Tag Archives: john

Can I Still Use My Credit-Cards if I am Considering Bankruptcy?

The use of credit cards before filing for bankruptcy can be considered fraudulent, endangering the dischargeability of the debt in question, your Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 discharge entirely, or even carry with it criminal fraud consequences.

To read more, click here to read our full article on credit card usage prior to filing for bankruptcy on the new Michigan bankruptcy blog of The Hilla Law Firm, PLLC.

If you are a southeast Michigan resident and are considering filing for bankruptcy, please contact us at (866) 674-2317 or john@hillalaw.com to schedule a free, initial consultation.

What Is The Means Test and How Does It Work in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

The Means Test is both the test for Chapter 7 bankruptcy eligibility and the means of determining whether you may file a 36 or 60-month Chapter 13 bankruptcy payment plan and potentially governing the amount of your monthly Chapter 13 plan payment.

To read more about the Means Test, click here to read our full article on the Means Test in Michigan Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy on the new Michigan Bankruptcy Blog of The Hilla Law Firm, PLLC.

If you are a southeast Michigan resident and are considering filing for bankruptcy, please contact us at (866) 674-2317 or john@hillalaw.com to schedule a free, initial consultation.

Am I Responsible for My Fiancee’s Debt After Marriage?

It may seem cold to suggest that couples considering marriage examine what their mutual debt-load will be after they marry as part of the process, but it is a fact that the debt belonging to one partner will affect the other throughout and, if it comes to it, after marriage. While I am not a family law attorney and do not handle divorce cases, I do encounter the issues created by pre-marital debt quite often in my work as a bankruptcy attorney. Both married couples and couples considering both marriage and divorce have many questions about the debt accrued by each partner individually, before and during the marriage, and by the couple as a unit during the marriage. For those in the not-yet-married category, by far the most common question I am asked is whether a partner, through marriage, will become legally liable for his or her partner’s pre-marital debt after marriage.

Michigan, unlike common property states like California, is an  equitable distribution state, which, in terms of assets belonging to marital partners, means, for divorce purposes, that a judge will decide what assets belong to each divorcing partner equitably. Typically, under this system, property belonging to a marital property prior to the marriage is held to belong wholly to that partner after the marriage, even if the partners cohabitated before marrying. There are many caveats and special circumstances altering this rule, but, in Michigan, this is the case generally.

Likewise, with regard to pre-marital debt, debts incurred wholly by one partner prior to the marriage will belong to that partner after divorce. Debts which are incurred during the course of the marriage, however, are joint debts, generally, regardless of whose name is attached to it. In Michigan, these debts will, like joint-assets, be divided equitably by the court according on the basis of such considerations as the length of marriage, child support requirements, and the level of financial contribution to the marriage by each partner, among many others.

Generally, then, a partner considering marriage needn’t worry about shouldering his or her fiancee’s pre-marital debt (unless they contribute to it or work to detract from it during the course of the marriage). However, that does not mean that there are no further implications of that debt upon the health of the marriage. Struggling with an overabundance of debt is the reason that many marriages fail. If one partner, prior to marriage, is overwhelmed by debt, it is possible that filing for bankruptcy prior to marrying will allow not only that partner to move forward and reconstruct his or her financial health but will also allow the marriage to get started out on solid footing.

A new marriage is by definition a shaky, uncertain thing. If you are a southeast Michigan resident considering marrying but are concerned about the effect your debt-load may have on your future spouse or your marriage in general, please contact me at (866) 674-2317 or john@hillalaw.com to schedule a free, initial consultation.

Can I Reaffirm My Car in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

This question seems to have been on a lot of people’s minds recently. Nearly every potential client who has contacted me in the past week has had a question about whether or not they could retain secured property such as a home or car if they filed a Chapter 7 rather than a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and, if so, how they could do it. As I’ve discussed previously on this blog, it’s a particularly pertinent question here in the metro Detroit area of southeast Michigan because of the area’s lack of viable public transportation. Fortunately, there are a few different ways to retain possession of one’s vehicle through the Chapter 7 process, although not all of them may be for the ultimate good of the debtor.

First, in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, it is possible to keep a car without striking a reaffirmation agreement with the loan lender. This is possible if you own the car outright and are not currently making payments to an auto loan lender on the vehicle. If that is the case, it may wholly or partially fit into either the state or Federal exemptions available.  Under the Michigan state exemptions, currently, $2775.00 may be exempted for an automobile. (Note that “exempted” means that this property or that dollar-value’s worth of property may be “exempted” from the bankruptcy estate that is created legally when a bankruptcy petition is filed and which contains all of your property except that property that is “exempted.”) So, if you own your car outright and its fair-market value is $2775.00 or less (as of this writing), it is simply property wholly owned by you that you may exempt. Under the Federal exemptions, which are used alternatively to state exemptions, the vehicle exemption limit is currently only $2440.00.

