Thursday, October 29, 2020

My California Bankruptcy Blog

Welcome to California Bankruptcy Central, my California bankruptcy blog. Wait,don't go if you live in another state! It doesn't matter where you live--bankruptcy is a federal affair and there are few differences (exemptions and median income amounts among them) between states.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer but I did need to hire one.

I am a bankruptcy filer and have been where you are now. I filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the Central district of California and was successfully discharged. I learned a lot of things the hard way and this blog is about sharing them with you. Nothing here is intended to be legal advice. Please consult with an attorney for your legal needs.

Two things you need to know:

A. Much of what you read about bankruptcy on the internet is not true. Have you ever wondered why a google search sometimes returns the most insane results that are not what you want and sometimes you cannot even understand what the heck you are reading?

It's because many of the authors on the web don't know what they are talking about. They don't write well and often they don't even live in the United States!

All I'm trying to say is be careful of believing anything you read on the internet. I encourage you to also verify anything I have to say by consulting with an attorney.

B. The "New" bankruptcy is not "New" anymore. The bankruptcy laws were changed in 2005 so can we please stop calling them new? The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 made it more difficult for consumers to file a chapter 7 bankruptcy but not impossible. Not even all that hard for most.

Prior to 2005, debtors of all incomes could file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7. Under the current laws, a debtor's income is calculated and compared to the median income of their state. If the debtor's income is above the median income amount of the debtor's state, the debtor is subject to a "means test."

If the debtor does not pass the "means" test, they have to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, instead of a 7, which means that they will have to repay some of their debt.

Many, many people still qualify for a Chapter 7 and I will have more about the means test in another post.

Again I urge you to check out what I learned about selecting a bankruptcy attorney if you are in the market for one:check out my Bankruptcy Attorney Tips.

Good luck to all,


Thursday, October 19, 2017

6 Tips for Finding a Good Bankruptcy Attorney

As someone who filed bankruptcy and was successfully discharged, I learned a thing or two (or many) during the process. After a lengthy struggle with the decision to file, the next step was to shop for an attorney.

I had never before hired a lawyer – any kind of lawyer – and I was more than a little nervous to begin looking. However, I got through it. And, by following a few simple tips, you can too.

How to Select Your Bankruptcy Attorney:

1. Take your emotions off the table. No matter what chapter you're filing (I filed chapter 7), bankruptcy tends to evoke intense feelings that can get in the way of making sound decisions. Hard as it is, you need to treat the selection of an attorney as a business decision (In general, all tasks related to BK can be thought of this way). This may mean taking a little time between deciding to file and choosing your attorney. Make sure you're able to think clearly before diving into what's ahead.

2. Once you're ready to look for your bankruptcy lawyer, make a list of potential candidates. Various places to gather names from include the Yellow Pages, Classified ads and local online bankruptcy websites. Referrals from friends, family and coworkers may be the best way to go, but these are hard to come by, as most people either don't file bankruptcy; Or, if they have, they don't want to discuss their personal bankruptcy with others.

3. Do not hire the first bankruptcy lawyer you meet with on the spot. Visit a handful (at least), so that you have an adequate sampling to choose from. Also, don't hire an attorney who doesn't make you feel comfortable. If none of the lawyers you meet with accomplish this, keep shopping around until you find one that does.

4. Look for lawyers who offer free consultations. Many do. The consultation is when you will "interview" each lawyer. Usually, you'll be asked questions about your situation and then get a chance ask any questions you have about the process.

5. Ask as many questions as you need to at the bankruptcy consultations. Before meeting with anyone, take the time to really think about what you need to know, and write your questions down. Make copies so you can take a fresh one to each consultation. Don't be afraid to take out your list and go through the questions one by one with each attorney. Take notes so there is no confusion later.

6. Take more than price into account when choosing a BK attorney. During bankruptcy, it's really tempting to go the cheapest route because you're probably broke. However, many bankruptcy firms will let you pay in installments. Be aware, though, that they typically won't do the filing until you are paid up and have also paid the court costs in full.

