It’s not uncommon for small business owners to find themselves in a position to file a business bankruptcy. My experience helping clients who are small business owners file a business bankruptcy, is that most of these individuals are able to accomplish the necessary debt relief through a personal bankruptcy (Chapter 7 or Chapter 13).

Business Bankruptcy vs. Personal Bankruptcy

The primary reason to choose a bankruptcy chapter other than Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 to eliminate debt associated with a business exists when the business has extensive assets. Specifically, assets (equipment, receivables, inventory) which are not encumbered by debt. For most clients this is not the case– the business is in trouble because the debts associated with the business are not being met with sufficient income. This leads us back to Chapter 7 and 13.

Personal Bankruptcy and Business Debt

Typically, when a small corporation or Limited Liability Company takes on debt, that debt is taken out in the company name. Additionally, the loan documents also require the individual to guarantee the debt. If you review your loan or purchase money documents, you’ll find these two signature spots: one where you signed in the capacity as an officer for the company, and another where you personally guaranteed the debt by signing “individually.” This means that if the debt goes unpaid, the creditor can come after the company assets AND your personal assets. For this reason, a business bankruptcy would not accomplish your goals– you’d still have business creditors coming after you, personally.

Managing Business Debt Through Bankruptcy

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing will discharge your personal liability on the debt, even if it is business debt. What remains is the obligation of the business to repay that debt. This obligation can be managed by dissolving the corporation or LLC with the Secretary of State. The result is that the personal obligation and the business obligation are both relieved.

Owning Future Businesses

There is nothing about filing a bankruptcy that precludes you from starting another business. If you have capital for the business, you’re off and running. If you need to take out loans for the business or business equipment, you will need to sign off on the new loan both in the name of the new company and individually. If you’re worried about having access to credit to do so, consider that your current credit score will most likely not make you a good candidate for business loans. Additionally, depending upon your credit score prior to filing bankruptcy, you could see significant changes for the positive to your credit score within a year. Read this article I wrote on your credit score after bankruptcy, for more information.

North Carolina LLC Documents

If you own a small business and need to consider bankruptcy, I’d be happy to answer questions and provide guidance. Additionally, if you desire to create a new business after bankruptcy, I can assist with that process. I’ve created hundreds of small businesses with the Secretary of State throughout my 13 years practicing law in Charlotte, NC.

If you’d like to speak with an attorney about bankruptcy or any other options for managing debt and recovering from debt, please call me at 704.749.7747.

crackedYes, there are alternatives to bankruptcy. It would be convenient for bankruptcy attorneys to forget them, but the goal is to help an individual recover financially—whether through bankruptcy or an alternative to bankruptcy. Your Charlotte bankruptcy lawyer can help you sort through the options.

 

Credit Counseling

A credit counseling service is one way to manage and recover from debt. Generally, the credit counseling organization takes a once or twice a month payment from you and distributes it to your creditors—after they have negotiated lower rates/payments on your behalf. These programs are typically structured around a course of 36-48 monthly payments.

While you’re in the credit counseling program, creditors will continue to report information which will appear on your credit report, including that the account is in a credit counseling repayment program. Typically, the responsibility for making sure your payments are reflected on your credit card statements falls on you.

Debt Consolidation Loans

With a debt consolidation loan, you are repaying a loan which was given to you to enable you to pay your creditors. The debt consolidation loan company takes on the responsibility of paying your creditors, and you re-pay the loan to the debt consolidation loan company over time.

Often, debt consolidation loans are secured by the home you own. They act as a second mortgage. For individuals who have too much equity in their home (See NC Exemptions article) for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If this is the case, this may be an attractive option. Keep in mind though, that a failure to make timely payments will afford the debt consolidation loan company the right to exercise whatever rights to foreclose that you agreed upon when taking out the loan.

Re-thinking Bankruptcy

A qualified North Carolina bankruptcy attorney can help you sort through the options. When compared to repayments of 36-48 months and the idea of granting another mortgage on your home, bankruptcy may be the better option. Specifically, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy quickly eliminates debt and puts you in a much more powerful financial position immediately. The bankruptcy will show on your credit report, yes. It will also dramatically increase your quality of life and ability to manage your existing finances.

If you’d like to discuss your options, I’d be pleased to speak with you. Call any time, at 704.749.7747. Or, quickly tell me why you’re considering bankruptcy or alternatives to bankruptcy in our Get Started Now tab, and I’ll call you with some answers in mind.

 

BooksAn article on ABCnews.com today announces that Kodak will re-invent itself through bankruptcy. If you’re like me, you grew up knowing Kodak as a giant in all things photography. Times have obviously changed, and Kodak pursued bankruptcy. The company has been in bankruptcy for the past year. The announcement indicates that Kodak will exit bankruptcy and continue to exist, only this time as a smaller digital imaging company.

