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24

Jan 2021

Chapter 7 Trustee Donald F King

Posted by / in Blog, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Virginia Bankruptcy /

Chapter 7 Trustee Donald F King

Donald F King 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.  He’s a partner in the law firm of Odin Feldman & Pittleman PC, located in Reston. King and is head of that firm’s bankruptcy and creditors rights practice.

When he was younger, he was a NCAA Football official.  During the 2012 NFL referee strike/lockout, he was a replacement referee in one game and umpire in three.

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 $338.00 filing fee when we filed your bankruptcy case. Sixty dollars of that went to Trustee King. For each case, including yours, he is paid an additional $60.00 that is indirectly collected from Chapter 11 bankruptcies. (Congress thinks the bankruptcy courts to raise enough in fees to pay for themselves.  No other part of the federal court system does that.)

bankruptcy trustee Donald King

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee Donald F. King

As your Chapter 7 Trustee, Donald King 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.”)

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

For now, bankruptcy hearings in Alexandria are by telephone. For the Donald King hearings, you should call (877) 953-3011 using the code 1445548.

Donald King is a stickler on paperwork and deadlines.  We are required to send in bank statements for each of your accounts one week before your hearing is scheduled.  If we are a couple days late on that one week requirement, Trustee Donald King will most likely make you, and me, come back two weeks later.

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24

Oct 2020

When you file bankruptcy, they make it hard to pay your car payment

Posted by / in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Weekly Posts /

When you file bankruptcy, they make it hard to pay your car payment. Be prepared to use the mail.

You file bankruptcy and you want to keep your car. You know that means you need to keep paying.

Seems like the car finance people would welcome your payments; but they make it hard. That may be the most annoying thing that happens when you file bankruptcy. So be prepared.

If you know what to expect, here’s how to prepare.

Here’s the key info you need to round up, before we send in your bankruptcy papers:

Your account number

Your payment address

The date each month the payment is due

The date of the final payment

When you file bankruptcy, the car finance company will stop sending you bills. If you had an automatic deduction from your bank account, they will turn that off. They will shut off your internet access for your account.  And if you call for information, you probably won’t get is.

All that is pretty annoying.  (I explain here that’s because “you don’t have to pay.” Of course the car still has to pay.)

Here’s how to make your car payment when you file bankruptcy. You can use the mail.

How to make your car payment, when you file bankruptcy. You can mail a check every month.

How to make your car payment, when you file bankruptcy. You can mail a check every month.

So once you file bankruptcy, paying the car is like paying the rent; you need to remember it on your own.

You can make a note on your calendar to mail them a check every month. Or you can use your bank’s bill pay to automatically send a check. (Filing bankruptcy stops the car finance people from taking money automatically from your account. But it doesn’t stop your bank from sending money automatically from your account.)

That’s why you need to track down the account number and payment address before we send in your bankruptcy papers. So you have all the info you need to set up that bill pay with your bank.

If you know what to expect, it’s really not that hard.

And if it’s the most annoying thing about filing bankruptcy, well, for most people bankruptcy works.

 

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19

Jul 2020

IRS Means Never Having to Say….

Posted by / in After Bankruptcy, Blog, Chapter 7, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy / No comments yet

IRS Means Never Having to Say….Anything

The IRS is not like most creditors. (Your probably knew that.)  The IRS in bankruptcy is not like most creditors in bankruptcy, either.

Knowing what debts have been cleared (discharged) by your bankruptcy is easy for most debts. For credit cards, loans (including payday loans, who want you to think they are somebody special), car loans, medicals. When those debts are properly listed (scheduled) in the bankruptcy, they are automatically discharged, unless they object.

So, for example, Capital One. Was your Capital One card listed on the schedule of debts? (Schedule F.) Yes. Did they object? No. Then they are discharged.

That’s NOT the rule for the IRS in bankruptcy.

IRS and Bankruptcy: Not Like Other Debts

IRS logo illustrating the IRS in bankruptcy

IRS in bankruptcy is not like other creditors.

