My work as a bankruptcy lawyer in Charlotte, NC has led me to many personal injury cases. Oftentimes, it is a personal injury sustained through a car accident, a slip and fall, medical malpractice which is the root cause for financial trouble. Regardless, when you’re unable to work due to the negligence of another person or company, you deserve to be compensated.

Knowledge Is Power

When you have a bankruptcy attorney examine your personal injury case, you get the benefit of not only someone to competently represent you in your demand for compensation, but also someone who understands your options for debt forgiveness and debt negotiation. After all, what is your personal injury award really worth to you if all of it goes to the costs associated with the accident and medical treatment?

Negotiating Your Claim Aggressively

By negotiating aggressively with all parties involved, you can insure that you’re receiving as much compensation as possible from the party at fault. You can also be assured that you’re successfully negotiating down the cost of the treatment you received in order to establish your damages. This ultimately means more money for you.

Find The Right Fit

It’s important to find a personal injury attorney who suits your needs—competent, caring, attentive. I would be happy to speak with you about your accident and do my best to provide guidance. If I’m not the right attorney for your case, I’ll help you find one through the many great Charlotte attorneys I have come to know through my 15 years of practicing law.

Call me today to discuss your accident. There’s no charge and I’m happy to help. 704.749.7747.

Clients frequently ask about what happens to their co-debtors in a bankruptcy. Fortunately, debtors and co-debtors benefit from the automatic stay in bankruptcy. There are a few considerations regarding co-debtors discussed below.

Co-Debtors And Obligations On The Debt

When you file bankruptcy, you are addressing your individual indebtedness. If you have a co-debtor on a debt (someone you co-signed with on an account or loan), they will still be on the hook for the debt. The easiest way to think of this is that prior to filing bankruptcy you are both responsible for 100% of the debt. After you file bankruptcy, your co-debtor is still responsible for 100% of the debt. Your responsibility on the debt has been discharged at the completion of the bankruptcy.

The Automatic Stay

The automatic stay prohibits any attempt to collect a debt or civil action against the debtor and the co-debtor, so long as it is in effect. This means the co-debtor benefits from the automatic stay even though they are not filing a bankruptcy. In these cases, the co-debtor automatic stay only applies to consumer debts, not business debts.

Landlord-Tenant Concerns

With regard to both the debtor and the co-debtor in a landlord-tenant situation, the landlord can move forward with eviction even if the debtor has filed a bankruptcy, IF the landlord obtained a judgment for possession prior to the filing of the bankruptcy petition.

If you have questions about bankruptcy, debt, or creditors, please feel free to call me at 704.749.7747. I’m here to help.

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Many clients of mine are small business owners. While they are facing difficult financial times now, their hope is that their small business will turn the corner and turn a profit down the road. While every case is unique, typically, you can keep a small business in a Chapter 7.

Small Business Treatment In Bankruptcy

A business is an asset of the owner. The bankruptcy court will want to see a profits and loss statement for the past year, to assess whether the overall business has cash value. A simple formula for this would be: (Assets – Liabilities) + Inventory = Cash Value.

Keep in mind that the value of any equipment you have is reduced by debt associated with the business. Additionally, most small businesses are unique in that the owner and the work the owner performs is what brings value to the company. As such, it’s not typically a ‘marketable’ asset. Trustees are generally not interested in trying to sell such businesses.

Exempting Business Assets    

The bankruptcy rules allow you to exempt or protect property that you own. This is no different for business assets that you own. If you have exemptions available after exempting your personal property, you can use it to exempt your business property.

Closing The Business

One option is to file a personal bankruptcy while dissolving the LLC or company. The personal bankruptcy has the effect of discharging the debt as to the person. By dissolving the company, you eliminate the existence of the company and therefore the company’s liability on the debt.

Starting A New Business

There is nothing to keep you from starting a new business after bankruptcy. If the new business needs lines of credit or assets, you would most likely be using your personal credit history for this in any case. Clients typically have missed payments on debt prior to filing bankruptcy, which lowers their credit score. Filing bankruptcy discharges debt and increases your “Debt to Income” ratio. As a result, most clients find their credit score one year after filing bankruptcy is back to where it was just before filing.

