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 Personal Bankruptcy

People are often scared about what will happen to their car if they file bankruptcy and whether they will lose their car. This is question we get asked very often by clients in the Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Westchester and Long Island.

In a prior post ( What Happens to My Car in Bankruptcy ) we covered what happens if the car is paid for. In another post ( What Happens If I Am Financing a Car and I File Bankruptcy? ) we covered what happens if a car is being financed,
In this post we cover what happens if the car is being leased.

The discussion regarding the debtor’s equity in the car in our earlier post ( What Happens to My Car in Bankruptcy ) still applies to the equity in a car being leased (if any, such as if there is a $1 buyout option).
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People are concerned about what will happen to their car if they file bankruptcy. Clients in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Long Island and Westchester ask us this all the time.

In a prior post ( What Happens to My Car in Bankruptcy ) we covered what happens if the car is paid for. In this post we cover what happens if the car is being financed. In a later post we will cover what happens if the car is being leased.

What Happens If My Car Is Being Financed?

The discussion regarding the debtor’s equity in the car in our earlier post ( What Happens to My Car in Bankruptcy ) still applies to the equity in a car being financed.

With that in mind there are basically three options available to a debtor under the Bankruptcy Code, and fourth option not mentioned in the Bankruptcy Code that may also be possible. The options are:

1. Surrender Option (Give the Car Back). One option is to “surrender” or give the car back to the finance company. The debtor has the option to give back the car and discharge the debt (i.e., wipe out the debt in bankruptcy). Now days, however, many car finance companies are willing to try to restructure the loan with the debtor (see Reaffirmation Option below) because they don’t want the car back.
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This is a very common question we get from clients and prospective clients in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Westchester (car ownership seems to be lower among our Manhattan clients). The answer, like many things, involving the law, is that “that depends”. Is the car paid for, being financed, or is it being leased?

This is part of a three part series. In the first part we will address what happens if the car is paid for, in the second part what happens if the car is being financed, and in the third part what happens if the car is leased.

What Happens If My Car Is Paid For?

If someone files bankruptcy in New York and he or she owns a car outright the answer is pretty simple. They get to claim an “exemption” in the equity in the car (which currently is limited to $2,400). If the value of the car is Continue reading

A common question I get asked by people from the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, Brooklyn and Manhattan considering filing for personal bankruptcy is whether they should file chapter 7 or chapter 13.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is typically used to preserve a valuable asset, such as a house, car, or rental apartment when the debtor is past due on payment and facing a foreclosure, repo, or eviction lawsuit. In chapter 13 bankruptcy the debtor keeps making current payments as they become due and cures the past due portion over time through the chapter 13 plan.

For a debtor with no valuable asset to protect, unless his/her income is above the level where he/she fails the means test , or he/she would like to repay his/her creditors over time, it may make more sense to to file chapter 7 bankruptcy. The means test is based on average income and family size. In a prior blog post we discussed eligilibilty requirements for chapter 13 and issues and in a separate blog post discussed commonly encountered problems in NY chapter 13 cases.

In response to questions we received from clients and prospective clients in New York City, Bronx, Queens, Manhattan and Westchester, in a series of 4 posts we are exploring the most common alternatives to personal bankruptcy for New Yorkers faced with money problems.

A prior post on our blog I Live in New York and Am Considering Bankruptcy — Should I Try Negotiating with My Creditors First? covered negotiating directly with creditors and/or collectors.

A second post I Live in New York and Am Considering Bankruptcy — Should I Try Debt Settlement First? addressed so called debt settlement or debt negotiation.

A third post I Live in New York and Am Considering Bankruptcy — Should I Try Credit Counseling First?
addressed credit counseling as an option.

In today’s post we will explore whether doing nothing is a viable option and what it means to be judgment proof.

Instead of Bankruptcy Should I Do Nothing — Am I Judgment Proof?

Unfortunately many people with financial problems by default seem to select the “Do Nothing” approach. This is the “ostrich approach” (the large bird that can’t fly that sticks its head in the sand when there is trouble). Unlike fine wine, personal financial problems don’t age well (they age more like fish left out in the hot sun).

