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The Pursuit of Happiness this 4th of July

July 3rd, 2017 at 7:00 am

This 4th of July follow the Declaration of Independence and claim your right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”


Your Life in Mid-2017

If you’re reading this on the Fourth of July weekend there’s a good chance you have some serious financial problems. Your debts may be overwhelming you. You’re worrying about them all the time.

Odds are you’ve probably been trying to improve your situation for a long time, maybe even for years. It’s really adversely affecting your life. It’s dragging down your personal relationships. You’re worried that the anxiety is harming your health, and then you worry about that, too! It’s hard to feel good about yourself with this all never far from your mind. You aren’t often relaxed or happy.

The Declaration of Independence is now 241 years old. It states at the beginning of the Preamble:  

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Isn’t it time to follow this self-evident truth: you’re in a vicious cycle and need to find a way to a better life, financial liberty, and the freedom to pursue your life dreams?  

Happiness to Pursue

You’d like to be able to afford what you need, what are important to you. You’d like to not be anxious about money all the time. You’d like feel hopeful, to have a future worth looking forward to.

You’d like financial freedom.

The First Step

It’s often true that the first step is the hardest. We often figure that solving a problem will be harder than it actually ends up being. Sometimes we’re pleasantly surprised after we take the first step that it’s not as hard as we’d thought. Then afterwards we wish we’d had the nerve to take that first step much earlier. We kick ourselves about how much grief we could have avoided.

So what’s the simple but crucial step here? What do you need to do avoid future unnecessary grief?

Simply find out what your legal options are about your debts.

Move from Fear to Realistic Options

You discover your options by seeing a lawyer who helps people like you solve their consumer and/or business debt problems.

This may be easier than you think. That’s because asking for this kind of help is usually free, at least to get started. Most lawyers who help people with their debts don’t charge for their initial consultation with you.

But Don’t You Just Get What You Pay For—Nothing!?

When you go to the right lawyer you will get valuable information and advice at the free initial consultation. At this meeting you will have the opportunity to tell the lawyer about your situation, your concerns, and your goals. The lawyer will usually outline your most likely legal options, along with their major advantages and disadvantages. This initial meeting is usually extremely valuable.

So why do most lawyers who help consumers and small businesses with debt problems not charge for their initial meeting?

First, let’s admit right from the start that it’s partly a marketing tactic. A lawyer naturally does hope that once you invest the time to meet with him or her you will more likely hire that lawyer if you decide to use a lawyer.

Second, when you’re in financial trouble you likely can’t spare the money to pay for shopping for a lawyer. So most bankruptcy lawyers recognize that they can’t charge for initial consultations. They need to give you a chance to check them out and get advice from them.

Third, most bankruptcy lawyers who serve debtors are genuinely compassionate folk. Most chose to specialize in this area of law for that reason. So they actually do care about you and want to help you have a happier life.

So it’s only sensible to take advantage of their free offer.

Be Selective

At your initial meeting with a lawyer, you’re “just shopping” but doing so seriously. It’s a big investment of your time, so learn as much as you can.

Of course you have absolutely no obligation to continue working with that lawyer. You are asking for information and advice, and maybe looking for a lawyer to help you.

So during and after the initial meeting ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did the lawyer listen carefully to you and get all the necessary information about you and your finances?
  • Did he or she present your options clearly? Did you have a chance to ask questions about them that were answered in an understandable way?
  • Do any of the options sound practical and worth doing?
  • Was the lawyer considerate towards you, respectful, help you feel comfortable?
  • Was the lawyer knowledgeable but able to communicate in a way that made sense to you?
  • Were you comfortable with him or her? Do you feel like you could trust him or her? Were you and the lawyer a good fit?

Don’t Bankruptcy Lawyers Always Recommend Filing Bankruptcy?

No. That would go against their ethical and legal obligations to you.

Lawyers are strictly required to serve you. It is illegal for them to pressure you into any option at all. Their role is to advise you of your options, and your advantages and disadvantages as to each one. They must provide this advice without considering their financial self-interest.

