No Debt vs College Degree: Which Wins?

student loans

If you’re strategizing to keep your debt burden low throughout the first phases of your adult life, you’re probably considering whether or not it’s worth it to assume a large amount of student debt. After all, 70% of college graduates leave their alma mater with a burdensome level of student debt. Today, more than 44 million US residents are struggling to repay a collective $1.5 trillion in college loans alone.

For many people, a college degree is a necessary step toward creating the adult life they’ve dreamed of, and assuming some level of student debt is likely unavoidable. However, it’s absolutely imperative that students fully comprehend the long-term impact of the loans they’re agreeing to.

If a college graduate is unable to repay their loans in a timely manner, or doesn’t prioritize repaying them, financial disaster looms ahead. Graduates face severe financial penalties for not repaying their loans, including additional fees, mounting interest fees, potential wage garnishment, and negatively impacted credit ratings. Keep in mind that New Jersey is not an inexpensive place to live, so if you play to return to your home state after school, you’ll need a savvy financial plan to do so.

The following quick guide will help you determine whether the cost of student loans will make sense for you in the long term. The answer to this question varies from individual to individual, so it’s a decision you’ll need to make for yourself. Carefully weigh the pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages, and do your best to make the most beneficial decision for your situation.

Remember, too, that if you do end up (or have already ended up) with a significant amount of college loans, it’s going to be okay. You’re not alone by any means; as we’ve discussed, 1 in 4 adults in our country are still repaying their loans.

The Pros and Cons of Student Loans

Pros:

  1. Student loans can make college possible, or make it possible for you to attend a school that would otherwise be unattainable. If a student loan makes the difference between you attending your dream school or a local state school, it may well be worth it to bridge the gap with a loan.
  2. In certain fields, if pursuing a higher quality (or more widely respected) education positions you to earn significantly more over the life of your career, then your student loans may represent only a small fraction of your potential earnings. In such situations, assuming responsibility for a larger loan is almost certainly worth it. Study hard, network with grace and skill, and set yourself up to bring home the kind of money you’ll need.
  3. Student loans can be spent on more than just tuition. Choosing a student loan may make the difference between you having to work full-time during your education and instead having the luxury of focusing solely on your studies. You can use student loans to pay your rent or car payment, purchase a laptop and textbooks, or even just buy groceries. Postponing your financial troubles until after you graduate can have a positive impact on your mental health and resources during the few years you’ll have to pursue your education goals.

Remember, too, that even though student loans are pretty terrible, they’re still more affordable than credit card debt or other high-interest personal loans!


  1. Paying off student loans on time will help you build credit. You’ll need a positive credit rating to get a good interest rate on significant purchases like a car or home, so having this opportunity to build credit right out of college can be very positive. Please be aware that you will need to make prompt payments every month in order to benefit from an improved credit score.

 

Cons:

  1. Interest is a pain in the neck. When you repay your student loans, you’ll be repaying the amount you initially borrowed plus the interest that’s accrued over the years you’ve been in college. As of 2018, interest rates on student loans range from 4.5% to 7% for federal to 11% – 15% for privately-held loans.

If you choose high-interest student loans, the interest rates can be almost as disastrous as those on credit cards! If you can afford college without assuming any student loans, clearly it is in your best interest to do so.

  1. Choosing student loans will mean that you’ll begin your adult life with debt. Your financial freedom will be significantly impacted by this burden; you’ll probably need to delay other life goals like home ownership or international travel until you’re able to pay off a significant portion of your student debt.

Home prices in New Jersey don’t show any signs of halting their steady climb, so delaying your entry into the housing market could mean paying as much as tens of thousands more for your first home.

  1. It is nearly impossible to discharge student loans without paying them directly. Unlike many other kinds of personal debt, student loans cannot be eliminated by declaring bankruptcy. If you assume responsibility for a student loan, you will have to repay it.
  2. Missing payments on your student loans can destroy your credit score, which will negatively impact your financial opportunities for many, many years to come. You’ll have difficulty renting or purchasing a home on your own, applying for a loan on a car, and could even lose your job along with your financial credibility.

 

The truth is that student loans can be a net positive in your life and can be relied upon to help you create a better future for yourself and others. In real-life application, though, slow job growth, high interest rates combined with punitive laws preventing struggling graduates from discharging their debts through bankruptcy, and skyrocketing tuition prices are factors that work against even the most well-intentioned students.

