Tag Archives: Debtor

Choices About Secured Property in Bankruptcy

Owing money on a secured debt presents a unique set of circumstances for the bankruptcy client. A secured debt can be anything, like a contract, a note, a mortgage or agreement securing property like your home, car, furniture or other piece of property or personal equipment.  Our clients make decisions regarding these types of loans or debts and the property securing them.  Property securing a debt is also known as collateral.  The options available in bankruptcy for Massachusetts and Rhode Island are Reaffirm, Redeem, Pay as Agreed or Surrender.

Reaffirm

To reaffirm a debt, a Chapter 7 client must sign a reaffirmation agreement.  This is simply an agreement, like a contract, that declares the client wishes to retain the debt or allow the debt to continue, even after the bankruptcy case is closed. A reaffirmed debt is not discharged.  The court must approve a reaffirmation agreement and of course, the client must have a budget that shows they can afford to make the payment and keep the debt. There are many reasons why we may or may not counsel our clients not to reaffirm certain debts, especially in Massachusetts. Rhode Island is very different. Each different state has its own set of bankruptcy rules.

Redeem

Redemption is a tool used for a client who wishes to pay a one lump-sum payment to the creditor to buy back property. Sometimes this tool is used to save vehicles, homes and personal use equipment and tools. This option is a useful tool when the property is valued much less than the balance still owed on the debt, (i.e., the loan is “underwater” or “upside down”).  Redemption must be approved by the court and is only permitted under certain circumstances.  One of those circumstances is that the property must be exempt or the trustee has abandoned the property due to it having little or no value. We advise our clients to be very careful when considering redeeming property.  In most cases, when a client has certain assets to buy back property, like a big chunk of money, then it’s critically important for the bankruptcy attorney to carefully evaluate whether or not the bankruptcy client actually qualifies to file bankruptcy.

Retain and Pay

This option is simple.  It is often used with mortgages.  This option allows someone to keep their home or auto loan and to pay for this debt as usual.  The important thing to note with this option is that once the retain and pay option is used, the client no longer is responsible to pay the loan if they decide, at a future date, that they no longer want to pay and want to give up or surrender the property.  In other words, using the retain and pay tool means that the client will no longer be held personally liable for the debt. This option doesn’t work in all situations and for all clients. We counsel our clients very carefully regarding making wise decisions and whether or not this tool should be used.

Surrender

Surrendering Property is exactly as it seems.  Surrender means that the client has made a choice to give up the collateral securing the debt and give it back to the creditor.  This tool wipes the client’s hands clean of the debt.  Once the debt is discharged, the creditor can no longer collect on this debt and the client is no longer liable for the property.

How do I decide?

There are so many options to choose from in bankruptcy.  Knowing all the ins and outs of each choice is not only difficult, it’s daunting.  Different options are permissible or not, in different states.  Chapter choice, timing, multiple bankruptcies and property transfers are things to think about, just to name a few. Dealing with unraveling the information and the challenging legal analysis is always best left to the professionals. My clients prefer to get the counsel of a professional.  Based on our Google reviews, it is clear why our clients are satisfied and that they made a wise choice.

Attorney Ginger Kelly is now accepting clients in the Dudley, Webster, Sturbridge, Fiskdale, Southbridge, Saundersdale, Oxford, North Oxford, Charlton, Charlton Depot, Auburn, Leicester, Rochdale, Spencer, North Brookfield, Brookfield, East Brookfield, West Brookfield, Warren, Brimfield, Warre, Wales, Palmer and Holland Massachusetts.  We accept clients from Rhode Island on a case-by-case basis.  We can explore whether or not bankruptcy is the easy way out for you.  Our office is located in an easy-to-find place to find in Charlton, MA.  When you arrive, you will be greeted by Attorney Kelly and meet in a very confidential and comfortable place and we typically will have a lovely pot of coffee or a cup of tea waiting for you when you arrive.

By Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., December 17, 2019
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ABOUT ME: Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her law practice is focused on consumer debt, finance, bankruptcy and District Court matters. Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work. On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like agriculture, conservation and sustainable homesteading. To find out more, Google us,  visit our website, find us on AVVO.com or call us at (508) 784-1444 and please, leave a detailed message, your contact information and telephone number.  Attorney Kelly will return your call as soon as possible.

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NOTICE: This is an Advertisement. This post is not legal advice. Consult your attorney. Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet. Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other. We cannot stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney. Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice. Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2019 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved

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December 11, 2019 · 2:26 am

Bankruptcy Without My Spouse

Spouses

By Attorney Ginger Kelly, January 24, 2018

Bankruptcy is a great way to get a fresh start, but how will it affect your spouse if you want to file individually? Attorney Kelly investigates a few common questions about dealing with a bankruptcy when a spouse might be involved.

Am I required to file bankruptcy with my spouse?

The short answer to this question is no. If only one partner in a marriage owes debt, then only that partner should file for bankruptcy. Debts where spouses are joint and severally liable for payment will remain with the spouse who has not filed for bankruptcy. The exception is in states that follow community property law.  In community property states, single spouse bankruptcy for joint debts may in some situations be advantageous.

What happens to my credit or property if my spouse files bankruptcy?

As a general rule, one spouse filing for bankruptcy will not affect the other spouse’s credit rating or financial situation. Because a debt is a contract between a debtor and a creditor, each debtor must sign the contract to be liable for payment. The spouse not signing the contract would not be liable for the debt.  This is why the bankruptcy of one spouse doesn’t affect the other spouse or cause the other spouse to become bankrupt too.

What happens to joint debts when one spouse files for bankruptcy as an individual?

