Stephen Behrends Law Office Blog | Eugene, OR

Low fees for a very experienced bankruptcy attorney

Stephen Behrends Law Office | Bankruptcy | Eugene, OR

|

Welcome to my blog

 

This blog is for people who are thinking that they might have to file bankruptcy. I have been helping people work through their financial problems for so many years that I know the concerns that come up again and again. I want to provide practical information that you can use right now in helping decide how to take on these complicated issues.

By Stephen Behrends, Jan 11 2017 02:53PM

This is the first in a series I am calling “The Big Questions.” These are the things that I usually discuss first and worry about the most when I talk to someone for the first time about bankruptcy.

These urgent problems include getting legal paperwork like a summons and complaint. This called being served with a lawsuit or small claims case. This can include personal delivery to you or someone at your home. The paperwork usually gives you a deadline to “appear” in the case which really just means that you have to file your own paperwork or the debt collector will win a judgment automatically. Being served with paperwork is an urgent problem because it means that the collection agency is quickly going to get a judgment and be able to garnish your bank account or wages.

A judgment against you or a garnishment on your wages or bank account is an immediate concern. If you find out that there is a judgment, you should withdraw your money from your bank accounts to make sure that the bill collector who has it can’t get it first. If you file bankruptcy, it would stop further garnishment.

If a creditor has already seized your bank account or wages, you should talk to a bankruptcy attorney right away because you may be able to get some or all of the garnished money back if you file a bankruptcy case soon enough. Typically, our clients can get back funds that were garnished from their wages or bank accounts within the 90 days before they filed a bankruptcy, if the creditor received, in that 90 day period, a total of at least $600.00.

There can also be problems if you owe money to your bank. Even if the funds were, for example, social security or unemployment compensation that would be protected if other, outside creditors, tried to garnish them, your own bank could take them or freeze your account if you missed a payment or if you told your bank you were thinking of filing bankruptcy. If you aren’t going to be able to make the payments to your bank, you should open an account at a bank where you don’t owe any money. This is especially important if you end up having to file bankruptcy.

I will cover more of the urgent, immediate concerns in part 2 of “the Big Questions- Urgent Problems” which will be posted soon.

By Stephen Behrends, Jan 4 2017 11:19PM

This is the third part of a series about what happens when you go to Court for your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Court hearing.

After considering the value of your assets, the Trustee will want to know whether you paid $600.00 or more to any one creditor in the last 90 days. Also, whether you were garnished for that amount or that amount was seized out of your account during that period of time. Another question is if you owe any money to friends or relatives and whether you repaid any money to a friend or relative within the one-year before your bankruptcy case was filed. These questions are asked because it may be possible for the Trustee to recover money paid to or for the benefit of a friend or relative within the year before the case was filed. If you owe money to a relative or you have paid money to a relative in the year before the case was filed, please be sure to talk to me about this before we file your bankruptcy case as it can make a significant problem for you and your friend or relative.

The Trustee also wants to know whether you transferred any property out of your name or gave away or traded in any property or vehicles within the 4 years before your bankruptcy case was filed. The Trustee also wants to know if you are the beneficiary under any trust or if you have received any life insurance policy proceeds or an inheritance in the past.

If you have college aged children, the trustee may want to know if you have paid any tuition for them in the last 4 years. If a significant amount was paid, it can become a real problem. Please be sure to let us know before we file your case if you have been paying college tuition because the trustee might be able to demand that the college or university refund the money. The legal argument is that the benefit went to the student and not to the parent so it was really a gift, not a contract payment.

The Trustee also will advise you that if someone dies or leaves you an inheritance in the next 6 months, you must tell the Trustee and me about it. This is because the Trustee may be able to make a claim to recover any insurance proceeds or inheritance you receive in those circumstances.

The Trustee often asks if you have seen an attorney within the last 4 years for anything other than bankruptcy. This is to see whether maybe you have money that is owed to you or if there is a claim you have for an accident or other injury. There might also be a divorce or probate case in which money is still owed to you. The Trustee will ask directly if anyone owes you money or if you could make a claim against anyone for money damages, including a car accident, workers’ compensation, money that you loaned to someone or for assets or judgments given to you in a divorce case.