That’s why if you do decide to assume student loans, it’s important that you try to live frugally and limit the amount of debt you need to take on. If you can work part-time and still maintain your grades, consider doing so. Purchase clothing second-hand when possible, for example, and keep your wardrobe streamlined until you have more financial freedom.

You’ll find that the fiscally wise habits you can cultivate during these lean years will serve you well in the future, even after you’ve paid off your debts. Remember that being conscious and intentional about your spending is always a healthy decision. Frugality is never something you should be ashamed of!

NJ Landlords & Credit Checks: The Facts

credit check

As society shifts from the use of tangible papers to swiping a tiny piece of plastic to make purchases, credit is pushing closer to the forefront of the realm of finances. Despite the satisfaction of handling cash in the checkout line, credit cards, whether we like it or not, are becoming the norm. Along with owning credit cards comes the inevitability of your credit score. Good credit holds more significance today than it ever has before. Many people simply don’t realize how impacting a credit score can be, especially when it comes to real estate decisions – even renting. If you’re considering renting an apartment or house, know that the first thing a landlord will set eyes on is your credit score and report.

When you complete a tenant application form, you provide a variety of information about yourself, but typically it’s not enough for most landlords to make a solid decision. This drives the landlord, property manager, or rental agency to hike one step further into your personal information. The main reason to check an individual’s credit history is to review one’s capability or incapability of paying rent. A landlord doesn’t want a renter who will never pay rent on time.

Every time that a potential lender checks your credit, it will appear on your credit report. Too many checks will damage your credit score, decreasing your chance of acceptance to rent anywhere. Be careful not to apply to too many places at one time. Many inquiries in a short amount of time is looked down upon as it can imply repeated rejections and/or reckless financial behavior. It’s possible that some credit score models will combine multiple inquiries into one, which will prevent you from getting penalized for “shopping around,” but this cannot be guaranteed.

Landlords prefer to have renters who are clean: clean house and clean credit. Obviously, if you have good credit and an adequate history, there shouldn’t be any reason that your application wouldn’t be accepted by the landlord. On the other hand, if your credit score does not meet the landlord’s standards, they could outright reject your application. It’s also possible that they may require you to pay a larger down payment or find a cosigner. Our credit history defines who we are, therefore landlords may be hesitant to offer you residence if your score is less-than-stellar.

In the past, making credit payments on time didn’t boost your credit score (because they weren’t given to credit agencies), but thankfully that has changed. If your landlord reports your on-time payments, credit bureaus will include it in your credit report. Because more and more rental agencies are reporting positive rental history, renting responsibly can now have a positive effect on improving your credit score.

Keep in mind that missed and late payments will also show up on your credit history. A tenant-screening report will show an eviction if you’ve had one. This is different than a credit report, and typically shows up in the rental application process. In the likely chance that your landlord sends missed payment updates to a debt collector, it will show up and remain on your credit report for 7 years in addition to 180 days from when you began missing payments. Don’t put yourself in this position. Make payments on time. Having trouble making payments? Give us a call and let us give you a FREE holistic debt evaluation.

What else can credit score affect?

Cell Phones: The one item that seemingly everyone has today is a cellphone. Believe it or not, your credit score can influence whether or not a phone company offers a service plan to you. It is possible to acquire a plan that doesn’t necessitate a credit check, but be aware than a phone service application may initiate a hard inquiry. Remember, all hard inquiries show up on your credit report and could potentially lower your credit score.

Auto Loans: The majority of people need to take out a loan in order to purchase a car. Obtaining and acquiring a loan is affected by your credit score. Taking it one step further, the amount of the loan and the interest rate are dependent on how well you measure up. In this case, it’s best to shop around for the best auto loan rates. Though it’s true that several inquiries can damage your credit score, a majority of credit scoring models will regard multiple auto loan inquiries in a short period as a single inquiry.

Though this article discusses only three crucial parts of life that are influenced by credit scores, there are a myriad of others. It’s so important that we aim to make payments on time and not take part in other activities that will cause destruction of our credit score. Like anything else in life, your credit score needs consistency and some TLC for it to thrive.

The Ins and Outs of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in New Jersey

chapter 7 bankruptcy in new jersey

Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Jersey is designed to allow a debtor to liquidate their debts if they are unable to repay their debts. If you are overwhelmed by personal debt and have not filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy within the past eight years, read on to find out if Chapter 7 bankruptcy might be the first step toward regaining financial health and freedom.

