Bankruptcy Lawyers/Bankruptcy Attorneys in Los Angeles
Eight out of every 10 Americans lives with debt. Some can keep their debt under control, while most cannot. Debt becomes a problem when it builds up to an unmanageable level and you are unable to make the minimum payments. Things only get worse when creditors start to add on late fees and harass you with phone calls and threatening letters. If you've found yourself struggling with overwhelming debt, there are two things to remember:
- You're not alone
- There are options for getting out of debt.
Talk To a Qualified Attorney
To find out more about debt settlement and getting out from under debt, you'll want to speak to a qualified debt reduction attorney. For over 20 years, the attorneys at Nader & Berneman have been helping California residents free themselves from excessive debt. Call our Los Angeles offices for a free consultation at (818) 788-5008.
Filing for Bankruptcy
Many people are reluctant to consider bankruptcy because of misconceptions they have about it. Some see it as a sign of failure, others fear the stigma. It's not a sign of failure and there is no stigma. Bankruptcy is a perfectly legal, perfectly acceptable way to get out of suffocating debt. In fact, there are some real advantages to filing for bankruptcy, including:
- It will stop the harassment: When bankruptcy is declared, the phone calls and threatening letters will immediately stop.
- It will eliminate or reduce your debt: Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies may have different functions, but the goal is the same: to make your debt manageable by eliminating it or by providing you with a monthly payment plan that you can afford. Pay your debt on your terms, not the banks'.
- You can keep your property: Contrary to what banks and other creditors may tell you, filing for bankruptcy does not mean you will lose your home, car, or other necessary property.
Which Type of Bankruptcy is Right for You?
- Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows you to eliminate all of your general debts, like credit card debt, medical bills, etc. To qualify for Chapter 7, you must have significant debt and little or no disposable income.
- Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows individuals who earn a regular wage to pay off their debt over a three to five year period. You will make affordable monthly payments on a portion or all of their debt. Chapter 13 is a good choice for those who don't qualify for Chapter 7 and have a regular income. Chapter 13 stops your debt from growing and buys you time to pay it off.
Bankruptcy is not for everyone. There are other ways to deal with debt. To find out more about alternatives to bankruptcy, or get advice on which type of bankruptcy is the best for you, call the helpful attorneys at Nader & Berneman at (818) 788-5008. We have been helping folks in and around Los Angeles, just like you, get out of debt for over 20 years. Call us today, for a free case evaluation.
You only need to list the credit cards on which you have a balance. You must list all of your debts on the bankruptcy filing, even debts that are non-dischargeable or secured. Failure to do so constitutes perjury which could result in your discharge being denied.
However, not listing a credit card on your bankruptcy schedules does not mean you will be able to continue using the card. Credit card issuers use a national data base that notifies them when someone has filed bankruptcy, and they routinely cancel cards of those who have filed bankruptcy, whether or not you have an outstanding balance.
It's true, you could fill out all of the forms and file your own bankruptcy papers. You've probably seen people on the news defend themselves in court against serious charges too, but it's rarely advisable.
Unfortunately, with the passage of the "Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005", the days of do-it-yourself bankruptcy are effectively over. Thanks to the powerful banking and credit card lobbyists, Congress has made the laws more complex, severely limited the options for consumers in trouble, and added stringent requirements that you must meet in order to file for bankruptcy.
However, it costs you nothing to meet with us to learn about your options and seek advice on what is best for your situation. One of our goals at the initial meeting is to try and alleviate fear and anxiety, and you are under no obligation to use our services after that meeting. There are many instances when we advise our clients against filing for bankruptcy, and we can point out viable bankruptcy alternatives that may be best for your situation.
There are certain debts that will not be discharged through bankruptcy, and you will still be responsible for paying them back. These include alimony, back child support, and most tax debts. During the bankruptcy process, creditors can also challenge whether your debt to them should be eliminated, but this is rare and they need to convince the court why the debt should continue past bankruptcy. Student loans can usually not be discharged unless we can prove that repaying the loan would be too much of a burden on you, but the standard set by the court is difficult to meet. We can discuss all of these factors during your free consultation so you know exactly what can and cannot be eliminated.
Credit reporting agencies determine how far back into history they look, so it may be anywhere from 7 to 10 years. However this will not necessarily affect your credit rating for that long, which can begin to improve shortly after you file for bankruptcy. See our section on improving credit score for more information on this.
