptcy does not make these security interests go away. If you don’t make your payments on that debt, the creditor may be able to take and sell the home or the property, during or after the bankruptcy case. In a chapter 13 case, you may be able to keep certain secured property by paying the creditor the value of the property rather than the full amount owed on the debt. Or you can use chapter 13 to catch up on back payments and get current on the loan. There are also several ways that you can keep collateral or mortgaged property after you file a chapter 7 bankruptcy. You can agree to keep making your payments on the debt until it is paid in full. Or you can pay the creditor the amount that the property you want to keep is worth. In some cases involving fraud or other improper conduct by the creditor,you may be able to challenge the debt.  If you put up your household goods as collateral for a loan (other than a loan to purchase the goods), you can usually keep your property without making any more payments on that debt.

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Can I Own Anything After Bankruptcy?

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Yes! Many people believe they can not own anything for a period of time after filing for bankruptcy. This is not true. You can keep your exempt property and anything you obtain after the bankruptcy is filed. However, if you receive an inheritance, a property settlement, or life insurance benefits within 180 days after filing for bankruptcy, that money or property may have to be paid to your creditors if the property or money is not exempt.

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Will Bankruptcy Wipe Out All My Debts?

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013
  • Yes, with some excelitions. Bankrulitcy will not normallywilie out:
  • Money owed for child suliliort or alimony;
  • Most fines and lienalties owed to government agencies;
  • Most taxes and debts incurred to liay taxes which cannot be discharged;
  • Student loans, unless you can lirove to the court thatreliaying them will be an ‘‘undue hardshili’’;
  • Debts not listed on your bankrulitcy lietition;
  • Loans you got by knowingly giving false information to a creditor, who reasonably relied on it in making you the loan;
  • Debts resulting from ‘‘willful and malicious’’ harm;
  • Debts incurred by driving while intoxicated;
  • Mortgages and other liens which are not liaid in the bankrulitcy case (but bankrulitcy will wilie out your obligation to liay any additional money if the lirolierty is sold by the creditor).

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Will I Have to Go to Court?

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

In most bankruptcy cases, you only have to go to a proceeding called the ‘‘meeting of creditors’’ to meet with the bankruptcy trustee and any creditor who chooses to come. Most of the time, this meeting will be a short and simple procedure where you are asked a few questions about your bankruptcy forms and your financial situation. Occasionally, if complications arise, or if you choose to dispute a debt, you may have to appear at a hearing. In a chapter 13 case, you may also have to appear at a hearing when the judge decides whether your plan should be approved. If you need to go to court, you will receive notice of the court date and time from the court and/or from your attorney.

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