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18

Dec 2020

“Have You Sent Us a Bank Statement for Every Account?”

Posted by / in Weekly Posts /

The Hardest Question You’ll Get Asked at Your Bankruptcy Hearing

Like most people, you will be stressed when you get ready for your bankruptcy hearing. People are worried they’ll be asked “How did you get into this mess?” Actually, that almost never comes  up.

The hardest question that always comes up is this one: “Have you sent us a bank statement for every account.” 

This is a hard question because many people have far more open bank accounts than they actually are using.  So, what’s the single best thing you can do to make your bankruptcy hearing go smoothly? Close those bank accounts you are not using.

Close those unnecessary accounts.

home town bank

Do you have a six dollar savings account at your home town bank? Close it!

Do you still have $5.00 in the credit union at your old job? Close it. Do you have $11.00 in a Paypal account?  Close it. Do you have $31.00 in Bitcoins?  Close it.  Have a six dollar savings account from your hometown bank where you went to high school? Close it!

Close those unnecessary bank account. When it’s time for your bankruptcy hearing, you’ll be glad you did.

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14

Dec 2020

Chapter 7 Trustee Janet Meiburger

Posted by / in Weekly Posts /

Chapter 7 Trustee Janet Meiburger

Janet Meiburger is one of the four Chapter 7 trustees in the Alexandria Virginia Bankruptcy court. When you file a bankruptcy case in Alexandria, the computer assigns you to one of the four trustees.

Lawyers are appointed Chapter 7 trustees as a part-time assignment.  Janet Meiburger has her own law firm in McLean, VA where she handles her own bankruptcy clients, plus business law, commercial law and civil litigation. She is the newest of the trustees here.

Chapter 7 Trustee, Janet Meiburger

Chapter 7 Trustee, Janet Meiburger

As a Chapter 7 Trustee, he has two sets of bosses.  The US Justice Department, through the Office of the United States Trustee.  And the two Bankruptcy Judges here, Judge Brian F. Kenney and Judge Klinette H. Kindred.

We paid a $335.00 filing fee when we filed your bankruptcy case. Sixty dollars of that went to Trustee Meiburger.  Since her hourly rate is $450.00 an hour, that $60.00 would be her fee for eight minutes.  (A recent study suggested $120.00 for Chapter 7 trustees would be better.)

As your Chapter 7 Trustee, Janet Meiburger is in charge of your bankruptcy hearing, which is called the “meeting of creditors.” There are very, very rarely any creditors at the meeting of creditors.  So the Chapter 7 Trustee asks the questions. (Because the trustee is not a judge, she should be called “ma’am” not “your honor.”)

For now, bankruptcy hearings in Alexandria are by telephone. For the Janet Meiburger hearings, you should call (866) 652-2725 using the code 5661649.

The bankruptcy court computer schedules fourteen hearings an hour.  That’s just over four minutes per case.

Since she’s only been paid to spend a total of eight minutes on you, you might guess Janet Meiburger would rush through her cases.  But she doesn’t.  She is very thorough in her questions.

Every trustee is supposed to ask, “Did you sign the papers your lawyer sent to the court?” And “Did you read them or have them explained before you signed them?”  Trustee Meiburger goes two steps further, asking “Did your lawyer give you a copy? And did you review that copy before the hearing today?”

So be sure to look at your papers again before your court date. If there’s a mistake, we want to correct it.

 

UPDATE  The Bankruptcy trustees get their raise.

The Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustees did get their fee increase from $60.00 to $120.00 per case.  Congress passed it in December and the President signed January 12, 2021.  

It was the first raise for Bankruptcy Trustees in nearly 30 years.

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10

Dec 2020

Until the Buffalo Squeals

Posted by / in Weekly Posts /

Hold on to the Nickel until the Buffalo Squeals

They stopped making the Buffalo nickel in 1938, long before I was born. But I saw plenty of them when I was young. 

