We are grateful to be able to serve our clients, especially during these trying times. We are also grateful that The Law Office of Stephen H. Swift, P.C. was recently selected as a Top Consumer Bankruptcy Attorney in Colorado Springs by Colorado Springs STYLE Magazine, for the fourth year in a row. (We were also a Top Attorney in 2014.)
This award was based upon a peer-to-peer online survey conducted in conjunction with members of the El Paso County Bar Association. Who was surveyed? Approximately 1,100 licensed attorneys in El Paso County were invited via email to complete the survey, with electronic reminders sent by the El Paso County Bar Association encouraging participation. Read more...
• See article in the Jan - Feb 2017 Edition of STYLE Magazine
• See article in the Jan - Feb 2017 Edition of STYLE Magazine
• See article in the Jan - Feb 2019 Edition of STYLE Magazine
• See article in the Jan - Feb 2020 Edition of STYLE Magazine
If you owe money, and most Americans do, you’re probably being harassed by calls from creditors. They call at odd hours of the day, hoping to trick you into answering the phone, and make it so that whenever your phone rings, you have a moment of dread when you see a number you don’t recognize.
That’s really only the start of the problems, too. Creditors can repossess your property, garnish your wages, and more.
There’s more to consider than just physical harassment, though. The stress of constantly living in fear of creditors can have emotional damages, too: anxiety, depression, and plenty of others. It can get in the way of you working to your full potential, and even take the joy out of life.
That’s where bankruptcy comes in.
When bankruptcy is filed, an automatic stay is issued to creditors, which means that they can no longer attempt to collect from you. Practically overnight, the harassing phone calls will stop, and there’s a good chance that when the bankruptcy is over, they won’t start again.
Filing for bankruptcy offers you protection from creditors through the duration of the process. That means no calls, no repossessions, no garnishments, or anything.
Any good bankruptcy attorney will make sure that even when the process ends and the stay expires, the creditors will leave you alone. That’s because it’s their job to create a plan that works for you, so that you can pay back any debts that survive the bankruptcy process.
If you file properly and don’t overspend again in the future, bankruptcy means never getting another collections call.
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.
Feelings of loss, anger, depression can eat at you. Exercise self-compassion and let these feelings go. Let go of resentment and blame, and try your best to keep your focus on the positive things in your life. Devloping a grateful attitude can do wonders. Although for many, filing for bankruptcy feels like life is over, it really can be a fresh start in many respects.
Here are some "survival tips" to help you stay out of trouble before you contemplate 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, and this particular reason is on the rise.
A new study from academic researchers found that 66.5 percent of all bankruptcies were tied to medical issues -- either because of high costs for care or time out of work. An estimated 530,000 families resort to bankruptcy each year because of medical issues and bills, the research found. The research also showed that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act has not improved the numbers either. Many people don't realize that their health insurance may not be enough to protect them...especially with the rise in deductibles and total out-of-pocket expense amounts that the average plan now has.
"Despite gains in coverage and access to care from the Affordable Care Act, our findings suggest that it did not change the proportion of bankruptcies with medical causes," an article on the study published in the American Journal of Public Health states. In fact, the percentage of debtors citing medical issues as the primary reason for filing for bankruptcy relief actually increased after the law's implementation, from 65.5 to 67.5 percent in the three years following the law's adoption. According to one of the authors of the research, Dr. David U. Himmelstein (a Hunter College professor and founder of the advocacy group Physicians for a National Health Program) the cause for this rise was due to inadequate healthcare insurance.
At the time of petition, the average age of the filer seems to be rising as well. 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 (over the age of 55 years old) more than doubled, now accounting for nearly 20% of all filers. As of May 2019, the median age of filers is about 45 years old.
Other reasons for filing often include: unaffordable mortgages or foreclosure (45%), living beyond one's means (44.4%), loaning money to / helping relatives or friends (28.4%), student loans (25.4%), or divorce/separtation (24.4%)
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.
Stress can have serious, medically observable effects on your well being. Long term stress, in particular, can be dangerous for your mental and phyical health. Complications can include: impaired short term memory, difficulty thinking rationally and expressing feelings to others, changes in appetite/weight, concentration issues, and issues with sleep patterns and personal relationships. These complications can impair your emotional state which in turn can cause you to think, feel, and act in ways you never would under normal circumstances. Unfortunately, this can lead to additional problems that go far beyond finances. Therefore, always be engaged and take proactive steps to improve/maintain your physical, mental and emotional help. In the event you feel like things are going beyond your control, seek help from a professional as soon as possible.
Again, you can turn to Swift Law Firm for help. Our team makes you and helping you to get the legal help you need a top priority. Our support staff is skilled at not only the legal aspects of bankruptcy, but with making you feel as comfortable as possible as we navigate through the bankruptcy process together.
Contact us today for a free consultation to see if bankruptcy is the best option for you. Don't be afraid to reach out for the help if you need it.
Bankruptcy can provide debt relief and a new financial start. But many hard-working people who have gotten in over their heads hesitate to consider this option. They have many misconceptions or needless fears about the bankruptcy process.
At the Law Office of Stephen H. Swift, P.C., we have helped thousands of people obtain debt relief, and may be able to help you.
