Bankruptcy: Turning Something Bad into Something Good

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It is often said that bad things happen to good people. No matter how long I practice law, I continue to hear heartbreaking reasons why clients have to use our law firm to file for bankruptcy.

Recently I met with a prospective client we will call Jim (not his real name). Jim is smart and jovial, and brightened my day just by showing up. But he had a very sad tale to tell.

Jim took care of his dying grandmother years ago. Jim moved into her house and did the best he could to make her comfortable during her remaining years. Then she passed, and for some reason that was never explained to him, Jim’s family kicked him out of the house, sold it, and split the proceeds.

Family illness has taken a toll with Jim’s immediate family. His brother had a massive stroke and, soon afterward, his mother contracted cancer, so Jim quit his job to take care of both. With no income at his disposal, Jim needed to use his charge cards to pay for the normal monthly expenses that kept them all in the house.

After things stabilized, Jim looked for work again. Jim needed health insurance so he took a job that paid less but was able to become insured, and, because he had pre-existing diabetes, at least he was able to be insured. But he still wasn’t making enough money to pay down the charges, and Jim now owes $30,000. Facing crippling bills, Jim will be filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy with Steidl & Steinberg to relieve part of his burden.

Bankruptcy is a New Beginning

There are so many stories that our clients tell us about how they are in the situation they find themselves. They range from medical, to divorce, trouble with kids, unexpected repairs to the house and vehicles, or just overspending. All are valid reasons for you to contact us to look at your situation and see if we can help.

We Often Charge Less Because You Know Who We Are

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Name your favorite business. Wal-Mart? Costco? Ford? Chevrolet? Toyota? Amazon?

Can you think of something they have in common?

How about this? You know who they are.

Since you are reading this article, you may very well know who we are. Steidl and Steinberg represents a lot of people who have trouble paying bills, or have tax issues, and we are very good at our jobs. Look at our 32-year history and you can see we have successfully taken care of the problems of tens of thousands of people.

That is why it is ironic when a few other competitors criticize us for our success, or invent stories that our fees must be higher because we are so successful. Does Walmart charge higher prices because they are famous? Will you pay more on Amazon because you know who they are? Does your Ford or Chevy or Toyota cost more than a Tesla because they are more famous?

Of course not.

Experience Keeps Steidl and Steinberg Affordable

They are all able to keep costs reasonable or even lower because they are so successful. It is like that with Steidl and Steinberg. We can keep our costs reasonable, and often lower than the competitive attorneys, because of our experience. We know what to do, we know how to do it, we know when to do it, and we have a staff that is skilled in getting it done.

When you see the attorneys who attack successful attorneys like we are, go talk with them. But come see us as well. Compare how they approach your problems, what fees they charge, and  your comfort level. Then come and talk with us, either in our home office, or one of our locations close to you. Compare us.

There is a reason why we are successful. Come to us and you will find out why.

How Much Does a Bankruptcy Cost?

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It’s one of the first questions that a prospective client will ask about bankruptcy, and it’s a logical one:

“How much do you charge for a bankruptcy?”

My law partner, Ken Steidl, has the best way to address this question. Ken says, “That is like going into a car dealership and asking how much they charge for a car. What kind of car? New? Used? SUV? Sedan? Convertible? Truck? Do you want one that is stripped or one with a lot of options? Bankruptcy is much the same way.”

Most of our clients will be looking at either a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13, but even these vary tremendously based on income, expenses, the amount of debt, the complexity of the case, and a host of other factors. Just last week I charged people these varying amounts for a Chapter 7 case, all prices not including the Bankruptcy Court costs: $600, $850, $950, $1,100, $1,250, $1,500, and $1,800.

Why such a variance? It’s because all of their circumstances were different.

You Get What You Pay For

So, what about those attorneys who quote cheaper prices on the phone or on their website? We have gotten the complaints from clients who came back to us that the  cheaper prices somehow crept up when the clients went in and sat down and went over their particular circumstances with the other attorney. Once we quote you a price, the only way yours is going to change is if your circumstances change dramatically before you are able to proceed with the bankruptcy, or if you had forgotten to tell us important information that will make a major difference in the way your case must proceed.

We will show you various ways to do your required credit counseling, some which cost as little as $10.00 per session.

We offer a free consultation so you can come in, discuss your case with us, and be under no obligation to use our services. You can then go elsewhere if you wish and compare other attorneys with those at Steidl and Steinberg. From our experience, we are confident that you will still choose our office when it is time to move.

