Budgeting & Bankruptcy

Budgeting is a big part of bankruptcy.  You have to set your monthly expenses and stick to them, with a bankruptcy trustee to oversee your every monetary move. Bankruptcy is not the end of the world, but it is not necessarily the only resolution to your financial problems.  Depending on your situation, you may have other legal choices available which could bring you a better benefit.  You are not going to see those possibilities if you file bankruptcy yourself or pay a non-attorney service to fill out the forms for you. There are long-term consequences you need to know and understand before you file, plus there may be a better option for you, depending on your circumstances.  You would not take chemo if you did not need it.  Why file bankruptcy if another resolution will bring you a better outcome?  Seek competent legal counsel to discuss your specific situation and to help you decide if bankruptcy is the right choice for you. In the meantime, if you are trying to get a head start on your new year’s resolution towards better wealth management, the Federal Trade Commission has a free online budget calculator to help you balance your monthly expenses […] Read More

Baby Budget

Having a baby?  Congratulations.  Budgeting for a baby?  Good luck.  Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater has a free online calculator to help you find a ballpark figure of expenses for your little bundle of joy.  Remember, what you fail to budget for now, a Bankruptcy Trustee may help you budget for in the future, but that might not be your ideal future. You do not necessarily have to go broke caring for a baby.  Here is a link to CFO Atwater’s free online baby budget calculator: http://www.myfloridacfo.com/YMM/Calculators/BabyBudget.aspx If you are having trouble balancing your new bundle of expenses with your income, talk to an attorney before you file bankruptcy.  There are long-term consequences you need to know and understand before you file.  An attorney can review the specifics of your situation to help you determine if bankruptcy is right for you in the big picture as well as the small one.   Read More

Consult An Attorney Before You File Bankruptcy

When everything else goes wrong, talk to an attorney before you file Bankruptcy.  Yes, you can file Bankruptcy on your own.  Yes, there are non-attorney services that can help you file.  Yes, you can get a textbook and do your own brain surgery…but should you? “Bankruptcy” is best used as a term of recovery rather than an act of desperation.  It can give you a fresh start or reset.   Sometimes it is easier to rebuild credit from zero rather than to spend years paying off all the creditors.  Depending on your circumstances, Bankruptcy can help you rebuild quicker—it stops the bleeding and starts the healing. However, while Bankruptcy often takes care of immediate debts, it can create problems for your future in terms of your credit score.  Bankruptcy tends to limit more severely your ability to get a loan for a house, a car, or an education. Seek competent legal counsel to discuss the specifics of your situation and whether Bankruptcy is the best strategy for you.   Read More

Free Online Calculator for College Fund

Have a kid going to college?  The Jeff Atwater, State of Florida’s Chief Financial Officer has an online calculator to help you budget accordingly. Whether you are trying to determine cost of college, how to build an education fund, how much a student loan will cost, or work out how you will repay a student loan, the Chief Financial Officer’s website has a free online calculator, available at http://www.finaid.org/calculators/ . Before you turn to a life of crime to fund your child’s college education, try this calculator to help you make a more realistic picture of your financial future.  And remember, what you fail to budget for now, a Bankruptcy Trustee may help you budget for in the future.  Seek competent legal counsel before you file bankruptcy, possibly compromising your ability to get a student loan, or hurting the interest rate of that loan.   Read More

Bring Popcorn for Bankruptcy Movie Series

You bring the popcorn, the US Courts provides nine short films on bankruptcy.  Each film is less than five minutes—you can binge-watch without wasting your life.  You might even learn something. The US Courts website has a free online film series geared toward the general public about bankruptcy.  Topics include:  “Introduction,” “Types of Bankruptcy,” “Limits of Bankruptcy,” “Filing for Bankruptcy,” “Creditors’ Meeting,” “Bankruptcy Crime,” “Court Hearings,” “The Discharge,” and “Legal Assistance.” While they are informative about the basics of bankruptcy (and you can enjoy them from the comfort of your own home) consult competent legal counsel before you file bankruptcy.  There are long-term consequences you need to know and understand before you file.  An attorney can review the specifics of your situation to help you determine if bankruptcy is right for you. To view the US Courts bankruptcy films, go to their YouTube channel at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=12&v=jobpaNCY-LU   Read More

Bankruptcy Trigger

Carefully examine your financial targets before you pull the bankruptcy trigger.  While bankruptcy often takes care of immediate debts (and usually stops foreclosure), it has long-term consequences.  It may fix present problems, but create problems for your future in terms of your credit score.  Bankruptcy tends to limit more severely your ability to get a loan for a house, a car, or an education. Bankruptcy carries long-term consequences you need to know and understand before you file.  While it is a drastic measure, bankruptcy could be the deep beginning to financial recovery. To learn more about the basics of bankruptcy, the US Courts has a collection of short films online for free to give you general information at http://www.uscourts.gov/multimedia/videos.aspx.  Talk to your attorney about the specifics of your situation to help you decide if bankruptcy is right for you. Read More

