Articles Posted in Making Your Life Easy

As a Sacramento Bankruptcy Attorney, my potential clients are often concerned with the ramifications of filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy Petition. It is my job to help people understand and explain some of the myths that surround this process. Some potential filers may be concerned with the effect bankruptcy may have on any security clearance as a condition of his or her employment. My short answer is: Bankruptcy will have little impact on a security clearance.

The major reason that the Bankruptcy has no negative impact on a security clearance is because it makes a person less of a security risk. The United States Department of Defense states: “The purpose of a security clearance is to determine whether a person is willing and able to safeguard classified national security information, based on his or her loyalty, character, trustworthiness, and reliability.” The fact of the matter is that when a person files for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 for a legitimate reason, it shows that this individual is making a responsible choice and confronting whatever economic situations are troubling them.

“All available, reliable information about a person, past and present, favorable and unfavorable, is considered in reaching a clearance determination. When an individual’s life history shows evidence of unreliability or untrustworthiness, questions arise whether the individual can be relied on and trusted to exercise the responsibility necessary for working in a secure environment where protection of classified information is paramount.

Sacramento area residents who feel ashamed with the idea of filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy need to understand that there should be no personal guilt or shame associated with this decision. The determination to file bankruptcy is an economic decision, period. There is no moral association attached to the concept of bankruptcy. In fact, bankruptcy principles have been in existence since the middle ages and are even included in the United States Constitution!

Sadly, creditors have worked very hard at shifting an economic question into a moral question in an effort to dissuade people from making this decision. They have attempted to embarrass or make those who find themselves in economic peril to feel guilty for having to file. What people fail to remember, however, is that creditors are voluntarily taking risks by extending credit. Having a debt discharged is part of the risk associated with doing business in the lending arena.

Lenders are sophisticated and completely aware that some of their customers will file for bankruptcy; in fact, it’s a part of their business model. This recognition should enable a person considering bankruptcy to focus on the economics of the decision rather than the morality that has been improperly associated with it.

All Sacramento area residents have been hit hard by the economic downturn of the last several years. Unfortunately, this downturn has begun to disproportionately affect senior citizens and people leaving the workforce. In the early 90’s people over 55 accounted for approximately 2 percent of bankruptcy filings. Today, seniors account for roughly 22 percent of all bankruptcy filings.

The main reason seniors have been subject to Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 in recent years is due to the rising costs of medical care and their reliance on expensive medications. According to a recent study, 70 percent of seniors who live in poverty have suffered from a major medical condition. Only 50 percent of seniors living above the poverty line have faced these maladies that range from cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc . to name a few.

Seniors therefore face a unique set of challenges when confronting economic turbulence. This is due, in large part, to the fact that elderly people tend to have limited incomes and there exists a lower probability of increasing income or earning additional income from employment opportunities as the individual continues to age. These real limitations have a direct impact on the individual’s decision of whether to file a Chapter 13 or a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Unemployed Sacramento residents facing possible foreclosure or Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be glad to know that the California Housing Finance Agency has finally decided to start the application process that will give unemployed homeowners up to $3,000 per month to pay their housing mortgages according to an article published in SFGate.

California has decided to implement the first of four programs launched by the United States Treasury as part of the Hardest Hit Fund. This fund consists of $7.6 billion that will provide the 18 hardest hit states with the largest drops in housing prices or high unemployment rates.

In order to qualify, a homeowner must meet specific eligibility requirements that are based on age as well as income restrictions. Additionally, the individual homeowner’s loan servicer must agree to participate in the federally funded program. Unfortunately, only three mortgage loan servicing companies had decided to join the program, but CalHFA plans to more than double that number over the upcoming week.

As a lawyer who represents people interested filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in the Sacramento Metropolitan area I am often frustrated by the misinformation individuals receive surrounding the bankruptcy process. While bankruptcy remains a complicated legal matter and, as such, can be an unsettling consideration for just about any individual. I find that few people take it upon himself or herself to become better informed about the bankruptcy process from the numerous individuals who have previously sought relief under the Bankruptcy Code.

Peoples’ general lack of information about the bankruptcy process has created a stigma for many individuals which causes unnecessary anxiety and other problems for individuals who may be experiencing financial turmoil. As the Philadelphia Inquirer noted on December 26, 2010 life after bankruptcy is not the “financial desert” many individuals fear is a result of filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. As a matter of fact, paranoia created due to this unrealistic fear of turning to the bankruptcy code for financial relief has drained too many individual’s assets that could have been preserved had the individual consulted with an attorney sooner rather than later in the process. Furthermore, individuals plagued with incessant calls from angry creditors could again return to times where they were unafraid to answer the telephone without fear of having to deal with annoying or harassing calls regarding unpaid debts.

While filing for bankruptcy is not free of long term consequences, in that the filing becomes a matter of public record that can stay on your credit report for a number of years, these consequences are often times softened compared to the combination of potential benefits a bankruptcy filing can have on an individual’s economic circumstances. Few people take into account that many people begin to receive offers for the extension of credit within a year after filing for bankruptcy (although these offers are often for minimal amounts and on bad terms for a borrower). There are studies which show that Debtors have been able to get home loans within two years of being discharged from their previous debts. This of course presumes that those individuals have taken the time to reestablish themselves financially.