If they do anything different they can be sued for malpractice for giving bad advice (as lawyers quite regularly are). Or they could lose their law license, and thus their livelihood.

This all true even as to a free initial consultation. When you have a lawyer-client relationship, it doesn’t matter what your financial arrangement is with the lawyer.

Crucially, a lawyer’s job is to lay out the options so that YOU can make an informed decision. The lawyer doesn’t tell you what to do or make you do anything. That’s your choice. Sure, the lawyer’s job is to advise you, and usually to make recommendations based on your circumstances. But it’s not to make decisions for you or to make you do anything.

If the lawyer you meet seems to be putting any uncomfortable pressure on you, find another one who respects your appropriate role as the decision-maker.

Take that First Step

On the 5th of July call a lawyer to set up a consultation meeting. And go to that meeting. You will almost certainly come away from it much, much better informed about your options.

You will very likely be able to get out of your vicious cycle and find a way to a better life. You’ll finally get the freedom to pursue happiness.

 

The Real Number One Reason for Bankruptcy Filings

February 18th, 2015 at 12:13 pm

medical care and bankruptcy, San Antonio bankruptcy lawyerHistorically, filing for bankruptcy was typically not considered an option for many people who found themselves struggling with mounting and uncontrollable debt. The stigma attached to bankruptcy was one of shame and failure. However, over the past decade or so, that stigma began to fade as many people realized that bankruptcy was often the only solution to the financial crisis they found themselves in.

In 2012, over 1.2 million people in this country filed for bankruptcy. Prior studies have shown that the leading causes of bankruptcy are medical expenses, unemployment, unexpected life events, and credit card debt.

But just how much of role do medical expenses play in causing people to have to file for bankruptcy? Is it actually one of the leading reasons as we have been led to believe? Many analysts and studies point to the high price of medical care–not only for people who have no medical insurance–but also for people who do have medical coverage as the number one leading cause. It has been cited as the cause of sixty percent of bankruptcy filings each year. However, this statistic was actually garnered from a 2007 Harvard University study. A recent study reached different a conclusion.

The Center for Consumer Recovery analyzed over 3,000 bankruptcies which were filed in 2012. The research team looked over each bankruptcy petition and credit report of each participant, as well as conducted an interview with each one. They found that medical expenses were not the leading cause of the bankruptcy. Instead, in 78 percent of the study cases, it was debt litigation that resulted in the bankruptcy filing.

Three-fourths of participants shared the common experiences of harassment form collection agencies and debt collection companies, including threats of lawsuits. It was these threats and harassment that forced the decision to finally file for bankruptcy.

If you are being threatened and harassed by creditors, bankruptcy may be the best option for you. Contact an experienced bankruptcy lawyer in San Antonio today for a free consultation.

Debt Coping: What to Do When a Child Passes Away

March 31st, 2014 at 12:45 pm

student loan debt, San Antonio bankruptcy lawyer, San Antonio bankruptcy attorney, Texas lawyerGoing through the process of grieving a child is devastating for any parent. However it can be even more challenging to move on when private student loan debt follows that individual after the child has passed away.

While most federal student loan debt is wiped out when a person passes away, private lenders may try to go after family members. If you are trying to cope with this situation, you may have a way out: bankruptcy.

Just ask Francisco Reynoso of California. His son died in a car accident in 2008, but Reynoso was on the line for six figures of student loan debt for which he had cosigned. With an income of just $21,000 per year, Reynoso was trying to grieve the loss of his child while avoid collection calls and demands from private lenders.

Some of the debt had been transferred to private investors outside of the original lender, making it difficult to identify which company was connected with each debt. Reynoso wasn’t even sure whether it was possible to negotiate settlements because he did not know who had taken over the loans.

Ultimately, he felt backed into a corner, unable to meet the payment demands. He decided to go through bankruptcy so that he could finally wave goodbye to the loans and lenders and instead focus on grieving his son and healing.

Parents taking on co-signing responsibilities are likely not concerned about having to make these massive payments in the future because they expect the child to get a job after graduation, rather than expecting them to pass away.