There are a few messages in this story that I’d like to share with anyone considering filing bankruptcy, or facing a bankruptcy filing in North Carolina.

Things Change

First, things change. It’s a fact. Whether it’s an individual who is thriving in a career or a company with a reputation for quality products over the years, things change. And we feel those changes. They require us to respond in order to protect and preserve what we can. They require us to assess where we are, where we want to be, and what the options are to get us there. Bankruptcy is not about looking backward (the court typically only looks at the last six months of your income, for instance. Instead, it’s about looking forward– looking to what you can become and achieve.

Bankruptcy Can Be A Re-Invention

Kodak isn’t going away. Kodak is coming back. This time, primarily as a digital imaging company. What that will mean exactly for Kodak is as of yet undetermined but the message is survival. A gameplan. A strategy for success that utilized a successful bankruptcy filing as part of the plan. We often feel during financial difficulties that this is the end. We ask how we got here, what we did wrong. Bankruptcy allows us to move past that thinking, and re-group. I routinely strategize with my bankruptcy clients about what their life is going to look like AFTER bankruptcy, and we both get excited about that conversation.

Bankruptcy Is A Tool

Any guilt or emotional connection we feel in connection with a bankruptcy filing is self-imposed. Bankruptcy is an option granted by federal law and it is a tool for recovery. When paired with a skill set for employment, a vision for a new business venture, or budgeting goals for the future, the result is a powerful plan for moving forward.

Allow yourself the curiosity to find out if filing bankruptcy can help you. Get beyond the myths and get information which you can use to make the best decision for yourself, your career, your family. Call me at 704.749.7747 to discuss your situation, or fill in the quick Q&A on the “Get Started Now” tab. You have more control over your situation than you may think. Bankruptcy can help.

OfficeConfRoomWhile you are entitled to file bankruptcy as an individual, the Means Test takes into consideration unmarried couples filing bankruptcy. The Means Test is the guide used to determine whether you qualify for bankruptcy, and it incorporates the income of your household. This is neither good or bad, it’s just something your Charlotte bankruptcy attorney will walk you through when preparing to file.

Income And Expenses

When you have a household where an unmarried couple is living together and functioning as a household, it makes sense to take into consideration the income and expenses of both individuals, or the “couple.” While the non-filing individual will not actually file, for purposes of qualifying, the court will want to see whether the household as an entirety is eligible for filing. This is accomplished by disclosing the non-filing individual’s income and expenses and giving the court the information it needs to understand your full financial picture.

Keep It Simple

Don’t let this article or the concept of disclosure confuse you or cause you concern. If you (and your household) are having trouble making ends meet and unable to pay creditors, mortgages and other bills, you will more than likely be able to present a financial picture which illustrates and demonstrates your need to file bankruptcy. Your attorney is responsible for asking the right questions and making sure the bankruptcy court has the information it needs to approve your bankruptcy petition.

Ask Questions

There are many different living situations and those living situations are all unique. The good news is that the bankruptcy laws allow for consideration of those living situations when determining eligibility for bankruptcy. If you have questions, call me and I’ll be happy to discuss your situation and your options. My goal is for you to regain financial stability with minimal disruptions. You can accomplish that with the help of a good bankruptcy attorney’s guidance. I can be reached at 704.749.7747 at any time.

 

BooksThe general rule is that student loans are not dischargeable in either a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Understandably, this is disappointing to most individuals considering filing a bankruptcy, because student loans often represent a large monthly burden contributing to the need to file. This rule applies to both federal and private student loans made in direct connection with achieving higher education.

An Exception To The Rule

In the event the repayment of the loans would cause the client or the client’s dependents “Undue Hardship,” as defined in 11 USC 523(a)(8). While this is not an easy obstacle to overcome, it is possible. Courts have ruled that Undue Hardship is something beyond the ordinary hardship that future payments places upon any individual seeking relief. A reasonable guide to determine whether Undue Hardship exists is the 3 part test employed by many courts:

— The debtor can not maintain, based on current income and expenses, a ‘minimal standard of living’ for themselves and their dependents, if forced to repay the loans;

— Additional circumstances exist indicating this state of affairs is likely to persist;

— The debtor has made good faith efforts to repay the loans.

While each case is unique, situations involving a disability, or income falling beneath the minimal standard of living ($25,000 for individuals, more for families) potentially represent a case where an argument can be made by your bankruptcy attorney that the loans should be dischargeable in the bankruptcy.

The Good News

The good news is that the relief the bankruptcy offers for most of my clients– discharge of credit card debt, medical debt and other personal debt— often frees up the money required to make student loan payments. Additionally, student loan companies faced with a potentially dischargeable student loan debt are often interested in negotiating a lower balance and significantly lower monthly payment with the client. These forms of combined relief represent a significant increase in quality of life for clients after the bankruptcy is filed.

