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How to help someone who can’t pay his debts From budgeting to bankruptcy.

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Presentation on theme: "How to help someone who can’t pay his debts From budgeting to bankruptcy."— Presentation transcript:


2 How to help someone who can’t pay his debts From budgeting to bankruptcy

3 How to analyze the problem What can creditor legally do? –Now, and down the road No lawsuit filed –Convince debtor to pay –Force debtor to pay Lawsuit filed, no judgment –Pre judgment remedies Post-judgment remedies

4 Prejudgment remedies Private parties Remedy –Self help repossession Cars Furniture, appliances –Bank set off –Wage assignment –Constant dunning letters, collection calls Debtor response –Refuse to surrender Don’t expose car Don’t let them in house –Move account –Revoke it –If debt collector, FDCPA. If not debtor collector, just say no

5 Prejudgment remedies by government - replies short of bk Recoupment of welfare or unemployment benefits, and offset against federal benefit payments –Ask for waiver; negotiate payment plan Tax refund intercept –Reduce tax withholding Federal administrative wage garnishment Drivers license suspension, boot on car

6 Post-judgment remedies Wage garnishment Non wage garnishment and third party citations to discover assets Forced sale of real or personal property Orders entered after citation to discover assets

7 Debtor defenses State court litigation –Defense, don’t owe amount claimed. –Counterclaims –Sue third party, either in same lawsuit or separate lawsuit Exemptions –Claiming exemptions –Maximize exemptions – planning Bankruptcy !?

8 Illinois exemptions 735 ILCS 5/12-1001 & 12-1006 Necessary clothing Alimony & child support Retirement plans or accounts – unlimited Social security, UI & public assistance –Includes earned income credit Principal residence owned in tenancy by the entireties is exempt from unsecured debts owed only by one spouse

9 Illinois Exemptions 735 ILCS 5/12-901 & 5/12-1001 Homestead - $15,000 one; $30,000 two or more –Real or personal, owned or leased Wild card any personal property - $4,000 One motor vehicle - $2,400 Can stack unused wild card onto motor vehicle exemption

10 Exemption issues Limits on exemptions Exemptions don’t work against –mortgage foreclosure –Purchase money security interests –Debts for child support or alimony Exemptions work –Against unsecured debts – against judgment liens as long as home equity is less than exemption amount

11 Repayment options Voluntary agreements – to repay one creditor Creditor may be required to allow repayment over time US Dept of Education regulations on many student loans give right to affordable repayment plans –To repay many creditors Credit counseling/ debt management plans? Cf. Chapter 13

12 Repayment options Court ordered or supervised State Court –Small claims cases – S. Ct. Rule 288 –Debtor agrees to pay vs. creditor agrees to forbear if payment made Bankruptcy court –Chapter 13 –Chapter 7 with reaffirmation of selected debts

13 Change of pace Be tactful if you go down this path Can client reduce expenses? – Client may need help with budgeting, or in cutting back on life style – Client may be eligible for programs such as Medicaid or AllKids How about increasing income? –Second job? Get at tenant or boarder. Apply for government benefits. Benefits check up?

14 Analysis when money is owed. Doing “nothing” –The judgment proof client. FDCPA or judgment proof letter. Allay client fears –The vulnerable client Minimize loss./ hardship Payment plan; refinancing Threat of bankruptcy as negotiating tactic –Bankruptcy overreaction, not a credible threat

15 Is bankruptcy an option? Will debt be discharged? Will client lose non-exempt property, or have to pay value of property to prevent loss? Will client be forced into Chapter 13 repayment plan that is more expensive than just paying the debt? Will cost of bankruptcy outweigh benefits? –Filing fee, attorneys fees, administrative expenses –Effect on cost of future credit

16 Traps for clients Fraudulent transfers –Actual fraud –Constructive fraud Preferences –What are they? Cf. fraudulent transfers Failing to take full advantage of exemptions –Commingling exempt and non-exempt funds