First of all, not all income tax debts can be discharged. (Some people assume none can be, but you know better than that.) The main rule is you can discharge taxes that were due more than three years ago, and were properly filed. See 11 USC § 523(a)(1).

More than Three Years—Look at the Calendar

The due date for taxes is usually April 15, unless there was a holiday, or you asked for an extension, or because of some natural disaster (Covid-19 in 2020) there was an automatic extension.  523(a)(1).

That you can figure out for yourself, usually. (There are other rules on timing that do apply. This is NOT a complete analysis.)

Properly Filed—Lots of Gray Area

I say “properly filed” but that’s not the wording in the law. It’s my shorthand.

Your taxes do have to be filed, by you. (When people are chronically late, the IRS will often look at the W-2’s, estimate a tax and send you a bill. That does NOT count as filing a return for bankruptcy purposes).

You can’t file a fraudulent return. And you can’t willfully attempt[ed] in any manner to evade or defeat such tax.

That gray area is enough to give anyone who owes taxes some worry about what the IRS will do. You might feel certain you don’t pay because you were broke, but worry the IRS says you were evading.

I Got My Discharge. Am I OK?

The IRS does NOT have to say. The IRS does NOT have to tell the bankruptcy court, or you, if they say you filed a fraudulent return or willfully attempted to evade. They can decide whenever they want that they think you’re an evader.  You find out when you get collection notices again.

Should we ask the bankruptcy judge to decide?

Instead of waiting to see what they do, we can force the IRS to explain their position to the bankruptcy judge. Experts in that field say that’s a bad idea. A lot of times the IRS will let something borderline slide, but if you bring in the judge, they will fight you.  (At least that was the consensus at the NACBA convention panel in May 2021.)

Is There Anything I Should Do?

Actually there is. You should get your account transcript and look at the IRS notes. You can see if they have your debt coded as discharged in bankruptcy. Or are they showing something else.  You can get your transcripts here.

Get your tax account transcript.  The IRS has several different transcripts, For what we are talking about, the tax account transcript is the one you want.

What If There’s an IRS and Bankruptcy Problem?

If there’s a problem, you need to talk to a lawyer who knows more than I know about about tax law and the IRS and bankruptcy.  That’s not me.  I’ve told you all I know, here.

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25

Jun 2020

After bankruptcy….the car still has to pay!

Posted by / in After Bankruptcy, Blog, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Weekly Posts / No comments yet

…But the Car Still Has to Pay.

When you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, that means you don’t have to make the car payments.

But that does not mean you get a free car. You don’t have to make the car payments, but the car still has to pay.

That’s because the car finance company is attached to the car title. Lawyers call that a lien.  If the debt that’s attached to the car isn’t paid, the lien holder will repossess the car.

Don’t Forget to Make the Car Payment

It’s easy after bankruptcy to forget to make the car payment.  If it slips your mind, the car finance company won’t send you a reminder. Why? Because you don’t have to pay. They also won’t send the car a reminder letter. They know the car doesn’t open its mail.

And if you get a week behind, they won’t call and demand payment. Because you don’t have to pay. And they won’t call the car, because the car doesn’t have a phone. Only one thing happens if you forget to pay. You wake up in the morning and the car is gone.

Don't forget to make the car payment. The car still has to pay.

If you forget to make your after bankruptcy car payment, you won’t see the car. the car still has to pay.

Does Paying the Car Help Your Credit Score?

Suppose you forget to pay and the car gets repossessed. The repossession won’t show up on your credit report.  That’s because the bankruptcy discharges the debt from you. But that also means your car payments won’t show up on your credit report if you do pay. You don’t have to pay.

Only one thing happens if you pay. You keep the car.

Only one things happens if you don’t pay. When you wake up in the morning, the car is gone.

You need to make the car payments if you want to keep the car. 

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05

Apr 2014

Virginia Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Posted by / in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Weekly Posts / No comments yet

The Bankruptcy Law Office of Robert Weed led all attorneys in Virginia Chapter 7 bankruptcy case filings in 2013.

