Should I Pay my Debts or Hire a Bankruptcy Attorney?

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When you are face to face with a huge pile of unpaid debt, you might wonder if it would be more cost effective to put a pay-off plan into effect or to make an appointment with a bankruptcy attorney. Naturally, both options are going to cost money – but there are a few questions you can ask yourself to help you determine which option will end up costing you less in the end.

Firstly, it must be said that there isn’t a cut-and-dry, cookie cutter answer to this question, so please take the advice herein with that knowledge. There are a number of variables that will affect the direction you ultimately choose to take, like:

  • How much debt do you have?
  • What type(s) of debt do you have?
  • What is your current income?
  • Do you foresee your income increasing in the near future?
  • Is there a potential financial windfall in your near future (like a work bonus)?
  • How long do you want to spend paying off your debt?
  • Are you ok with losing credit score points (temporarily)?

If you are currently not even (or barely) able to make the minimum payment each month on sky high credit card debt, you’re looking at a very long road ahead and you will have paid a huge amount of interest at the end of your debt pay-off journey. In this case, filing for bankruptcy looks like it would be a better decision, because your bankruptcy attorney’s fees are likely to cost you less than how much you’ll be paying in interest over the years. Also, by filing for bankruptcy, you can rid yourself of your burdensome debts as soon as you case is approved for a discharge. This will allow you to start a savings account, put your child through college, or otherwise focus more of your income in a way that you weren’t able to before.

The bankruptcy route will knock your credit score down for awhile, but if you’re working with a bankruptcy attorney in NJ who knows what he’s doing, you’ll be counseled on how to potentially bring your score even higher than it is now. This can usually happen in 12-18 months after a bankruptcy discharge if you follow the recommendations given.

On the flip side of the coin – maybe you have more debt than you’d like to have but you’re not drowning in debt. This is not an uncommon situation to be in. If your income is substantial enough to handle your monthly cost of living plus (give or take) double your minimum payments on at least one of your debts, you may be a good candidate for avoiding bankruptcy.

It’s impossible to give you a completely straight answer to this question, as mentioned earlier, because everyone’s financial situation is so unique. The above general tips are just that – general – and you should base your final decision off of the in-person advice you get from an experienced NJ bankruptcy attorney. He will be able to comb through your debts and assets in order to properly guide you toward making the choice that will best fit your finances.

Get in touch with a reputable New Jersey bankruptcy attorney today – most offer free consultations, so you have nothing to lose but debt!

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I’m Being Sued for More Money than I Owe!

Is a debt from your past coming back to haunt you in the present? Although not ideal, sometimes it happens. Perhaps you weren’t making sound financial decisions at that point in your life and accidentally (or intentionally) ignored some past due notices until they just stopped coming.

It can feel like it’s easier to ignore bills when you don’t have the means to pay them. However, the end result is almost always going to be substantially worse than your original debt.

While it can take some companies awhile to take action on smaller debts, the bad news is that your (once) small-ish debt has had a load of time to compound upon itself, rolling around in interest rates, gathering late fees and potentially even picking up attorney’s fees. If your original lender or credit card company has hired counsel to address getting you to pay up, it is possible for them to tack their attorney’s fees on to the amount owed.

What can I do?

Your credit card company is hoping that you’ll get scared by the big number they’re asking for – as you should. If you receive a summons and complaint that says you owe double, triple or quadruple your original debt amount – now is the time to obtain counsel yourself.

How can I afford an attorney if I can’t even pay my debt?

Working with a New Jersey debt settlement attorney on a matter like this is highly unlikely to cost you thousands of dollars. In all likelihood, the right NJ lawyer will have the required negotiating skills to bring the amount owed down to a much more reasonable number – simply by making a few phone calls and/or sending some letters.

Your attorney can then work to coordinate a payment plan that is manageable for you so that you can pay off the (now much lower) balance. The lender/credit card company will almost always be happy to get some form of payment from you as opposed to nothing.

What will happen if my case goes to court?

If, by chance, your credit card company does not want to settle via your credit repair attorney, New Jersey courts will set up a mediation wherein the same kind of talks will take place. A court appointed mediator will work with you and your attorney, along with counsel for the opposing side, to negotiate a resolution that everyone can agree to.

The bottom line is: if you have been served with a lawsuit to collect a debt in a much higher amount than you originally owed, you’re probably not going to get out of paying at least part of the debt unless you file for bankruptcy. If you have the means to pay back the amount that your lawyer negotiates for you, you should do so in a timely manner so that your credit score doesn’t take an even bigger hit.

On the other hand, if you are completely strapped and cannot imagine even one dollar of your debt (and likely other debts that you owe) being repaid, it is definitely time to consider filing for a NJ bankruptcy. This will wipe out a significant amount of your total debt, leaving you much more financially stable, which will allow you to “start over” with a much cleaner slate.