Bankruptcy Blues

Bankruptcy may not be the bargain you are looking for.  Yes, Bankruptcy stops home foreclosures in most cases.  Yes, Bankruptcy gets creditors off your back.  Yes, you can file Bankruptcy without a lawyer…that does not mean you should.  There are long-term consequences you need to know and understand before you decide to file Bankruptcy.  While Bankruptcy often takes care of immediate debts, it can create problems for your future in terms of your credit score.  Bankruptcy tends to limit more severely your ability to get a loan for a house, a car, or an education. However, Bankruptcy can be the beginning to financial recovery.  Bankruptcy is not for everyone, but sometimes Bankruptcy is the only way to have a meaningful conversation with your mortgage servicer.  A Bankruptcy Mediation requires the representative to appear in person (not by telephone) and to have authority to make a deal.  Furthermore, there are monetary consequences for non-compliance with the rules, and there are audit trails for when you sent stuff and when you did not. To learn more about the basics of bankruptcy, the US Courts has a collection of short films online for free to give you general information at http://www.uscourts.gov/multimedia/videos.aspx.  Talk to […] Read More

New Lease on Life – Legal Aid

What do you do if you are disabled, elderly, living on a fixed income, and your landlord locks you out of your apartment?  Contact Legal Aid. St. Johns County Legal Aid “Provides a wealth of justice for those who have neither.”  It is a lot of administrative law, poverty law—a lot of law that most people are unaware of—that makes a huge difference in individual’s lives.  It can give a new lease on life, whether in a landlord-tenant case or other civil law matter (such as consumer debt, foreclosure, housing, elder law, and family law). If you are seeking an attorney but think you cannot afford one, contact your local legal aid office.  Even if you do not qualify for service, the offices have many helpful pamphlets or they can refer you to attorneys willing to take cases at reduced rates.  St. Johns Legal Aid is located at 222 San Marco Avenue in St. Augustine and they are open 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every business day. In St. Johns County, visit http://jaxlegalaid.org/v2/pamphlets/St.%20Johns%20County%20Legal%20Aid%20Information.pdf, and in Jacksonville, visit http://www.jaxlegalaid.org/v2/. Read More

Power of Employment

Grover Cleveland signed the bill for Labor Day in 1894, and we have been celebrating with a day off the first Monday in September ever since.  This national holiday honors the working people of the United States, and in our court system, the power of employment opens certain options for dealing with debt, like the Hardest Hit Fund and Bankruptcy Chapter 13. Florida Hardest Hit Fund The Florida Hardest Hit Fund provides up to $6,000 or up to $12,000 in mortgage relief. The Hardest Hit Fund was an allocation of money given to five states (Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, and Nevada) that had experienced excessive housing market depreciation.  The funds are designated to assist in foreclosure prevention, and targeted at those workers who are unemployed, underemployed, just returning to work, or recovering from underemployment. This funding is locally administered through St. Johns Housing Partnership (SJHP).  To find out more about this fund and eligibility, you can visit https://www.flhardesthithelp.org/. Bankruptcy Chapter 13 Earning a regular paycheck opens certain options unenjoyed by the unemployed…like Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.  Known as the ‘Wage-Earner Plan,’ Chapter 13 protects your assets while you make payments, and allows you to catch up on unsecured debt.  It acts […] Read More

Habitat for Financial Literacy & Integrated Income Levels

In a bankruptcy case, all I care about is the certificate for the client, not what they learn.  Education is not part of the legal analysis.  Some credit counseling is required for bankruptcy clients, but after a bankruptcy is discharged, people can go out and get credit cards and get into trouble again.  I hope that does not happen, but the goal of the legal process is different from the goal of Habitat for Humanity. Alia Reimer, Executive Director for Habitat for Humanity in St. Johns County, was a recent guest on the radio talk show, “Land Title Talk,” that I am on with my brother, Stephen.  Alia talked with us about Habitat’s aim for its participants and as a program. The goal of Habitat for Humanity is to raise the level of life.  They help people become better.  In their credit counseling program (required for all participants to qualify) they make sure debts are paid off and teach people how to use credit. Furthermore, Alia mentioned that Habitat is working to integrate income levels within a neighborhood so people can feed off each other in a positive way.  I like that. To learn more about our local Habitat for […] Read More