With these trying financial times and the turn in the housing market, many people are finding themselves overburdened with debts. Attorney Ryan Alexander offers several solutions which may work to help alleviate your debts or even eliminate them altogether. We offer caring, personal service, and your case will be prepared and attended to by an attorney. Having worked with many hard-working families, we understand that it is most often situations beyond one’s control that cause severe financial problems, such as medical problems, a lost job or failed small businesses, death of a spouse, or divorce. In Las Vegas in particular, the fall in home values and rising interest rates or mortgage payments have forced many investors to consider bankruptcy options as payments have become unmanageable and rents weaker. Our message is one of hope that you will make it through these difficult times, and that having financial problems does not make you a bad person! Indeed, we see in the news right now that many well-paid celebrities, actors and athletes are currently in the foreclosure and bankruptcy process themselves.
If your debts are primarily credit cards and unsecured debt (not tied to the title of property like a mortgage or car loan), and you have resources available to make payments on these debts, it may be possible to do debt negotiation with your creditors to reduce the total debt and work out a payment plan. This has less of a long term effect on your credit score. Do you know what your credit report and FICO scores are right now? The government set up a program where you have to get a free report every year from the three main reporting agencies, Experian, Transunion and Equifax -visit the website at www.annualcreditreport.com. We suggest you also upgrade to obtain your FICO “credit score” number as well, which costs a few dollars but will give you clearer reading of your situation.
The other main options are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy:
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Overview
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is what is understood as a traditional bankruptcy, where your unsecured debts are eliminated and you can start over again. You have to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy by passing a relatively new “means test” which looks at your income, expense and debt levels; if you make too much money beyond the median income in Nevada you may only be allow to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy (see link). There are ‘exemptions’ on personal property and you may not have to give anything over to the government. However, if the value of your property exceeds a certain amount, or you have particular things which are not covered by exemptions, you may have to have the court auction this property off. In bankruptcy, your case is assigned to a Trustee, who is a lawyer who represents the interests of the government in the same way that a District Attorney represents the government in criminal proceedings. The Trustee will manage the case for the court. Most Trustees have been bankruptcy lawyers for debtors or creditors, and are pleasant to deal with. You will have to have at least one meeting in person with the Trustee (called a “341 hearing”) where he will ask you questions about your financial situation and your petition. The hearing is usually brief and lasts about 5 minutes, as long as you are being totally truthful and honest in your bankruptcy papers and about financial dealings before your bankruptcy.
What happens to my house?
Secured debt, such as a home or financed/leased car, are not eliminated in bankruptcy but you may choose whether to keep or surrender such property. Home payments can also be reworked or delayed temporarily during the bankruptcy process, as foreclosure proceedings are stayed while your petition is processed with the Bankruptcy Court. If you have a lot of equity in your home (over $350,000 in Nevada) then you may have to cash out other property or sell the home.
What happens to my car?
Most people are able to keep a vehicle through Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and the debt is not dischargeable through the bankruptcy process. If you have multiple vehicles or over $15,000 equity in a vehicle then you may have to consider selling them through the Trustee.
Can I keep a credit card?
If you can continue to make payments you can also choose to keep certain credit lines after the bankruptcy, and the creditor may allow you to do so. It will likely have a low credit limit or be a secured line credit card, but that is often better than nothing.
Can I keep my benefits, retirement or pension?
In Nevada there are several generous exemptions for tax-exempt retirement accounts, Roth IRAs (up to $500,000 per person), pensions of public employees and various public benefits. There may be other solutions using federal law if you have more retirement funds (up to $1,095,000) but are willing to trade off some other things. In this case, you should definitely consult an attorney.
Can I give property to others before filing?
No, do not transfer property to others before you file. You will have to give a full accounting of your property, bank statements and tax returns to the court, and if there are any shifts in equity or property in the years before your bankruptcy the court might reverse those transactions. Consult an attorney before transferring any property, monies or benefits to others if you are considering bankruptcy within the next year.
More questions? To schedule a free bankruptcy consultation with Ryan call (702) 487-9357 right now.
Everything On The Bankruptcy Questionnaire
What to Bring to Your Consultation