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Hey, I Finally Got a Job

Posted by Kevin on November 28, 2014 under Bankruptcy Blog | Be the First to Comment

You were downsized or your company went out of business, or your department was outsourced to India.  You lost your job and collected for as long as you could.  But what you collected in unemployment was not enough to pay all your bills, so you got sued, and some creditors got judgments against you.

While you were unemployed, it really did not make a difference that a few doctors, AMEX and Discover got judgments against you.  They could not levy on your unemployment benefits.  But, now the economy has gotten better and you just got an offer in your field at about 90% of what you were earning when things went sideways.

Now is the time for you to start thinking about how you are going to deal with those judgments (and other debts that have not been reduced to judgment).  With money in your pocket and a few new credit cards, your activity on the credit reporting agencies will increase.  Creditors will put 2 + 2 together and figure you have a job.  Then, the garnishments will start coming in.  Great way to impress a new employer.

Bankruptcy may be the answer.  Debt consolidation through a reputable credit counseling company may also keep the wolves away.  You owe it to yourself and family to look into these options.  Be pro-active.

Final word to the wise.  It is holiday season.  People are beating each other up at Macy’s all over the US today.  Maybe you are thinking that you can have one last fling and then take care of business after the New Year (if any of your credit cards still work).  Bad idea.  Why?  Because cash advances or purchase of luxury items over certain amounts within 70 to 90 days of filing can preclude a discharge of those debts.  In addition, it will make any bankruptcy more expensive.  So, play it straight.

Now is the time to speak with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.

The Widening Circles of Harm from Student Loan Debt

Posted by Kevin on June 15, 2012 under Bankruptcy Blog | Be the First to Comment

Student loans are not just burdening recent graduates. They’re now directly hurting people you wouldn’t expect. And dragging down the whole economy.

Recent college graduates are clearly hurting in this economy as they come out of school and enter the job market. The national unemployment rate has come down from the Great Recession high of 10.0% in October 2009 to 8.2% in May 2012. But it’s the persistence of extraordinarily high unemployment that is hurting young graduates. Only one other time since the Great Depression of the 1930s had the unemployment rate hit 10%, during the recession of 1981-82. But then, like in most other modern recessions, a strong recovery reduced the unemployment rate quite quickly, in that case down to 7.2% in less than two years. In contrast the current recent graduates are trying to claw their way into their first career jobs in the midst of a “jobless recovery.”

And they are forced to do so saddled under the most student loan debt ever.  You’ve probably heard the news of the past few months that total student loan debt now exceeds $1 trillion and is more than the nation’s total credit card debt. Realize that most of these graduates started college before the Great Recession hit, many heading into careers that looked relatively sensible back then but are now disaster areas. Public school teachers, anyone?

And many others made the tough decision to stay in school to ride out the recession, maybe shifting into more reliable fields, only to be confronted with one of the most anemic recoveries in modern history.

But it’s not just these twenty-something year olds who are hurting. Two other populations are being hugely impacted.

First, middle-aged students have gone back to school in a scramble to shift with the rapidly changing economy to more marketable careers. Their gamble has included taking on a huge amount of student loan debt. As the title of this Reuters article says, “Middle-aged borrowers [are] piling on student debt.” It states that in the last three years, average student loan debt has gone up 47% for the 35-to-49 year old age group, more than for any other group.

Second, just as dramatic, parents of students are taking on more and more student loan debt on behalf of their children. According to this Bloomberg article, “Loans to parents have jumped 75 percent since the 2005-2006 academic year… .  An estimated 17 percent of parents whose children graduated in 2010 took out loans, up from 5.6 percent in 1992- 1993.”

Hopefully the retrained, re-schooled middle-aged workers will find work that justifies taking out the loans. After all, the labor force has to adjust to the changing realities of the labor market, and if it does so efficiently the whole economy benefits.

And hopefully the parents’ investment in their children’s education will also be worthwhile. Their kids’ increased earning power over their lifetimes may well make it so. And you’d think that if a college student knows that his or her parents are mortgaging their home or their retirement, that student would be motivated to make good use of the education!

A title of a recent report by the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys asks the question squarely: “The Student Loan ‘Debt Bomb’: America’s Next Mortgage-Style Economic Crisis?

I’m a bankruptcy attorney who looks across my desk just about every day into the faces of clients whose investment in higher education did not pan out. I know that in my line of work I don’t tend to hear the success stories, but from where I’m sitting it feels like we’re heading in a dangerous direction.

Debts for Recent “Luxury Goods or Services” and Cash Advances

Posted by Kevin on June 6, 2012 under Bankruptcy Blog | Be the First to Comment

“Presumption” that certain recent credit card purchases and cash advances will not be discharged in bankruptcy

Some types of debts  get written-off (“discharged”) in bankruptcy.  Others do not.  Included in the  list of those that might NOT be discharged are those “incurred through fraud or misrepresentation, including recent cash advances and ‘luxury’ purchases.” Today’s blog focuses on these types of debts.  In fact, this blog just looks at one particular subcategory of these debts—those that the Bankruptcy Code says “are presumed to be nondischargeable.” What is this “presumption,” how does it work, and what should you do about it?