Second, a car may be “redeemed” in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In redeeming property during a Chapter 7 filing, the debtor makes a lump-sum payment to the creditor for the total fair-market value of the property. This allows the debtor to retain the vehicle free and clear of the obligation to make any future payments, during or after the bankruptcy process. However, many prospective Chapter 7 debtors do not have a sufficient lump-sum available at the time that the bankruptcy petition is filed, and, thus, redemption is not always a viable option.

Third, if you do not own your car outright and are currently making payments on it, it may indeed be reaffirmed in a Chapter 7 filing—but with some caveats.

A “reaffirmation agreement,” first, is an agreement that is struck between the debtor filing for bankruptcy and the automobile loan-provider (or home-loan mortgagee) stating that you are reaffirming the debt you owe to that loan-provider and that you intend to continue paying it either as-is or with modified terms. The reaffirmation agreement keeps the property in question and the terms of payment surrounding it out of the bankruptcy estate.  The agreement, essentially, stipulates that the debtor agrees to continue to be held liable for the full amount of the agreement, even after the bankruptcy discharge occurs, while the creditor agrees to refrain from repossessing the vehicle.

The reaffirmation agreement must be signed before the discharge takes place, and it must be filed with the bankruptcy court. If the debtor is represented by an attorney in his or her bankruptcy filing, the attorney must also sign the agreement, stating that he or she believes that the agreement will not pose an undue hardship to the debtor, and the attorney must further attest that the agreement was signed by the debtor voluntarily and free of any undue influence. If the debtor is not represented by an attorney, the bankruptcy judge must approve the agreement. Additionally, the debtor must file with the court a statement of income showing that remaining disposable income, after the bankruptcy, is sufficient to make the payments required by the reaffirmation agreement.

As to the caveats, there are many. Many attorneys will not sign a reaffirmation agreement for their clients—ever. The primary reason for this is that, when you sign a reaffirmation agreement, you deprive yourself of the opportunity to fully enjoy the protections provided by bankruptcy. It is possible that, at the time you sign a reaffirmation agreement, you feel that you are fully able to handle the continued payments after the bankruptcy discharge. However, hard times may roll around a second time, and you may find yourself unable to continue making those payments at some point after the discharge (and well before the 8 year time-span required between Chapter 7 bankruptcies lapses). At that point, the creditor may not simply repossess the vehicle but will also be able to pursue you to collect the entire amount of the loan—all of which would have been discharged in the bankruptcy without the reaffirmation agreement.

There are ways around this sticky system, however, that an experienced bankruptcy attorney can guide you through to the best possible result.

If you are a southeast Michigan resident and are considering filing for bankruptcy, please contact me at (866) 674-2317 or john@hillalaw.com to schedule a free, initial consultation.

What Happens to Gifts that I Make under Bankruptcy?

Gifts or transfers made in the 2 years prior to filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy can be extremely problematic, even if made with no intention to defraud anybody and with no idea in mind that you would be filing for bankruptcy in the future.

To learn more, read our full blog post here on gifts in Michigan bankruptcy and what the impact may be upon your filing—and upon your friends and family-members.

If you are a Michigan resident and would like to schedule a free, initial consultation with The Hilla Law Firm to discuss a potential bankruptcy filing, call us at (866) 674-2317 or email john@hillalaw.com to schedule a consultation.

Visit our Michigan bankruptcy website for more information about our firm.

Can I Discharge Traffic Tickets in Bankruptcy?

Traffic tickets may not be dischargeable in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, even if a debt is not fully dischargeable in bankruptcy, will allow you to repay the tickets at 0% interest over a period of 3-5 years.

Click here to read more about discharging traffic tickets in Michigan bankruptcy on The Hilla Law Firm’s new Michigan bankruptcy blog.

If you are a southeast Michigan resident and are considering filing for bankruptcy, please contact me at (866) 674-2317 or john@hillalaw.com to schedule a free, initial consultation.

If I File Bankruptcy, What Happens to Stuff That I’ve Pawned?

Property you’ve pawned may or may not belong to the “bankruptcy estate” that is created upon filing of your Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy from which personal assets may be liquidated, depending upon the amount of time that has passed since you pawned the property.

Click here to read more about pawned property in Michigan bankruptcy on the new Michigan bankruptcy blog of The Hilla Law Firm, PLLC.

If you are a southeast Michigan resident and are considering filing for bankruptcy, please contact me at (866) 674-2317 or john@hillalaw.com to schedule a free, initial consultation.