These are the usual questions that are asked to you when you go to Court in a Chapter 7 case. If you are not sure what you would say any of these questions were asked to you, you should talk to me about it before the case is filed and certainly before we go to Court.

Your job is basically to listen carefully and do your best to answer the questions truthfully and completely. However, if we know in advance about a question that may be a problem, it will allow us to deal with the matter before it gets out of control.

At the end of the Meeting of Creditors, the Trustee typically will say that you may be excused or that the hearing is over. However, sometimes, the Trustee will say that your case will be treated as a no asset case. If this is stated by the Trustee, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your case is over, but it does mean that the Trustee doesn’t think that there are any assets or transfers or payments to be pursued and is closing your case as far as he or she is concerned.

Other creditors, including the US Trustee looking the question of whether you “made too much money” to be in Chapter 7, still have another 60 days to object to your bankruptcy case. So you have to “hurry up and wait” before your case is completed.

By Stephen Behrends, Jan 3 2017 12:20AM

This is the second of three posts about what happens at your Bankruptcy Court hearing. Everyone who files Bankruptcy has to go to a hearing called a Meeting of Creditors. It is important to remember that each hearing is usually only 6-10 minutes long. You should go early so that you can listen to some of the hearings scheduled before yours so you can get an idea of what the trustee is likely to ask you.

After confirming your identity and social security number and asking if the bankruptcy documents we filed are accurate and complete, the Trustee next usually asks if you were working on the day that the bankruptcy case was filed. This is so that the Trustee can see if you had wages that had been earned by you but were unpaid at the time the case was filed.

At some point, you need to provide the first and maybe second pay stubs received after the case was filed. Basically, we need all of the pay stubs you receive after the filing date that include, as part of the pay period, any days before the case was filed. We can use them to calculate how much was owing to you in unpaid wages as of the day your case was filed. If you don’t bring them in before we go to court, please bring them with you and we can do this calculation right before we go into the hearing.

Next, the Trustee wants to know how much money you had in cash, in addition to what was in your bank account(s), on the day your case was filed.This is because some people may have been holding cash on the day their case was filed. It is common for people to avoid putting money in their bank accounts for fear of garnishment or levies before the case is filed.

The Trustee the will probably ask how much money was in your bank account on the day the case was filed. You may have already provided a copy of bank statements for each bank account. These would show what in each of your accounts on the day that the case was filed.

If you haven’t provided these before the date of your Meeting of Creditors, please be sure to bring those statements with you. If you do not have them, usually the Trustee will allow you to state that you did not have more than some possible maximum amount, although, it is likely that the Trustee will ask that you provide this documentation by sending this to me after the hearing.

Next, the Trustee will ask about your tax returns from last year and whether you have any unfiled tax returns or any refunds due on tax returns. The Trustee will want to know if you received the refunds on your most recent tax returns before or after the case was filed.

The Trustee then will probably ask you if you have withdrawn any money from a retirement account in the last 4 years. Also, whether you bought a car or borrowed money against a vehicle in the last 6 months. The Trustee will also want to know if you have been divorced in the last 4 years and, if you were, whether there is anything left owing to you as a result of that divorce?

The Trustee may also want to know if you owe any child or spousal support to anyone? This is known as a domestic support obligation. There is a separate form that has to be completed giving the name, address and phone number of the person to whom the child or spousal support is paid. This is so that the Trustee can send them a special notice indicating that the liability for child or spousal support will not discharged in your bankruptcy case.

The Trustee may ask you about how we came up with the values in the bankruptcy schedules for your home, cars or other assets. Usually these are just your best guess, though you may have received a Comparative Market Analysis or looked at the County Tax Assessor’s real market value in helping you determine how much your home was worth. Typically, people will get the value of their car from KBB.com or some similar listing such as NADA.com. In addition, the Trustee will want to know if you own any stocks, bonds or mutual funds other than those in a retirement account.

This is the end of Part 2. We will cover the rest of the questions that are usually asked at the hearing in Part 3 that will be posted soon.

