December 2010

31 Dec Am I Responsible for a Deceased Child Borrower’s Student Loan Debt?

On more than one occasion, I have represented individuals in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases when the debt that prompted the filing was wholly or in large part co-signed debt. It seems that underwriting standards for most large loans have become tighter and nowhere is this more true than in the case of student loans.
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29 Dec Credit Card Horrors For Senior Citizens

As a consumer bankruptcy attorney I get to see trends coming before they become mainstream. Living in Southwest Florida, I get to deal with people from all walks of life. The generation that I find the most interesting is senior citizens. They face other demons besides financial ones. One recent trend that I see in senior citizens seeking bankruptcy assistance is the increasing credit card debt loads. The story is always the same, and I know that this is not going to make me a very popular guy, but it is the reality of the economic situation facing Southwest Florida. Seniors are turning to their credit cards for two (2) reasons: First, medical expenses; second, bailing out their children.
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27 Dec HAMP Mortgage Modifications and Bankruptcy

HAMP, the Home Affordable Modification Program which can modify a mortgage, is no way to avoid bankruptcy. It's a heart-breaker. It builds up false hopes andthendestroys them. That's my conclusion from reading the new Congressional Oversight Panel report. I haven't written on HAMP because I've questioned...

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26 Dec Outgoing Governor Paterson Gives New York Debtors Something to Cheer About!

Gov. David Paterson has signed a bill that gives more protection to New Yorkers who file bankruptcy or who have been sued by bill collectors. The new law increases the exemptions that people can use to protect their property from forced sales by bankruptcy trustees and debt collectors. It also allows a choice between State and Federal exemptions in bankruptcy cases filed in New York State. Consumer lawyers don't get much to cheer about, but this new law will allow many more financially strapped New Yorkers to get the debt relief they need. 2011 will likely see a large increase in the number of New Yorkers who are forced to file for bankruptcy. This is because of the slowness of the “economic recovery” and now because they will be able to protect more assets while they are eliminating their debts. Debtors can now protect up to $4,000 in their vehicle (up from $2400), $10,000 if the vehicle is equipped for people with disabilities. New York homeowners can now exempt $75,000 each of equity in their home (up from $50,000) in upstate areas like Binghamton, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo. The homestead exemption goes up to $100,000 in the Hudson Valley, and as much as $150,000 in the New York City area and Long Island.
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25 Dec A Christmas Cheer For Consumer Lawyers

Christmas is usually a slow time for consumer bankruptcy lawyers. The phones go quiet, a few cards come in, a fruit cake from a grateful client now and then. It gives us a chance to pause and consider what we do and why. Consumer Advocates Are Often Pariahs As a bankruptcy lawyer, I run a financial VD clinic. Few people want to come see me, no one is happy about it, and they'll never brag about it to anyone. I am a regrettable necessity, not a pleasant choice. And society often feels the same. We often hear folks talking about how people with too much debt deserve to suffer or be punished. In a country that cheers winners -- and jeers losers in equal measure -- we constantly defend the loser and the underdog. Consumers Going Broke Can't Pay Much Becoming a debtor's attorney often means taking a vow of poverty. It's possible to make a decent living (but rare to get rich) when you serve folks who are going bankrupt. To be successful at all, we become masters of managing pools of risk, like insurance companies. We must balance the cases that will eat up our days with labor that will never be paid for while searching for those that may pay well enough to make up the losses. We face opponents who pay better, recruit our best and brightest, and have more resources or leverage to deploy against us. And each year we watch as a few of our colleagues can't get that balance right and file bankruptcy themselves.
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24 Dec Bankruptcy Basics: Bankruptcy Fraud can lead to Truth or Consequences

In earlier posts, two bankruptcies filed by debtors appearing in Bravo Television reality shows were discussed. Terese Giudice who appears on Real Housewives of New Jersey and Sonja Morgan who appears on Real Housewives of New York City each filed banruptcy. Ms. Giudice filed a chapter 7 bankruptcy (consumer bankruptcy); Ms. Morgan filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy (for high income consumers or bigger businesses). My opinion was that Ms. Morgan chose wisely and that perhaps Ms. Giudice had not. The events since the filing demonstrate the importance of filing accurate and thoroughly complete schedules. On June 30, 2010, the Chapter 7 Trustee filed an adversary proceeding, objecting to the discharge of debts for the Giudices. The Chapter 7 trustee alleges that assets were concealed or withheld by the debtors and that as a consequence, their debts should not be discharged. On August 3, 2010, the Giudices answered the lawsuit, denying that they had concealed any property or withheld any information from the court. On September 2, 2010, the United States Trustee filed an adversary proceeding in the Guidici case in New Jersey.
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