Find Out More

Call today to discuss your situation. The call is free and you deserve to get informed. I’ll be glad to help you understand your options and make the best decision for you and your family. 704.749.7747.

 

OfficeConfRoomWhen you file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Charlotte or anywhere in the Western District of North Carolina, you make regular payments to the bankruptcy trustee for the duration of your plan. While it may sound counter-intuitive to make payments in a bankruptcy, your Chapter 13 payment each month replaces your mortgage payment, credit card payments and medical bills payments with a manageable payment.

Your First Chapter 13 Payment

You must make your first payment in a Chapter 13 within thirty days after your petition (bankruptcy case) is filed. 11 U.S.C. section 1326(a). Typically, prior to filing, client receive instructions to stop making payments on any debts which will be included in the Chapter 13 plan.

Relief from mortgage, vehicle, credit card payments, payments on medical debts, and other loans prior to filing bankruptcy typically frees up money for you to make your first payment within 30 days of filing. The trustee will retain your payment until your plan is confirmed, and at that time he will disburse the funds to creditors in accordance with the plan.

Payments In The Plan

Once your plan is confirmed, your second payment will be due the same time the next month, and so on. Not only are your total payments on the items listed above typically lower than they were prior to bankruptcy, but now you’re only paying one person—the trustee—each month. For most clients, this is a huge relief from managing a multitude of monthly bills prior to filing.

Changes To Your Payment

While you have an obligation to report significant changes in income to the court during the duration of the plan, typically your payments will go down after the first year, as the attorney fee will be paid in full from the first year’s payments. Your bankruptcy attorney can assist with a calculation of the relief you’ll receive in this regard.

Length of the Plan

While you can propose a plan of any length, most clients enter into a 48 or 60 month repayment plan in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. This creates a manageable monthly fee, as compared to a shorter term. At any time the payments become unmanageable, you can explore the option of converting the case to a Chapter 7 filing. This is a common strategy to save a bankruptcy filing and most of the paperwork from the Chapter 13 filing is used to complete it.

Get Your Questions Answered

If you have questions about a Chapter 13 filing or a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing in North Carolina, please give me a call at my Charlotte office at 704.749.7747. You’ll get your questions answered and move closer to making a decision which will restore financial and emotional peace to your life. You can also click HERE to read an article to help determine if a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is for you.

crackedIf you have personal injury resulting from a car accident or the negligence of another person or product, you may have a valid legal claim or the basis for a personal injury lawsuit. After allowing an attorney to assist you in understanding what your rights are, and what you might recover, you can make an informed decision as to whether to move forward.

Determining If You Have A Case

Generally, if you have emotional or physical injury resulting from the act of another—or a company’s product—and if you did nothing to contribute to that injury, you have the basis for a lawsuit. Whether you can expect compensation for the injury depends somewhat upon the evidence we can gather to support the claim. Typically, this means our firm communicates with the doctors or physicians who have treated you in an attempt to assess your health condition, and then negotiating with insurance companies for a fair result.

Determining Fault

North Carolina is a contributory negligence state. Practically speaking, this means that so long as you did not fail to exercise the care of an ordinarily prudent person in an attempt to avoid the injury, it’s not your fault. Your personal injury attorney will ask specific questions in a free consultation to help determine if this is the case—all you have to do is give an honest account of what happened.

Statute of Limitations

Generally speaking, actions for personal injury must be brought within three years of the occurrence. N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 1-52(5). There are some exceptions and nuances to this rule, depending upon when you discovered the injury, which is sometimes after the event that caused it.

By speaking with a North Carolina personal injury attorney, you’ll be able to quickly determine whether you have a case and if there’s still time to pursue it.

Get Your Questions Answered

Answering questions is part of my job. I’m happy to receive calls from individuals who are simply trying to determine what to do next. Sometimes that’s a lawsuit, other times it’s just gaining peace of mind about the options. I’d be happy to discuss your situation over the telephone or in person in my SouthPark office. Call 704.749.7747 today to speak with me about your situation. The call is free and I’m happy to help.

The Charlotte Observer posted this article today reporting that home loans serviced by Bank of America and Wells Fargo, which received more than $200 million in taxpayer funds for modification, have gone into default.

It’s not just Bank of America and Wells Fargo, though. Borrowers across the country working with HAMP servicers account for $815 million in taxpayer incentives for modifications which are now in default. This accounts for over 163,811 homeowners, according to the article.

Why Are Modifications In Default?

