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10

Apr 2020

Bankruptcy Hearings: Now Telephonic

Posted by / in Virginia Bankruptcy, Weekly Posts /

The Alexandria Bankruptcy Court Trustee Hearings are now by Telephone.

Bankruptcy Trustee hearings are now telephonic. That’s the policy of the Alexandria VA bankruptcy court, effective April 9, 2020. (Richmond and Norfolk, too.)

woman calling into bankruptcy hearing

Instead of a location, your hearing notice will have a phone number to call.

People who file bankruptcy are required by law to “appear” in front of the bankruptcy trustee to answer questions.  (For most people, the questions are, “Did you go over these papers when you signed them, and is everything you put there true?”) Those hearings by law are between four and six weeks after we send your papers to the court.

Starting now, you and I will appear by phone. (Some parts of the bankruptcy court have moved to Zoom, but NOT this. This basic hearing is on a telephone conference call.)  

The trustee does about a dozen hearings per hour; and everybody will call in the same phone number. So you and I will be listening in on the hearings for every other person that hour. (This is the same as it would be if we were all sitting in the hearing room together.)

Mute your phone. When you call in, don’t say “Am I on? Am I on?” You’re on an open mic to the whole room. If you talk when it’s not your turn, you are interrupting the bankruptcy trustee. (You don’t want the trustee to be grumpy when it’s your turn.)

The trustee is supposed to check your ID and social security number. On the phone there’s no way they can match your picture. But having an ID that matches the name on the bankruptcy papers at least proves something. So take a picture, or scan, of your ID and social security card.  [email protected] will send you a link.

We Will Talk Privately Before and After

You and I will have a call-in a Saturday before scheduled time. To go over what’s going to happen. And make sure you are ready to call in.

On the day of, I’ll email you about ten minutes before; to make sure you are there; and cover any last minute jitters.  Afterwards, I send an email wrap-up. And set a time for a call later in the day to handle any follow up questions you have, or action items that came out of the hearing. Those calls will only be between us.

I’ll be looking at my email during the hearing, so if you want to whisper me a question, do it by email.  Use [email protected].  That’s the email I’ll be watching. (It gets to me 45 second quicker than [email protected])

Here are documents you should get 

The Notice of a Bankruptcy case comes to you in the mail about a week after the papers go in.  It tells when when your telephonic “appearance” is. It’s also a notice to the people you owe money to that they are required to leave you alone.  And that anybody who is garnishing you has to stop. 

Your Order to debtor  tells you that you are required to show up for the telephonic appearance.  And that if somebody dies and leave you money in the next six months, the bankruptcy trustee can come and get it. You get this in the mail with the Notice of a Bankruptcy Case.

Here’s stuff you need to look at before your telephonic bankruptcy hearing

The Bankruptcy information sheet is a form I’m required to give you.  Congress really wants you to know you have four choices under the bankruptcy law.  Chapter 12 is only for farmers (and fishermen.) I’ve never done a farmer. Chapter 11 is for people like Donald Trump. I’ve never done Donald Trump. Chapter 13 is a payment plan through the court. Chapter 13 can get you five years to catch up your house or pay off your taxes, You can also be forced into Chapter 13 if you are making too much money to get approved for Chapter 7.

Chapter 7 says ‘sorry I can’t pay these debts.’ For most people that’s what we want.

This Hearing Info is from me. It explains that you need to get us bank statements that cover the date your bankruptcy was filed.  For ALL your bank accounts including the ones “I never use.” It also lists the questions they usually ask.

Finally here’s my 15 minute video

Ignore the parts about where to go and where to park–these are telephonic bankruptcy hearings, remember.  But the other stuff is still right.  PS Actually one other correction. We use Moneysharp.org for the required class.  (The video mentions Hummingbird. They stopped covering Virginia.)

UPDATE Zoom is Coming

Zoom will replace telephone calls for bankruptcy court trustee hearings.  At the end of the pandemic, the government will NOT resume in person bankruptcy trustee hearings.   Instead the system will switch over to using zoom, in place of telephone conference calls.