The decision to file for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is a big one. This decision is one that requires substantial consideration and expertise. One of the most significant aspects of my work as a Sacramento Bankruptcy Attorney is to advise Sacramento area residents as to whether bankruptcy is a viable decision for him/her to begin with. Many individuals who schedule a consultation with my office are anxious to avoid filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 and come to my office in an attempt to explore the options available to them. In some cases, potential clients have specific matters that need to be addressed under their economic circumstances.

The first thing a person considering bankruptcy needs to take into account is the amount of debt the person has looming over his/her shoulders. Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is really not a wise step to take if your debt to income ratio or debt to assets ratio are relatively low. The Bankruptcy code was revised in 2005, making it more difficult for a person to qualify for Chapter 7 in the first place. Thus, this question of whether bankruptcy can provide a solution to the debtor is often resolved by a simple mathematical equation. If an individual qualifies for Bankruptcy under the revised code, then there is a high probability that the individual has a high debt to income ratio which can be resolved by filing.

A simple way to calculate this ratio is for a person to examine his/her monthly expenses for all your necessary monthly obligations. This means the debtor needs to compile his/her monthly payments for things such as housing, vehicle, and living expenses. Do not include payments for credit cards or other nonessential expenses. Next, the debtor must compare that number with his monthly income. As a general rule, if the debtor cannot pay off his outstanding debts with the balance of his income that exceeds the necessary monthly expenses, over a three year period, bankruptcy may be a good option.

Sacramento area homeowners facing foreclosure may be able to save their homes by filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. CNNMONEY.com posted an article by Les Christies today regarding the impact filing for bankruptcy may have on an individual seeking to save his or her home from foreclosure.

There is no question that filing for bankruptcy can stop foreclosure proceedings and eliminate harassing phone calls from debt collectors temporarily. The question, however, posed by many of my clients is “Can bankruptcy save my house?” My answer to this question is “it depends.” The biggest factor that determines whether a debtor can stay in his or her house is his or her ability to continue making payments on the mortgage.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy eliminates all unsecured debt and eliminates any personal liability on those debts. However, when an individual has his/her debt secured by something like a house or a car the lender has the right to foreclose on that property if the borrower fails to make payments. Thus, if one of my clients does not have enough income to continue making the payments on his or her house a bankruptcy will not save the house from foreclosure. In this scenario, all the bankruptcy will provide the debtor is extra time until the house is ultimately sold by the lender.

One of the big changes to the Bankruptcy Code implemented in 2005 by the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) is the requirement for debtors to attend mandatory credit counseling before filing the bankruptcy petition and to complete a financial education course before receiving their discharge. This law affects all Sacramento Area residents who have considered filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy and serves as an absolute bar to discharge if not complied with.

Critics of this requirement argue that the mandatory classes add needless barriers to discharge, are condescending, and put debtors who may be experiencing economic distress through no fault of his or her own, like those who have been laid-off or incurred substantial medical debts, in the same category as those who are unable to manage their financial affairs. Supporters of the mandatory classes mark the educational value these courses provide to a debtor. To evaluate whether these mandatory classes warrant any justification, the University of Illinois along with Money Management International (MMI), the largest nonprofit, full-service credit-counseling agency launched a multiphase study that “tracks debtors through the entire bankruptcy process…to assess the long-term educational requirements on their overall financial well-being.”

Preliminary results of the study, published today by the University of Illinois, indicate that 99 percent of debtors noted improvements in their attitudes, behavioral intentions, and financial knowledge after taking the mandatory 60-90 minute pre-filing counseling course. The pre-filing classes focus on rudimentary personal finance concepts that assist a debtor look for ways to cut expenses or increase their income in order to improve their economic situation. The study also noted that numerous factors exist which play into an individual’s decision to file for bankruptcy. These initial results show that the mandatory classes may be a legitimate way to help debtors deal with their finances and obtain a fresh start after bankruptcy.

Sacramento area residents who consult my law firm often have questions regarding their rights with regard to creditors who contact them once they have become delinquent paying their credit card bills or home mortgages. This situation often times becomes extremely frustrating or frightening for a person already under significant amount of stress due to his or her turbulent financial situation.

Once a debtor falls behind on his or her credit bills a creditor can become particularly bothersome. In fact, often times, the creditor becomes downright obnoxious. These measures are typically an attempt by the creditor to shame or persuade a debtor into paying the balances owed or make a last ditch effort to recover some portion of the debt. I have heard numerous horror stories regarding the extreme and sometimes outrageous behavior creditors have taken in order to “persuade” a debtor to pay. This sort of conduct by creditors is shameful. Fortunately, California law provides that a creditor’s outrageous conduct can be stopped! However, in order for a debtor to silence the aggressive debt collector, one must have a grasp of the creditor harassment law that applies to him or her in California.

Both federal and state law protects individual debtors from a creditor’s harassment. This includes both methods and conduct employed by the creditor against a debtor. The National Fair Debt Collections Practices Acts (NFDCPA) is the federal standard that limits the measures a creditor may engage in to collect a debt owed to them. California’s counterpart is referred to as the Rosenthal Act and is laid out in California Civil Code § 1788.