Our firm can meet with you by appointment during business hours, and even on an evening or a Saturday upon request. In a free consultation, we can explain the bankruptcy process and help you decide whether a bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is best for you. In the meantime, this flowchart will help you get an idea of how the basic bankruptcy process works in Colorado with our bankruptcy firm:
To take full advantage of your FREE Bankruptcy Consultation, you should bring:
Tax returns for the last two years
Current pay stubs
Copies of your outstanding credit card bills and other debts
A list of your monthly expenses
Once you decide to work with our firm, we can take actions to stop all creditor calls, foreclosure actions and impending judgments. Our firm will then prepare the necessary documents and do everything needed for a successful bankruptcy filing.
You will have to appear once in a bankruptcy hearing. The hearing is a legal proceeding before a bankruptcy trustee, not a judge. Our firm will explain what will happen at this hearing and represent you at all stages of the bankruptcy process. At the hearing, all you will have to do is answer a few questions honestly. Our firm will do all the rest — seeking to obtain maximum debt relief for you.
You Need an Advocate
Although a bankruptcy hearing is conducted in an agreeable and non-threatening atmosphere, the bankruptcy trustee is not your friend. The trustee is paid a commission and therefore has a vested interest in minimizing the amount of debt that is discharged. To obtain maximum debt relief, you need an advocate who will work to protect your rights during the bankruptcy process.
Our firm will stand up for you during the bankruptcy hearing. We essentially hold your hand every step of the way as we navigate through the bankruptcy process. As a bankruptcy firm in Colorado with experienced professionals, we understand how to use the law to maximize the allowable exemptions and obtain the trustee’s approval of your debt relief plan.
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!
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.
~ 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.
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.
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.
No one can see the future, and although no one deliberately makes decisions that lead to needing a Southern Colorado bankruptcy lawyer, it happens more frequently than you might think. Debt accrues interest, fees, and grows beyond what many would ever imagine, and it becomes simply unmanageable. Excessive spending or the use of credit cards is only one possible reason. A lot of the time, unforeseen circumstances arise, like large medical bills for example. This can leave people in financial devastation that can not be undone given the monthly income they make every year. These are reasons to consider the relief that filing for bankruptcy can offer.
So many people call a bankruptcy lawyer expecting to file for bankruptcy next week, when in reality there is a process that must be followed. For example, you must receive credit and budget counseling from an approved credit counseling service within the 180 days prior to filing a petition. The credit counseling agency will review other options with you to help you avoid bankruptcy, which should be viewed as a last resort. Some of these agencies will provide counseling via telephone or online, but most people find it more helpful to meet in person. If and when you decide to file for bankruptcy, your forms must include the certificate from this agency indicating you received credit and budget counseling.
How to choose a credit counseling agency
When the time comes to choose a credit counselor, you may find it difficult to distinguish one from another. Many agencies are legitimate but there are others that are rip-offs. Just because they say they are "approved" for bankruptcy counseling doesn't guarantee a good reputation. Remember, even the best agencies won't be able to help you much if you are in serious financial trouble.
Many of the approved credit counseling agencies will also offer debt management plans, also known as DMPs. A DMP allows you to repay some or all of your debts by consolidating them with the agency. The counseling agency then distributes the money to your creditors. Be careful if you choose an agency that offers this service, as some will try to enroll you in a DMP even when it doesn't make sense. In many cases, bankruptcy might be the best solution for you, and if you sign up for a plan that you cannot afford you will end up in bankruptcy anyway.
When should you meet with an attorney?
For most individuals, it is a good idea to meet with an attorney prior to hiring a credit counselor. Some law firms will have a specific counselor that they recommend. A bankruptcy lawyer can also give you legal advice about whether bankruptcy is the answer for you, as well as many other suggestions.
Which property can I keep in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy?
Another one of the most common bankruptcy-related questions is concerning property. Everyone wants to know what property they will be able to keep, but it all depends on the type of bankruptcy you choose. For example, in a Chapter 7 case you can keep all the property that is "exempt" from creditors' claims. However, in a Colorado bankruptcy lawyer will tell you there are some exemptions in this state.
Here are the Chapter 7 exemptions in Colorado:
It is important to remember that the value of the property is not based on what you paid for it, but rather what it's worth now. This will be especially helpful in determining the value of furniture and cars.
What about Chapter 13?
In a Chapter 13 case, you can keep all of your property if your plan meets the requirements of the bankruptcy law. In most cases you will have to pay the mortgages or liens as you would if you didn't file bankruptcy.
In most cases you will not lose your home or car during your bankruptcy case as long as your equity in the property is fully exempt. Even if your property is not fully exempt, you will be able to keep it if you pay its non-exempt value to creditors in Chapter 13.
Photo Courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
If you’re like many other Americans, you may think that bankruptcy is just another word for being broke, or not having any money, but in this age of extended credit, how do you define ‘broke’? When do you know when you don’t have any money?
This can be a complicated problem, because many people may think to themselves, “well, I have a job and I’m making money, so I’m not broke”. Unfortunately, the sad fact of the matter is that it is possible to be broke, or insolvent, while still earning money from a job.
With the practices of today’s predatory lending companies, who encourage you to spend and create debt for yourself, it can be all too likely that you’ve racked up more debt than you can easily pay off. You can end up paying off interest on credit and giving the bank far more money than you originally borrowed, and that’s money that isn’t going to feeding your family and paying your bills.
In cases like these, filing for bankruptcy may be just the help that you need. With the help of an experienced Colorado bankruptcy attorney, many of your debts can be flatly forgiven, and others can be made to work with you to create a payment schedule that doesn’t interfere with your quality of life.
Far too many people wait too long to file for bankruptcy because they don’t think it applies to them, or they don’t think it would help them.
Don’t wait to consult with a bankruptcy attorney, because some even give free consultations. It could change your life!