Filing for personal bankruptcy should not affect your business if it is incorporated. Furthermore, if you file for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, none of your assets are affected, you are simply put on a payment plan to pay off your debts over an extended period of time.
If you own a business, are a sole proprietor, or own stock in a family or closely held business, it is vital that you speak with our Bankruptcy Attorneys to understand your options.
If you have been told by a creditor that they have written off the debt that you owe them (your account has been "charged off") it does NOT mean that you no longer owe the debt. Charge offs are an accounting mechanism to help a creditor accurately reflect how much debt is on their books that they EXPECT to collect, not how much is legally owed to them.
So be sure to list all of your debts when filing for bankruptcy. If a creditor informs you that you cannot use bankruptcy to discharge your debt to them because it has been charged off, do not believe them. You still owe the debt, and you should definitely list it when filing, otherwise you will still owe it in the future.
There are some instances when filing bankruptcy is not the best option, and we can help you determine that during your free consultation. For example if all of your income is from disability payments or social security, and you have no assets, you may be "judgment proof" — suing you in court would not benefit the creditor, because you have nothing they can take.
However, doing nothing is rarely a good idea — you should at least seek to understand what can happen to you and what your options are for responding to creditor demands. If anyone is threatening you with collection actions or filing a lawsuit against you, ignoring them will not eliminate the debt and will only prolong the inevitable. Eventually they will try to obtain a judgment against you and may be able to proceed against your assets or garnish your wages. And you never want to ignore debts owed to the IRS — they can take actions above and beyond what regular creditors are allowed to take.
Bankruptcy is legal option that allows you to eliminate some or all of your debts or have more time to pay them back, and is governed by U.S. federal law. It is administered by the court system and grants you protection from creditors. It recognizes the fact that when you do not have the ability to pay back your debts, it is better for you, the lenders, and the economy if you are given a financial fresh start.
Usually the only people who know that you have filed for bankruptcy protection are your creditors, your lawyer, and anyone you choose to inform. However, it is a matter of public record, and technically the proceedings are open to the public, but are usually held in a conference room rather than the court building, and they are so routine and boring we've never seen anyone there except those who needed to be. In most cases, you will only need to make one appearance to confirm you identity and answer a few basic questions.
Some small towns still publish "Public Records" in the classifieds section, and you can look in the local paper to see if that's true where you live. As a public record, it will appear on your credit report, and the information is accessible to anyone who has a PACER account with the U.S. courts, but because of the cost only creditors and attorneys use this, and possibly private detectives.
You will receive some mail with a return address that may indicate it is from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court or Bankruptcy Trustee. The exact format is determined by the court and we have no control over that as your attorney.
Overall, remember the important reasons for filing bankruptcy: eliminating your debts, getting a financial fresh start, and removing the burdens that are having such a negative impact on your life. Those far outweigh the significance of someone finding out you filed for bankruptcy.
When you file for bankruptcy, the court puts out an automatic stay. This stay prohibits creditors from contacting you and it’s a welcome relief for most filers; a time to breathe deeply and regroup.
However, creditors can ask the court to "lift" the stay and attempt to contact you again. There are some exceptions to the automatic stay. It’s best to speak with a bankruptcy attorney about your specific circumstances.
Most clients are able to keep all of their property and assets, including their business, home, furniture, autos, cash, retirement accounts, and much more. There are certain limitations, so it is vital that you speak with our Los Angeles bankruptcy attorney to understand your options.
Federal law makes it unlawful to terminate an employee or to discriminate in hiring because a person:
- Has sought protection under the Bankruptcy Act
- Has had financial problems before seeking protection under the Act
- Has unpaid debts that were discharged under the Act
However, discrimination takes many forms. If a current or prospective employer runs a credit report on you they will see evidence of your bankruptcy. If they somehow believe that bankruptcy carries a burden that will affect your work, they may (illegally) find another excuse to fire you, but that would be difficult to prove. They may also decide to hire another more qualified person for the job, which would not be illegal.
- It’s All About the Interest
- Is Bankruptcy a Smart Option?
- Does Bankruptcy Eliminate All of My Debts?
- Deciding to File for Bankruptcy
- When You Should Consider Bankruptcy
- Top Reasons People File for Bankruptcy