To Our Clients & Prospective Clients -- As of March 18, 2020, Starr & Starr, PLLC remains open for business during the current Corona virus (COVID-19) crisis. We remain in communications with our clients by phone, email and our secure file share site. We are scheduling telephone consultations by phone and video chat. At this time the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts, the U.S. District Courts and New York State Court system are all open. We are continuing to file new cases and process our existing cases.

We hope everyone stays safe throughout these difficult times.

Articles Posted in Chapter 11

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress amended the Bankruptcy Code and passed the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” also known as the “CARES Act”, which was signed into law by the President on March 27, 2020.  Specific amendments were made to Subchapter V of Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code to change and expand the availability of small business bankruptcy relief.  Subchapter V is a relatively new section of the Bankruptcy Code that became effective earlier this year prior to the COVID-19 outbreak to make it easier for small businesses to successfully reorganize under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.  Under the regular provisions of Chapter 11 there are significant challenges and obstacles for small business debtors to successfully reorganize in Chapter 11.

The new Subchapter V was enacted on August 23, 2019 as part of the Small Business Reorganization Act (“SBRA”), which became effective on February 19, 2020.  Under SBRA the debt limit or cap for debtor eligibility for Subchapter V small business debtors was $2,725,625.  Under the CARES Act this has been increased to $7,500,000.  However, the CARES Act contains a sunset provision, and will expire one year after March 27, 2020.  So after March 27, 2021 the SBRA eligibility limits will go back down to $2,725,625.

Both individuals and business entities (such as corporations or LLCs) are eligible to file as small business debtors under SBRA (as modified by the CARES Act).  However, at least half of the debtor’s total debt must come from business activity.  So for an individual debtor who has a mix of business and consumer debt (i.e., non-business related debt for personal, family and household reasons), as last 50% of the total debt must be business related.

A common question we get from our clients and prospective clients in New York City, Nassau. Suffolk and Westchester Counties is whether they will be able to keep their homes if they file for personal bankruptcy.

This is Part II of a two part series on this issue. In Part I we looked at the information we need to answer the question of whether a debtor will get to keep his or home in bankruptcy. In this Part II we will look at different bankruptcy strategies that can be used in different situations.

1. Chapter 7 to Wipe Out Unsecured Debt. For many people considering bankruptcy who own a home, the problem is not that they can’t pay the mortgage, but that all of their debts combined are too much for them to pay. They may have enough to pay their living expenses and the mortgage, but not also make credit card payments. In that situation, assuming that the debtor has equity less than his or her applicable homestead exemption (discussed in Part I), a chapter 7 personal bankruptcy filing may be used to wipe out the unsecured debt. There are specific requirements for chapter 7, and not everyone will necessarily will be eligible for chapter 7. However, even if you own a home there is a still a good chance that you are eligible for chapter 7.
Continue reading

A common question we get from our clients and prospective clients in New York City, Nassau. Suffolk and Westchester Counties is whether they will be able to keep their homes if they file for personal bankruptcy.

This is Part I of a two part series on this issue. In this Part I we will look at the information we need to answer the question of whether a debtor will get to keep his or home in bankruptcy. In Part II we will look at different bankruptcy strategies that can be used in different situations.

1. Value of the Home. This is the critical starting point question. It is always surprising how many people considering bankruptcy are not aware of the current fair market value (FMV) of their home (i.e., house, condo or cooperative apartment). Anyone considering a personal bankruptcy case needs to obtain current and accurate information regarding their home’s present value (FMV). Free online home value estimates (such as zillow.com) are not useful because they will not be a trustee or bankruptcy judge as evidence of value. A Broker’s Price Opinion is a good potential starting point However, the best evidence of current market value is a written appraisal report prepared by a licensed appraiser. In NY the current fee for an appraisal is about $350 – 550 depending on the whether the house is a single family, two family or three family house.

2. Debt on the Home. In addition to the current fair market value of the home anyone considering a personal bankruptcy filing needs to know how much secured debt there is on the home. Secured means that the loan has a mortgage on the property (such as a first mortgage, second mortgage, and/or home equity line of credit). A payoff demand from the lender is the best evidence of the current balance of a loan. In addition, any other liens or encumbrances, such as tax liens or judgment liens need to be considered. If the debtor isn’t sure whether or not there are other liens on his or her home a title report may be needed.
Continue reading

1. The Bankruptcy Court is a Court of Limited Jurisdiction.

Upon the commencement of a bankruptcy case the automatic stay goes into effect. The automatic stay is a mandatory injunction of the bankruptcy court that prevents to commencement or continuation of litigation against the debtor (person or entity that has filed for bankruptcy).

The bankruptcy court, however, has limited subject matter jurisdiction. This means that there are certain subject matters that the bankruptcy court does not have jurisdiction over. For example, the bankruptcy court does not have jurisdiction to determine criminal, family law or probate matters, among others.