A child who passes away may leave behind big private student loan debt that is impossible for parents to pay off. In these cases, bankruptcy can provide a way out and a fresh start. If you would like to know how the process can help you, contact a Texas bankruptcy attorney today.

What is the Texas Homestead Exemption?

January 12th, 2014 at 4:27 pm

illinois texas homestead exemption lawyerBefore heading into a personal bankruptcy, it is helpful to know as much as possible about federal and state laws and rules affecting your case. Texas has very unique homestead laws that you should know about before petitioning for bankruptcy. If you are thinking about bankruptcy as an option, talking over your situation with an attorney could be extremely helpful for getting your questions answered and putting you at ease.

If you file for bankruptcy, you can protect the total value of your home under this exemption. It’s important to note that there are several critical stipulations in order for a homeowner to be eligible for this exemption. A rural homestead for the head of the family cannot be more than 200 acres including the space the property is located on and a single adult cannot claim any more than 100 acres. In an urban area, the space is limited to ten acres.

In Texas, you are able to choose between the federal bankruptcy homestead exemption or the state exemption, but you cannot flip back and forth between these two systems. You have to elect whether to move forward with state exemptions or federal exemptions for your whole case. If you decide to use the Texas homestead exemption, you have to submit a form to the County Recorder’s Office prior to filing for bankruptcy.

You will be looking for a form titled “Application for Residence Homestead Exemption” and you might need to contact your local appraisal district for more specific information. If you don’t file this paperwork on your own, the court can do it for you, but bear in mind that they will charge you the fees and expenses for doing so.

If you are considering bankruptcy in Texas and would like more of your questions answered about property exemption, contact a San Antonio bankruptcy attorney today for a consultation.

State of Economy in Texas Remains Political Issue

November 21st, 2013 at 2:08 pm

With the gubernatorial race upon us, and local elections being decided throughout the country, the public will surely continue to be inundated with political ad campaigns and candidates’ appearances throughout the region. One of the most discussed issues involves Texas’ economy, and the correlated issues of unemployment rates and the public debt.

 According to My San Antonio, Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for the 2014 GOP gubernatorial nomination, stated during a recent campaign appearance that Texas’ debt ranks as the second highest among large states in the U.S., while San Antonio holds the highest debt of any city within the state. While this state of affairs is concerning, especially considering the recent actions of cities in financial crisis in other parts of the country, perhaps the public can find some reassurance in the fact that the elections will call attention to these issues and potentially produce proposed resolutions.

Unfortunately, considering the state of economic affairs in the state of Texas, it is not surprising that the citizens of Texas also experience financial strain. While the proposition of filing municipal bankruptcy is something that is generally considered as a last resort and is something to be avoided, individuals do not always have other feasible options. However, bankruptcy should not always be viewed as a negative process, as bankruptcy can offer not only debt relief for those who file, but a fresh start at a positive financial future.

Individuals generally file either a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition, depending on their intentions and the facts and circumstances surrounding their particular situation.  In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the petitioner obtains a discharge of his or her debt in exchange for surrendering certain items of property that will later be sold to satisfy their debt.  The bankruptcy code allows for certain exemptions that can be used to protect some items of the petitioner’s property from being surrendered.  In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the petitioner agrees to a repayment plan which provides for the petitioner’s debt to be repaid over a period of time, which can also include avoiding foreclosure by entering into a payment plan for the amount that is past due on the petitioner’s mortgage.  The petitioner’s specific repayment plan will depend on various factors, including income, total amount of debt, and types and the extent of other property they own.

The bankruptcy process can be overwhelming and complicated.  An experienced bankruptcy attorney in San Antonio can help guide you through the process and offer assurance in a stressful time.  Contact us today to discuss your options in filing for bankruptcy, and for advice in how to seek relief from financial difficulty.

 

A New Baby Could be a Good Time for Financial Fresh-Start

November 4th, 2013 at 11:01 am

texas-bankruptcy-fresh-startThere are usually all kinds of planning and important decisions to be made when a couple has a new baby on the way.  And many of those plans are expensive ones.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), it costs a middle-income family almost a quarter of a million dollars to raise that child from infancy to age 18 – and that’s excluding college tuition.

