What Happens After You File for Bankruptcy?

You’ve filed for bankruptcy but you have questions about what happens now and what else you need to do before the bankruptcy court discharges your debts. That’s understandable. If you’re represented by a bankruptcy attorney, he or she can answer those questions, but if you’re representing yourself, who do you turn to for answers?

You may not know that you can hire an attorney at any time during your bankruptcy, but you can. However, if you’re thinking of doing so, talk to one as soon as possible so he or she not only can answer your questions, but also review the papers you’ve already filed.

These are the “steps” in a bankruptcy proceeding:

Automatic Stay

When you file for bankruptcy you are assigned a case number and an immediate stay goes into effect. That means your creditors can’t harass you once they’re aware you’ve filed. If you’re represented by a bankruptcy attorney, he or she will send letters to all your creditors and none of them will contact you. If you’re representing yourself, memorize your case number and give it to any creditor who calls or sends you a letter.

Creditors’ Meeting

If you’re represented by a bankruptcy attorney, you’ve already given him or her your tax returns and other documents. If you’re representing yourself, your bankruptcy trustee will ask you for them. The trustee will schedule a creditors’ meeting, usually within 4-5 weeks. You must attend this meeting. The trustee will ask you questions about your paperwork and you must answer truthfully. Your creditors also can attend this meeting and ask you questions, but usually they don’t attend.

Dealing With Your Debts

What happens to your debts during bankruptcy depends on which type of bankruptcy you filed. If you filed a Chapter 7, you won’t have to pay anything to anyone unless some of your debts are exempt. If you filed a Chapter 13, you’ll need to construct a repayment plan, submit it to the court, and begin making payments within 30 days thereafter.

Debtor Education Program

You’ll need to attend a debtor education program that will teach you how to manage credit, create a budget, and make future financial plans. You’ll need to file your completion certificate with the court.

Discharge

If you filed a Chapter 7, the bankruptcy court will discharge your non-exempt debts shortly after you complete the education program, sometimes in as few as 60 days. If you filed a Chapter 13, final discharge doesn’t occur until you’ve made the last payment of your repayment plan. This usually takes 3-5 years.

An experienced bankruptcy attorney like Brent George will guide you through all these steps and make it easier for you to comply. Call Brent George Law for a free consultation.

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Bankruptcy Success Stories

Surviving bankruptcy may take time, but many people have recovered and gone on to have financially successful lives. It may take several years to complete the process, but patience and assistance from bankruptcy professionals like Brent George Law can position you for a second chance and future prosperity. While you navigate bankruptcy paperwork and develop a new financial strategy, you can get inspiration from the success stories of others who overcame significant financial difficulty, including famous entertainers, business leaders, and even presidents.

Presidents

Abraham Lincoln is known as honest Abe, but honesty did not keep him from going bankrupt. As a young man, Lincoln and a partner owned a general store, but they bought too many supplies on credit, and the venture failed, leaving Lincoln in debt for years. Thomas Jefferson was known for lavish spending habits, and he went bankrupt several times. Other presidents experienced bankruptcy or serious financial trouble at least once in their careers, including Ulysses S. Grant, William McKinley, James Monroe, Harry Truman, and Donald Trump.

Business Leaders

It is hard to imagine that the man responsible for Hershey’s chocolate ever had financial difficulty, but Milton Hershey’s initial attempts at a candy business failed, resulting in bankruptcy. Walt Disney’s early attempts at a film company also failed. Even Henry Ford went bankrupt with his first automobile company before founding his successful Ford Motor Company. Henry Heinz went bankrupt trying to sell a horseradish condiment before striking it rich with ketchup. Other business leaders who had significant financial difficulties before eventual success include Charles Goodyear, George Foreman, and William Durant.

Entertainers

Entertainer P.T. Barnum was the founder of the very successful Barnum Circus in the 1870s, but he accumulated over a half million dollars of debt prior to his success. A century later, actor Burt Reynolds accumulated over 10 million dollars of debt and reportedly auctioned his famous moustache to help pay creditors. Many other entertainers have experienced bankruptcy or severe financial difficulties and recovered. These include Kim Bassinger, Mick Fleetwood, Michael Jackson, MC Hammer,Jerry Lee Lewis. Mickey Rooney, and Willie Nelson, just to name a few.

Surviving bankruptcy or financial hardship is not easy, but it can help to know that many others have gone through the process successfully. In many respects, bankruptcy offers an opportunity for an economic reset and a fresh start. Brent George Law has assisted numerous clients in managing bankruptcy and other challenging financial situations. Free consultations are available whether you are a business leader, entertainer, president, or anyone else who needs professional advice from a bankruptcy attorney.

