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07 Jan 2012

Many of you can immediately save yourself the time involved in reading the rest of this post: if you have unmanageable debt, you need a bankruptcy attorney.

There is a wide variety of on the market, such as so-called ‘debt resolution’ agencies and ‘petition preparers’. For the most part, these places will do their best to make you, the customer, feel as if they have everything entirely in hand, and that your filing will be routine.


The reality is far from the case. Frequently, the people who work at those agencies are unlicensed, uncertified, and sometimes even untrained!

A bankruptcy attorney knows that every case is unique, and it’s the time and energy that they put into each and every case that lets you take back control of your financial freedom.

Bankruptcy attorneys know the full extent of the law, and how best to prepare you to deal with it. Yes, you could potentially save money by using a cheaper, unlicensed company, but we’re not just talking about the money that you have right now, but about the money that you will have for the rest of your life.

If you come out of a bankruptcy with remaining debt or without your vehicle, you may find that you just fall right back into the same position you were in, except that this time, you won’t be able to file for bankruptcy again right away!

A bankruptcy attorney isn’t just for filing for bankruptcy, either. They can evaluate your entirely financial situation and determine whether or not bankruptcy would even be the best option for you.

Give it a try, and have a free consultation with an experienced and proven bankruptcy attorney today. Call (719) 520-0164 today!

17 Jun 2012

Statistics can be deceiving.

While recently-released figures seem to indicate that home prices are actually up, the reality is that we may soon see a glut of foreclosures in Denver, Colorado Springs and across the country.

Our Colorado Springs foreclosure lawyers know that it has a lot to do with people who are underwater on their homes, and yet are hanging on by their fingertips, hoping the market will do an about-face so they won't lose as much money. this means there are fewer homes actually on the market, which is driving down the supply, and therefore increasing the demand. There have even been bidding wars in a few cases.


When we look at the figures across the country, we see an increase of little more than 1 percent on home prices, when compared to a year ago. While this may seem minimal, you have to remember that the value of homes plummeted after the market tanked in 2008. The fact that it's inching up at all is seen as an improvement - until you really analyze what's going on.

Of course, it is good for those homeowners who are looking to sell right now. They're probably still going to take a loss, but it will be blunted by this short-term spike.

However, this is not going to last long-term because we still have  a large number of people who are on the brink of foreclosure. They may be making the minimum monthly payments, but just barely.

This is where our Denver foreclosure lawyers come in. First of all, if you're trying to remain in your home, we can look into helping you secure a loan modification, meaning we could fight for your loan amount to be lowered to what would be considered a fair market value.

However, there may be some situations in which it actually makes fiscal sense to default and allow the loan to go into foreclosure. Of course, that's not a decision you should make without the assistance of a skilled attorney, and we can help guide you through the process.

The other thing that is going to eventually work against these homeowners is that you have banks that are scrutinizing their loans more closely than ever, combined with a populace that has a higher track record of poor credit scores. This is ultimately going to drive down that demand.

28 Feb 2012

Nearly half of all Americans aren't able to save up as much money as they should, often necessitating debt relief in Southern Colorado and elsewhere in the country.

This is according to a recent poll which found about 45 percent of people have less savings than credit card debt.  Southern Colorado debt relief attorneys know that the economy is inching toward improvement, but many people are so deep in debt that they find it nearly impossible to claw their way out.


This most recent survey, from, Bankrate.com analyzed the spending habits of more than 1,000 adults, and looked at how much people have been able to save. What they found is that just 54 percent of U.S. consumers have more savings in case of an emergency than they do credit card debt. If and when an unplanned event or emergency happens, half the people in the country will be in serious financial trouble.

What's more, about 16 percent don't have any savings.

These figures represent about a 2 percent improvement over last year - not much to celebrate.

This kind of financial insecurity is harmful to the economy overall, experts say, because when people aren't able to save, they aren't likely to spend on more than what they need day to day. If they do, they are risking their own financial future, as having money stored away for an emergency can be critical in helping you avoid finding yourself crushed by debt.

Meanwhile, another survey found that Americans are having a hard time saving for retirement. In fact, almost half the country isn't saving enough to allow for a decent standard of living once they are no longer able to work. That survey also found that a third of Americans don't have enough to cover an unexpected doctor's visit or car repair. On average as a country, we're saving less than we used to.

Stephen Brobeck, the executive director of America Saves, said what this all collectively illustrates is that the recession has ended for a large number of families, particularly those in the lower income brackets. Working families are still struggling with a sagging housing market, sky-high unemployment rates and incomes that have stayed stagnant.