The UDSA’s new report breaks down as follows:

  • Families earning between $60,640 and $105,000 (pretax) will spend $241,080.
  • Families earning less than $60,640 will spend $173,490.
  • Families earning more than $105,000 will spend $399,780.

The report cites the two largest expenses as housing (33 percent) and child care/education (23 percent).  The third-highest expense is food (18 percent). Although parents may be tempted to overspend in other areas, none of these three categories are arbitrary ones.

For parents already struggling with significant debt, the increase costs may be overwhelming. For example, before baby, both parents are working full-time yet still unable to keep up with debt obligations every month. After the baby is born, a good portion of that net income is drastically reduced and paid for daycare tuition.

According to a study done by the Center for American Progress, in 2010, among families with children 44.8 percent were headed by two working parents and another 26.1 percent were headed by a single working parent. A good quality, licensed daycare can cost more per year than college tuition.

This may just be the time to consider whether or not filing for bankruptcy protection may be the best option in being able to handle all the new and unforeseen expenses that arrive along with the new baby. Contact an experienced San Antonio, Texas bankruptcy lawyer today to find out what your options are and why this may be the best financial decision for you and your new family.

What Does an IRS Tax Levy Mean in Texas?

October 30th, 2013 at 10:19 am

san-antonio-irs-tax-levySince the economy has taken a turn for the worse, the IRS has be relatively aggressive in coming after income tax debt. If you are being contacted by the IRS about existing tax debt and you are feeling overwhelmed with your finances, you need the advice of a San Antonio bankruptcy attorney.

The IRS can use levies to pay your taxes if you do not make payments or arrangements for payments to cover a tax debt. The IRS can take and sell any type of personal property that you own or have interest in. This includes the cash loan value of your life insurance policy, commissions, your wages, bank accounts, licenses, rental income, dividends, and retirement accounts. The IRS may also seize and sell property such as houses, boats or cars.

The tax levy can be completed after the IRS assessed the tax and provided you with a Notice and Demand for Payment, you refused to pay the tax or ignored the notice, and you received a “Final Notice of Intent to Levy and Notice of Your Right to a Hearing.” Generally, you will receive this last piece of information about 30 days before the levy. Taxes are extremely complicated and contacting the IRS may not clear up your questions. This is a sign to reach out to a bankruptcy lawyer.

If you are being contacted by the IRS about an impending levy, now is the time to act. The automatic stay provision of bankruptcy will stall all attempts by creditors to collect on a debt. Filing for bankruptcy is one way to stop the attempt to levy you as a result of an outstanding tax debt.

You should only work with a professional who understands the challenges of an IRS tax levy. If you’re ready to talk about bankruptcy and your opportunity to get a fresh start in life, contact an experienced Texas bankruptcy attorney today.

Which First, Divorce or Bankruptcy?

September 29th, 2013 at 8:00 am

courtMoney is a major source of tension for any marriage.  It may not be the cause of a divorce but financial arguments can add to the stress on any couple.  Especially if that pressure is compounded by bills that are not being paid and calls from creditors.  As much as financial troubles can be the cause of divorce, divorce can also be the cause of bankruptcy.

Given this close relationship to two of the most stressful events that might occur in life, it is important to plan ahead.  The first consideration is which you should do first, file for divorce or for bankruptcy.

The fees for filing for bankruptcy are the same regardless if you apply separately or together.  That means you can potentially save money if you file with your soon to be ex-spouse.  It should be mentioned to your bankruptcy attorney that you will divorce soon, that way there is no conflict of interest.

The next step is to consider what type of bankruptcy to file for, Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.  Since a Chapter 7 bankruptcy means that you sell your property and assets to repay your debts.  This is an easy and quick bankruptcy to complete before divorcing your partner.  Chapter 13 is a long term repayment program.  This would be difficult to complete without your spouse in the same household.  A Chapter 13 bankruptcy should be filed individually after the divorce is finalized.