Call Today

If you have any questions about small business, bankruptcy, or creditors who are attempting to collect on a debt, please call me at 704.749.7747. I’m here to answer questions.

If you are considering filing bankruptcy, your attorney should discuss both Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy with you. While both result in a discharge, the paths taken to get there are quite different. A Chapter 7 is a fast, clear-cut discharge of debt, while a Chapter 13 bankruptcy involves the confirmation of a plan and monthly plan payments. So why would someone choose a Chapter 13 over a Chapter 7?

Make Up Past Due Balances On Home and Vehicles

In a Chapter 13, you can successfully file even if you’re behind on a vehicle or home, and you can keep that vehicle or home in the Chapter 13 while you use the plan payments to slowly get caught up. In a Chapter 7, if you’re behind on a home or vehicle, you can still file but you have to surrender the property in the bankruptcy.

Manage Tax Debt

While there are instances where old tax debt is discharged in a bankruptcy, only a Chapter 13 filing puts you on track for being caught up with both the IRS and the NC Department of Revenue at the completion of your plan. The same tax debt which is discharged in a Chapter 7 is also discharged in a Chapter 13, so you’re only paying on tax debt in a Chapter 13 that would otherwise survive a Chapter 7 filing.

Minimal Payments to Unsecured Creditors

Often, after an analysis of your income, assets and debt, your Chapter 13 payment plan will consist mainly of mortgage, vehicle, and other secured debt payments– quite often your unsecured creditors (credit cards, medical bills) are getting zero to 10% in the Chapter 13 plan. The reason for this is that the Chapter 13 plan payment has a feasibility component to it that considers your income, assets, debt and disposable income. The Chapter 13 Trustee will not approve you for a plan payment that you cannot afford, and the bankruptcy law allows for lower payouts to unsecured creditors in almost all circumstances.

If you have questions about a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan payments, or any other aspects of Chapter 13 bankruptcy, please feel free to call me at 704.749.7747. I’ll be happy to provide answers and help you determine your options.

Arguably, making that initial phone call is the hardest part about bankruptcy. Automated credit reports, computers and email have made the process of putting information together much easier than in the past. What they haven’t taken away is the fear we all have of the unknown. And before you make that initial phone call, bankruptcy can seem like a big unknown.

One of the most important messages I stress to potential clients is that my job is not to convince them to file bankruptcy. Instead, my job is to help them understand the options and help them make a decision if they would like my help doing so. Quite often, that decision involves next steps toward filing a bankruptcy and if it does, I am happy to help.

Can A Phone Call Really Change Things?

Yes. By picking up the phone you are reversing the trend in your financial life. When you pick up the phone, you are taking control of those aspects of your financial life that you can control. By speaking with a bankruptcy attorney you are becoming informed. When you’re informed, you reduce the ‘unknowns’ surrounding bankruptcy and your future. People tell me every day on the phone that just having the phone call made them feel better.

What Do I Do After The Phone Call?

You don’t have to do anything after the phone call. Phone consultations are free, which means you are not obligated to file or even follow up with the attorney at any time after the call. If you do want to move forward, we simply discuss next steps. If you don’t have the money to file bankruptcy right now, that’s ok. I will be a resource for you until you are ready to file– it insures me that I gain a thorough understanding of your financial situation, and often the choices you make today can affect the bankruptcy you file tomorrow.

Make The Call

I’d like to encourage you to make the phone call to a bankruptcy lawyer today, whether to my office or another lawyer in the Charlotte area. The stress associated with finances can be crippling and making a phone call is a huge step in the right direction– you deserve to know your options and you deserve the peace of mind that can come with a call. If you’d like to speak with me, you can reach me at 704.749.7747.

Clients are entitled to clear expectations about the time frame for preparing and filing a bankruptcy. So when clients ask “How long does bankruptcy take?” I usually summarize with the information below. While there are some exceptions, the following timeline is intended to create clarity for both the client and the bankruptcy lawyer, as to the role each plays in getting ready for bankruptcy.

Step 1: A Free Bankruptcy Consultation – This can be done over the phone or in person. The idea is that the bankruptcy attorney must disclose a few things to the potential client, and the client is attempting to provide initial information which will enable the attorney to determine if they are a candidate for bankruptcy, in Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.  This typically lasts about 30 minutes and is meant to put clients at ease and help them decide if they want to work with our firm.