17 More traps for clients Paying the wrong debts –Unsecured instead of secured –Dischargeable instead of non-dischargeable –Low interest instead of high interest –Balance transfers can have hidden fees –Paying persistent creditors Transforming dischargeable debts into nondischargeable debts –E.g. paying taxes with credit card

18 Still more traps for clients Bankruptcy fraud –Bankruptcy requires full disclosure –While many past financial sins are forgiven, must be completely honest during the bankruptcy Throwing good money after bad –Example – taking money out of 401(k) that is not enough to avert bankruptcy Bad timing

19 Timing can be everything Reasons to file sooner Deadlines to stop foreclosure, Eviction for nonpayment tax deeds, Loss of car sale 5/10/14 day notice runs out Right to redeem expires Before public or private sale

20 More reasons to file sooner If ongoing garnishment or utilities are off – every day counts a little bit If home equity is growing and will exceed homestead exemption – waiting only benefits creditors Involuntary transfer that can be set aside as preferential or fraudulent transfer –Can only go back so many days from filing bk

21 Timing – reasons to wait Expenses still exceed income No health insurance Recent credit card charges over $500 for luxury goods within 90 days Over $750 for cash advances within70 days Recent voluntary transfers Need to complete exemption planning Tax refund not yet received and spent down Income taxes owed will be dischargeable

22 Who can/ should file? Husband and wife can file joint petition –Joint filing fee same as for individual But may not need to –Co debtor stay may protect non filing spouse –Only one is vulnerable; can file later if needed Heirs and other non-signers can file –Debtor who owns property but didn’t sign mortgage can file Chapter 13 to save property

23 No right to dismiss Chapter 7 There is no right to dismiss Chapter 7 case If debtor is caught hiding assets, etc. can get worst of both worlds. –No discharge –Trustee takes assets and sells them –May lose right to exemptions

24 Slogan of the day Bankruptcy should be a last resort, but not a last minute decision

25 Purposes of Bankruptcy Code Fresh start –For the honest but unfortunate debtor Who can’t afford to pay debts – see “means test” Reorganization (Chapters 11, 12, 13) –Plan to pay at least some debts –Individual debtor retains property –Business can continue to operate and save jobs

26 Key concepts Automatic Stay –Protects debtor –Protects property of the estate Property of the bankruptcy estate –Broad definition– all property rights & interests Discharge –Injunction against collection of debts –Some debts may not be discharged

27 Automatic Stay Overview Automatic Broad scope –Related concept – extension of time When stay does not apply Relief from automatic stay

28 Extension of time Trustee has up to 60 days to take action if the time for such action had not expired when the case was filed. 11 USC §108(b) This can be used to get more time to redeem property taxes Debtor may get more time by filing Chapter 13.

29 Automatic Stay Notable exceptions Criminal and regulatory actions Establishing paternity Establishing or modifying alimony or support Collecting alimony or child support Post-petition debts

30 Exempt property Debtor keeps exempt property Property must be listed and claimed as exempt Illinois has opted out of federal exemptions Debtor can claim – Illinois exemptions – Non bankruptcy federal exemptions – complicated if moved from out of state in last 2 years

31 Discharge of debts Purpose – fresh start for debtor Discharge is injunction against collection attempts –Remedy for violation is contempt Doesn’t cover post-petition debts Must complete debtor education

32 Discharge Fresh start Utility service –Cannot be denied because of dischargeable debt –Must pay deposit but not old bill –If stolen service, Chapter 13 Drivers license –Restored if suspended for nonpayment of debt No discrimination by governmental units or employers

33 Discharge Exceptions to discharge Some debts are never discharged –Creditor can collect once automatic stay ends, does not need express permission from court Debts which are discharged unless creditor takes timely action in bankruptcy court Student loans are only discharged if debtor proves undue hardship in bankruptcy court –Alternatives – loan consolidation, deferrals

34 Discharge Debts that are never discharged Child support and alimony Criminal fines and restitution orders Drunk driving resulting in personal injury Trust fund taxes