No word yet how fast this will happen.  

 

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28

Mar 2020

Required fine print notices

Posted by / in Weekly Posts /

I’m required to give you three legal disclosures

Now that most consultations are by phone and zoom, I’m posting these on my webpage. 

The first disclosure

This first disclosure tell you that you have four choices under the bankruptcy law.

  • Chapter 12 is only for farmers, and fisherman. I’ve never done a farmer
  • Chapter 11 is for business people like Donald Trump.  I’ve never done Donald Trump
  • Chapter 13 is a payment plan through the bankruptcy court.
    • If you are behind on your mortgage, Chapter 13 can give you time to catch up.
    • If you owe taxes, Chapter 13 can give you time to pay without more interest or late fees.
    • If you are making too much money to file Chapter 7, chapter 13 pays your debts over five years.
    • If your house would get sold in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Chapter 13 can save the house.

Those are my explanations. the required notice explains them somewhat differently.  That notice is here.

That notice also remind me if you lie to the bankruptcy court, you can go to jail.

The Second Disclosure

The second disclosure reminds you again to tell the truth. And it also tells you that you may be subject to audit. (The bankruptcy law calls for an audit of one case out of every hundred. Sometimes there’s no money in the budget, so they skip the audits; sometimes they do them.)

Here’s that second disclosure.

The Third Disclosure

The most important part of the third disclosure is that your lawyer is required to give you a price and tell you what he’ll do.

For Chapter 7 bankruptcy, my work schedule and payment schedule is here.

The third disclosure also includes an unhelpful list of the steps in a bankruptcy case.  Here it is.

 

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26

Mar 2020

Can’t Make Your Chapter 13 payments?

Posted by / in Blog, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, Weekly Posts /

The Big Bailout Helps If You have to Skip Chapter 13 Payments

The big bailout law, just passed, includes some slack for people in Chapter 13. If you can’t make your Chapter 13 payments, we can ask the bankruptcy judge to add up to 24 months to your payment plan. Before that law was passed, if you got permission to skip some payments, you had to catch up in the months that are left.

How Will This Work Out?

I don’t know yet how this will work out. I’m thinking it over and talking with other, smart bankruptcy lawyers, while we try to see the best way to use this law.

If you can’t make your Chapter 13 payments, we can ask the bankruptcy judge to add them on to the end.

 

Here’s a little more info Covid-19 and the 7 Year Plan «. Asking for more time only applies to people who already have an approved plan.  If you are not yet approved–or haven’t filed yet–you can’t ask for the extra two years to pay.

 

 

 

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24

Mar 2020

Bankruptcy Trustee Hearings Postponed Due to Virus

Posted by / in Blog, Virginia Bankruptcy, Weekly Posts /

The Bankruptcy Court is Alexandria is Postponing the Trustee Hearings.

Because of the corona virus, bankruptcy hearings in Alexandria VA scheduled up through April 10 are postponed. (I’m guessing the rest of April will get postponed, too.)

Postponed Until When?

There’s no news on when they will be reschedule, or how.

Some courts have adopted call-in hearings. No word on that here.

What do I need to do?

The bankruptcy trustees are still nagging us to get the bank statements in on schedule. So if you haven’t sent us your bank statements or your 2019 tax papers, please send those in to your paralegal.  And I’m guessing they will want you to send in a proof of your drivers license and social security card. So take that picture now, so you have it. (Or scan, if you have a scanner.) 

Don’t forget to take the second class.

And if you haven’t yet, don’t forget to take the second class, at Moneysharp.

 

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23

Mar 2020

Many Foreclosures Get a Virus Hold

Posted by / in Blog, Weekly Posts /

The Federal Government is Pausing Foreclosures on Mortgages They Control.

Last week the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced a 60 day pause on foreclosures on mortgage loans the government controls. Those are mortgage loans controlled by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.  (Fannie and Freddie were government backed, private businesses. The government bailed them out during the housing crisis in 2008, and they are still pretty much government run.)