Virginia Chapter 7 bankruptcy

We did more Chapter 7 bankruptcies last year than any other Virginia lawyers.

That fact was announced just recently by 722 Redemption Funding, a company that finances cars for people in or just out of chapter 7 bankruptcy.   You can see their full report here.

For most people who are in financial trouble in Northern Virginia Chapter 7 bankruptcy brings immediate relief from financial pressure, and the chance to build back to good credit in three years.

Compared to Chapter 13, Chapter 7 for most people offers more immediate relief and quicker return to good credit.  (Happiness, too–a survey we sponsored with SurveyMonkey showed 93% of our clients said life was better after bankruptcy.  You can read that here.)

The simple reason Chapter 7 is better than chapter 13, is Chapter 7 is over.  Chapter 13 runs on, usually for five years.

The 2005 bankruptcy reform law tried to push high income people into Chapter 13.  Northern Virginia is a high income–and high cost-of–living area.   Since Chapter 13 is much worse for your credit than Chapter 7–and much more likely to fail–I push back.

Usually if high income people are talking to a bankruptcy lawyer, there’s a reason why there’s a financial problem.  I try to find that reason–and use it to qualify people for Chapter 7 (if Chapter 7 is better for them).

 Virginia Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Automatic Income Eligibility

The median income figures for Virginia were just updated as of April 1, 2014.  Families that are below the median income automatically have income eligibility to file Virginia Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Families with more income, do not have automatic eligibility.  They need to prove why they should be eligible.    That means carefully analyzing their budget under the bankruptcy means test.  I explain more about that here.

Here are the cutoff numbers, by family size.

                                                        One                              Two                             Three                            Four

VIRGINIA $52,576 $66,470 $76,884 $92,277

 

Families with income over these numbers can still have income eligibility for Chapter 7.   But they have to work to prove it.  An experienced Virginia Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer can help.

(I should say here that for some people even with income eligibility for Chapter 7, Chapter 13 is better.  Chapter 13, for example, is better that Chapter 7 in dealing with student loans, or with unfiled taxes, and sometimes with divorce problems.  For most people who don’t have those problems, Chapter 7 is better.)

 

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27

Dec 2013

Bankruptcy and your co-signer’s credit report

Posted by / in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy / 2 comments

 What happens to your co-signers when you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy?  Can you avoid damaging your co-signer’s credit report?

It used to be that if you filed bankruptcy, your co-signer’s credit report would immediately show the account as “included in bankruptcy.” That happened even if you or the co-signer kept paying the account on time.  It was automatic.

Why?

The standard credit reporting system, then known as Metro, provided for credit reporting by accounts.  If an account was in bankruptcy (because one of the people on that account filed bankruptcy), the bankruptcy showed up on the report of everyone who was on that loan.

That problem is NOW  rare.

In the late 1990’s, the credit bureaus phased in a new system called Metro 2.  Metro 2 was designed to allow for “complete identification of each consumer (including co-debtor, co-signer, etc.)”  So the account could–and should–be reported are bankruptcy on the person who filed bankruptcy and current (if it is current) on the person who did NOT file bankruptcy.

Protect your co-signer's credit report

The Consumer Industry Association established Metro 2 in the late 1990’s–so a debt could show bankruptcy on the person who filed bankruptcy, and current if the cosigner is paying it current.

The credit bureaus did this for two reasons.  First, because it was more accurate; second they were afraid of getting sued.  (And they did get sued, in a case called Clark v Experian.    You can read about that here.)

Still, if you file a bankruptcy, and you have a co-signer, and you, or the co-signer, is still paying the debt, check your co-signer’s credit report.  Better check it twice, actually.  Once about the time of your bankruptcy hearing.  And again, three months after your bankruptcy discharge.  (I explain here where to go to get the right credit reports to check.)  WARN your cosigners!