Who qualifies for Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

You must meet the following criteria to be eligible to file Ch. 7:

  • Your income must be lower than the median income in New Jersey. This is called the means test.
  • Your debts, excepting those that are non-dischargeable under any conditions (examples include income tax debt, unpaid child support, student loans, and alimony), can all be erased under Chapter 7. If the majority of your debt is dischargeable, Chapter 7 may be right for you.
  • You must undergo credit counseling. This counseling cannot be obtained more than 180 days prior to filing your petition.

Do I need an attorney’s help filing?

It is extremely important that your filing paperwork be entirely truthful and accurate. Unfortunately, debtors often make mistakes on their Schedule I form.

Schedule I is the form that you’ll fill out listing all of your income, including your spouse’s income and income from any and all other sources. Making a single significant error on this form will result in the immediate dismissal of your case.

It should go without saying that falsifying your bankruptcy paperwork intentionally carries penalties up to and including time in prison. Working openly and honestly with a qualified attorney will guarantee that your Schedule I paperwork is correct and truthful. Under no circumstances should you attempt to hide a source of income from your bankruptcy attorney.

How will filing Chapter 7 help me?

While any of the aforementioned non-dischargeable debts will remain your responsibility, the majority of debts will be erased. You will not owe creditors anything further.

What will happen to my major assets?

If your spouse owns your home jointly, or if you have kept current on your mortgage payments despite your financial situation, you may qualify to keep your home. Unless you can definitively prove you need your car or truck for your job, your vehicle may be repossessed to contribute to the repayment of your debts.

Once you’ve obtained credit counseling, you can file a petition for bankruptcy with the court. A trustee will then be appointed to you. You will be required to surrender all of your nonexempt assets and divide the proceeds amongst your creditors.

What are my options if filing Chapter 7 doesn’t provide me enough debt relief?

Sometimes even after a Ch. 7 discharge of debts is granted, you may still have a burdensome level of non-dischargeable debt remaining. While bankruptcy law has filing limits intended to prevent debtors from abusing the system and persisting in irresponsible financial habits, you ARE permitted to file for Chapter 13 if you are doing so in order to make your remaining debt manageable. While the result will not be a significant reduction in the amount of money you owe, your attorney will negotiate favorable repayment terms so that you will not be crushed by your debts.

Additionally, filing for Chapter 13 after you’ve filed for Chapter 7 will prevent your creditors and lenders from garnishing your wages, foreclosing your home, or repossessing your vehicle. Consult with your NJ bankruptcy attorney if you have been attempting to pay your debts for at least one month after your Chapter 7 has been granted and you are still struggling to make ends meet.

How Filing for NJ Bankruptcy Affects Your Credit Score

NJ bankruptcy

One of the biggest fears people have when it comes to filing for bankruptcy is how it will impact their credit score. The fear of losing good or even mediocre credit sometimes causes those struggling with debt to avoid filing for bankruptcy long after they should. While bankruptcy will negatively impact your credit score and can stay on your credit report for up to ten years, it is still sometimes the best option for those struggling to manage their debt. There are many benefits to filing for bankruptcy sooner rather than later when it comes to your credit score and overall financial health. The experienced legal team at Veitengruber Law provides personalized bankruptcy and credit repair counseling based on years of insider knowledge of how the credit industry works.

Depending on which kind of bankruptcy you file, your credit score will decrease on average between 160 and 220 points. This is enough to take a good credit rating down to a fair or poor rating. The consequences of having a low credit score are numerous. Credit card and loan applications may be denied or higher interest rates may be applied and you may face difficulty purchasing a car, getting approved for an apartment, or getting a cell phone contract. Our skilled team will help you understand how your specific bankruptcy case will affect your credit score before you file.

Under Chapter 13, the bankruptcy will appear on your credit report for up to seven years and any discharged debts will stay on your report for up to seven years after they have been discharged. Because many debts stay active during the payment plan timeline designated under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it is possible for discharged debts to appear on a credit report longer than the bankruptcy itself. Under Chapter 7, the bankruptcy will appear on your credit report for up to ten years. Because all debts included in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy will be discharged within a few months of filing, the discharged debts should fall off the credit report before the bankruptcy.

It is important to remember that as the items associated with a bankruptcy age, they will appear less and less on a credit report and therefore have less and less of a negative impact on your credit score. This is a big reason to consider bankruptcy instead of allowing debt to grow and go to collections. Instead of continuing the struggle to keep up with your debts, bankruptcy is a chance for you to start rebuilding and repairing. The sooner you begin the process of bankruptcy, the sooner you can start the process of improving your credit score and becoming a stronger financial consumer.