An experienced Colorado debt relief attorney can help.

11 Feb 2013

Let's face it; no one envisions a future that includes a bankruptcy filing.  But that shouldn't dissuade you from considering it when it is necessary.  As a Colorado bankruptcy lawyer, there is one question I hear almost every day, "Is there any way I can avoid filing for bankruptcy?"  And while this question is answered on a case-by-case basis, there are some ways to look at it objectively.

How complicated is it to file for bankruptcy in Colorado?

Generally, individual filings are rarely challenged by creditors and they won't require a lot of time in a courtroom.  In fact, once you file the forms and the state appoints a trustee, the process usually follows a certain pattern:  either a court-monitored repayment program or a process of asset recovery and distribution.  However, if you own a business filing for bankruptcy, courtroom litigation will be quite common.

How to hire a bankruptcy attorney

You may be wondering how someone who is obviously out of cash can afford to hire a lawyer, but a better question is can you afford not to?  As with any type of litigation, bankruptcy filings are full of details and defined by state and federal laws.  In the event that a creditor challenges your bankruptcy filing, it is important to be working with an experienced attorney.  Look for a bankruptcy lawyer with experience in litigation and one who can help you defend yourself against claims, or even countersue when necessary.


As a Colorado bankruptcy lawyer, I'm often asked if an attorney is always necessary, especially when so many filings are relatively simple transactions.  When a business goes bankrupt, it's not uncommon for creditors to seek contest the filing as an effort to recover payments.  Many attorneys recommend resolving outstanding debts whenever possible, prior to the bankruptcy because this will limit the number of claims filed prior to and during the bankruptcy.

If there's anything worse than filing for bankruptcy, it's having to do so and then hiring the wrong attorney for the job. For many lawyers, bankruptcy filings have become a volume business, and debtors facing bankruptcy sometimes unfortunately obtain inferior legal services. For this reason, you'll need to do some research before hiring a bankruptcy lawyer.

Twelve tips for finding the best attorney for your bankruptcy filing

  1. Avoid procrastination whenever possible.  While this is certainly not going to be a pleasant experience, putting it off will make it even more complicated.  Start looking for your attorney as soon as you realize you will need one.

  2. Spend a day in bankruptcy court.  Watching bankruptcy attorneys in their natural environment will help give you a better picture of what kind of lawyer you want representing you.

  3. Seek advice from legal professionals.  Do you have any business acquaintances in the legal profession who might know a good bankruptcy attorney?  Bankruptcy law is a specialty, so avoid using your family lawyer or personal injury specialist.  Be sure that the counsel you choose knows his or her way around bankruptcy court.

  4. Visit law offices.  Just walking in and appraising the law firm will clue you into how well organized they are.  If it's neat and tastefully decorated, it's safe to say that they are true professionals.  But if you see piles of coffee-stained folders stacked in piles on the floor, run in the other direction.

  5. Find a list of your local bankruptcy court panels.  The only attorneys who will sit on these panels will be well-respected and highly regarded within bankruptcy court.

  6. Ask a lot of questions.  Once you've narrowed down the list to a few candidates, ask them about their certifications, the number of bankruptcy cases they've handled, and how many they handled in a year.  Find out how many of their cases are business filings and how many are individuals.  Many firms will have a partner interview you, only to shift your case to a less experienced attorney, so make sure you are interviewing the person who will actually handle your case.

  7. Don't hire the cheapest lawyer.  Under the circumstances, it might be tempting to cut corners and save some cash, but you will get what you pay for.  Look for a lawyer who knows the system and who comes recommended by the local bar association.

  8. Ask for specifics on their fees.  You will want to know upfront what your lawyer considers "part of the package."  For example, if they need to outsource some work to a forensic accounting, how will you find out about additional fees?

  9. Stay involved. Once you hire a lawyer, don't be content to let him or her handle it alone. Double-check all filings. Did any of your creditors get dropped off the list? Staying on top of your bankruptcy filing will help ensure that the proceedings go smoothly and will keep your lawyer on his or her toes.

  10. Interview prospective lawyers in-person.  It may take a bit longer, but once you have narrowed down your list of potential bankruptcy law firms, take the time to get to know each one of them.   Not only will this help you discover which one is the best match for your case; it will help you learn about their personal style and courtroom demeanor.

  11. Be prepared to present your case.  Even the best bankruptcy lawyer cannot help you if you cannot give them accurate information. This means you will have to gather your paperwork and financial information ahead of time and share it with your attorney.