That's basically it as far as what you need to do when finding the right bankruptcy attorney. However, just as important are the questions you should ask. You'll no doubt come up with questions of your own, but here are some that you might find helpful to put on your list:

Questions to Ask Potential Bankruptcy Attorneys

1. Am I eligible to file for bankruptcy? While many people will qualify for bankruptcy (despite popular belief), there are some who won't. The first bankruptcy lawyer you see should be able to determine this after discussing your particular circumstances with you.

2. How much will bankruptcy cost me? This will vary from lawyer to lawyer, so be sure to ask this, as well as what the fees cover, as there are things that could come up during the BK that may cost extra.

3. Can I pay the fees over time? Make sure to ask this if you need to and the lawyer has not already brought it up. Many times, the answer will be "yes."

4. What is the bankruptcy process like? Knowing, in general, what to expect in the immediate and near future will go a long way in reducing your fear of the unknown.

5. Ask anything else that is on your mind. Again, bring your list of questions to make sure you cover everything that's important to you specifically.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, only someone who has gone through the bankruptcy experience. For legal advice, please consult an attorney.

Good luck with your fresh start!


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

5 Free and Fun Summer Activities for You and Your Kids

5 Free and Fun Summer Activities for You and Your Kids

Bankruptcy is hard enough when you're single — I can't imagine going through it with little ones to support. I was talking to someone who is in that situation, and the angst she feels shone in her eyes when she spoke about not being able to give her children everything they deserve, including a summer vacation. It pained me to listen to someone I know to be a very good person hurting so much.

You see, while at this moment in time she may not be able to give her children what she feels they deserve, she is giving them what they need: herself. This is more than a lot of people with wealth do, so she should not feel bad. She's going through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and money is tight. I get why she feels the way she does. I just wish it wasn’t so.

Her plight got me thinking, so I emailed her last night with a list of things she could do with the kids this summer for free or cheap. After all, it's really the spending of time, and not money, that matters to the kids. I haven't heard back from her yet, and I hope she takes my message to heart. In the meantime, I thought I'd share these things here to remind folks that they can make their children happy without lavishing gifts upon them. It truly is the thought (and time) that counts.

Here are 5 free or cheap fun summer activities for you and your kids to enjoy:

1. Go to the beach — this is something you can repeat many times this summer, making it a different experience each time you go. For example, build sandcastles one day and go wading the next. Walk the pier or collect shells that you can turn into a crafts project on yet another day at home. The possibilities are endless and exciting.

2. Start a vegetable garden. This is fairly inexpensive if you do it from seeds, but even starter plants won't set you back very much and will pay for themselves with edible food in due time. Gardening is a great way to occupy children's time throughout the summer, as it will require daily attention. It's also great fun to note the daily growth of plants and rewarding for kids to know they had a huge part in making it happen. 

3. Teach your children to cook. I mean, you’re going to spend money on food no matter how broke you are, right? Why not spend some quality time in the kitchen with your kids. You could make a couple days of it and do breakfast, lunch and dinner. Take a day to prepare and shop, and let them have input as to what type of dishes to make. Show them how to save money by making wise purchasing decisions too. You will have a great time and you may even spawn the next celebrity chef.

4. Go Camping behind your house. So. Much. Fun. Break out the sleeping bags, grab the flashlights and scary books, and go to town — in your backyard. Why not barbecue in the afternoon to start the evening off right? If you have a fire pit, you could roast weenies and marshmallows. Be creative.

5. Do arts and crafts. You can use the shells you collected at the beach, but this may take some research. Many normally discarded house hold items, such as toilet paper and paper towel rolls, can be used to make games and animals. Do some research on arts and crafts for children, and you’ll find numerous opportunities for fun things to do – so many you can easily fill your entire summer with them if you like.

Those are just five free of cheap things you can do with your children this summer, but I could write all day on this subject given the time. My point is that you don’t have to spend a lot (or any) to entertain your kids. Remember, just going through bankruptcy doesn’t make you a bad parent. The kids just want you to be there for them. And, you are — I know you are.

Best of luck with your fresh start,