I also heard plenty about them from older folks who had lived through the Depression. “Hold on to the nickel until the buffalo squeals.”

A nickel doesn’t buy a Hershey bar any more. And the Jefferson nickel is all you see. But in tough times “hold on to the nickel until the buffalo squeals” can still be good advice.

When to Stop Paying? It’s different for everybody

There’s no specific advice I can give you on when to stop paying your credit cards. Certainly as long as you can foresee a day when they will be paid off, you may want to keep paying. But is continuing to pay just putting off the inevitable? Will your savings run out long before the debts are paid off? Paying the car, the rent or mortgage, electric bill−those are more important than keeping the credit cards current.

 

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05

Dec 2020

Chapter 7 Trustee Jason Gold

Posted by / in Virginia Bankruptcy, Weekly Posts /

Chapter 7 Trustee Jason Gold

Jason Gold is one of the four Chapter 7 trustees in the Alexandria Virginia Bankruptcy court. When you file a bankruptcy case in Alexandria, the computer assigns you to one of the four trustees.  

Being a Chapter 7 Trustee is a part time job for lawyers. Gold is a partner in the Nelson Mullins law firm, where he heads up the bankruptcy and financial restructuring group.  That means he does complicated business and real estate bankruptcy work.

Chapter 7 Trustee Jason Gold

Chapter 7 Trustee Jason Gold

As a Chapter 7 Trustee, he has two sets of bosses.  The US Justice Department, through the Office of the United States Trustee.  And the two Bankruptcy Judges here, Judge Brian F. Kenney and Judge Klinette H. Kindred.  

Out of the $335.00 filing fee that you paid to the court when we filed your case, $60.00 of that went to Trustee Gold.  Since his regular hourly rate is $580.00 an hour, that $60.00 would be his fee for 6 minutes 12 seconds.  (A recent study suggested $120.00 for Chapter 7 trustees would be better.)

As your Chapter 7 Trustee, Jason Gold is in charge of your bankruptcy hearing, which is called the “meeting of creditors.” There are very, very rarely any creditors at the meeting of creditors.  So the Chapter 7 Trustee asks the questions. (Because the trustee is not a judge, he should be called “sir” not “your honor.”)

NOTE for call-in hearings. During the covid emergency, the bankruptcy hearings are telephonic. The telephone number for the Gold hearings is (877) 973-4749 using the code 9974082

The court’s computer here schedules fourteen hearings an hour.  That’s just over four minutes per case.  

The fast schedule, and the low fees, give the  Chapter 7 trustees an incentive to move through the cases quickly. To keep his cases moving, Gold has a form we fill out before your hearing.  If there’s nothing unusual about your case, he asks his questions straight from his form.  Here it is.

To Keep his Cases Moving, Jason Gold uses this form.

Notice here he asks specifically about the Order to Debtor. Besides telling you to show up for your hearing, the Order to Debtor says that if someone dies and leave you money in the next six months, you have to tell the court.

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE  The Bankruptcy trustees get their raise.

The Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustees did get their fee increase from $60.00 to $120.00 per case.  Congress passed it in December and the President signed January 12, 2021.  

It was the first raise for Bankruptcy Trustees in nearly 30 years.

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21

Nov 2020

Chapter 13 Trustee Thomas Gorman

Posted by / in Virginia Bankruptcy, Weekly Posts /

Chapter 13 Trustee Thomas Gorman

Thomas Gorman is a lawyer. He’s the Chapter 13 Trustee for the Alexandria VA Division of the US Bankruptcy Court. That’s a full time job. He was appointed in 2009.

He runs your Chapter 13 bankruptcy hearing, called the “meeting of creditors.” Creditors hardly ever attend the meeting of creditors. Gorman asks you the questions.