Step 2: Provide Information – The client is provided a login and password to an online resource for entering information about income, property ownership, and monthly expenses. This information, combined with a credit report obtained by the attorney and some documents provided by the client, the attorney can more specifically determine whether the client will qualify for a bankruptcy, and even predict a Chapter 13 monthly payment, if necessary. Within seven days of completing this step, the law firm can confirm which Chapter of bankruptcy is right for you.

Step 3: Make A Down Payment – While the entire fee must be paid prior to filing the bankruptcy, with a down payment the law firm will create a draft petition for the client and review it. If the client decides to move forward with filing—at that time or at any time in the three months following—they are credited the down payment toward their total attorneys fees. While the attorney is preparing the petition, the client can take the credit counseling course paid for by the firm. It’s a requirement for filing any bankruptcy petition and can be done online. Within seven days of providing the down payment, the law firm can provide you with a rough draft of the petition.

Step 4: Review The Draft Petition – Disclosure is the key to successful bankruptcy filings. With a rough draft of a petition in hand, the attorney and client can review it to insure the information provided is correct. Additionally, this is a great time to discover and disclose any financial affairs of the client which need to be addressed in the filing. An example would be a relative the client paid off in the past ten years, or real estate the client disposed of in the last four years.

Step 5: Review Changes And Sign – If the petition needs to be revised after reviewing it, the law firm will require a few business days to make the revisions. At that time, it is appropriate for the client and the attorney once again to review the petition. Once the client and the attorney are satisfied the petition is correct and discloses all necessary information, the client signs the petition. At that time, the remainder of any fees owed the law firm should be paid and the attorney files the signed petition.

AFTER YOU FILE…

Step 1: Receive A Case Number And Date For 341 Meeting – The court will assign the filed petition a case number which can be given to any creditors who call after filing. Additionally, the court will provide a 341 meeting date that the attorney and client need to attend together. It’s a short meeting set about 40 days after the date of filing.

Step 2: Attend the 341 Meeting – When you attend the 341 meeting you are answering questions the Trustee has about your bankruptcy petition. Your attorney is there with you. The meeting is typically quite short and the Trustee may request some bank statements or other financial documents to be sure they are doing their due diligence as Trustee.

Step 3: Receive A Discharge – Provided there are no problems discovered at the 341 meeting, the client will receive a discharge about 60 days after the 341 meeting.

Step 4: Receive Trustee’s Case Close Letter – The Trustee must also close the case after reviewing it, and the client will receive notification of this as well.

If you have any questions about Charlotte bankruptcy or would like some help with any financial situation you are confronted with, please call 704.749.7747 and I’d be happy to speak with you.

Bankruptcy for same sex couples in North Carolina has caused some concern for same sex couples, bankruptcy trustees and bankruptcy attorneys due to the conflicting nature of federal and state laws. However, the good news is that attorneys and same sex couples can move forward with a bankruptcy plan with confidence in Charlotte, NC. The choice to file a petition individually or jointly in a same sex bankruptcy comes down to a few questions.

First, if the same sex couple is legally married in another state, then for the purpose of a bankruptcy filing, that marriage will be acknowledged and allow the couple the option to file jointly. Married heterosexual couples have the option of filing jointly OR individually, and so the same option is afforded to legally married same sex couples.

Second, in instances where the same sex couple lives in the same household but has not been legally married in a state that acknowledges same sex unions, those couples do not have the option to file a joint petition. Again, this mirrors the bankruptcy filing options of heterosexual couples who are not married, but who live in the same household. Ultimately this does not frustrate the ability to accomplish the desired outcome in a same sex bankruptcy.

Fear not, same sex couples who maintain a single household still have the ability to get the relief provided by the bankruptcy code—you just need to file separate bankruptcy petitions. As a bankruptcy attorney in Charlotte, I am accustomed to filing individual bankruptcy petitions for both married and unmarried couples. Whether because one spouse doesn’t have any debt, or wants to preserve their credit score, there are several instances where the best option is filing for one individual in a couple—same sex or otherwise.