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Can Bankruptcy Stop or Delay a Foreclosure?

In the face of foreclosure, you may feel like you have few options. However, bankruptcy is a solution that can sometimes stop or delay an impending foreclosure. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can help you evaluate the details of your circumstances and provide information on solutions that you may not have considered. If you have missed mortgage payments and are facing foreclosure, it is important to consult with legal experts as early as possible in the process. Brent George Law offers considerable experience in foreclosure and bankruptcy.

The Foreclosure Process

The foreclosure process usually begins when you get behind paying your mortgage. The formal process does not start until you have missed three or more payments. Your lender will start sending you notices of your delinquency. Before formal foreclosure proceedings, you may have the opportunity to negotiate a short sale, loan forbearance, new loan terms, or another arrangement with your lender. If you are unable to resolve the delinquency, your lender will eventually notify you of legal foreclosure proceedings and the lender’s intent to recover the loan by selling your home, typically through auction. You will be asked to vacate your home by some time, usually in three or four months.

The Foreclosure Stay or Delay

If you file bankruptcy, the court will order an automatic stay on all debt collection activity by your creditors, including your mortgage lender. Depending on where you might be in the foreclosure process, your foreclosure can be delayed for several months or stopped. During this delay, you have more time to stay in your home and work out a financial plan. It is important that you use an experienced bankruptcy attorney to ensure that your legal paperwork is filed appropriately.

The Bankruptcy Process

Filing bankruptcy can be like hitting a reset button toward a fresh start and long-term credit recovery, though it may negatively affect your credit score for some time. There are two types of bankruptcy, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13, and an attorney can help you determine which is appropriate for your situation. In either case, a plan for managing your debt will be established involving a repayment plan and debt reduction or discharge. What happens to your house will be decided in this process, and your ability to keep it will depend on your income and other assets.

A consultation with an experienced bankruptcy attorney is a first step in successfully navigating a challenging foreclosure or bankruptcy situation. Brent George Law has helped numerous clients in diverse situations and offers free consultations. Even though it is challenging to face foreclosure or bankruptcy, you do not need to handle it alone.

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What is a Fiduciary Duty and How is it Created?

I am often asked about fiduciary duties. Within this article I will attempt to explain what a fiduciary duty is and how it is created.  Also, I will address what your rights are in the event a fiduciary duty that is owed to you has been breached

Under the U.S. legal system, a fiduciary duty is the legal term describing the relationship between two parties that obligates one to act solely in the interest of the other. The party designated as the fiduciary owes the legal duty to a principal, and strict care is taken to ensure no conflict of interest arises between the fiduciary and his principal. In most cases, no profit is to be made from the relationship unless explicit consent is granted at the time the relationship begins. Fiduciary duties come in a variety of forms under the legal system, including but not limited to, trustee and beneficiary, guardian and ward, principal and agent, and attorney and client.

A fiduciary duty is the highest standard of care. The person who has a fiduciary duty is called the fiduciary, and the person to whom he owes the duty, is typically referred to as the principal or the beneficiary. If an individual breaches the fiduciary duties, he or she would need to account for the ill-gotten profit.

Below are some examples of situations where Fiduciary Duties exist:

Principal/Agent

A more generic example of fiduciary duty lies in the principal/agent relationship. Any individual person, corporation, partnership or government agency can act as a principal or agent as long as the person or business has the legal capacity to do so. Under a principal/agent duty, an agent is legally appointed to act on behalf of the principal without conflict of interest. A common example of a principal/agent relationship that implies fiduciary duty is a group of shareholders as principals electing management or C-suite individuals to act as agents. Similarly, investors act as principals when selecting investment fund managers as agents to manage assets.

Trustee/Beneficiary

Estate arrangements and implemented trusts involve a trustee and beneficiary fiduciary duty. An individual named as a trust or estate trustee is the fiduciary, and the beneficiary is the principal. Under a trustee/beneficiary duty, the fiduciary has legal ownership of the property and holds the power necessary to handle assets held in the name of the trust. However, the trustee must make decisions that are in the best interest of the beneficiary as the latter holds equitable title to the property. The trustee/beneficiary relationship is an important aspect of comprehensive estate planning, and special care should be taken to determine who is designated as trustee.

Guardian/Ward

Under a guardian/ward relationship, legal guardianship of a minor is transferred to an appointed adult. The guardian, as the fiduciary, is tasked with ensuring the minor child or ward has appropriate care, which can include deciding where the minor attends school, that he has suitable medical care, that he is disciplined in a reasonable manner and that his daily welfare remains intact. A guardian is appointed by the state court when the natural guardian of a minor child is not able to care for the child any longer. In most states, a guardian/ward relationship remains intact until the minor child reaches the age of majority.