I still see this problem, maybe once a year.  (The reason I’m writing this blog, actually, is this problem popped up today, December 27, the first time I’ve seen it in 2013.)

One reason may be that some credit card companies may still be using Metro, instead of Metro 2.  In 2006, the Federal Reserve reported to Congress that half the credit reporting was still being done on the old Metro system.

If half the companies had not updated seven years after the new system was put in place, I suspect many still haven’t, another seven years later.

 

PS  What if no one pays the debt?  Your co-signer’s credit report will definitely get hit!

If nobody pays the co-signed debt, then there will and should get a bad notation on the co-signer’s credit report.  The debt will show up as bankrutpcy on you, and as late–and probably charge off–on your co-signer.  “Charge off” is a “major derogatory” on someone’s credit.  Maybe as bad, or worse, than a bankruptcy.

 One More Reason I like the Credit Report at Experian.com/reportaccess.

I like to talk about this during my consultation with people who are thinking of filing bankruptcy.  And the experian.com/reportaccess credit report is usually accurate on telling us when you have cosigners.  (Sometimes people have forgotten.)  Other credit reports aren’t as good, including other Experians.

 

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16

Jun 2012

Bankruptcy Second Opinion: Why Chapter 13?

Posted by / in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy / 60 comments

Two people in Chapter 13 bankruptcy plans came to see me this past week for a second opinion.  I told both that for them, Chapter 7 bankruptcy was better.

Legal ethics allows me to give a second opinion to people who already have a bankruptcy lawyer.  (I don’t like to do that because it really hacks off the other lawyer.)  These folks didn’t have a bankruptcy lawyer.

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05

Dec 2010

After your bankruptcy trustee hearing–the goal line is in sight

Posted by / in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy / 222 comments

You’re in sight of the goal line.  It’s two months and two weeks ahead.

At your bankruptcy trustee hearing–called the section 341 hearing or “meeting of creditors”–two different trustees had a shot at you.

The Chapter 7 trustee looked at your papers to see if there was anything valuable to sell.  And the United States Trustee looked to see if you were a bankruptcy abuser–making too much money or dishonest in your bankruptcy papers.    If there was a problem with something, we probably would know on the spot.

Things are now on schedule for your bankruptcy to wrap up in about two weeks and two months.  No news is good news.  You don’t need to do anything.

Here are some deadlines we hope will pass with nothing happening.

The United States Trustee trustee has ten days to file a “statement of presumed abuse. ”  That would happen if he disagreed with the way I filled out your budgets–and they think you have too much money left over to be allowed to file Chapter 7.  If nobody showed up from their office to challenge me at your hearing, we expect this deadline to pass by.

Your Chapter 7 trustee has 30 days to object to your bankruptcy exemptions.  If the trustee thinks you have too much money in the bank, too much in paid for cars, too much real estate equity–or getting too much in a tax refund–that’s where problems would come from.  (Or, if you’ve moved in the last two years, there could be an argument about what law applies.)  Virginia has about the worst bankruptcy exemptions in the country.

If your exemptions are close, we would have spent a lot of time talking and planning when we first met.

Maybe one person in ten has an exemption problem.  The Chapter 7 trustee will almost always let us know at the hearing if it looks like there will be a problem with exemptions.

Your creditors have 60 days from the hearing to object.  (At least most of them do.  Debts like taxes–usually– and child support are not discharged by bankruptcy.  And they don’t have to do anything in the bankruptcy to prove that.  They can come after you whenever.)

Creditor objections come in two main kinds.  Credit card companies will object if they think you were running up your credit cards while you were getting ready to file bankruptcy.  One reason I like the Experian.com/reportaccess credit report is that it gives us balance history to look at together.  If I think there’s going to be a problem, we talk about putting off your bankruptcy for a few months.

Every year, only two or three of my bankruptcy clients (out of about seven hundred) have a creditor claim there was a run-up.  Usually we knew there would be a problem–but had to rush the bankruptcy for some other reason.   Now and then, someone will keep using the credit cards, after they see me and decide to file bankruptcy.  That will be trouble.

