THE HARVARD LAWYER

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HarvardLawyer

THOMAS MICHAEL CURTIS

A VIRGINIA BANKRUPTCY LAWYER

     The bankruptcy laws are a powerful tool that can be used by a skilled attorney to restore your financial health and get your life back on the track to success and prosperity.  The bankruptcy laws give you the leverage to stop the largest financial institutions in the country from suing you and from taking your property.  The bankruptcy laws can preserve the fruits of a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice, and restore your peace of mind.  I have never had a client tell me that they regretted filing bankrutpcy.  They have only told me that they regretting waiting so long to do so.  Before you file bankruptcy, I will analyze your financial and legal circumstances to determine if bankruptcy is the best solution for you and which chapter of the bankruptcy code would best protect your interests.  By the time your bankruptcy is discharged, you will be prepared to take charge of your financial future.  I counsel all my clients on how to prevent future financial pitfalls.  If bankruptcy is not the right solution for you, I have had a great deal of success in using non-bankrutpcy laws and my negotiating skills to solve your problems and protect your assets.  I have over twenty years of bankruptcy experience and if you hire me I can find the optimal solution to your financial problems. 

     Most individuals file bankruptcy under chapter 7 or chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code.  Each chapter has its advantages and disadvantages.  In almost every case, filing under chapter 7 or chapter 13 is vastly superior to simply doing nothing or engaging a private credit counseling service.

     Chapter 7 is the preferred form of bankruptcy for most individuals.  Under chapter 7 you are out of the bankruptcy process in less than four months in almost every case.  Most individuals can keep all their property and discharge all their debts.  To qualify for chapter 7, the 2005 amendments to the Bankruptcy Code require you to pass the "means" test. This test looks at your household size and sets gross household income limits based on the size of your household.  As of April 1, 2013, in Virginia the gross income limits are $53,328 for a household of one, $65,930 for a household of two, $77,585 for a household of three, and $91,661 for a household of four.  For each additional household member, the allowed gross household income is increased by $8,100. If your gross household income exceeds these limits, you still may be able to file chapter 7; however, you must calculate your gross income and your allowed expenses using a means test calculator.  I will do this for you.

     Most people can keep most if not all of their property in chapter 7.  The property you can keep is determined by the Virginia bankruptcy exemptions which exempt certain property from your bankruptcy estate. The "homestead" exemption allows you to keep $5000 in cash or other property ($10,000 if your are over age 65).  You can keep cars with equity under $6,000.  Most people can keep all of their retirement funds and IRA's, all of their household furnishings, and their wedding rings regardless of value.  Most people can also keep their homes.  If you own your house as "tenants by the entireties" with your spouse, the equity is exempt so long as the creditors of each spouse are individual and not joint creditors.  If your house has not equity and is "under water," you can either keep the house or give it back to the bank and owe nothing.

     As a matter of public policy, certain debts are not dischargeable in chapter 7:  most student loans, debts incurred as a result of drunk driving, child support and alimony, court fines, and recent tax debts.  It may be possible to discharge tax debts older than three years and almost always all credit card debts, medical bills and other unsecured debts are discharged.

     If you are unable to pass the means test, you can still file chapter 13 and pay back only a fraction of your debts with no interest or penalties.  Chapter 13 is especially useful for persons who have fallen behind on their mortgages or car payments and want to catch up on those payments over the life of the Chapter 13 plan.  Most chapter 13 plans require you to pay your disposable income over a period of three to five years and at the end of the plan the unpaid debts are discharged just as they are in a chapter 7.  If you are simply behind on your mortgage by a few months, the chapter 13 plan can last less than three years if you are paying back your creditors 100% of the debt you owe.  The chapter 13 discharge is even broader than the chapter 7 discharge and may even be used to strip away the second mortgage on your home if that home is worth less than the first mortgage.

     Perhaps the most powerful tool in the bankruptcy arsenal is the "automatic stay."  The automatic stay, as the name implies, is an automatic injunction that goes into effect by the mere fact that you have filed a bankruptcy petition.  It immediately stops foreclosures, garnishments, repossessions, lawsuits and other collection activity by creditors.  It is an immediate and overwhelming powerful tool will give you the leverage and the time to deal effectively with your creditors.

     Bankruptcy law is exciting and powerful.  It can quickly and efficiently solve financial problems that otherwise would take years if not decades to painfully resolve.  It makes no sense to stoically suffer through your financial problems if they can be legitimately resolved through the bankruptcy process.  Call me and I will be the advocate you have been looking for and I quickly can find a solution to your problems that suit your needs.