  12. Finally, educate yourself as much as possible about the process.  Most people who initiate a bankruptcy filing have very little knowledge about the law.  Your attorney can give you an overview, but it is better for you to do some investigating on your own.  Before making a final decision to file, find out how a bankruptcy will affect your credit rating, family members and lifestyle.

20 Aug 2012

There is an old saying that it's hard to see the forest through the trees.

Colorado Springs Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyers know this is one way of saying it's difficult to gauge the entirety of the situation when you're in the middle of it. This is exactly the case with debt.

It starts with a missed payment here or a credit card charge there. We continue moving along with life thinking it will eventually get handled or take care of itself.


The problem with debt, though, is that it compounds upon itself. Many people don't realize they're in trouble until they've depleted their retirement or other savings - money they'll never be able to recover.

Bankruptcy is one way to address debt that has become unmanageable. That is, you have no other real hope of paying it back, or to do so would take so long and be so arduous as to be detrimental to your future, and quite frankly unwise.

The only real way to know whether bankruptcy is the best option for you is to meet face-to-face with an experienced attorney who can help you comb through your finances to determine the right decision. Generally, if you're already considering it, chances are your debt has already reached a breaking point.

Here are some other questions to ask yourself if you're contemplating filing for a Chapter 7:

Are you juggling bills? By this, we mean are you applying for more credit cards or payday loans to get cash advances to pay existing cards or basic expenses?

Are you paying the bare minimum payments on your credit cards, loans and other bills?

Are you consistently putting more on your credit card each month than you bring home in earnings?

Has your income decreased significantly in recent months or years?

Are you having to take on overtime just to pay your basic expenses?

Are you being hounded by debt collectors on the phone and in the mail?

Are you concealing the costs of purchases from your wife or husband?

Are you using your retirement account or savings to pay for monthly expenses?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, it's time to start considering your options. There is no hard-and-fast rule about the right time to file for bankruptcy, but if you start to see yourself slipping into some of these categories, it's time to explore ways to facing down the debt.

22 Jun 2012

One of the top reasons people avoid bankruptcy like the plague is that they fear the impact on their credit score.

Colorado Springs Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyers won't sugarcoat it and say there will be no affect whatsoever. However it's worth noting that when you file for bankruptcy, the scoring algorithms are such that you are being compared in segments with others who have suffered similar financial blows.


And the fact is, many more people are filing for bankruptcy these days than ever before. Their reasons are varied, but mostly it boils down to enormous medical bills and student loan debt, the housing crisis and out-of-control credit card debt.

What a Chapter 7 bankruptcy does is wipe the slate clean. It erases your previous debt (with some exceptions) and allows you to start fresh again.

It's true, though, that a Chapter 7 will remain on your credit score for about 10 years. However, many people have found that this is not nearly as inhibiting as it sounds. You can still buy a house, get a car loan, etc. You may have higher interest rates and that will force you to keep your spending in check, but it won't cripple you.

If the idea of a Chapter 7 scares you, you can always explore a Chapter 13. This is an option whereby you structure a payment plan to your creditors to pay back a portion of what you owe in monthly installments. A Chapter 13 usually only remains on your credit report for 3 to 7 years after it's discharged.

Another option is debt negotiation or debt settlement. This is similar to a Chapter 13 in that it involves you paying a fraction of what you owe. However, it's not all encompassing and it doesn't necessarily involve all of your debts.

So let's say you owe $15,000 on a credit card. You hire an attorney to help you reach a debt settlement and end up with a bill for $4,000. Your credit may still be damaged, particularly if the debt has already gone to a debt collection agency, but it's generally easier to repair your credit than it is to claw yourself out of debt.

21 Nov 2013

A lot has been written about restoring one's financial fitness after bankruptcy, but bankruptcy does just as much damage to a person's psyche. After bankruptcy, anger and shame are natural emotions, but they don't need to last forever. Many people find that a financial catastrophe like this it is just what they needed to get a fresh start. While this doesn't negate the fact that bankruptcy causes long-term damage to their credit report, one that won't go away yet for seven years, it is still better than continuing along the path they were on.


Even if your friends and family tell you it's going to be okay, the experience can still be bruising to your ego. "The creditors make you feel like you failed, you are a loser and you are worthless," says Robin Hardy, a person whose company, the Moosey Group Inc., filed for bankruptcy.

