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. The U.S. Bankruptcy Courts remain open and we are able to continue to file new cases. The U.S. District Court remains open and we continue to file new cases. The New York State Court system has temporarily suspended “non-essential functions” which includes most civil matters.

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Articles Posted in Chapter 7

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.
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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.
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A question we often get from clients and prospective clients is what can they do if they are owed money by a company that has filed for bankruptcy protection in New York. The answer depends on why they are money, when the debt arose, and what type of bankruptcy the company has filed.

1. Hierarch of Claims — Administrative, Secured, Priority & Unsecured

In bankruptcy cases not all claims are created equal. There is a hierarchy or rank order of claims that determines who comes first in the cash waterfall.

a) Administrative Claims. These are claims related to the administration of the debtor’s case. In a chapter 11 case administrative claims includes claims for goods sold or services provided to the debtor company after the date of bankruptcy filing. In addition, administrative claims in a chapter 11 case include post-bankruptcy use and occupancy charges related to the debtor’s real estate leases, and post-bankruptcy equipment and vehicle lease fees.

b) Secured Claim. A secured claim is a claim that is secured by collateral (i.e., a claim that has a lien on property of the debtor). Some common examples of secured claims are a mortgage secured by real estate, a vehicle loan secured by a vehicle, or a bank loan secured by the debtor’s assets or accounts receivable. In addition to these examples of voluntary secured claims, a debtor may be subject to involuntary secured claims, such as for tax liens or judgment liens.

c) Priority Claims. These are certain claims incurred prior to the debtor’s bankruptcy filing that are given priority (i.e., get paid ahead of other claims) as specified in the Bankruptcy Code. Common examples of priority claims are certain pre-bankruptcy wage and commission claims, certain taxes and other obligations to the government, and spousal and child support.
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The purpose of a personal bankruptcy is to get a “fresh start” by obtaining a discharge (wiping out) of debt. To assist debtors in obtaining their fresh start the law allows them to keep a modest amount of property. The property that an individual is allowed to keep in bankruptcy is known as “exempt” property.

New York has opted out of the federal exemption scheme contained in the Bankruptcy Code which means that an individual in New York is only allowed to claim exemptions available under New York law, plus certain federal exemptions other than those contained in the Bankruptcy Code.

Except for the homestead exemption, the exemption scheme in New York has not been updated in a long time and the exemptions are not pegged to inflation or the consumer price index (CPI).
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This is a question that we get asked a lot by our clients and prospective clients. The answer is “that depends” – it depends on what chapter (type) of bankruptcy we are talking about.

1. Duration of a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case
When someone asks how long will a bankruptcy take, they really mean how long is my involvement as debtor (person filing bankruptcy) going to be. The goal of a personal bankruptcy case is to get a discharge. From the debtor’s perspective that can be viewed as the end of the typical bankruptcy case, although the actual case may continue on without affecting the debtor (as discussed further below).

In the typical chapter 7 case involving an individual there are really only three dates we care about. The first is the date the bankruptcy petition is filed with the Bankruptcy Court because that starts the case (and the automatic stay). The second important date is the meeting of creditors, which is usually scheduled about four week after the meeting of creditors. The third date is sixty days from the date first scheduled for the meeting of creditors. That is the very earliest that a debtor is eligible to get her or her discharge (order wiping out debts). However, in actual practice the discharge order takes the Clerk time to process so that the discharge is routinely entered 70-90 days after the date first set for the meeting of creditors. So this means that the length or duration of a typical chapter 7 bankruptcy case is about 100 – 120 days Continue reading

Many people considering filing for personal bankruptcy in New York have not hired a lawyer before and are not sure how to select a lawyer. Since they are not familiar with lawyers and how to evaluate and compare one lawyer with another, they focus on the one factor that they understand – the cost. While cost is certainly one factor to consider when choosing a lawyer, it is not the only factor.

1. Bankruptcy Is More Complex Due to the 2005 Changes in the Bankruptcy Law.

In 2005 as a result of credit card company lobbying the Bankruptcy Code was extensively changed by Congress. These changed created new duties for bankruptcy attorneys and made representation of consumer debtors in bankruptcy cases much more complicated than it was before. As a result, those lawyers who only dabbled in bankruptcy stopped taking new bankruptcy cases. Those lawyers who specialized in bankruptcy cases raised their rates to account for the increased cost and complexity of cases after the 2005 changes.
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This is the second in a three part series of postings in which we examine preference claims in detail. In a prior post (Help I’ve Been Sued by a Bankruptcy Trustee in New York, What Do I Do Now?) we discussed what are bankruptcy preference claims. In this post we will examine the new value defense to a preference claim. In a subsequent post we will look at the ordinary course defense.

Elements of the New Value Defense

One of the potential defenses that a creditor/defendant can raise to a preference adversary proceeding commenced by a trustee or debtor in possession in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York is the ordinary course defense. The elements of this defense are:

a) after receipt of what would otherwise be a preferential payment;

b) the creditor extended new value to the debtor in the form of additional goods or services;

c) for which the creditor/defendant has not be paid by an unavoidable transfer.
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We often get calls and e-mails from people who have been sued by a trustee or debtor-in-possession in a chapter 11 case pending in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York and United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.

1. What is a preference claim?

In bankruptcy cases a trustee has the ability to file a lawsuit in the Bankruptcy Court – called an adversary proceeding – seeking to recover certain payments made by the debtor prior to bankruptcy as preferential.

The elements of a preference claim are:

a) a payment by a debtor to a creditor made within 90 days of bankruptcy filing (1 year in the case of payment to “insiders”);
b) for a debt that was owed to the creditor prior to the time the payment was made;
c) made while the debtor was insolvent; and d) that allowed the creditor to receive a greater recovery than if the payment had not been made and the debtor had instead been liquidated in a chapter 7 bankruptcy case and the creditor received payment as allowed by law in a chapter 7 case.

The first thing to understand about a preference claim is that the trustee (or debtor in possession in a chapter 11 case) is not challenging that you, the creditor, actually provided the goods or services for which you were paid. Instead, the preference recovery provisions of the Bankruptcy Code are intended to promote the Bankruptcy Code’s goal of “equality of distribution” among similarly situated creditors. The bankruptcy law, as drafted by Congress, views it as unfair that you had your invoices paid in the 90 days prior to the debtor’s bankruptcy filing while other creditors did not. The preference avoidance provisions of the bankruptcy law allow the payment to you to be potentially recaptured by the trustee (or debtor in possession in a chapter 11 case).
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A creditor can start an involuntary bankruptcy case in New York City against a debtor (either a person or business) who owes the creditor money. An involuntary bankruptcy case is a bankruptcy case started by creditors. If a debtor has more than 12 creditors who are owed at least $13,475 as a group, those creditors can file an involuntary bankruptcy case against the debtor if they can establish that the debtor is not paying his, her or its debts as they become due. Also the debts must be fixed and liquidated in amount and not contingent (meaning that nothing else has to happen to fix liability – such as a judgment in a personal injury case resulting from an accident). In addition, the claims cannot be subject to bona fide dispute as to liability or amount — if there is a valid and legitimate dispute about the debt it can’t be the basis for an involuntary bankruptcy case.

If a debtor has less than 12 creditors in all, one petitioning creditor owed at least $13,475 can commence an involuntary bankruptcy petition against the debtor.
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