If you have financial problems and ignore them they are likely to follow a very predictable path – COLLECTIONS followed by COLLECTIONS LAWSUIT followed by JUDGMENT followed by JUDGMENT ENFORCEMENT including wage garnishment and bank account seizures. If you deal with the problem at any early stage you may be able to nip it in the bud before it becomes a collections lawsuit or a judgment. By the time you are faced with collections lawsuits and judgments, doing nothing will usually not help you. Your creditors will not sit back and do nothing – they will most likely move forward in the collections process to try to get judgments against you and to enforce those judgments.
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In response to questions we received from clients and prospective clients in Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Westchester, in a series of 4 posts we are exploring the most common alternatives to personal bankruptcy for New Yorkers faced with money problems.

A prior post on our blog I Live in New York and Am Considering Bankruptcy — Should I Try Negotiating with My Creditors First? covered negotiating directly with creditors and/or collectors.

Another prior post on our blog I Live in New York and Am Considering Bankruptcy — Should I Try Debt Settlement First? addressed so called debt settlement or debt negotiation.

In today’s post we will explore credit counseling. Future posts will explore other alternative to bankruptcy.

Credit Counseling

The Credit Counseling industry is more reputable than the so called Debt Settlement – Debt Consolidation – Debt Negotiation industry, in part because as a result of the amendments to the Bankruptcy Code in 2005 every individual debtor who wants to file for personal bankruptcy has to complete a credit counseling course from a credit counseling agency approved by the Office of the United States Trustee – which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice. Each federal judicial district has a list of authorized credit counseling agencies (you can find this list through the Bankruptcy Court’s website in your district).
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New York is expensive place to live. We have higher rent, higher taxes, and higher utility bills than many other parts of the country. Many people in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Long Island and Westchester are feeling the pressure of higher gas prices, higher food prices and stagnant wages. Faced with mounting credit card debt and other bills filing a personal bankruptcy case, whether chapter 7 or chapter 13, may or may not be the right solution depending on the circumstances. In a series of posts we are exploring alternatives to bankruptcy.

A prior post on our blog I Live in New York and Am Considering Bankruptcy — Should I Try Negotiating with My Creditors First? addressed negotiating directly with creditors and/or collectors.

In today’s post we will explore so called debt settlement or debt negotiation programs. Future posts will address additional alternatives.

Debt Settlement – Debt Consolidation – Debt Negotiation

The so called Debt Settlement – Debt Consolidation – Debt Negotiation industry is driven by advertising and high pressure sales tactics. It is not regulated in many states and is generally not licensed. Many of our bankruptcy clients have had disastrous results with debt settlement companies. The problem is that they advise you to stop paying ALL of your creditors and make payments to them (the debt settlement company). They send out a proposal to all of your creditors. In the meantime there is absolutely nothing whatsoever from stopping your creditors from suing you.
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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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As we see increasing amounts of foreclosure throughout the New York metropolitan area, in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island, Westchester County, Nassau County and Suffolk County, our office (Starr & Starr, PLLC in Manhattan) get many inquiries about whether bankruptcy can be used to save a home facing foreclosure or deal with an adjustable rate mortgage that has reset to monthly payments that the homeowner can no longer afford.

A recent post on our blog New York Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Eligibility Requirements and Issues addressed the limitations that Chapter 13 bankruptcy has. One very significant limitation is that secured debt can’t exceed $1,010,650. Many condo and co-op apartments and houses in New York (particularly Manhattan, Nassau County, Suffolk County and Westchester County) have debt in excess of this amount based on multiple secured loans and liens, such as first mortgage, second mortgage, and home equity loan (and sometimes also tax liens).

As we also detailed in our prior blog posting, Commonly Encountered Problems in NY Chapter 13 Chapter 13 can’t be used to modified the rights of a lender secured by the debtor’s principal residence. However, Chapter 11 bankruptcy can
Eligibility Requirements for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy:

Unlike Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 there is no eligibility requirement for Chapter 11.

How Chapter 11 Works

The goal of a Chapter 11 case is to confirm a plan of reorganization. That plan, which creditors get to vote on and is subject to Bankruptcy Court approval, details the debtor’s proposed treatment of creditors.

Modification of Loans. In Chapter 11 a debtor can seek to modify loans secured by his/her home (or other property). If the value of the debtor’s home has fallen significantly, the debtor may be able to split a mortgage creditor’s claim into two parts: one that is secured and one that is unsecured.
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