Here’s What to Expect on your Meeting with Chapter 13 Thomas Gorman

More than any other trustee in Alexandria VA, Gorman looks for opportunities for humor.  When these hearings are in person, he does things like make fun of the lawyer’s ties. (Sometimes I wear and ugly tie just so he can make fun of it.)  That’s harder with phone meetings, but if something comes up that he can turn into a joke, he does.  I think that’s a good thing. It helps everyone relax.

One thing does make him mad.  He asks everyone if you have filed bankruptcy before. If the answer is Yes, but you say No, he hits the ceiling. So you do not want to make that mistake. You don’t want the person in front of you to make that mistake, either. He stays crabby even when he’s on to the next person.

He usually does NOT ask about any unusual calculations we make. Some people’s budget will have higher average medical expenses or help for elderly parents.  Typically he will NOT ask about them during your hearing. But then…

Expect an objection in the mail in a couple weeks

Thomas Gorman office 300 N Washington St

When he goes back to his office, at 300 N Washington St, Chapter 13 Trustee Thomas Gorman searches for things he can object to.

When he goes back to his office, he looks over your papers very, very closely, looking for things to object to. When he was first appointed, the judge told Trustee Gorman to bring close questions into court, instead of settling them himself. That’s what he does. He finds something to object to in almost every case.

The friendly, funny Trustee Gorman who did your hearing turns mean in writing a couple weeks later.  He says he doesn’t like this, you didn’t explain that, and your lawyer made a mistake about this other thing.  He asks for your case to be dismissed.

People who read those written objections freak out. But that’s just the way it works in the Alexandria VA bankruptcy court. 

Trustee Gorman thinks it’s his job to squeeze a little more money out of everybody. Working out Gorman’s objections is just next step in the process of getting your case approved.  

 

 

 

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10

Nov 2020

We Stop Navy Federal Trying to Pull a Fast One

Posted by / in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, Weekly Posts /

We Stop Navy Federal Trying to Pull a Fast One

This is a story of Navy Federal trying to take unfair advantage of a disabled vet; and how we were able to stop them.

Harry is the disabled vet. He wasn’t able to quite make ends meet when he filed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in 2015, even though he was working. His biggest creditor then was Navy Federal.  He had a credit card, a personal loan, and a car loan with Navy.  He gave up the car—it was a 2007 with 131,000 miles.

Three years later, his health got worse. He lost his job and with it part of his income. Then, this year he go behind on his mortgage, talked to me, and we put him in a Chapter 13 payment plan, so he could catch the house up.

Up pops Navy Federal, demanding to be paid.  Demanding to be paid on the car he gave up in his 2015 bankruptcy, and the personal loan he cleared; and the credit card he cleared.

Navy Federal demands to be paid on debts that were cleared in bankruptcy five years before.

That set off the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee.  Not at Navy Federal; the trustee went off at Harry.  “You were supposed to list everybody you owed money to and you left Navy Federal out. Why’d you do that?”  The trustee asks the judge to toss out Harry’s payment plan, saying Harry had lied to the court.

My first job as a lawyer was to calm the trustee down. Harry could lose his house if his payment plan got tossed out.

Now, Navy had to know about the bankruptcy. Because if they’d been asking for payment during these five years, we’d have set them straight. They never did. they didn’t say anything until the slip their paper—called a proof of claim—into the bankruptcy court.

Maybe it’s an honest mistake.

They Probably Broke No Rule

Supreme Court

In Midland v Johnson, the Supreme Court said a “proof of claim” doesn’t have to be valid, it just has to be a claim.

The odd thing is there’s probably no rule broken here.  Even if they did it on purpose. In a case called Midland Funding v Johnson, the Supreme Court looked at the word “claim.” When creditors want to be paid in a bankruptcy, they file a paper called a Proof of Claim.

According to the Supreme Court, there’s nothing that says the “claim” has to be enforceable, it just has to be a claim. The burden is on Harry—and me, his lawyer—to catch them when they try to pull a fast one.  This time, we did.

 

 

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