Do you have some special possession you want to keep in bankruptcy? Because you probably can.

corvetteIs there some special heirloom you have or a piece of furniture you like or do you have an old car that you just can’t lose?  Maybe you own an old jewelryclassic ’57 Chevy or Corvette that you want to fix up someday.  You may have a great number of debts which you realize you can’t afford to pay but you are worried about the safety of your favorite possessions if you do file for bankruptcy.

The good news is that you probably can keep these possessions as long as the property’s value is less than the exemptions allowed in bankruptcy.  In bankruptcy law there are very liberal exemptions and these exemptions are what allow you to keep property after the bankruptcy is over.

One very helpful exemption is something called the “wildcard” exemption that you can use to protect any kind of property that you own.  At the time of this writing the wildcard exemption is $26,425.00 and that is pretty generous.

There are other exemptions besides the wildcard.  There is one for your car, and one for your furniture, clothes, and household items.  There are separate exemptions for cars, jewelry, and tools of the trade and don’t worry about you retirement account because that is almost certainly exempt.  Your attorney can advise you about all of the applicable exemptions in your state.

Your property will fit within the wildcard exemption as long as your property is worth less than $26,425.00.  If it does then you can keep it.  To value the property you want to go to a website like Kelly Blue Book for cars or you can go to Ebay or even Craig’s list to see what items similar to yours are selling for.

To get a more accurate valuation of the property you can hire an estimator or property appraiser who, if you pay him, will give you his or her valuation of the property.  If the property is of a special nature like a record collection then a property estimator who owns a record store could do the valuation.  The same thing applies for jewelry or a stamp collection, or an old gun from the civil war (jewelry even has its own separate exemption).  There is usually someone out there who can accurately value your property whatever the type.

valueRemember the bankruptcy trustee can only take your property if it has a value beyond your exemptions.  This is why it is so important to establish the fair market value of the item(s).  So if you (and your bankruptcy attorney) show the trustee that the fair market value is less than the exemption amount that you claim then you will usually be okay.

It is possible that the trustee can get his own valuation which could be higher than yours but if you get a reliable appraiser for the property you can usually defend your appraisal.  It is always good to consult with a bankruptcy attorney if you have any questions about whether you can keep your property in bankruptcy and if you should or should not file bankruptcy.

I am a San Diego bankruptcy attorney.  For further questions please visit my websites at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call my office for a free consultation or for any other advice about bankruptcy or debt at (619) 702-5015. Call now for free credit report and analysis!

For a free e-book on “13 things to do to prepare for your bankruptcy filing” please e-mail me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.

Corvette by Zombieite.  Jewelry photo courtesy of Gnilenkov Aleksey.

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Beware the low cost, cut rate, bottom of the barrel bankruptcy attorney

suit guyBeware the low-cost bankruptcy attorney!  A cut-rate attorney will often bait and switch you or he will piece out or up charge you for certain services he performs that other attorneys include in their price.  This means that they will get you in at a very low price and then raise the price later.  Before you know it you are paying more for this attorney than for the one that had the all-inclusive price.

Many of these attorneys will also cheap bankruptcy 2often not be available to you as they pass you off to their underlings.  Some of them may or may not show up at your 341 hearing and if they do you may not even know the person as your attorney because you have not ever met them.

This means someone else has handled your bankruptcy petition, schedules, and all of your questions about the case prior to the hearing.  If you call your low-cost attorney you will often not get a call back and if you do it will be from a paralegal or secretary or some other non-attorney office employee.  It is hard to know who is making the decisions in these cases but I ask how can they be good ones?

I often see these attorneys at hearings where they call out the name of the client because the client has never seen this attorney before.  Do you really want to meet your attorney for the first time at a 341 hearing in front of the bankruptcy trustee where everything you say is on the record?

I and many others believe that this is not good legal representation.  You should be able to meet your attorney and speak to him or her numerous times before you even file you bankruptcy.  By the time you get to the hearing you and your attorney should be well acquainted with each other and with your case.  Meeting your attorney for the first time at the 341 hearing is a very bad idea I believe.

But this and other things can and do happen with low-cost attorneys.  You can see from the “Bankruptcy $199” sign above that there is no end to how low they will advertise their services just to get you in the door.  When you sign up though you find out the real cost.  I heard rumors of an attorney that allegedly charged $500 for a bankruptcy filing.   For that price he had you fill out forms online and he filed the case for you without even meeting with you.  I don’t know if he even showed up at the hearing.