Are you wondering if this applies to your mortgage?

Both Freddie and Fannie have websites where you can see if they own your loan.

Here’s the Freddie lookup.

Here’s the lookup for Fannie.  

Foreclosure notice

In March, the government announced a 60 day foreclosure pause, on mortgages the government controls.

Does this apply to any other loans? FHA and VA

The 60 pause also applies to loans backed by the FHA–Federal Housing administration. There doesn’t seem to be any one place you can look up whether your loan is an FHA loan.  I sometimes see it on some credit reports. (Sometime’s isn’t much help.) Your closing papers when you financed the house are supposed to show that somewhere. And I guess you can call your mortgage servicer and ask.

The 60 pause also applies to loans backed by the VA.

 

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15

Mar 2020

Virus update–March trustee hearings cancelled

Posted by / in Blog, Weekly Posts /

Virus update–March trustee hearings cancelled.

No rescheduling plan has been announced yet. (Will there be a call-in plan instead??)

The Judges here in the Alexandria VA bankruptcy court have invited the lawyers to a conference call on Wednesday. We may know more after that.

Bankruptcy trustee hearings are at 1376 Duke Street

This is a picture of 1376 Duke St. Trustee hearings, which are held here, are suspended through March.

This announcement applies only to the trustee hearings.  Those are the ones that take place at 1725 Duke Street.  The court hearings, at 200 S Washington Street–those are still on.

 

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12

Mar 2020

After Bankruptcy, OneMain Offers Car Reaffirmation Negotiation

Posted by / in After Bankruptcy, Blog /

In the last few months, OneMain has been contacting me about reaffirmation negotiation on car loans.

That took me by surprise.

With the exception of Ford Credit, I’ve been strongly opposed to reaffirming cars.  Usually you can keep the car without reaffirming. and then give it back when your credit improves. I explain more about that, here. 

Car reaffirmation take it or leave it

Most car reaffirmations come to me on original terms, full balance, take it or leave it. OneMain is NOT doing that.

OneMain figured out that they don’t want you to give them the car back when your credit improves, so they are offering you a better deal now. Up ’til now, I had never seen a car finance company really offer car reaffirmation negotiation. They wanted people to reaffirm the entire balance at the current interest rate on a take it or leave it basis. 

But OneMain has come through with real balance and interest reductions. Taking a terrible loan and making it pretty good. If that’s on a car that you have been taking good care of–and been lucky to avoid problems with–then that makes sense.

Basically, here’s how this works. Get an accurate value on your car. Kelly Blue Book is one place. (Carmax offers on line, here.) We need to email OneMain, at this email [email protected], with the Blue Book value and say we’re willing to reaffirm based on that value at 6.0%.  

OneMain then will send back a reaffirmation on that basis. At least a lot of the time. (Sometimes I’ve seen them add a little.)

PS  I need to apologize to one of my clients last year, Kandy. Kandy believed OneMain’s offer when I thought it was just more smoke and mirrors. She was right and I was wrong. OneMain does seem to genuinely be willing to work out a new deal for you to keep the car.  This is my apology, Kandy.

 

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31

Jan 2020

Bankruptcy Solves Rod’s Security Clearance Problem

Posted by / in Blog, Weekly Posts /

Two weeks after filing bankruptcy, Rod got his security clearance.

Rod contacted me from a military base in the Midwest. The military wanted to give him a new assignment, in the DC area, with more responsibility. His wife and children had already rented a place and moved, while he was awaiting orders.

At the last minute, he couldn’t go.

Rod’s credit had gotten messed up with a repossession and he couldn’t get cleared to take his new assignment. So, he called me.

File bankruptcy to clear car repossession and get security clearance.

Rod’s credit had gotten messed up with a car repossession. So he could get his security clearance.

His chain of command told him he needed to file bankruptcy right away.

We got the papers signed and sent into the court within a week.