Rebuilding your credit score after filing for bankruptcy takes time and patience, but the Veitengruber Law team is here to help you every step of the way. We offer counseling on the steps you need to take to improve your credit after bankruptcy. Our holistic approach to debt relief means our job does not end once we have settled your bankruptcy case. We are there for you after bankruptcy, providing expert advice on how to repair and rebuild your credit. It is our goal to create a forward-looking plan to improve your credit based on our real-world experience and expert knowledge of the consumer’s rights in the credit industry. We provide our clients with the tools they need for a brighter financial future.

While we will always analyze other debt relief alternatives, your specific circumstances may make bankruptcy the best option. The main thing to remember is that avoiding filing for bankruptcy in order to hold on to your credit score—and allowing your debts to linger and go to collections in the process—will also very negatively impact your credit score. When it comes to debt management, being proactive and filing for bankruptcy should not be considered the end of the road. On the contrary, it is absolutely possible to achieve an excellent credit status after bankruptcy. We are here to help you turn a bankruptcy into an opportunity to establish a healthier financial future.

Filing for bankruptcy can be a confusing, intimidating, and emotional decision—but you do not have to go through it alone. Working with Veitengruber Law means working with experienced attorneys and legal professionals who have a solid understanding of bankruptcy law and credit repair solutions. We approach every bankruptcy case on an individual basis and there are many ways we can help mitigate the impact bankruptcy has on your credit score. Contact us today to find out if bankruptcy is the right path to your brighter financial future.

Selling Your NJ Home: The Importance of an Open House

nj real estate

For most sellers, the idea of having random strangers plod through your home may be a little frightening, especially in this day and age. When you open up your house to others, whether they’re family or strangers, an intimate part of your life is being shared. Here’s the thing to keep in mind: this is the house that you’re leaving. Don’t stress out over one of the most minor details about hosting an open house.

Whether or not an open house can actually sell a home is debatable, but definitely can’t hurt your chances. Though there is a possibility of making a sale at an open house, it’s unlikely. Your audience is part of the reason for this.

Real estate agents are the best friend of most people who are house hunting. The agent’s job is to keep the buyer up to date with new listings as soon as they appear on the market. When the agent takes them out to prospective homes, a private tour is usually given. Typically, if a serious buyer is on the lookout, they will already have seen a house by the time an open house is held. You may think that only interested buyers will be attending the open house, but your guests could quite possibly include a variety of people.

You will have the neighbors that come check out the house as well as random passerbys. These people may not be interested in purchasing the house, but are curious to see what it looks like. It’s possible that real estate agents will stop in to view how the house has been prepared for sale and to introduce themselves to the sellers. Remember: as much as it might worry you to have strangers strolling through, each viewer could present the possibility of a future house buyer. Even if a guest isn’t intending to purchase your home, they may know of someone who is looking.

For some future home buyers, the idea of initiating the home-buying process is daunting. An open house is a superb and enticing first step for buyers looking to embark on the journey, especially if it’s their first time. This group of individuals may spot a “For Sale” sign along the road and impulsively decide to stop and gather more information, providing you with more home exposure.

Speaking of home exposure, this is one of the paramount steps that you can take in selling your home. Without maximizing the amount of home exposure and crafting a resilient marketing system, you are reducing your chances of selling within a desirable time frame. Advertising your open house will be of incredible benefit whether you use street signs, newspaper ads, or word of mouth.

Because open houses tend to be laid back events, they tend to be more attractive to people starting the home-buying process. Most real estate professionals who host open houses will allow people to tour with little pressure to buy. This is especially helpful for people who desire to spend a little more time going through the house or checking things out in more detail. This allows for the home buyer to pay attention to what they strongly prefer or dislike in a home.

An open house during the home-selling process will be of value to not only you, but also the individuals who are on the journey of purchasing a home. Low-pressure environments encourage people to dream, envision, and enjoy working through this important process. A NJ real estate agent will guide you through the process of selling your home as well as hosting the ideal open house for future buyers.

