Thursday, April 21, 2011

GE Care Credit Review


After my bankruptcy, funds are still tight. So when my cat got very sick, I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to do. Fortunately while doing some research, I learned about GEMB Care Credit.

There are a lot of nasty reviews out there for GE Care Credit but I could not be more grateful to them. Those nasty reviews are from people who didn't bother to read what they were signing up for.

GEMB is GE Money Bank and GEMB Care Credit is a health care credit card for you and/or your pet. You can go to any health care provider or vet that accepts this credit.

There is no interest on the credit that you get from GE Care Credit as long as you pay it off during the promotional period. The promotional period will depend on the amount of credit needed. Generally, the more credit you need, the longer time you will have to pay it off.

But miss a payment, or pay late and interest will kick in. I think this is what so many people don't understand. If you are a care credit cardholder you can pay the bill online, but make sure you pay it by 5pm eastern time on the day it is due (that's 2pm for me) or your payment will be considered late and you will be charged a late fee.

So read the fine print if you sign up for GE Care Credit. As long as you understand the rules, and are able to pay on time, you should have no problem.

The one drawback for me was only having a handful of vets to choose from but as far as I am concerned, the pet care credit was a lifesaver. I'm still paying it and if I don't get it paid off in the promotional period, and have to pay interest, it will still be worth it. My cat got the care she needed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Definition of Creditor

THE DEFINITION OF CREDITOR ~ SECURED CREDITORS AND UNSECURED CREDITORS. If you are going to file bankruptcy, you need to know the difference.

I was asked by someone the other day to explain the difference between secured and unsecured creditors so I thought I would answer it here too in case anyone has the same questions.

First of all, in case you haven't heard the word, the definition of a debtor is simply a person who is in debt or under financial obligation to another person or company. If you are filing for bankruptcy, the debtor is you.

The definition of a secured creditor(s) is a lender, individual or otherwise, who holds a legally enforceable claim to a debtor's asset. Examples of this would be a mortgage, lien, or other collateral.

Secured creditors may legally seize or repossess property when loans are in default. In bankruptcy, secured creditor debts must be satisfied before any unsecured creditors.

The definition of an unsecured creditor(s) is a lender who extended credit to a debtor without any collateral. In bankruptcy, unsecured creditors are paid only after secured creditors are satisfied. Unsecured creditors are often not paid anything if the debtor qualifies to have all debts discharged in a chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Because there is no collateral required, unsecured debt usually carries with it a higher interest rate. However, in the first years following bankruptcy, it may be tough to qualify for any type of unsecured credit. Successful Filers often opt to get a secured credit card, also known as a bank secured card.

A secured credit card usually requires a deposit that will be matched by a line of credit. Many filers use these bank secured cards to help them re-establish credit after bankruptcy.

So there you have the definition of a creditor and then some. As always, consult with your attorney about your particular situation.

Good luck to all,


Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Bankruptcy Trustee Meeting

One of the most frightening aspects of my chapter 7 bankruptcy was the thought of attending the bankruptcy trustee meeting, officially known as the 341 Meeting Of Creditors. In retrospect, I needn't have been frightened at all.

The 341 creditors meeting is a hearing that you are required to attend between you, the bankruptcy trustee and your creditors. That's the technical definition anyway. The truth is that most of the time in chapter 7 bankruptcies,
the creditors don't even show up.

The reason for this is that creditors are often wasting both time and money to attend a creditors meeting. They know that most people who file a chapter 7 are going to be receiving a discharge no matter what. However, if they have solid grounds to object, say they can prove that you committed bankruptcy fraud, then they may very well show up. But as it was explained to me by my lawyer, it's pretty rare that they do. If a creditor can't make a bankruptcy claim, why bother?

My bankruptcy meeting of creditors went like this:

The 341 was scheduled for 2:30 in the afternoon. I arrived an hour and a half early because you just can't count on L.A. traffic to be light at any time of day, especially going into downtown. I didn't dare chance being late and having my hearing postponed.

I sat around in the waiting room for a while listening to lawyers talk and a little before 1:30, I noticed the lawyer I was supposed to meet (my lawyer sent someone else) talking to his 1:30 session people. When he was done, I introduced myself and asked him if I could go wander around. He told me to go shopping for a while, so I did some WINDOW shopping and came back about 20 minutes later. I started clocking the rate at which people were exiting the courtroom and it was averaging 4-6 minutes each. I thought that was a good sign.

The lawyer got together with me a few minutes before the 2:30 session and then all the 2:30 people went into the hearing room. He told me I was number 3 on the docket.

The trustee addressed the room and told everyone to have their driver's licenses and social security cards out so they wouldn't be fumbling for them up at the table, and warned everyone that they would be under oath. He also told everyone to turn off cell phones or anything else that would make noise and that there was to be no talking. Violators of these rules, he said, would be asked to leave and come back in a month and a half.

He called the first person and then also called my name and told me to wait against the wall. (seems debtor 2 had not shown up). Just as he was about to begin with her he had to admonish the audience because there were some people talking. Idiots. He reminded them that they could very easily be asked to leave.

The trustee spent about five minutes with debtor number one and joked with her a couple of times. Her husband was in the front row and he told her that he could see her husband shaking his head to what she was saying and told him: "it's okay sir, you are not under oath". He excused her and then it was my turn. Below is how it went:

Trustee: Please state your name.