The idea behind the modification is to create a new loan payment for the borrower without having to switch banks and pay for a refinance. The goal typically is to lower the payment, combined with the goal of rolling late fees and missed payments into the new principal balance of the loan. So, why are people defaulting on these modifications?

The article doesn’t speak exactly to this, but the comments section certainly offers some insight. Even when a borrower can reduce their mortgage payment by a few hundred dollars a month, if the same borrower is overwhelmed by credit card bills and escalating interest and payments on them, the mortgage payment is still an unattainable goal each month. This, combined with a job loss or major health expenses in extreme cases, often puts the borrower right back where they started: in default on their mortgage.

Modification and Bankruptcy Can Work Together

Working with your mortgage provider to modify your mortgage is a great option, if it’s going to solve the problem. Most people don’t realize they can simultaneously pursue a mortgage modification while also pursuing a bankruptcy. I’ve had a number of clients modify just prior to filing a bankruptcy, or just after receiving their discharge in a Chapter 7. In these cases, the client ends up with a much lower mortgage payment, AND eliminates hundreds or thousands a month in credit card bills and medical bills.

Find Out Your Options

Call my Charlotte office today to get some questions answered about loan modification and bankruptcy. Knowing your options is the first step toward fixing the problem. Many times I negotiate on behalf of clients for a loan modification, or make a call to the modifying bank, as a way to impress upon the bank the emergency need for a modification. If the modification fails, my client and I are ready to file bankruptcy to save their home.

I can be reached at 704.749.7747 if you’d like to talk.

Nobody likes paperwork. My goal as your bankruptcy lawyer is to not let paperwork get in the way of you getting your bankruptcy filed. The goal is to move you forward, not weigh you down with endless tasks. For that reason, my clients and I do as much of the work as possible electronically.

Moving Forward

Once you decide you’d like to move forward, I’ll send you an invitation to the electronic bankruptcy questionnaire my firm uses. The questionnaire is something you store on your computer—you log in, answer questions, and those answers are automatically sent over to my firm. You can save your work, and complete the questionnaire at your own pace. The questionnaire also lets you ask questions directly to me, which I receive at my computer, so that I can quickly provide answers.

Required Documentation

There is some documentation required to file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Charlotte, NC. You can fax,email or upload the docs directly through the electronic questionnaire mentioned above. We keep the document list as short as possible. While sometimes requiring more, any time prior to filing, at a minimum you will need to provide:

Last two years tax returns
Drivers License
Social Security Card
Last three months bank statements
Documentation of ownership for home and vehicle(s)

*Some of this documentation is available online, like the deed to your home, so obtaining it is easy.

The point is to enable you to efficiently contribute to helping us get ready to file your case, and make that process as painless as possible. If you don’t regularly use a computer, you’re always welcome to drop documents off at the SouthPark office and we will take it from there. We’re here to help.

If you have any questions about bankruptcy—any at all—please call 704.749.7747 today and get them answered for free. Answering questions is part of my job.

The bankruptcy court is a part of the federal district court in each judicial district. If you’re filing a bankruptcy in Charlotte, North Carolina, you file in the Western District of North Carolina.

The bankruptcy court examines (in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy) the bankruptcy estate of the petitioner. The bankruptcy estate is created when you file your bankruptcy petition and consists of all property and property rights the debtor has at the time of filing. The bankruptcy estate can also include amounts recovered by the bankruptcy trustee who oversees the case. For instance, property which recently left the estate in violation of the rules of bankruptcy. For this reason, the timing of your filing is something your bankruptcy attorney will discuss with you.

Generally, property acquired by the debtor/petitioner after commencement of the case does not enter the bankruptcy estate. There are exceptions, and most of them relate to property acquired within 180 days of the commencement of the case. Inheritance, life insurance, tax returns, or property you had a reasonable expectation of acquiring at the time you commenced the case, are among these.

After filing your bankruptcy petition, you and your attorney attend a 341 meeting of the creditors, overseen by the bankruptcy trustee. At this time, the trustee has had about 30 days to review your petition and you answer a few questions about your bankruptcy estate. Sometimes you are asked to clarify something disclosed on the petition; other times the trustee is asking about items you may not have disclosed, but which he or she has an obligation to discover—recent payments on a loan to a family member, for instance.

While creditors have the right to object to your petition and attend the 341 meeting, it is a rare occurrence in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Most Chapter 7 bankruptcies are “no assets” cases with no nonexempt property, which means there is no money available to creditors to dispute over, or to claim.

After your brief 341 meeting, the trustee continues to review your file and once the time for objections has run, the trustee will typically enter a report of no distribution and recommend a discharge. There is nothing more for you to do, except begin rebuilding your credit.

Not sure if bankruptcy is the right decision for you, or if you qualify? It’s my job to help. Call 704.749.7747 today for a brief, free phone consultation. Get your questions answered today.