The Fraud/Misrepresentation Exception to Discharge

First of all, the idea behind this exception to discharge is that debtor who cheats the creditor to borrow the money or get the credit should not be able to discharge that debt in bankruptcy. That follows one of the most basic principles of bankruptcy, that is, the purpose of bankruptcy is to give a fresh start to an honest debtor.

The Point of a “Presumption”

Debts which potentially belong to this fraud/misrepresentation category of debts ARE discharged UNLESS the creditor formally objects to the discharge of the debt within a rather quick deadline, usually 60 days after your meeting with the bankruptcy trustee. That objection would be in the form of a lawsuit the creditor files at the bankruptcy court. In that lawsuit the creditor lays out the facts of fraud or misrepresentation that would justify the debt not being discharged.  The creditor would then need to prove those facts with evidence. The debt is still discharged unless the creditor present evidence that leads the bankruptcy judge to decide that the debt was in fact obtained by the debtor’s fraud or misrepresentation.

A presumption in the bankruptcy law that a debt is not dischargeable simply makes it much easier for the creditor to prove that point. The creditor simply needs to establish that those circumstances apply to the challenged debt. Then that debt is “presumed” not to be discharged. And it will not be discharged unless the debtor can bring contrary evidence showing the lack of fraud or misrepresentation by him or her. In terms that may be familiar, a presumption “shifts the burden of proof” from the creditor to the debtor.

Why is this important? Litigation is expensive. Most cases are settled before going to trial because the amounts at issue are not worth the costs of battling it out in court. Congress has decided in two sets of  circumstances to tip the advantage in favor of the creditors, by giving them the presumption of no discharge.

The “Luxury Goods or Services” Presumption

The first of these circumstances arises if a consumer incurs a debt of more than $500 in “luxury goods or services” in the 90 days before filing the bankruptcy. That debt is presumed not to be dischargeable, meaning that the creditor doesn’t need to bring evidence establishing that the debtor intended to cheat the creditor by not paying the debt. The thought behind this is that either the person making the purchase knew he or she was going to file bankruptcy and was not going to pay the debt, or else at least was quite reckless to be using creditor that close to filing bankruptcy.

So what are “luxury goods or services”? Broader than it sounds. They include anything except those “reasonably necessary for the support or maintenance of the debtor or a dependent of the debtor.” The court decides what fits that definition. It’s up to the debtor to persuade the court that the goods and/or services totaling more than $500 were “reasonably necessary,” or that the debt was incurred with the honest intention, at that time, of paying it.

The Cash Advances Presumption

The second of these circumstances arises if a consumer incurs a debt of more than $750 through a cash advance or advances made in the 70 days before filing the bankruptcy. In the same way as with the “luxury goods” presumption, the creditor does not need to bring evidence establishing that the debtor did not intend to pay the debt. And in the same way, the debtor can try to persuade the court that the cash advance was incurred with the intention of paying it.

Debts for Luxury Goods or Cash Advances Outside the Presumption Period

In these situations the presumption would not apply. So the creditor would have to show the court convincing evidence that you did not intend to pay the debt. Since that is often not easy to show, creditors are not as likely to challenge purchases and cash advances that were made before the presumption period.

Avoiding These Presumptions

Avoid these presumptions by not using any credit and making cash advances in the few months before filing bankruptcy. If you did makes such purchases before the expiration of the presumption periods, you can hold off on your filing until the presumption periods have ended.  Allowable but not 100% foolproof.  It just put a tougher burden on the creditor.

Watch the Christmas spending

Posted by Kevin on December 11, 2011 under Bankruptcy Blog | Be the First to Comment

Every year about this time, my bankruptcy practice slows down.  Why?  People are focused on the holidays and buying presents.  Then, in January and February, I get lots of calls for consultation.  Sort of like a last hurrah.

Well my advice is that if you really want to file bankruptcy in January or February, then do not use your credit cards during the holiday season.

When you file bankruptcy, you want to get a discharge from your debts.  There are exceptions to discharge, however.  One exception is exceptions is for consumer debts totaling over $500 to a single creditor for luxury goods or services incurred with 90 days of filing.  Another is for cash advances totaling over $750 obtained within 70 days of filing.  For these situation, the presumption is that if you bought the HD tv or took the cash advance, you do not get the discharge.

In addition, there is the catch all that if you obtain credit by false pretenses, then it usually is not dischargeable.  This could mean that you ran up a credit card and then filed.  The court takes the position that the debtor had no intention of re-paying the debt.

A word to the wise.