If you need a restart financially, it makes more sense to file for bankruptcy before filing for divorce.  One of the major sticking points in divorce is the division of property.  By filing jointly, you may be eligible for more exemptions because you are still married.  But assets are not the only thing that gets divided, but debts do too.  If you are looking for a new start both in your finances and your love life, then contact a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney in San Antonio today.

A 341 Meeting in Texas: Bankruptcy Basics

September 22nd, 2013 at 10:58 am

Deciding whether or not to file for bankruptcy can be one of the most important decisions a family makes. Some families put off the process as long as possible hoping to avoid the stigma that comes with filing for bankruptcy, but in many cases it’s the easiest, simplest, and most effective way to recover from financial insolvency. Following the financial crisis of 2008, from which many Texans are still recovering, bankruptcy became a more important option than ever.

But it’s a complicated process, one that has many different steps and processes depending on which type of bankruptcy the debtor is filing. Though local rules govern each bankruptcy court, the overall procedure of filing bankruptcy is overseen by Federal Rules under the Bankruptcy Procedure, set forth by the U.S. Court system and laid out in the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. There are two main types of personal bankruptcy: Chapter 7, in which the debtor liquidates his assets and his debts; and Chapter 13, in which the debtor goes through a debt reorganization process. In a Chapter 7 filing, the debtor never appears in court, and only sees the judge if an objection is raised in the case. In a Chapter 13 filing, the debtor will likely appear before a bankruptcy judge only at a plan confirmation hearing.

The debtor, in fact, has very little formal dealing with the bankruptcy filing at all. Usually, the only meeting at which a debtor must be present is the “meeting of creditors, which is usually held at the offices of the U.S. trustee,” according to the U.S. Court website. This meeting is informally known as a “341 meeting.” It is section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code that requires a debtor to answer questions to creditors about both assets and debts.

According to publication released by Dallas and Ft. Worth trustees, a 341 meeting in Texas is pretty simple for the debtor. Attendees will be asked to state their appearances, and the meeting process will be explained to the debtor. The debtor will be sworn in, and all personal information (as well as prior filings) will be verified. Clients MUST bring “valid proof of identity and social security number.” Though the meeting is pretty straightforward for a debtor, but the process cannot be completed effectively without an experienced bankruptcy lawyer.

If you or someone you know is considering filing for bankruptcy, don’t go through it alone. Contact a dedicated Texas bankruptcy attorney today.

 

How Payment Methods Influence Consumer Spending Habits

September 14th, 2013 at 10:44 am

multiple credit cards

Americans say that they are spending less money on extras like restaurants, bar tabs and the like compared to 2012.  That is according to a survey conducted by the consumer research team Mintel.  They surveyed Americans about consumer spending habits for thirteen different categories.  The only two categories that consumers admitted to spending more on were groceries and household care items.

This might not be the case according to consumer spending data.  That research has shown that spending has increased for several of the categories surveyed by Mintel by as much as five percent.  This discrepancy could be caused by a small percentage of consumers who have spent more money on luxury and big ticket items.

It could also be caused by the confusion resulting from having so many ways to pay for things.  These days, each consumer has access to multiple lines of credit and multiple choices for paying for items.  There are credit cards, debit cards, pre-loaded cards, cash, checks and many others which can result in a lot of spread out debt.  While it is normally good to have many options, there is one case that it may be better to have only one option.

If you are trying to spend less and save more, having just one account can result in fewer bills to pay.  That is according to a study that was published in the Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes journal.

The study was set up to include over 90 people.  Half of the people were given only one account with a set amount of money to do some online shopping.  The other half was given the same set amount distributed over multiple accounts.  Overall, those people with multiple accounts ended up spending 10 percent more than those with only one account.

It seems that over more accounts, people are able to rationalize their purchases.  If a misperception of your debt has led you to problems with debt collectors, consider filing for bankruptcy.  Contact an experienced bankruptcy attorney in San Antonio who can help you see if bankruptcy is right for you.

Call today for a FREE Consultation

210-342-3400

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