You do have rights as a Debtor though and in our district you should get a “rights and responsibilities” document supplied by your attorney which is filed with the case.  This will tell you what you are entitled to expect from your attorney when he or she represents you in a bankruptcy.  It covers such things as the attorney’s duty to advise you about all aspects of the case and his duty go to your 341 hearing.  It also covers the attorney’s duty to meet with the client and explain such things as the various bankruptcy chapters and the attorney’s duty to return phone calls and meet with the client to handle their issues as they arise.

All attorneys are required to do these things at least in our district.  But I suspect that the low-cost attorneys cut corners and may not do many of these things.  It costs a certain amount to run a law office and a cut-rate attorney must pay these bills just like a regular attorney.  He or she must therefore provide less time and service to clients or take on a lot more clients than they can reasonably handle (or both).

There is just no way around it so be wary of these bargain basement attorneys because as a client you could suffer greatly with a cut-rate attorney especially if an unforeseen problem arises in a case.

I am a San Diego bankruptcy attorney.  For further questions please visit my websites at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call my office for a free consultation or for any other advice about bankruptcy or debt at (619) 702-5015. Call now for free credit report and analysis!

For a free e-book on “13 things to do to prepare for your bankruptcy filing” please e-mail me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.

Guy in suit courtesy of OCAL.  $199 photo courtesy of Wallula Junction.

I just got sued for a debt. What should I do?

lawsuit 2If a creditor files a lawsuit against you for a debt you do owe them then you can fight the case and try to win in court.  Chances are though that the creditor can prove that you owe them so you will have a tough time winning.  It is possible that the creditor cannot prove that you owe the debt but these creditors are usually not stupid.  (I wrote about this before in a previous blog here).

They will most likely produce in court some sort of proof that you indeed owe this particular debt.  They will have copies of your original contract you signed for a credit card for instance and some sort of monthly tabulation for the charges.  If that is the case then it is hard to argue that you do not owe the debts.

You can try to stall the case for a certain amount of time and ask for a trial date which will stall it further.  The creditor though will then often file a motion for summary judgment based upon their evidence.  They will use this motion try to get a quick judgment so they can begin collecting the debt from you.

If you have evidence that warrants a trial then you can get one possibly but if they have sufficient proof of your owing them then you are likely to lose at trial.  If you win then you are off the hook but if you lose then the creditor will begin to collect the debt from you.

At some point before the trial you will want to consider making payments to them or take the other way out which is bankruptcy.  Bankruptcy will stop this lawsuit and wipe out not only this debt but bankruptcy sign 2also all of your other debts.  Bankruptcy is an excellent lawsuit destroyer.  Bankruptcy will usually cost less than hiring an attorney to fight the suit and if you fight it yourself and lose then you will still probably owe the creditor for the debt and their attorney fees and costs.

I recommend consulting a bankruptcy attorney before you start the process to see if you qualify for bankruptcy and to see if bankruptcy makes sense for you.  It is possible that you have too much income or too many assets to file or you may have too few debts to justify a bankruptcy.

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I am a San Diego bankruptcy attorney.  For further questions please visit my websites at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call my office for a free consultation or for any other advice about bankruptcy or debt at (619) 702-5015. Call now for free credit report and analysis!

For a free e-book on “13 things to do to prepare for your bankruptcy filing” please e-mail me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.

Lawsuit photo courtesy of thinboyfatter.  Bankruptcy sign courtesy of wes gaddy.

Do I have to give up everything I own to file bankruptcy? No!

property 2I am asked this question probably once a week.  Many people believe that they must lose everything they own to file for a bankruptcy.  This is not true.  I believe that this comes from some of the guilt and shame that people feel when they file.  They believe that they are doing something almost dishonest.  They believe that they must “honor” their debts.  The collection agencies that attempt to collect on these debts will encourage these feelings of guilt to dissuade people from filing for bankruptcy and to get people to pay them.

Many of my clients also believe that they have somehow failed when they file for bankruptcy and failure is just not accepted in this country.  They then try for years to pay debts that they cannot afford thinking that they will then not be failures.  I usually remind them that many successful companies have filed for bankruptcy over the years and individuals have the same right to do so.  In fact the filing of bankruptcy can get rid of debt and put an individual on the road to success.