35 Discharge Debts that may be discharged Income taxes ~ > 3 years, 3 months & 15 days old, return filed Debts where creditor fails to timely object –Fraud –Theft, embezzlement, breach of fiduciary duty –Willful and malicious injury

36 Discharge Chapter 13 enhanced discharge Chapter 13 need not pay 100% of unsecured debts Successful Chapter 13 discharges –Civil fines –Debts incurred to pay taxes –Property settlements and division of debts arising out of divorce

37 Discharge and secured debt Only personal liability is discharged Personal liability on a debt is discharged –Non filing co-obligors are still liable But valid liens on property survive Debtor not liable for any deficiency after repossession or foreclosure

38 Secured debts Chapter 7 – ways to retain property Avoid liens on some exempt property –Judicial liens that impair exemptions –Non purchase money liens on household goods Redemption (redemption lenders for cars) –Has to be at retail value, not wholesale Reaffirmation on original terms –As if bankruptcy never happened for this debt

39 Secured debt Chapter 13 options “Cram down” – If creditor is “under secured” – Pay value of collateral, not amount of debt – Plus interest – prime rate is starting point Can’t cram down most home mortgages –Can cure past default and maintain current payments Can’t cram down – cars bought within 910 days of filing – personal property bought w/in 365 days

40 Serial filings – waiting periods for getting another discharge Filing a Chapter 7 now, must wait – 8 years since previous Chapter 7 – 6 years since previous Chapter 13 Filing Chapter 13 now, no discharge if –Chapter 7 within 4 years –Chapter 13 within 2 years Measured from filing date to filing date

41 Case analysis – Chapter 7 Liquidation analysis –Is there non exempt property? Dischargeability analysis – Debts that can never be discharged – Debts that could be discharged in Chapter 13 Secured debts, leases – What property can debtor keep? – Could debtor keep property in Chapter 13? Disposable income analysis

42 Case analysis Chapter 13 Debtor may want to file Chapter 13 even if no discharge, to save property Unsecured debt that can be paid 100% even when other debts are paid less –Rent arrears if lease being assumed –Utility service obtained by fraud or theft (only the nondischargeable portion) –Long term debts not in default (student loans)

43 Will bankruptcy succeed? Chapter 13 –Why will client be able to pay debts, when couldn’t pay before? What is favorable change in circumstance? Chapter 7 –If underlying problem is negative budget, will client be in the same boat in a few years?

44 How to file Forms require full financial disclosure Credit counseling before filing case. “Emergency” filing can be done to beat deadline –minimal documents filed –15 days to file the rest Bankruptcy help desk – expanding hours

45 Credit counseling Has to be from approved agency Within 180 days of filing case Fee – approx $50 but waivers available Can be done by telephone or internet Better not to file case on same day as credit counseling –But if time is critical, file same day, and fight to keep case going

46 How to file What to file - fees Filing fee – Chapter 13 - $274 – Chapter 7 - $299 – Pay in installments – any chapter If can’t pay in installments, waiver of fee? –Fee waiver only in Chapter 7 case –Income less than 150% of poverty guidelines

47 Pre-bankruptcy planning When is it proper? Preventing or undoing client mistakes –Sanctions for improper actions are harsh None of the benefits of bankruptcy, all of the burdens Exemption planning is allowed (be reasonable) –Defrauding or hindering creditors is not File required tax returns

48 Denial of discharge and other sanctions Denial of discharge –Sanction for hiding assets, destroying records, and other misconduct in the bankruptcy case –Can’t discharge any debts in later Chapter 7 Bar to refiling another case –180 day bar if case voluntarily dismissed after creditor files motion to lift automatic stay –Court can bar refiling for debtor abuse

49 Safety & privacy issues Domestic violence –Bankruptcy filings are public records and are on internet –Sealing records/ protective orders – 11 USC 107(c) –Creditors meetings (§ 341 meetings) open to the public Loss of privacy –public records, available for 8 cents a page

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