Attorney/Client

The attorney/client fiduciary relationship is arguably one of the most stringent. The U.S. Supreme Court states that the highest level of trust and confidence must exist between an attorney and his client and that an attorney, as fiduciary, must act in complete fairness, loyalty and fidelity in each representation of and dealing with clients. Attorneys are held liable for breaches of their fiduciary duties by the client and are accountable to the court in which that client is represented when a breach occurs.

Breach of Fiduciary Duty

A breach of fiduciary duty occurs when the fiduciary acts in the interest of themselves, rather than the best interest of the employer or principal. A fiduciary’s actions must be free of conflicts of interest and self-dealing. As a fiduciary, you can’t use the principal for your own personal advantage. In other words, you can’t use corporate property or corporate assets for your own personal gain, nor can you take advantage of a corporate opportunity for your own personal pursuits. Depending on the actions of the fiduciary, fraud may also be an issue, but this is typically a more complex legal matter.

The question of whether a particular contractual relationship gives rise to fiduciary duties, and the nature and breadth of those fiduciary duties, depends on the specific facts of the case, and can be a complicated and uncertain analysis.  An experienced business attorney can not only help you identify a potential claim for breach of fiduciary duty, but can help you marshal the facts and persuade a Court to rule in your favor.

If you feel you have been harmed in your business dealings, even if you think there was no breach of contract, don’t assume you have no remedies.  If you had a reasonable expectation of loyalty and honesty, you may have a viable claim. We’re here to help!

At the Law Offices of Brent D. George we will help you determine your rights and work aggressively to protect those rights. Contact us at 805-484-8400 for a free evaluation or browse our website for more information at www.BrentGeorgeLaw.com.

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Changes Made to Chapter 13 & Chapter 17 Bankruptcy

Congress passed a sweeping reform of the bankruptcy law in 2005 in response to what they termed “abuse” of the system by debtors who really could afford to pay, but chose not to. The reforms made it tougher to file for chapter 7 bankruptcy and also made it more expensive in the process.

Chapter 13 or Chapter 17

There are two types of personal bankruptcy, chapter 7 and chapter 13. In chapter 7, you will have to liquidate non-essential assets to pay some of the debt. Since most who file chapter 7 don’t have a lot of assets, your slate is basically wiped clean and your creditors receive little or nothing. A chapter 13 takes what you have, including income, and reorganizes it, putting you on a repayment plan that can last as long as five years.

The Means Test

To help decide which bankruptcy law you can file under, new guidelines make a simple comparison of your income to the median income for a like-sized household in your state. If you fall below the median, you can file a chapter 7. If you make more than the median, the next step is “means” test. Allowed expenses such as rent and groceries are subtracted, as well as any debt payments (car, home loan, etc.) from your income. If that adjusted income is lower than a certain amount, you will still be able to file a chapter 7.

Credit Counseling

The new bankruptcy law also mandates that anyone who file for bankruptcy, whether it’s chapter 13 or 17, must meet with a credit counselor first to consider a repayment plan. You don’t have to agree with it, but if the counseling agency comes up with a plan, you must include it in your filing. Between the time you file and when the case is decided, you must attend another counseling session to learn how to manage your finances.

 

If you’re struggling to pay off debt, bankruptcy may be one of your options. If you have questions, contact Brent George Law for a free consultation and for help assessing your situation.

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What to Do When the Creditors Just Won’t Stop Calling

No matter how responsible you are, in today’s economy, it’s easy to fall behind on your payments. Maybe you lost your job and can no longer afford your mortgage. Maybe financial situations have changed, and you can’t pay off your credit cards like you planned. Or maybe the changing consumer climate meant that your great business idea never got off the ground, so you can’t repay your loans. Your reasons are understandable, but the collection agencies don’t seem to want to listen.

If creditors won’t stop calling you, then it’s time to pick up the phone and call your local Thousand Oaks bankruptcy attorney. Brent George Law can help you file for bankruptcy and get a fresh start for your financial future.

Filing for Bankruptcy Might Be Your Only Way Out

The decision to file for bankruptcy is not an easy decision to make. Nor should it be made lightly. Speaking to a qualified bankruptcy attorney can help you weigh all available options and decide if filing for Chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy is the right step for you.