For those who do not, we often hear from them in the middle of their case that they wish they would have come to us or stayed with us, but it is normally too late for us to get involved by then.

Don’t hesitate to ask the question that’s on your mind, “How much does it cost to file bankruptcy?” We are honest and open and will discuss ways that you may not have thought of to be able to get those fees and costs together. As our clients have discovered, our fees are not higher because of our experience; they are lower because of our experience.

Is my Spouse Affected If I File for Bankruptcy?

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But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:6-9

A strict interpretation of the above quote about marriage from the Bible is that when two individuals become married, they literally become one. Well, not according to the credit reporting agencies.

Even after marriage, each individual has their own separate credit report that is wholly independent from their spouse’s. One of the many reasons this is important is that, often times, it makes a lot of sense for only one spouse to file for bankruptcy. When I recommend this to a potential client at Steidl & Steinberg, I often get the question, “Well, if I file, won’t my spouse’s credit be affected?” Generally, the answer to that question is “no.”

The fact that your individual credit report has nothing to do with your spouse is the major reason why. A bankruptcy will show up on your credit report for anywhere from seven to 10 years depending on the type of bankruptcy filed. If you file without your spouse, it will not show up on their credit report and their credit will not be affected.

Why should only one file bankruptcy?

You might be wondering, why would someone file a bankruptcy without their spouse? There are a lot of answers to this question, and everyone’s situation is different. However, one of the most common reasons to that question (as simple as it sounds) is that only one spouse has overwhelming debt.

Let’s take this hypothetical case. A couple was recently married.  The husband had about $40,000.00 in credit card debt and the wife only had $500.00 in credit card debt. The husband essentially brought his debt into the marriage. My advice would be for the husband to file an individual bankruptcy to handle his debt, and that the wife stay out of it. This is legal and permissible, and doing it this way meant there would be no effect on the wife’s perfect credit.

Again, that is just one example of when it would make sense for only one spouse to file without the other. There is an almost infinite list of other possible scenarios in which that course of action would be in the couple’s best interests. The important part is that the non-filing spouse retains their credit without a bankruptcy filing showing up on their credit report.

Be careful though! There are always exceptions to the rule, and there are exceptions to this as well. Jointly held debt and jointly held assets by spouses can be effected if only one spouse files for bankruptcy, even though their actual credit score may not be. The list of times that this can be the case is far too extensive to list here. The best thing is for your lawyer to advise you as to whether it makes sense to file a joint case or for only one spouse to file. Your lawyer should know the advantages and disadvantages of either path.

As always, any of the lawyers at Steidl & Steinberg would be more than happy to answer any questions that you, or your spouse, may have regarding the effects of a bankruptcy for a married couple.

The Real Story About Bankruptcy and Your Car

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There are more myths about bankruptcy and vehicles than there are new models to choose from. So here are some of the car myths and the real answers:

 

Cadillac Myth: You will lose your car in a bankruptcy filing.

Reality: Almost never, and if there is even a little chance you would lose your car, we would not let you file the bankruptcy to begin with unless you wish to give up your car.

 

Continental Myth: You cannot get a car for years after the bankruptcy is over.

Reality: Not True! In fact, one of the easiest things to do after your Chapter 7 bankruptcy is finished is to get that sorely-needed car. Almost all of our clients get invitations to buy cars while they are still in the middle of their Chapter 7 case. Why? Because once you have gotten rid of your old debt, most of you will have freed up enough money to ditch that junker that is costing you thousands to repair and make payments on a modest, reliable vehicle that will get you safely to work.

 

Corvette Myth: If you get a new car right before you file for a bankruptcy, the Court will get mad at you and you will have to give it up.

Reality: Mostly false. It is never a good thing to get an inappropriate car just before you file any kind of bankruptcy, such as a luxury, sports, or unneeded car. But sometimes your car is in such bad shape that I may even recommend that you buy a car before you file a Chapter 13 payment plan.

 

Buying a Car and Filing a Bankruptcy

If you are driving a vehicle that is unreliable and costing too much money to keep on the road, I would recommend that you purchase a modest new car to get you through the next five years of a Chapter 13 payment plan. You will need your job to  successfully complete your payment plan, especially if you do not have access to public transportation.

Don’t fall for the myths about having or buying a vehicle and filing a bankruptcy. We won’t steer you wrong.