In addition, the statutory grant of jurisdiction to the Bankruptcy Code provides that the bankruptcy court does not have jurisdiction to enter final orders in personal injury or wrongful death matters. A bankruptcy judge has jurisdiction to make findings of facts and conclusions of law based on the record before the court, and based on this the United States District Court in the district where the bankruptcy case is pending has jurisdiction to enter final orders. In this regard a bankruptcy judge’s jurisdiction is similar to that of a United States Magistrate Judge (the underlying reason for this is the distinction made between judges appointed under Articles III and IV of the Constitution).
Continue reading

A question that we get from time to time from clients and prospective clients in Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn and surrounding counties is whether if they file for bankruptcy some one will come search their house or apartment.

From an attorney perspective this question is always troubling because whether or not someone will actually come search your house or apartment if you file for bankruptcy, the schedules and statement of financial affairs need to be answered completely and truthfully. There are currently many individuals serving time in federal penitentiary who have been convicted of “bankruptcy crimes” — such as concealing assets in connection with a bankruptcy case.

The bankruptcy trustee has the ability to obtain an order authorizing him or her to search the debtor’s house or apartment with the assistance of the United States Marshall — and break doors, locks and safes to conduct an investigation. Usually this type of order will be obtained on an ex parte basis — meaning without prior notice to you to prevent you.
Continue reading

A question many of our clients and prospective clients in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Westchester and surrounding counties have is why the fees some attorneys charge for consumer bankruptcy cases are much less than others?

Experienced and knowledgeable bankruptcy attorneys who specialize in bankruptcy tend to charge fees that are set fairly close to each other. In part this is because the fees charged by bankruptcy attorneys are not a mystery. Bankruptcy attorneys are required by law to disclose the fees charged to their clients on a statement filed with each bankruptcy petition. Bankruptcy attorneys who regularly practice in the Bankruptcy Court often will see these statements in the course of their practice and know what their colleagues are charging. Generally these fees reflect what the experienced bankruptcy attorney believes will be a reasonable and fair fee to cover the anticipated issues likely to arise in the debtor’s case.
Continue reading

An involuntary bankruptcy case is a bankruptcy case started against a debtor by its creditors. The debtor can be either an individual or a business entity. The creditors file a petition with the bankruptcy court and then if the debtor — if he, she or it doesn’t want to be in bankruptcy — can challenge that the requirements for an involuntary bankruptcy are not satisfied.

If a debtor has more than 12 creditors, and most debtors will have more than 12 creditors,
an involuntary bankruptcy requires 3 or more petitioning creditors that don’t have contingent claims, or claims that are subject to dispute as to liability or amount, totaling at least $13,475. So one creditor alone holding a judgment can’t file an involuntary bankruptcy against a debtor. It is usually a good idea to have more than 3 petitioning creditors so that if the validity of any creditor’s claim is challenged, such as that the claim is subject to bona fide dispute, there are still additional petitioning creditors with valid claims.
Continue reading

By the time many of our bankruptcy clients come to has they have exhausted most of their personal savings, and often their retirement assets. Some people invade these funds — that are intended to provide income in retirement — and use them to try make minimum payments on credit cards and cover living expenses. This is a very common scenario we see for people who have lost their job and unemployment has run out.

In bankruptcy, retirement assets, such as I.R.A.s and 401(k) are generally exempt. If someone intends to file bankruptcy and get a fresh start from their debts it doesn’t make a lot of sense to Continue reading

A common question we are asked by people living in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and surrounding counties is whether they can leave the state after filing for bankruptcy..

The answer is that there is no requirement that a debtor remain physically present in New York continuously after filing for bankruptcy until his or her case is closed. The debtor (person filing bankruptcy) will be required to attend the meeting of creditors in his or her case that is held approximately 30 days after the case is filed. In a chapter 13 case he or she will also be required to attend the confirmation hearing with respect to the chapter 13 plan held approximately four months after the case is filed. In a chapter 11 case there are various status conferences that the debtor may need to attend.
Continue reading

On April 30, 2009, Chrysler and its affiliates filed a chapter 11 case in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. On June 1, 2009, GM and its affiliates also filed a chapter 11 case in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

People and companies who are owed money from these companies have questions about what are their rights now that these companies have filed for bankruptcy. In a prior posting ( Help I am Owed Money By a Company that Has Recently Filed for Bankruptcy in New York) we have discussed the different types of claims in bankruptcy cases. In this post we will focus more specifically on the rights of creditors of Chrysler and GM.

1. Automatic Stay Prevents Collection, Litigation & Judgment Enforcement
Upon the commencement of a bankruptcy case the automatic stay goes into effect. The automatic stay is a mandatory injunction of the Bankruptcy Court that arises automatically by operation of law upon the filing of a bankruptcy case. The territorial reach of the stay is nationwide (and in theory at least — worldwide — although creditors in foreign jurisdictions will not always honor U.S. Bankruptcy Court orders). The stay is automatic because no prior notice or hearing is required before the stay goes into effect.

The stay prevents dunning and collection activity by suppliers and vendors to collect unpaid pre-bankruptcy invoices. The automatic stay prevents filing of lawsuits against the debtor relating to bankruptcy claims. If a creditor has a judgment against the debtor the automatic stay prevents efforts by the creditor to perfect (such as by filing judgment liens) or enforce a judgment (such as by execution through a sheriff).
Continue reading

Contact Information