According to many bankruptcy "survivors," a common reaction is a feeling of failure. The shame of having to declare bankruptcy can be crippling at first, particularly for successful entrepreneurs and business leaders. Feelings of failure go beyond one's personal bank balance and extend to include family relationships, business alliances and one's professional reputation. Needless to say, this impact is felt beyond the individual. This is why it is so important to take any necessary steps to avoid bankruptcy entirely.

Secrets of surviving personal bankruptcy:

Here are some "survival tips" to help you stay out of trouble before you contemplate bankruptcy:
Don't bite off more than you can chew. Every time you make a purchase with a credit card, put away the amount of that purchase in a separate account and pay the bill in full every month. This may be a difficult habit to form but it will keep you from accumulating more debt.

Downsize your lifestyle. Get a roommate or find a less expensive place to live. Avoid the dining out trap and learn to cook delicious meals at home. Bring your lunch instead of going out every day. Cut back on "extras," like premium cable channels, satellite radio, regular massages.

If you do have to declare bankruptcy, don't wallow in guilt. A lot of people find that they get a second chance at life through bankruptcy. Take this time to reinvent yourself and take this opportunity to get a fresh start with your financial future. From a business perspective, bankruptcy forces you to explore who you really are and embrace the opportunity to reinvent yourself.

Why do women file for bankruptcy?

Other than women who have overspent on credit cards, there is another set of circumstances that affects women more than men. It is the dishonesty of a significant other or spouse.

In many cases, a woman's husband may have convinced her to put her home in her name only, but then when the relationship fell apart she was stuck with the burden of paying the mortgage. In other cases, a woman may have added a fiancé or significant other to her credit card, then after breaking the engagement she was forced to file for bankruptcy because of the bills he racked up.

Other than dishonesty, some common causes include a bad economy, medical bills and job loss. Many women have found they needed to file for personal bankruptcy after a divorce if their job wasn't sufficient enough to sustain their current debt load.

No matter how you landed in bankruptcy court, it isn't a death sentence. Many people find that after bankruptcy they are happier, more grounded in their personal lives and careers, and better able to navigate their financial future.

Who is filing for bankruptcy?

According to one of our recent blogs, "What Are The Patterns of Bankruptcy Filers" the most common reasons for bankruptcy are often related to circumstances beyond the control of the filer. For example, a study from 2005 revealed that 46 percent of bankruptcies were related to medical expenses from a serious illness not covered by insurance and the resulting loss of income. Shortly after this study was completed, drastic changes in the economy caused bankruptcy from unemployment, underemployment and credit card debt.

At the time of petition, the average age of the filer seems to be rising. Since the early 90's more senior citizens are declaring bankruptcy while fewer filers are under the age of 25. In fact, since 2007 those under 25 made up less than 2% of all filers. During that same period of time, the percentage of older petitioners more than doubled, now accounting for nearly 20% of all filers.

01 Apr 2012

Job numbers may be creeping back up, but so are gas prices. The fact that folks are getting back to work doesn't necessarily mean that a personal financial crisis has been averted. In other words, trying to catch up sometimes is more of a challenge than going backwards.


Whether you and your family are considering filing for a Colorado bankruptcy, or whether you are already rebuilding your path to financial security, advice from consumer advocacy groups and finance experts on how to protect your hard-earned income is information everyone can appreciate.

CBS News, U.S. World & News Report and the Fiscal Times each featured a handful of money-saving tips for consumers hoping to best stretch their earnings between paychecks. Suggestions include:

~ Unless you plan to pay off the balance of your credit card each month, don't use it to snag that 'sale' or 'discount' item.

~ Create a budget to take better control of your spending. Most banks now even offer online banking services that include expense analysis so you don't even have to do the work yourself. You just click a few buttons and your ATM card history will reveal if you are blowing 15 percent of your take-home pay each week on take-out.

~ Review your car insurance policies. Sometimes changing your deductible or coverage scope (or, your insurance company) can save you money.

~ Be willing to settle for a knock-off or a second-hand brand name item.

~ When grocery shopping, stick to your list and don't splurge on impulse purchases of specialty cheeses or coconut water.

Colorado debt-relief lawyers with the Law Office of Stephen H. Smith understand that even the most industrious Colorado families can find themselves overwhelmed by unmanageable (and often unexpected) medical bill debts.

Call (719) 520-0164 today to schedule a free consultation.

30 Jun 2013

It may seem a bit opportunistic, perhaps even heartless, but there are plenty of companies that look for people who are struggling with debt and try to exploit them for profit. While this is not true of all credit counseling companies, it is very important to do your research before signing up for one of these programs. In many cases, people end up with much worse credit after working with a so-called "credit repair" company than they would if they used a different approach.