By Stephen Behrends, Dec 30 2016 10:05PM

This was the first full year for Behrends, Carusone & Covington, Attorneys at Law, P.C. since we started out on February 1, 2015. We have filed 480 bankruptcy cases in the 23 months since opening our practice. These include both personal and business cases and Chapter 7, 11 and 13. We have also handled many tax collection cases involving both the IRS and the Oregon Department of Revenue

Our mission is to maintain the highest possible standards of quality while providing our clients with representation in bankruptcy and tax collection cases at a reasonable cost. We strived to give individual, direct and personal attention to each and every client we represented.

It is a privilege to be partners with Kim and Jud. Their commitment to their clients and to our mission is incredible and I appreciate the dedication they bring to work every single day. Here are links to their websites: http://www.kimcovington-bankruptcylawyer.com/ and http://www.judsoncarusonelaw.com/

I also want to congratulate our top-notch staff on another year of excellence in helping take care of our clients. They are a real asset for our firm. Our office manager, two legal assistants and receptionist have demonstrated their professionalism again and again. This is what makes it possible for us to focus on our clients. Their years of experience are so very valuable to us and to everyone who calls or comes in to the office.

So, I am looking forward to another year of the satisfaction of working with highly skilled and motivated attorneys and legal staff. Together we will continue to do our best to solve our clients’ problems and help give them the fresh start and the peace of mind they deserve.

By Stephen Behrends, Dec 27 2016 07:36PM

Everyone who files a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy has to go to a hearing in the Bankruptcy Court. This is called the First Meeting of Creditors but this name isn't really accurate for a couple of reasons.

First, it is probably the one and only time that you will have to go to a hearing and answer questions from the trustee. Sure, it's possible that it could be continued or that the trustee could want you to come back and answer more questions a second time, but that is extremely unlikely. If you have a car loan, you might have to go to Court a second time for a reaffirmation hearing but that is a different matter and much less stressful.

I will be with you whenever you go to a Court Hearing, unless there is an unavoidable conflict. In that case, one of my partners, Jud Carusone or Kim Covington, would be with you for the hearing.

Second, it is extremely unlikely that any of your creditors will show up to ask you questions. The only ones who attend regularly are local credit unions or other local lenders, such as United Finance or Reliable Credit, with whom you have a car loan. They will usually show up to ask if the car is in good condition and fully insured.

Most people want to know what will they will be asked when they go to Court.

Remember, there isn’t a lot of time for the Trustee to ask you questions. Three or four hearings are scheduled for every half hour so it is expected to take on average between 6-10 minutes.

Also, you can go in and listen to the hearings before yours and get an idea of how they go. I recommend you show up 45 minutes early so we have plenty of time to talk and still have time to go in and listen to some of the hearings before yours. You are allowed go into the area where the hearings are actually being held because they are open to the public.

So what are the usual questions you might be asked in your Meeting of Creditors for a Chapter 7 case?

To begin with, the trustee wants to verify your identity and social security number by looking at your photo identification and proof of your social security number. Remember, your social security card is the easiest way. Tax returns by themselves are not enough, but an original W-2 or 1099 with your social security number on it is sufficient. If you have any questions about what proof you have for your social security number, be sure to talk to me or the legal assistant on your case about this before the date for the hearing.

Then, the Trustee asks you to raise your right hand and promise to tell the truth.

Next, the Trustee usually points out that the hearing is being recorded so it is very important that you answer all questions out loud and that you say “yes” or “no”.

The Trustee will ask if you signed the Petition and Schedules and related documents. When you say yes, the Trustee will ask if you had an opportunity to review them before you signed them. Then, the Trustee wants to know if there are any changes, corrections or additions that you are aware of or if the documents are complete and accurate to the best of your knowledge.

It is a good idea to review the documents before you sign them so that you can say yes to these questions. If you become aware that anything is not correct in your bankruptcy documents, be sure to tell me immediately so that they can be amended. This includes new creditors or additional assets.

We will cover the more of the questions that are usually asked at the hearing in Parts 2 and 3 that will be posted soon.

RSS Feed

Web feed

Stephen Behrends