The other way we hear from creditors, is a claim that your whole debt is fraudulent.  Usually that’s what I call a “personal grudge creditor.”   Spouse or family member, former friend, or former business partner.     These personal grudge creditors can claim you lied to them when you got the debt–claimed it was for college but used it to buy drugs, for example.  Even worse, they claim you are lying to the court now–didn’t tell the court about the $80,000 in your overseas bank.

Those are tough for me to predict–I know a lot about the banks, but you know your friends.  (You also have an idea if your friends know something you didn’t tell me.) We hope there’s nothing like that out there.

The creditors’ deadline is 60 days from the date of bankruptcy trustee hearing.

We expect those 60 days will pass without anybody doing anything.  That’s true of nearly all my clients–and no news is good news.

When the 60 days are over, it takes the court about two more weeks to mail out your discharge.  The discharge is your final approval.

While you’re waiting, remember this.   The Supreme Court said just a few years ago, “the principal purpose of the Bankruptcy Code is to grant a fresh start to the honest but unfortunate debtor.”  549 U.S. 365 (2007).  That  “fresh start” the Court said, all the way back in the 19s0’s, is a “new opportunity in life and the clear field for future effort.”  292 US 234 (1934).

That’s what all this is about.  Your fresh start–your new opportunity and clear field–are just ahead.

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03

May 2010

At the bankruptcy attorneys convention, what I learned

Posted by / in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy / 1 comment

Attorney Leigh Faugust and I just got back from the annual convention of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.  We met in San Francico, along with twenty four other bankruptcy  attorneys from Virginia and 1600 attorneys from across the country.

We attended 14 hours of classes, had dinner with old and new friends, traded ideas and strategies late into the night.

One thing I learned that surprised me.

We heard it from Mark Redmiles,  Deputy Director of the Office of the United States Trustee.  He’s the top guy nationally in charge of enforcing the “means test”.  That’s the formula Congress put in place in 2005, to block chapter 7 bankruptcy for people who supposedly can afford to pay.

Redmiles reported that one only out of every eight chapter 7 bankruptcies approved nationally was filed by bankruptcy attorneys for people who did not have automatic Chapter 7 eligibility.

People have automatic eligibility if they earned less than the median income for their family size.  In Virginia, those median income numbers are:

Family size        one                two               three              four

Virginia         $48,190    $64,890     $73, 887    $85,633

Only one out of eight bankruptcies approved nationally as Chapter 7 are over the numbers for their state.

Five out of eight of my approved Chapter 7’s are over.  That’s five times the national average!

What is going on?  Northern Virginia is a high income and high cost of living area in a low income state.  The automatic eligibility formula that bankruptcy attorneys use to get most bankruptcies approved, usually doesn’t work here.

But experienced bankruptcy attorneys do get people here approved.  They get approved using the long formula means test–taking every time in your budget, compared to the allowances for that item, and using the ones we can to show the court why you can’t afford to pay.

The 2005 bankruptcy law made details very important.  But, they are more important here in Northern Virginia than almost anywhere else.   And it’s more important here than most places to have experienced bankruptcy attorneys on your side.

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25

Mar 2010

After bankruptcy what if I don’t pay my second mortgage?

Posted by / in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy / 627 comments

After chapter 7 bankruptcy, I often advise my clients, just don’t pay the second mortgage.

Now, if you don’t file bankruptcy and stop paying the second mortgage, two things would happen.  They will call you day and night; and eventually they would sue you and garnish you.  Bankruptcy keeps them from doing either of those.

Will they foreclose you?  That’s the big question.    The second mortgage can sell your house to a new homeowner only if they pay off the first mortgage.  If the value of your house has dropped below what you owe on the first, that’s just a way for them to lose more money.  They are not going to do that.

Virginia Bankruptcy Lawyer Robert Weed

I often advise my clients, just don’t pay the second mortgage. This is a strategy that takes nerves of steel.