Bankruptcy can be a great way to wipe the slate clean and regain your financial freedom. However, it’s important to understand exactly what bankruptcy means, which form of bankruptcy is right for you and how to correctly file your claim. One wrong step and you could be back where you started, or in even worse shape. That’s where Brent George Law comes into play.

With years of experienced, their team of experienced lawyers will go through your financial statements, tax returns and other documentation with a fine-toothed comb to make sure they create the best plan of attack for your personal situation.

Make the Phone Stop Ringing

If you want to give yourself some breathing room while you are going through your bankruptcy options, call your creditors and explain to them that you are in the process of filing for bankruptcy and that they will receive more information shortly. This will buy you a little time and help you maintain your sanity so that you are clear-headed when discussing your options with your local Thousand Oaks bankruptcy attorney.

No more hiding from collection agencies’ phone calls or trembling with anxiety every time the mailman comes to call. With the expert team at Brent George Law helping you through the process, you will be able to confidently navigate the tricky waters of filing for bankruptcy. Once on the other side, you’ll find yourself staring at a future full of opportunity.

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5 Most Common Causes of Debt

Don’t be afraid to find a bankruptcy attorney in Thousand Oaks. Millions of Americans file for bankruptcy every year so that they can reset their financial situation and get off to a good start. If you’re wondering where you went wrong or are not sure how to prepare for a more secure financial future, take note of the following common causes of debt.

Bad Budgeting

While this may sound obvious in theory, budgeting is a very difficult skill to master and it’s difficult to remain aware of the budgeting goals and guidelines that you set for yourself. To stop yourself from spending far more money than you can afford to, develop a routine to constantly analyze your income, particularly if it fluctuates, and develop a better understanding of your spending habits. While it’s important to set a budget that curtails or tempers your spending habits, it’s silly to set a budget that is too harsh, since you’ll end up ignoring it anyway. Learn about your spending habits and then generate a budget that works for, not against you.

Low Income

One of the worst causes of debt is simply when your income drops significantly. If your pay decreases for any reason, it’s important that you immediately change your habits and lifestyle to accommodate that income, whatever it may be.

Credit Cards

Although credit cards can be useful in some situations, they often land people in situations in which they’ll need to find a bankruptcy attorney in Thousand Oaks. In general, try to not pay anything that you don’t have yet. The volatility of the economy and the job market means that we don’t actually know if or when our pay will be consistent, so try to avoid spending before you get paid.

Divorce

Sadly, the legality of the divorce process is extremely expensive. With the right attorney, you can help alleviate the costs of divorce settlements and child support, and in some cases you can get the IRS to pay your child support.

Illness

Sometimes, our priorities force us into debt. If you or a family member suffers from a sudden illness, costs and premiums can be very high. Assess all of you options before determine how you want to pay for your medical costs.

However, for these and any other drastic cause of debt, you can always call a reputable bankruptcy attorney in Thousand Oaks like Brent George Law so that you can use bankruptcy to your advantage and continue your life in a manageable financial situation.

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3 Things You Should Know About California’s Bankruptcy Laws

There are many specific and important differences found in how Californians must approach bankruptcy compared to other states, and bankruptcy lawyers need to be well-versed in all of them. The main differences are found in three separate areas affected by bankruptcy, including exemption law, community property and state laws regarding foreclosure.

1. How Exemptions Are Handled

Exemptions are used to determine which personal property items debtors are able to keep when they file for bankruptcy. This could affect cars, homes, pensions, family heirlooms and other items. Filers may be granted the right to keep these items during and after their bankruptcy has concluded. Any non-exempt property is given to the trustee to sell in order to pay unsecured debts.

In California, debtors are given the opportunity to choose state law exemptions or a set of bankruptcy-only exemptions that are similar to those found in federal law. Most homeowners opt for the state law exemptions, which include allowances for homesteads. Those who do not own property, or who lack equity in their property, often choose the bankruptcy-only exemptions. This offers an exemption for equity in any kind of property.

2. Community Property Responsibilities and Discharge

Community property is any property acquired by a married couple during marriage that belongs to both spouses equally, unless there is a specific agreement to the contrary. It is the community property, not necessarily a spouse, that is liable for the debts incurred during and before the marriage by either party. This means that even if just one spouse files for bankruptcy, all of the community property in the marriage becomes property of the estate. Unless an item is exempt, it can be used to pay all community debts of either spouse during the bankruptcy.

One upside to these community property laws includes the effect a discharge has on future community property. Even when only one spouse files and receives a discharge, all community property purchased or acquired after the bankruptcy becomes final is protected by the discharge. However, any separate property held by the non-filing spouse may still be considered liable for the non-filing spouse’s debts.