The Consequences of Late Credit Card Payments

late credit card payments

There are many reasons hard-working people fall behind on paying bills. In the short-term, it might seem like missing a payment or two is not going to affect you in the long run, but missing a credit card payment could be a bigger deal than you may think. A payment becomes late if it is received after the designated due date or if the payment received is less than the minimum amount due listed on the billing statement. The actions creditors take to respond to late payments can affect you for months, or even years, to come. At Veitengruber Law, we use our expert knowledge of debt management to help you get on top of your finances so that making late payments stops becoming a problem for you.

Once a payment is considered late, your creditor will charge a late payment fee on your next billing statement. Late fees typically range from $15-$35 depending on the late fee policy specific to your credit card company. If this is the first time you have been late in your payment, you may be able to get your creditors to agree to waive the late fee under an accidental late payment. If not waived, a recurring late fee will be charged every month a payment is late or does not meet the minimum payment requirement.

After 60 days, creditors will likely increase the interest rate on your account. Most credit card policies indicate a penalty rate which is the highest interest rate for your credit card. A higher interest rate will increase your monthly finance charges, not only making it more expensive to carry a balance between statements, but also making it likely that it will take you much longer to pay off your balance. You may also be barred from using your card rewards, or you may lose those awards completely.

After six months of on-time payments, your creditor is required to return your account to your pre-penalty interest rate. However, this is where it is important to know the specifics of your policy. Some credit card companies include a policy to continue to charge purchases made during the penalty period under the higher penalty rate.

The biggest effect of late or missed payments, and what you most want to avoid, is losing points to your credit score or getting a bad mark on your credit report. After a payment is 30 days late, it will appear on your credit report. Once an entry is added to your credit report, it can remain there for up to 7 years. Missed payments are added to your credit report in 30 day increments until the account reaches 180 days delinquent. At this point, creditors will charge-off your account, meaning the credit card company writes-off this account as a loss. A charge-off does not mean the debt goes away. Often, the creditor will turn over the debt to a collections agency and the charge-off will appear as a negative mark on your credit report.

Payment history makes up 35% of your credit score—meaning late payments can take a serious toll on your credit score and make it difficult to get approved for new credit in the future. Generally, the better your credit, the more points you are likely to lose after a late payment. To avoid damage to your credit score or your credit report, you can make the full payment plus the late fee before the first 30 days are up. There are many options to manage your debt before a late payment is counted against you. Our experienced team is there to help you explore all your options.

Veitengruber Law offers comprehensive debt solutions specific to your unique circumstances. Our legal team understands the stress and anxiety of unmanageable debt. We provide an all-inclusive analysis of your debt and offer knowledgeable solutions to your specific problems. Our goal is to give you the tools for a brighter financial future. Contact us today to get your free debt relief evaluation.

After Divorce: Should I Refinance my Home?

Despite divorce rates falling steadily over the past few decades, it remains a strong possibility than a once happily married couple might decide to split up. When divorcing, one of the most confusing and contentious issues a couple faces (aside from custody battles) is often the matter of deciding what to do with the family home.

While the most advisable course of action may vary somewhat with each situation, it’s always vital to make any discussions about the mortgage front and center. Your home is likely your biggest shared asset, and your decisions about the mortgage will impact both of you for many years to come.

If your ex will be the party taking possession of the marital home, remember you will be liable for your shared mortgage until the home is sold, the mortgage is paid off in full, or your ex refinances to remove your name entirely.

You see, removing your name from the title of the home does not absolve you of legal responsibility for the mortgage! This is a common misconception that has resulted in financial harm for countless divorced homeowners. As long as your name remains on the mortgage, your credit is at risk for substantial, long-lasting harm.

If you’re the party remaining in the home, you’ll probably be required to buy out your spouse’s share of the home’s equity. Refinancing your home will allow you to take out a cash portion of that equity to use as you wish—including paying off your spouse so they no longer have any claim to your home.

For example, let’s say that Amy and James purchased a $450,000 home together while they were married. Their outstanding mortgage balance now, at the time of their divorce, is $300,000. The remaining $150,000 is their shared equity in the home. If their divorce terms state that Amy and James are splitting their assets 50/50, Amy would have to come up with $75,000 to buy James out of the home.

Unless Amy has a suitcase full of cash lying around (or a healthy retirement fund), she’s going to want to refinance the home in her own name with a cash-out agreement, then use cash from the home’s equity to pay James what he’s owed. Afterward, she can transfer the home into her name alone.