The reality is that bankruptcy is a legal and moral solution to your debt problems and you can keep most of your property in the bankruptcy.  This is because there are very generous bankruptcy exemptions.  These exemptions allow you to keep a lot of stuff.  Your retirement funds can be kept with one exemption, your car with another, a certain amount of jewelry with another, and even “tools of the trade” if you own a business or use those tools in your line of work.

In addition there are homestead exemptions for equity in your house and the contents in your house, like our personal belongings and your clothes, can usually all be exempted.  Anything that exceeds these exemptions can be put into the $23,000 “wildcard” exemption which can be used for cash, stock, bonds, or anything else.

Insurance and social security money and your current income are also exempt so call a bankruptcy attorney if you need a bankruptcy and get a consultation about your property.  Most likely you can keep it.

I am a San Diego bankruptcy attorney.  For further questions please visit my websites at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call my office for a free consultation or for any other advice about bankruptcy or debt at (619) 702-5015. Call now for free credit report and analysis!

For a free e-book on “13 things to do to prepare for your bankruptcy filing” please e-mail me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.

Photo courtesy of Alan Cleaver

Bankruptcy filings are down but they will rise after October 2013 when people realize that they can file again

bankruptcy 5Bankruptcy filings are down significantly across America.  I wrote about this in a previous blog.  Some areas have seen a drop-off of as much as 50% in the numbers of filings.  There Courthouse 2are many reasons for this.  One reason is that most homes that were in foreclosure after the recession began have now been dealt with one way or another.  Household debt is also down and household debt has always been an indicator of how many bankruptcies will be filed.

Some economists believe that there will be another wave of foreclosures that the banks have been holding off foreclosing until there are signs of an economic recovery.  But there is another factor out there that will hit this October.  In October 2005 millions of Americans filed for bankruptcy in order to get their filing done prior to the 2005 bankruptcy law change.

Bankruptcy underwent a major change in 2005 designed to make it harder for debtors to file a chapter 7.  As it turned out most people could still file even with the new “means test” that was added in the new law.  But the 2005 bankruptcy law change scared people into thinking that bankruptcy was not going to be an option so they had better file now.

So millions did and many of them probably should not have.  But after 2005 the country went through a major recession.  Jobs were lost, foreclosures were up, and debts could not be paid.  But one aspect of the new law was to increase the time between bankruptcy filings from seven years to eight years.

We are now about to reach the eight year mark in October 2013.  This means that if you filed bankruptcy before the law change in 2005 (and maybe didn’t need to) you can file again in October of this year (2013).  It is now okay for you to file again so if you need to contact an attorney about filing a second time.  Don’t worry about having to do it it’s okay.  No one could foresee the terrible recession of 2008 and it probably has left you will a lot of debt that you have not been able to pay.  Bankruptcy will again take care of this debt once and for all giving you a fresh start.

I am a San Diego bankruptcy attorney.  For further questions please visit my website at www.farquharlaw.com.  Or call my office for a free consultation or for any other advice about bankruptcy or debt at (619) 702-5015. Call now for free credit report and analysis!

For a free e-book on “13 things to do to prepare for your bankruptcy filing” please e-mail me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.

Bankruptcy photo courtesy of Stockmonkeys.com.  Courthouse photo courtesy of Robert Linder.

Forgive yourself for your debt. Debt forgiveness is in the bible and bankruptcy is the answer.

forgive yourself 3I have written in the past (here) about how bankruptcy is sanctioned by the bible.  In the old testament in the book of Deuteronomy (15:1) it states thatbible 2 debts must be cancelled every seven years.   The Jewish people considered it very important to forgive debt completely after seven years.  They realized thousands of years ago that it was good for people and good for society if people had no long-term debt.  If they could not pay the debt I seven years then it was better for all to have it forgiven and lifted off the shoulders of the people.

The Christians said the same thing in the New Testament.  The Christians believed in forgiveness.  Jesus himself emphasized its importance.  I believe this includes forgiving yourself for the debt you have incurred but you cannot pay.  You blame yourself and you hang onto the debt you incurred a long time ago thinking that you will be able to pay it one day.  But this goes on and on.

It’s time to forgive yourself for charging up the credit cards, or returning an automobile you could not afford, and especially for medical debt which you cannot pay.  You may have thought you would have the money to pay it later but the money never came.  And now the debt is still there and the collectors are calling every day for you to repay it.  Some of them may even have sued you for it.