To put it another way, the second mortgage won’t kick you out of your house just to be mean.  They will only do it to make money.  If they can’t make money, they won’t do it.

So, what are they going to do?  They will wait patiently for you to keep paying the first, and hope the value comes back up (and the balance on the first drops) that at some point you have equity that they can grab.

So, if you follow this just-don’t-pay-the-second strategy, you know you will never have any equity in your house.  If you go to sell five years or twenty years down the road, the second will still be sitting there.   (With five or twenty years of interest and late fees.)

So when does this just-don’t-pay make sense?  Suppose you have five more years before your youngest is out of high school.  Once that’s done, you might want to move to a smaller place anyway.  Then you can stop paying the first mortgage too, and move out.  The bankruptcy still protects you from both of the mortgages.  (You’d have to keep paying the HOA until the first mortgage forecloses.)

Does this strategy hurt your credit?  It does and it doesn’t.  It doesn’t hurt your credit score, because that second mortgage will  just show bankruptcy and can’t show any late payments after that.  (For my clients, we check to be sure.)  But it does hurt your being able to buy again.

For loans like car loans–or interest rates on your credit cards–your credit score pretty much controls, so you’ll be able to get a care loan at a good rate.  Your score will be good, if you’ve built up new, good credit.

But to get a mortgage, a different rule applies.  The March 2, 2010 manual released by Fannie Mae, (link here https://www.efanniemae.com/sf/guides/ssg/sgpdf.jsp) says what you have to do to get an insured mortgage. You have to be two years after the bankruptcy (with extenuating circumstances), but you have to be three years after a foreclosure.   Even though there will not be a foreclosure on your credit report, there will be one on the land records, and a mortgage lender will check there, too.

So if you follow this just-don’t-pay-the-second strategy, you keep the house for three or five or seven years; then you have to plan to rent for three years or so.  Then you’d be able to buy again.

If real estate goes up a lot over the next ten years, you’d be better financially to move out of the house right after the bankruptcy, rent for three years right away, and then buy again.  (If real estate stays flat, then not being able to buy for ten years doesn’t lose you anything.)

But if you want to keep your children in the same school and the same house, just-don’t-pay-the-second is a good plan.

What if you want to keep this house long term?  One way to do that would be with a second mortgage relief Chapter 13.  See my website on that.  http://virginiasecondmortgagerelief.com/

Or, you can not pay the second for a couple years, save some money, and then offer them a cash settlement.  Say you owe $75,000 on the second mortgage, file chapter 7 bankruptcy, and pay them nothing for three years.   If the value of your house is still less than you owe on the first, and you offer them $7000 to call it even, they might agree.   If you move out, they get nothing.

That strategy takes nerves of steel.  And it works best if you go for several years of not paying them–you want them to get used to getting nothing, so your offer of 10 cents on the dollar looks good.  I’ve seen it work.

Here’s an example where Chase, after getting nothing for four years, offers to settle at $20,000 second mortgage for $2000.  And here’s an example of HSBC offering to settle as $126,000 second mortgage for $12,600.

Here’s an offer to settle at $28,500 for $4250.  My client filed bankruptcy in 2010–this offer came in 2014.

 

PS  In January 2015, Bank of America forgives the whole amount.

Ahmad filed bankruptcy with me in 2011.  He got the best possible deal–Bank of America offered to forgive the whole amount of his seocnd mortgage.

 We had a BOA home equity line of credit for around $33K that was included in our BK back in 2011. I received a letter today from BOA that they have agreed to forgive this amount and we don’t owe them a penny on that. I had a question will that show up in our credit and will it hurt our credit in any way? It took us few years to build our credit and get back up and we don’t want this to damage our credit but we are grateful that is being forgiven…..

Don’t worry, Ahmad, this will nto hit your credit.  and not have any tax consequences either.  And I’ll straighten it out if it does.

This nerves of steel strategy does not always work; but it works a lot.

 

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NORTHERN VIRGINIA BANKRUPTCY LAW OFFICES