If you’re like Amy and you want to buy out your former spouse, your first step toward taking sole ownership of the property is to figure out the exact amount of your share of your home’s equity. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Find out the home’s current value.
  2. Subtract your outstanding mortgage balance from this number.
  3. Calculate your percentage of the remaining equity based on the terms of your divorce agreement.

In order to determine your mortgage balance, ask your lender for a “payoff” total. This figure, once balanced against any equity lines of credit, second mortgage, or outstanding debts against the property, is your balance.

Now, your portion of the equity depends on the terms you’re able to negotiate in your divorce settlement. This usually hinges on factors like whether the two of you purchased your home together, whether the home has been paid for equally since it was purchased, and whether or not the home is covered by a prenup.

Of course, paying off your ex and securing sole ownership isn’t the only good reason to refinance after a divorce. You might choose to dip into your home’s equity to give yourself a cash cushion as you navigate the first 6 – 12 months of financial independence, or you might be better served by using some of these funds to pay off high-interest credit cards. Your circumstances will dictate the wisest use of these funds, so do consider your overall financial situation while you make this decision.

If your mortgage was first secured before 2008 and you haven’t refinanced recently, you stand a good chance of being able to lock down a lower mortgage payment. Interest rates are significantly lower than they were before the recession, even taking into account the spike in rates over the past few years.

When considering the overall trend toward higher interest rates, this is probably a good opportunity for you to exchange an adjustable-rate mortgage for a lower, fixed-rate mortgage. While the initial low cost of an ARM is appealing, the inherent uncertainty may not be the best option for you in the years to come. Consider the cash flow you can expect post-divorce, and calculate whether or not you could adapt to a higher interest rate if rates continue to climb for the next decade.

Although divorce is stressful at best and often utterly heartbreaking, it’s also an opportunity to take control of your finances and position yourself for a healthy, fresh start. Take care of yourself throughout this process, and try to keep your emotions at bay while you are making these crucial decisions.

Properly tending to your post-divorce financial well-being will require you to be savvy, focused, and optimistic in the face of adversity. Taking the time to educate yourself on how your mortgage functions as the cornerstone of your financial security will serve to empower you to use your mortgage to serve your own financial goals.

Dealing with Medical Debt in New Jersey

medical debt in New Jersey

Medical debt can make you feel like you’re standing in a caving, intimidating hole with no way out. In what seems like seconds, medical bills accumulate until you’ve found yourself in a virtual gaping void of debt. In 2007, medical bills were the cause of over half of the filed bankruptcies in the United States, according to the American Journal of Medicine. Believe it or not, 80% of those who filed actually had health insurance as well as minimal debt when compared with those who filed without having health insurance. Unfortunately, we aren’t invincible, and expenses, especially medical bills, can cripple us. On the bright side, we have some tips that may just be the light and end of the tunnel.

1.      Face the Facts

The first and most effortless change that you should make immediately is to simply get out of denial. With every medical bill that is ignored, you’re digging yourself deeper into trouble, therefore ignorance is not the key. Because medical providers will only allow bills to pile up for a short amount of time, it won’t be long until your debt is forwarded to a collection agency. Once a collection agency receives your overdue debt information, it gets posted on your credit report, which ultimately hurts your credit score and future financial endeavors.

As you are looking over your medical bill(s), beware of any incorrect charges. Innumerable bills get sent out by medical providers each day, making mistakes inevitable. It’s possible that you were charged for a five-day stay in the hospital, when you really only stayed for three. If you spot an inappropriate charge, make haste and contact your medical provider’s billing department.

2.      Handling Health Insurance

Your health insurance company is responsible for taking care of certain charges. Make sure you check that your insurance company took care of the necessary charges. If a specific treatment is covered under your plan, the insurance company may still deny the claim which means the medical provider will end up adding that to your bill. If it’s a simple error, it shouldn’t be hard to fix. If your insurance company is trying to get out of paying for something, the task ahead may be more difficult. In most cases, you can appeal a claim, which requires you to submit evidence as to why your insurance company should pay for the treatment or service. If the evidence is valid, or you obtain a letter from your doctor regarding the necessary treatment, there is a possibility the denial could be overturned. Taking a proactive approach could save you a ton of money and damage to your credit score.

3.      Negate the Negative Assumption

Unfortunately, insurance companies think most of their clients are uneducated. In some cases, this is may be true. Medical service providers have pricing structures that waver quite a bit. If a hospital attempts to charge $1,000 for one prescription, you have permission to negotiate it. Since they assume that you have no idea about what you’re being billed for, medical providers will take advantage. If you work with them and let them know that you are unable to pay for the entire charge, but can cover some of it, they will be more cooperative than if you flat out refuse to pay. It’s possible that you may not feel comfortable negotiating, in which case, professional debt relief assistance is available in New Jersey.