If you think you need help to stabilize your finances, take the time to do some homework and ask questions. Find out what the business provides and how much it costs, and don't rely on verbal promises. A good credit counselor should be upfront about potential issues that might arise with your credit score and how long it might take to get the promised results. Be sure to get everything in writing and read your contracts carefully before signing.

Personal bankruptcy might also be considered, but its consequences re much more far-reaching, lasting up to ten years. Meanwhile it will be difficult to obtain credit, buy a home or even get a job. There are two main types of personal bankruptcy: Chapter 13 and Chapter 7.

Types of personal bankruptcy

Chapter 13 allows people with a steady income to keep property, such as cars and basic household furnishings, while Chapter 7 involves liquidating all assets that are not exempt. Both types of bankruptcy may get rid of unsecured debts and stop foreclosures, repossessions, garnishments and utility shut-offs, as well as harassment from creditors. However, personal bankruptcy usually does not erase child support, alimony, fines, taxes, and some student loan obligations. You must get credit counseling from a government-approved organization within six months before you file for any bankruptcy relief.

Debt Scams

Beware of companies that offer "advance fee loans," which guarantee you a loan if you pay a fee to them in advance. Fees range from $100 to several hundred dollars and they are often illegal. Legitimate creditors may require an application or appraisal fee in advance, but they will never guarantee you get the loan, nor will they represent that a loan is likely. If you receive a telemarketing call that offers a guaranteed credit extension after a payment is received, they are breaking a major FTC rule for telemarketing sales.

Beware of "credit repair"

Another suspicious offer might come from a "credit repair" clinic. Many of these companies are specifically targeting people with poor credit histories, promising to clean up their credit reports for a fee, but anything they are offering can easily be done without their help – and without the fee. Remember, no one can remove an accurate piece of information from a credit report; all they can do is correct inaccurate information and request that the credit reporting agencies remove it. Federal and state laws ban these companies from charging money to customers until their services are fully performed.

What about debt settlement companies?

While a debt settlement company might be able to settle your debts, it can take a long time to complete the process. Such programs often require deposits into special savings accounts for three years or longer before all the debt can be settled. Before signing up for such a program, be sure to review your budget carefully and make sure you can keep the payments up for the full term of the agreement. Keep in mind that while they attempt to reach agreements with your creditors, neither party is obligated to settle your debts, so you could continue to accrue interest on some accounts before they are paid off. Plus, because the program will discourage you from sending payments to creditors, your credit could be severely damaged by this process.

If you are considering a credit repair or debt management program, take the time to carefully select the company and make sure you understand all the terms of their contract. While many of these businesses are legitimate, others are only interested in taking your money.

 

11 Sep 2012

Despite reports that the U.S. economy is inching toward improvement, we now know that household incomes in the U.S. fell to levels we haven't seen since 1989.

In fact, Colorado Springs Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyers understand that a recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that median incomes fell by nearly 2 percent last year.

Families are on the brink of poverty, and despite falling income levels, many families have not adjusted their lifestyle. This, unfortunately, is a recipe for becoming trapped in debt.


The current presidential campaign is dedicating a great deal of focus to why this is happening and what can be done to prevent it.

On a macro scale, some of the issues economists have identified include:

  • Globalization. Technology and production power in the U.S. is not a strong, relative to other nations, as it once was. The U.S. will need to dedicate more resources to improving its workforce skill set.
  • Inequality. With the decline of labor unions and the failure of minimum wage to keep pace with inflation, fewer people have the same opportunities to excel that they once did. This means we are underusing a valuable resource: Our people.
  • Debt. Now, we're talking about government debt here, particularly with regard to more people receiving public assistance than are paying into it. It's important to note that without Social Security income, some 22 million more Americans would be living in poverty. But creating this safety net does come at a cost.
  • Aging. This somewhat relates to the earlier issue, but as baby boomers continue to age and begin moving into retirement, we are going to see overall incomes decrease.
  • Lower-wage jobs. There are multiple theories for why this may be, but at the end of the day, the job growth that is currently being generated happens to be within those industries that are lower-paying.

Whatever the causes, having a reduced income means making adjustments. In some cases, those adjustments are only possible with the help of an attorney who can help you either reach a debt settlement or apply for bankruptcy protection.

We may not be able to give you a raise, but we can help you get a leg up.  Contact us today for help and for a free consultation.

 

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