But the repayment doesn’t happen and it probably won’t happen.  So it’s time to forgive yourself for getting into debt in the first place.  Forgive yourself like you forgive others.  It’s in the bible.  In the New Testament.  You have all heard the saying; “to err is human but to forgive divine”.

freedom 4 Once you forgive yourself for the debt then maybe you can take the next step to rid yourself of it which is to file for bankruptcy to cancel your debts.  A bankruptcy discharge will lift your debt burden and let you get a fresh start and give you the freedom from your debt burden.  This freedom will allow you to live like you should and not be burdened by debt.  People have known for thousands of years how important this is.  Debt forgiveness was good enough for the ancient Jewish people of the bible and it’s part of Christianity too.  Bankruptcy is your legal, moral, and ethical pathway to debt forgiveness talked about in Deuteronomy.

I am a San Diego bankruptcy attorney.  For further questions please visit my website at www.farquharlaw.com .  Or call my office for a free consultation or for any other advice about bankruptcy or debt at (619) 702-5015. Call now for free credit report and analysis!

For a free e-book on “13 things to do to prepare for your bankruptcy filing” please e-mail me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.

“Accidents” photo courtesy of merfam.  Holy bible photo courtesy of Steve Snodgrass. Freedom photo courtesy of Josef Grunig

Is there currently a mancession? How about a shecovery? How can this be a good thing?

workmen 2There has been a lot of talk since the recession started as to whether the economic downturn has hit men harder than women thus creating womana “mancession”.  Even Wikipedia states that unemployment for men has been 10% while unemployment for women was only 8%.  There are even articles about a “shecovery” which occurs when areas of the economy that are dominated by women recover and male dominated areas don’t.

The recession hit areas harder that employed men in greater numbers than women.  Construction and manufacturing were all hurt badly in the recession and more men than women were employed in these areas.  Men were therefore impacted more greatly in the economic downturn.

As one online article in Nation magazine points out women make up already half of the workforce in America today which is up from 30% in the 1940s.  Women also have more jobs than men in areas like retail sales and healthcare and they have half of the middle management jobs according to the article.  I would also add to this list areas like education and the media where women outnumber men.  And these areas tend to either be growing or not shrinking as fast as male dominated areas of the economy.

We already know that women outnumber men in colleges these days by almost 60% to 40%.  They have also caught up in graduate schools as now women are graduating in numbers for the most part equal to men in medical and law schools.  These schools are pushing these grads out into the job market every year.  So women are also getting the degrees which will help them land the good paying jobs in the future.

Many of these articles are written by women and they describe this situation as women “winning” some kind of job struggle.  Some even say that women are just more suited to the modern economy.  A new book is even entitled “The end of Men”.  Does anyone see a problem with this besides me?  Men being cast off as outmoded, outdated, no longer useful to society.  Is anyone concerned with where they will go and what they will do?  It is indeed disturbing.

We have always been concerned in the past about some group that is disadvantaged, falling, behind, or left out.  We have always seen the danger and unfairness in this and we have always in the past made some attempt to address it for the good of everyone.  Now with half of society being looked upon as at least falling behind (and at worst defunct) we do nothing.

Do we believe that men somehow deserve a mancession?  Is is payback for some past crimes?  I say what about the future?  There is a whole new generation of men that must find their way.  I have seen the men in my office that have lost their jobs years ago and still can’t find something even close to what they used to do if they can find something at all.  They then must face foreclosure, eviction and all the serious financial problems of having little or no income.

As a bankruptcy attorney I want to say to the men that if they are still unemployed or underemployed and they have debts they cannot pay then they should look at bankruptcy as an option to get out of the debt.  They can then begin to rebuild their lives with out the debt burden often incurred prior to this recession when things were better.

But we are all in this thing together and if men are falling behind and if their is indeed less and less need for them in the future it is a problem for everyone.  The Nation article asks if women are “really victors” in the new economy.   I am reminded here of a line from the movie “The War of the Roses” where Danny DeVito’s character tells Michael Douglas’ character that “there is no winning only degrees of losing”.  We are all in the same boat in society and when men lose we all lose.

I am a San Diego bankruptcy attorney.  For further questions please visit my website at www.farquharlaw.com.  Or call my office for a free consultation or for any other advice about bankruptcy or debt at (619) 702-5015. Call now for free credit report and analysis!

For a free e-book on “13 things to do to prepare for your bankruptcy filing” please e-mail me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.

Men photo courtesy of Roger Blackwell.  “I won” photo courtesy of Search Engine People Blog.