4.      Communication is Key

If you are unable to pay off your bill in one lump sum, contact your doctor’s office to let them know that you are working with your insurance company to get the bill paid off. The billing department will be thankful and cooperative if you maintain an open line of communication. In a situation where you’re responsible for the entire bill, request a payment plan from your doctor’s office and be sure to review the budget. Don’t commit to a plan that you can’t afford.

5.      Pay It Off

Our final tip for you is simple: pay off the bills. We understand that this task is easier said than done. Take care of the small medical bills and work your way through the larger ones. Medical providers will appreciate your efforts much more than full ignorance. Once you have a plan and begin paying the bills, pay them on time every month.

Quick to build up but slow to get rid of describes not just medical debt, but many facets of life. Fortunately, it’s not impossible to deal with medical debt, but like many things, you have to take the first daunting step. We are here to help guide you through the process should you need our advice and/or assistance. If, even after taking the above steps, it seems unlikely that you will be able to pay off your medical debt, talk to Veitengruber Law about medical debt relief through chapter 7 bankruptcy.

A Guide to the NJ Probate Process

NJ probate

The passing of a loved one brings on waves of grief, joy, sadness, and more emotions that we usually can’t even put into words. The last thing that we want to do is think about our own or a loved one’s mortality. At some point, it’s necessary to prepare for what will happen after you die; it will save everyone a load of stress and headache. Part of that preparation is writing a will and having a plan for your estate, valuables, and other assets.

Immediately after a resident of New Jersey passes away, the probate process begins. The probate process gives authority to the New Jersey probate court to distribute assets and belongings that remain. An individual is appointed by the court to take charge of the estate, itemize assets and financial accounts, pay off all remaining debt, and discern whether or not the existing will is valid. Once these tasks are checked off of the to-do list, the court will continue on by allocating inheritance to the correct heirs.

“Assets” is a general term used to refer to an individual’s possessions. The probate process does differentiate between types of property by defining them as “probate assets” and “nonprobate assets.” Property only falls into the “probate assets” category if the individual had possessions in solely their own name. Nonprobate assets, on the other hand, can typically be allotted to their new owners without probate. Common nonprobate assets can include:

·        Possessions of the deceased individual that they owned in conjunction with someone else, which are then automatically passed on to the living co-owner.

·        Assets that the deceased individual appointed to an heir outside of the will, such as a 401k or IRAs that have been named to a beneficiary.

·        Proceeds from life insurance (paid according to the terms in the contracts) or pension benefits that can be allocated to a designated beneficiary.

·        Assets that are contained in a revocable living trust.

Sometimes, it’s not possible to plan for one’s own mortality, especially if an individual dies at a young age or unexpectedly. In the situation where an individual passes without a will, the probate process takes over. Sometimes, surviving family members can utilize a simplified version of New Jersey’s probate process. Both less expensive and quicker, the streamlined version is possible if these requirements are met.

Simplified Small Estate Probate

·        The total value of all assets remaining does not surpass $20,000.

·        The surviving spouse, family member, or beneficiary is entitled to the inheritance without probate.

·        A surviving spouse or family member does not exist and the value doesn’t top $10,000.

·        With permission of the other heirs, one heir can submit an affidavit to the court in order to obtain all assets.

Regular Probate

The surrogate’s court in the county in which the deceased individual resided is responsible for carrying out the process. Ideally, the whole procedure should take less than a year. In as few as 10 days following the individual’s passing, the executor can request to be designated as the official executor of the estate. To do this, you’ll have to show a copy of the will and an authorized copy of the death certificate. If your loved one does not have a will, the court will name an administrator. According to New Jersey law, the surviving spouse or domestic partner is given the first choice of being appointed administrator.

In terms of handling estate assets, the administrator will consolidate all existing cash accounts and money that has come into the estate, such as compensations or refunds. These leftover funds are applied to any expenses for the estate.

If possible, it’s best to attempt to streamline the probate process. This saves both your time and any of the beneficiaries’ time. The cost is another point to consider, especially if loved ones are forced to resort to their own financial accounts to pay for funeral expenses. For more information on the probate process or to contact a professional to guide you, contact our office today.