3. Foreclosure Is Non-Judicial

In California, a foreclosure, or seizure of real property for lack of payment, is a non-judicial process. This means that there are no court proceedings prior to a foreclosure sale. Any loans used towards the purchase of a home cannot be used to get a money judgment should a borrower fail to pay. All lenders receive in compensation is the collateral. However, any junior liens may still need to be satisfied after foreclosure occurs.

Bankruptcy is a complex type of case. Those who are thinking of filing should always consult bankruptcy lawyers prior to making a choice. Call Brent George Law today for a free consultation on your case.

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Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Repayment Plans

Filing for bankruptcy is sometimes a necessary action to take to prevent your finances from getting too out of hand. The offices of Brent George Law can provide you with a bankruptcy lawyer to help you through this time, and an attorney can inform of what exactly bankruptcy entails. Many people assume that filing means you no longer have to pay off your debts. When you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the answer is a little more complicated than that.

Who Needs to Be Paid?

At the time of your filing, you might have a bunch of creditors trying to get you to pay. It can be a bit overwhelming, especially if there is one account you are forgetting. Under Chapter 13, you will no longer have to pay multiple creditors differently. Instead, someone will be assigned to your account as a trustee. You will pay this individual a set amount every month. The trustee will then pay out your creditors accordingly. This will continue for a predetermined length of time, usually somewhere between three and five years. You must make all your payments on time in order to get your debt completely discharged by the end of it.

What Are You Paying for?

A portion of your payments will go toward priority debts. These are debts deemed too valuable to let slide, so you must pay them back 100 percent. Certain items that fall under this category include:

  • Child support
  • Back alimony
  • Salaries owed to your employees
  • Tax debts
  • Penalties owed to a government organization
  • Contributions to benefit plans for employees

There are also items referred to as unsecured debts. This includes thing such as credit card bills you might have fallen behind on. You will pay anywhere between zero and 100 percent of these debts over the course of the plan. Finally, there are also administrative fees you need to pay. The trustee of your account receives a commission. Additionally, there can be an attorney’s fee and filing fee you need to handle as well.

Do You Lose Property?

As long as you pay your monthly amount on time, you will not lose any of your property. The reason is that your monthly fee is based off your average income. You pay your debts from your income, so all exempt property remains yours.

If this all seems a little confusing, then you should seriously consider having a bankruptcy lawyer from Brent George Law assist you. Legal advice can really come in handy and save you a ton of hassle in the long run.

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Hiding Assets During Bankruptcy

Declaring bankruptcy is emotionally taxing and highly stressful. The impulse to conserve as many economic resources when facing insolvency leads many responsible citizens to make poor choices with devastating legal and financial consequences.

Financial Penalties

If you are found to be hiding assets, your discharge is likely to be denied. Your hidden assets are also unlikely to be eligible for discharge in any future petitions, and you may be liable for additional fines of up to half a million dollars.

Legal Penalties

A false statement regarding assets is considered perjury, a serious federal offence. In addition to often severe fines, you may also face felony prison sentences of up to five years. Depending on the severity of the charge, you may face a combination of fines in addition to lengthy prison time and felony charges that may remain on your record for the rest of your life.

Common methods of hiding assets include transferring resources temporarily into another name as well as the manufacture of false mortgages or liens. Bankruptcy trustees are on guard for signs of these and other approaches. For example, an itemized review of credit card spending will be analyzed for non-dischargeable debts such as cash advances adding up to a total of $1,075 withdrawn within 60 days of your filing date. Trustees maintain the ability to analytically review your debts, review public record and online asset searches and will also likely have access to tax returns, payroll stubs and a variety of bank records, and may even be able to request searches of your personal property to verify claims.

Working With a Professional

While diligently reviewing paperwork deadlines and regulations, all things considered, mistakes do happen. Common forgotten assets include beneficial interests in trusts, co-owned assets and retirement benefits. If you file paperwork to disclose an asset as soon as you realize that a mistake has been made, you are unlikely to be penalized in court.

When undertaken without the help of an experienced attorney, the process of liquidation can be long, arduous and filled with confusing and seemingly endless paperwork. Avoid the temptation to save on legal fees by going alone. The costs of a prolonged case and potential paperwork mistakes will most likely quickly eclipse any projected savings. A bankruptcy professional can also help you understand
which assets must be claimed to avoid any fraudulency charges.

One of the best ways to ensure that these costly mistakes are not made is to work directly with a high-quality attorney who will help you meet all legal requirements be discharge your debts, allowing you to start with a truly clean blank slate. Call Brent George today for a free consultation on your case.

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