Under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, when one spouse’s debts are discharged, or wiped clean, the creditor can go after the other spouse jointly responsible for the debt.  But, in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, joint debtor spouses have a major advantage.  When the debtor spouse plans to re-pay his or her debts, over the time of the 3 or 5 year plan, the creditor will generally not bother the other spouse, as long as bankruptcy plan payments are deposited on time.

What are the exceptions?

There are some notable exceptions to co-debtor spouses when only one is filing for bankruptcy. For example, there is a possibility that the bankruptcy of one’s spouse may show up on the other’s credit report, but only if joint debt is involved.  If joint debt is involved, your bankruptcy may affect your spouse’s credit scores.  But not paying the debt will also affect your spouse’s credit scores. Another issue might involve applying for a joint loan in the future.  The bankruptcy of one spouse will affect the creditworthiness of both spouses applying for a loan jointly, or together.

Another exception deals with jointly held property. In a regular bankruptcy, the US Trustee may take non-exempt property and sell it to use it to pay creditors.  Even jointly held property can be taken if not exempted.  This is of vital importance in community property states, states where both spouses in a marriage own and are responsible for all the debt and property acquired during the marriage. The community property states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. Massachusetts and Rhode Island are not community property states but rather, common law property states.

In common law property states, like Massachusetts and Rhode Island, your individual assets and your interest in any property you own jointly with your spouse (typically half unless otherwise noted) are considered part of your bankruptcy estate. In other words, they split the baby, so to speak. But your spouse’s half or portion is protected, generally. The property your spouse owns in his or her name alone is normally not at risk.

However, it is important to know that in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the appointed US Trustee may be able to sell the entire jointly owned asset if you can’t exempt the value of your interest, provided that the property can’t be divided. If the trustee sells the property, he or she will pay your spouse the value of her interest and use your portion of the nonexempt proceeds to pay back your creditors. This is what I mean by “split the baby.” Keep this in mind.

What if my spouse gets calls and letters from my collection agencies?

Sometimes collection agencies will pursue both spouses even though only one spouse owes debt. If you feel that the calls and letters asking for payment are only meant for your spouse you can do something at this point. First, ask the collector to prove the debt by requesting proof of responsibility for those debts.  If the debt is solely to your spouse’s name, you can ask the collectors to stop calling you or sending you letters, but you must do this in writing (via letter).  If your spouse has already filed for bankruptcy, the collection agency can be stopped if his/her attorney would motion the court and ask to court to enforce the automatic stay.

Can I file for bankruptcy without my spouse knowing?

Yikes! Yes you can, but no don’t do it. Theoretically and in a legal sense, yes, you can file without your spouse knowing. However, because a Chapter 7 uses household income as part of the Means Test, you will need to report your spouse’s income. Also, in some extreme cases, some bankruptcy courts use income garnishment for debt repayment. Since you don’t want your spouse discovering their paychecks have been garnished, after the fact, it’s a really good idea to let them know from the beginning. Hiding bankruptcy is just a temporary solution, at best, and isn’t a good idea. Besides, secrets like this may wreak havoc on a marriage.

When do I need an attorney to file?

If you are considering bankruptcy, it always best to consult with a lawyer. A bankruptcy attorney will advise you to many things critical to your bankruptcy success. For example, fraudulent transfers come to mind.

Just the other day, while waiting for my client’s meeting of the creditors, I couldn’t help but to notice a pro-se debtor speak to the US Trustee at a subsequent meeting.  It’s an open floor.  Everyone can hear what’s going on.  This poor young man did not realize that he made a fraudulent transfer by giving a sum of cash money to his father within a certain period of time before he filed.  Not only can the US Trustee unwind transfers, quite often a discharge in matters like this are not permissible.  I felt sorry for that debtor.  He worked so hard to get to this point on his own, only to be met with a very unsettling outcome.  This is why most debtors need a good bankruptcy attorney.

A bankruptcy attorney will advise you as to whether bankruptcy is your best course of action, based on your situation. Also, your attorney can advise you as to whether or not your spouse will be affected if you file or whether or not they should file with you.

Filing for bankruptcy is a great way to get a fresh start, but it may affect your spouse if they aren’t filing with you. Find out more about joint debt, keeping your spouse’s property and more by contacting a skilled bankruptcy attorney in your local area.

The Law Office of Ginger B. Kelly is a boutique type law firm located in central Massachusetts. We are not Big Law.  We only handle a small number of clients at one time.  Each client gets personal attention and care.  Each client gets hours and hours of time devoted to their particular case. Our office is in an easy to find location in Charlton. This means you don’t have to drive to the big city of Worcester or Boston and pay for parking. We not only offer free parking, but free coffee in a calm and peaceful place. Your discussion with our senior attorney is very confidential. Your first consultations will last about an hour in a stress-free, homey type atmosphere.

As one client put it, “This is like an old fashioned law office, very comfortable.”

Book your appointment now to explore your best options for this New Year.  We’ll have a nice pot of coffee waiting for you when you visit.

Also, keep in mind that it’s tax return season. Many people use their tax refunds to help pay for their bankruptcy.  There is no better time than now (tax refund season) to talk for free and find out more about ways you might be able to get the bankruptcy that you need now.

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ABOUT ME: Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her law practice is focused on consumer debt, finance, bankruptcy and District Court matters. Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work. On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture. To find out more, visit, http://www.attorneykelly.com or call us at (508) 784-1444.

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NOTICE: This is an Advertisement. This post is not legal advice. Consult your attorney. Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet. Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other. We cannot stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney. Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice. Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2018 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

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Filed under Bankruptcy, Chapter 7, Collection, credit card debt, Debt, Debt Collection, Filing, Financial, Financial Planning, Joint Property, Law, Massachusetts, Mortgages, Spouse, tax refund, tax return, Uncategorized