Five weeks later we met at his bankruptcy hearing. Rod told me he had been cleared to take the new job three days after his bankruptcy was filed. He was on the job in two weeks. Life was great.

 

Have you heard filing bankruptcy is bad for your security clearance?

Many people still believe that filing bankruptcy will damage your security clearance. (I talked to one just last week.)

Rod’s experience shows the opposite.

Now for sure, the best thing is to never get into financial trouble. But if you do, the military wants you to clear it up. NOT cover it up.

The chain of command really wanted Rod in that job. But they couldn’t get him cleared until he cleaned up his credit. Bankruptcy cleaned up his credit.

(Careful readers may have three questions. First, was Rod eligible to file in Virginia? Rod had signed a lease three months before, and had moved his family. I said Rod became a resident when he signed the lease. And nobody had any reason to question it. Second, did I have Rod sign the papers without ever meeting him in person? Yes I did. That’s strongly discouraged, but since he was away on military assignment, I decided in this case it would be OK. And I was careful to get enough ID I was sure I knew who I was talking to. Third, is this typical? No. I’ve NEVER heard of a security clearance problem being fixed in three days. Obviously the chain of command really wanted Rod available for this job.)

 

 

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30

Jan 2020

Right After Bankruptcy, Carla Signed on a Car Loan

Posted by / in After Bankruptcy, Weekly Posts /

Right After Bankruptcy, Carla Signed on a Car Loan and She’s Probably Gonna Lose Her House

I tell people please please please, do not get a car loan until at least two years after your Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

 

Two years after bankruptcy, I’m seeing people get car loans in the 6%-8% range. Three years in the 2%-4% range.

 

So please please please do NOT tie yourself to a 24% car loan right after filing bankruptcy. Here’s a true story that tell you why not.

 

after bankruptcy car loan

Please please please do not tie yourself to a 24% car loan right after bankruptcy.

Carla filed bankruptcy with me in 2014. Six months later, she co-signed on a car loan for her sister. The loan was financed by Credit Acceptance, at 24% interest. 

 

After a year, the sister stopped paying. Carla paid for a while, but when she stopped, or course that car got repossessed January 2017.

 

Fast forward to 2019. Credit Acceptance gets a judgment for $8600, attaches that Judgment to Carla’s house, and puts a garnishment on her pay check.

 

Carla is stuck. She can’t afford the house payment while being garnished. It’s too soon to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, again. And if she could, the equity she’s built up since 2014 means the bankruptcy court would take and sell her house. And while she’s eligible for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy payment plan, she can’t afford that payment, either. (Under Virginia law, with terrible equity protection for single people, her Chapter 13 would have to pay all her debts in full.)

 

Two mistakes. First co-signing for someone whose credit was worse that hers!! Second, letting the dealer arrange financing at a terrible rate.

 

If you have to finance a car shortly after bankruptcy, shop for the car loan, before you shop for the car.

While it’s especially important right after bankruptcy, that’s always good advice. Shop for the car loan, before you shop for the car. (Unless the factory is having trouble selling their cars, dealer financing will always be more expensive than the best loan you can get for yourself.)

 

Sometimes, some people have no choice. They have to finance a car just a few months after bankruptcy. If you really have to, here are some of the places you can look.

 

722 Redemption Funding. These people are in the business of car loans immediately after bankruptcy is filed. they will put you in a bad loan; but probably a much better loan than the horrible loan a car dealer would recommend.

Bankruptcydrive.com is a new company that contacted me recently. I don’t know much about them.

Tower Federal Credit Union. Tower is the largest credit union in Maryland, and they make car loans to people in Virginia. I’ve seen them make loans to people right after bankruptcy that were better than I expected.

 

I’m not recommending any of these three. What I recommend is getting at least two years after your bankruptcy discharge before you finance a car. But if for some reason you can’t wait, shop for the loan before you shop for the car. And shop at least three places: try to get the best bad deal you can get.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NORTHERN VIRGINIA BANKRUPTCY LAW OFFICES