Your bankruptcy attorney can walk you through the steps to address a household bankruptcy where only one member of the household is filing, so that you can file with confidence that your objectives will be achieved. Often, the attorney will file a second filing on the heels of the first, to address the remaining debt the couple desires relief from. In this regard, a same sex couple achieves the same result as a married heterosexual couple.

If you have any questions, please call 704.749.7747 today to speak with me about your options.

As a Charlotte bankruptcy attorney, one common fear I encounter related to filing bankruptcy is the fear of being able to keep your home in bankruptcy. Fortunately, for most clients, there is a bankruptcy option which allows them to keep their home and still receive the benefit of a discharge of numerous debts.

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the primary considerations for keeping a home in bankruptcy are 1) you are current on your mortgage on the filing date, and 2) you have no more than $35,000 in equity in the home ($70,000 for married couples). The federal bankruptcy code allows you to keep your home in bankruptcy despite having equity, as a result of the Homestead Exemption in Section 522(d)1) of the bankruptcy code.

In order to exercise the Homestead Exemption, you or your dependent(s) must reside in the property as your primary residence. The Homestead Exemption extends the ability to keep your home in bankruptcy to mobile homes and houseboats.

What If I’m Behind On My Payments?

If you’re behind on your payments but would like to keep your home in bankruptcy, you should consider a Chapter 13. A Chapter 13 payment plan incorporates your monthly mortgage payment in addition to the amount you’re behind on the day of filing. Over time, when making payments in your Chapter 13 plan, you stay current on your mortgage and make up the arrearages. At the conclusion of the plan, you still own your home while eliminating all other dischargeable debt .

If you have questions about bankruptcy or would like to discuss how to keep your home in bankruptcy, please call me at 704.749.7747.

I get questions almost daily about whether taxes owed can be included in a bankruptcy. Now that the filing date for 2013 taxes has passed, it seems a good time to review the basic considerations.

Chapter 7

In a Chapter 7, you can include taxes in bankruptcy and receive a discharge for those taxes, if the taxes owed are more than three years old. The date you use is the filing date for the taxes being considered. For example, taxes for tax year 2010 were due April 15, 2011. As we are currently more than three years beyond that date, those taxes can be discharged in a Chapter 7. If you were granted an extension to file, then you use the extension date as the original due date. Note that the taxes must meet the date requirement, and the tax return for that particular year must have been filed at least two years prior to filing the bankruptcy.

If you owe taxes less than three years old, it will not prevent you from filing a Chapter 7; however, you will still owe those taxes post-discharge.

Chapter 13

Chapter 13 works much the same way with one exception: taxes which are not old enough to be discharged are treated as priority debt and must be paid in their entirety over the course of the Chapter 13 plan. For most clients, paying back taxes in bankruptcy is a great way to square your account with the IRS or state of North Carolina, while also achieving a discharge of credit card, medical, and other debts.

If you have questions please call me at 704.749.7747. If you’re considering filing bankruptcy I’m happy to assist you in understanding how it works.

There is nothing wrong with having loans from family members and choosing to filing bankruptcy. Your Charlotte bankruptcy attorney can help you sort through the details, but here are a few basics.

Bankruptcy Is Designed To Treat All Creditors Fairly

To this end, the bankruptcy trustee is interesting in knowing if you’ve recently re-paid any loans from family members. As a result, prior to filing, your attorney will ask you for a record of when you made payments on the loans, how much you paid and the family member’s name.

Can I Pay My Family Members Back After Bankruptcy

Yes. While the bankruptcy technically discharges the obligation to repay the loan, you are free to repay it if you decide to do so. Typically, clients reach out to family members prior to filing and let them know the loan must be included in the filing due to the rules of disclosure, but that they intend to repay the loan after the bankruptcy. The trustee will not interfere with this repayment, post-bankruptcy.

Avoiding Preferential Payments

The worst case scenario regarding loans from family members in bankruptcy involves the trustee determining the payments you made prior to filing, on loans from family members, were preferential payments. A preferential payment is subject to the trustee requesting the payment back from the creditor (your family member). Generally, if the payments in the last 90 days prior to filing exceed $600 and result in the family member receiving more than they would have otherwise been entitled to in the Chapter 7 filing, it is a preferential payment.

Get More Answers

If you have a question about this or any other financial topic, please feel free to call me at 704.749.7747 and I’ll be happy to provide guidance. You deserve answers.