Me: Epiphany Poo

Trustee: Please state your address:

Me: Epiphany Poo Lane, EpiphanyLand, USA

Trustee: Did you read the pamplet that you were given?

Me: Yes

: Did you read your bankruptcy petition?

Me: Yes

: Did you sign the petition yourself?

Me: Yes

Trustee: Are these your tax returns?

Me: Yes

Trustee: Is everything in your tax returns true and correct?

Me: Yes

Trustee: What is "insert name of my business"?

Me: A small part time online business.

Trustee: Are all the assets from the business listed in your petition?

Me: Yes

Trustee to lawyer: I have no further interest in these (he handed the tax returns to him).

Trustee to room
: Are there any creditors here for this matter?

Room: Sweet Silence.

Trustee: You are excused. Good Luck to you.

Me: Thank you.

Then the lawyer handed me a copy of my case and my tax returns and wished me luck too. I thanked him and was on my merry way.

Whole thing took less than three minutes. Easy. And a relief. Was home at 3:12. Poured a glass of wine and had steak for dinner (it's okay, it was on sale).

My experience may not be your experience (a chapter 13 341 meeting is no doubt more complicated) but I have talked to a lot of people who filed a chapter 7 and have similar stories.

341 meetings are public, and if you like you can attend some of these ahead of time to get a feel for what they are like. And, as always, consult with your attorney, who will be able to tell you what you need to bring to the bankruptcy 341 based on your particular circumstances.

May your bankruptcy trustee meeting go as smoothly as mine did and may none of your creditors show up!

Good luck to all,


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Cost of Bankruptcy


If you are contemplating bankruptcy, you are probably already broke. If you are already broke, you are probably wondering how in the world you are going to pay for bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy Attorney fees vary so the cost of bankruptcy will vary. You are going to need to shop around to determine what reasonable fees in your area are. I paid 1000.00 for the attorney that handled my chapter 7 bankruptcy case but you may not find one that low in your area.

It was also made clear that there would be additional fees if my lawyer was required to fight any creditors that made a stink. That didn't happen. Fortunately, in a simple chapter 7 case, it rarely does.

Other costs in my chapter 7 bankruptcy includde a 299.00 court filing fee(the fee in a chapter 13 is 274.00) and the cost of two online credit counseling sessions. Those were about 70.00. Then there was one last fee of 12.00 to cover parking at the 341 meeting of the creditors. My total cost: 1381.00.

I was very broke at the time I needed to file and, like maybe you are now, I was extremely worried about how I was going to afford it. The good news is that bankruptcy attorneys understand this predicament and many (most I think) will arrange a payment plan with you but they won't actually do the filing until you are all paid up.

More good news is that many attorneys offer free bankruptcy consultations and they will probably tell you to stop paying all of your secured debts (like credit cards) immediately. (I am not advising you to stop paying any creditors--I am not an attorney).

I had already stopped paying most of my creditors due to inability and the decision to file and that freed up the cash to pay my lawyer, though it did take me several months.

No matter the cost, bankruptcy can give you the fresh start that you need. It's a heavy decision to make but the cost of bankruptcy should not be a factor when making it.

Best of luck to all,


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Bankruptcy and Fraud

Bankruptcy and Fraud ~ What You Should Know

A lot of people who file for bankruptcy wonder about bankruptcy and fraud--specifically whether or not anything they have done might constitute bankruptcy fraud. It is an important consideration and the reason why filing bankruptcy sometimes takes planning.

What constitutes bankruptcy fraud? Bankruptcy fraud could include anything that has been done to dishonestly manipulate the outcome of a bankruptcy, which is why you absolutely need to talk to a bankruptcy attorney about bankruptcy and fraud as it relates to your circumstances in order to avoid bankruptcy fraud penalties.

That said, below are some of the most common things that can be considered bankruptcy fraud.

Concealment of Assets
Concealment of assets may include selling off, transferring, or hiding assets prior to filing. This may include assets you are expecting (i.e. a tax return). Ask your attorney what assets count here. Typically, your old couch or the clothes in your closet are not worth anything so you want to understand exactly what your assets are.

Using Credit Immediately Before Filing
Using your credit cards, for purchases or cash advances, or obtaining new credit too close to filing bankruptcy can raise huge, flashing, red flags. (Goods and services deemed necessary for living may be exempt) If you have used your credit too recently, it could be argued by your creditors that you knew you were going to file bankruptcy when you used or obtained that credit. Seek the advice of your bankruptcy attorney if this applies to you. You may be advised to wait some time before filing.

Providing False Information On Credit Applications
Providing false information to obtain credit is illegal, and we all know that many people "pad" their income some on credit applications. I do not condone that or claim that it won't be a problem for you, but my lawyer told me that the creditors have a certain responsibility to verify the information that they are provided. Speak to your attorney if you are worried about this.

There are other types of bankruptcy fraud but those are the ones most commonly worried about by filers. The bottom line is that once you know that you are going to be filing bankruptcy, you should not do anything that might jeopardize the successful discharge of your case, or worse, cause you to suffer any bankruptcy fraud penalties.

Bankruptcy Fraud Penalties
Punishment in bankruptcy fraud cases is up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. So not worth it.

I know I say it a lot, and I've said it a number of times in this post alone, but it is especially important for the topic of bankruptcy and fraud. If you have concerns, you need to discuss them with your bankruptcy attorney. I am not a lawyer and nothing I say is intended to be legal advice.

Wishing you the fresh start that you need,