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Articles Posted in Chapter 7

Many New Yorkers are feeling the pressure of the high cost of living in Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Westchester and Staten Island and a painful combination of some or all of the following: high mortgage debt, high credit card debt, high gas prices, high medical bills, student loans and other debts are exploring their options. Filing a personal bankruptcy case, whether chapter 7 or chapter 13, may or may not be the right solution depending on the circumstances. Bankruptcy is not a panacea (cure all) and should not be viewed as the solution to every personal or business debt problem.

In a series of 4 posts we will explore the most common alternatives to personal bankruptcy, which are (1) negotiating directly with creditors and/or collectors, (2) so called “debt settlement” or “debt consolidation”, (3) credit counseling, and (4) doing nothing (ignore problems and hope they will go away).

In today’s post we will explore negotiating directly with creditors and/or collectors.

Negotiating Directly with Creditors and/or Collectors

This is certainly an option that should be explored. One problem for many debtors is that they often have too much overall debt to work out a payment plan with each creditor individually. If a debtor has a compelling hardship (such as major injury, illness and/or death in family affecting income, natural disaster, etc.) creditors may be willing to work with a debtor in reducing debt or permitting payment over time. Even without a major hardship some creditors may be willing to grant concessions.
If the debt has been turned over to a collection agency you should be aware that collectors are very aggressive in seeking payment (that is basically the essence of their job). Debt collectors typically will not agree to much in the way of discount or to stretch out payments by very much. Bankruptcy clients of ours often say they tried to work out a deal involving small payments over a long time (such as $50 a month for 3 years) and the collectors they dealt with simply were not interested. However, each collection agency and collector varies.
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As a result of the changes to the Bankruptcy Code in 2005 many people are confused about whether they are eligible to file personal bankruptcy.

As a result of credit card and bank lobbying, in 2005 Congress passed the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCA). While BAPCA changed the eligibility requirement for personal bankruptcy, the changes for the most part only affect a small minority of people.

Don’t Believe the Hype in the Debt Settlement/Debt Consolidation Ads

The debt settlement/debt consolidation industry, which is based on extensive advertising and high pressure sales tactics, would have you believe that you are no longer eligible to file personal bankruptcy in NY as a result of the 2005 changes in the bankruptcy law.
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Many people in New York, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Nassau and Suffolk Counties are in danger of losing their homes through foreclosure these days. Bankruptcy may be a good option for many of these people to try to save their homes. There are three different bankruptcy options available to individuals, chapter 7, chapter 13 and chapter 11. Today we will look at when chapter 7 can be used to stop a foreclosure.

NY Foreclosure & Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Once a debtor files bankruptcy the automatic stay goes into effect and prohibits the lender from continuing with the foreclosure. In chapter 7 bankruptcy a critical issue is whether the homeowner has equity in the home. Equity is the difference between the current fair market value of the home and all the mortgage liens on the property. In chapter 7 bankruptcy in New York the debtor is entitled to an exemption (i.e., gets to keep) up to $50,000 of equity in his/her home, or $100,000 if married and the home is jointly owned by debtor and his/her spouse. This is commonly known as a homestead exemption. If the equity is less than this there is no value for the bankruptcy estate to turn to cash to satisfy creditors’ claims. However, if a debtor has significant equity greater than the value of allowed exemptions then the chapter 7 trustee can seek to sell the home. In a sale by the chapter 7 trustee the mortgage(s) would get paid, the debtor(s) would get a check for the amount of their exemption, and the remaining money would go into the bankruptcy estate to be distributed to creditors by the trustee.

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