 

Image: “Breaking into your Savings” by Images Money – licensed under CC 2.0

The Role of the New Jersey Real Estate Attorney

Upon contemplation of purchasing a home in New Jersey, you may be wondering if you should work with a real estate attorney as well as a real estate agent during the process. To some people this may seem redundant, but there are several very good reasons to consider hiring a NJ real estate lawyer.

In New Jersey, state law gives home buyers and sellers a three day “attorney review period.” This three day period begins when a real estate contract is signed. The contract is not considered legally binding until the three day attorney review period has ended.

Many home buyers ignore the attorney review period and ask, “What can my attorney do that my real estate broker can’t do?” The answers follow.

Review legal contracts

During the attorney review period, your NJ real estate attorney will read through the entirety of your real estate contract, looking for any red flags and addressing crucial elements that may be missing. Having your real estate attorney review your contract during the attorney review period will increase your chances of a successful closing without any glitches and without surprises several months from now. Real estate attorneys have been specifically trained in the area of real estate contract law, and they know precisely what to look for, whereas real estate brokers are generally most interested in closing the deal.

Because real estate agents frequently use generic forms that are “one size fits all,” many special circumstances may not be addressed in your purchase agreement. An attorney will notice when crucial details are missing from your sales agreement, and they can add contingencies where they are needed.

Perform a title search

New Jersey real estate attorneys will perform an action called a title search when property is being sold from one owner to another. A title search must be completed in order to determine if a property is free of any liens, judgments, or encumbrances. An attorney can perform a title search much faster and cheaper because of his networking connections and close relationships with title companies in the area.

Legal filings

Often, real estate deeds must be filed with the county and state government. This is more true when commercial property is involved. In these cases, your real estate lawyer will easily be able to assist you with obtaining your tax identification number, establishing your business entity, securing a business license and navigating all of the state regulations surrounding any construction that you may wish to have completed on your new commercial (or residential) property.

Some people choose to move forward with a home purchase without the assistance of a real estate attorney in New Jersey. While this is within your legal rights, it is well worth the extra money and relatively short investment of time to work closely with a lawyer near you who specializes in real estate contract law.

In doing so, you will protect yourself from any problems that may arise during the property transfer process. Some glitches that may occur include: improperly filed deeds, tax issues, undiscovered liens, home inspection challenges/property defects, missing or improperly filed documentation/permits, and failure to properly register commercial property. Your attorney can also attend the closing with you to ensure that everything goes as planned.

Will working with an attorney cost you more money than if you didn’t hire one while you were purchasing a new home or location for your business? YES.

However, the potential money a certified NJ real estate attorney can save you in the long run is indeterminate and can oftentimes be exponential when compared with your initial investment in retaining your attorney’s services. The smart move is to invest in a secure transaction by making sure that your real estate contract is legally binding, in your favor, without errors, and free of encumbrances.

 

Image: “Sherwood Country Club” by Sherwood CC – licensed under CC by 2.0

$40,000 in Credit Card Debt – What Should I Do?

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Especially around the holidays, coming to terms with the fact that you’re drowning in debt is definitely a humbling moment. The good news is that you have acknowledged that the problem exists and that you need to take steps to get out of debt. Many people who are deep in debt feel that they have “no way out.”

A common phrase heard from severely distressed debtors (owing tens of thousands of dollars or more) is that they cannot afford to hire an attorney. Oftentimes, debtors have ignored creditors for a long time without making any payments on the debt they owe. This, in turn, causes the total debt amount to rise even higher due to interest rates and late charges.

By the time you have reached out for help and have landed on this page, you could very well be swimming in the amount of debt you’ve amassed. Overwhelmed, afraid, embarrassed and helpless, you probably have no idea how to get out of this dire situation.

“I absolutely cannot afford a lawyer.”

This line of thinking is one that we would like to abolish – not because we want more clients, but because we are here to help you. The misinformation that NJ attorneys are simply “too expensive” to even consider is nonsense, and here’s why:

There are New Jersey bankruptcy attorneys who will work with you when it comes to their fees. The most important takeaway is that you will be better off financially in the end if you work with an experienced attorney. Free consultations, payment plans, and other negotiations regarding attorney fees are available, if you look for them.

“Maybe I can take care of this on my own.”

If you are being sued by a creditor for a significant sum of money, the very last thing you ought to be doing is going into court to represent yourself. Pro se defendants are not successful in court, and no judge will show you “mercy” because you didn’t hire an attorney. The truth is: you cannot defend yourself against a mountain of debt that you’ve simply failed to pay. You need a legal strategy to get you out of the mess, or everything you own will have a lien against it, your wages will be garnished, and you will end up with nothing.

Change your line of thinking from “There is no way I can afford an attorney,” to “Can I afford to NOT hire an attorney?”

NJ bankruptcy attorneys who actually want to help you find a way out of your mess DO EXIST. If you’re embarrassed and think we’ve never seen anyone with as much debt as you – think again. We’ve seen it all before! And not only have we seen it, but we’ve fixed it and saved thousands of people from losing everything.

You do have options! No matter how unbelievably bad you think your money problem is, there is always a solution, and you won’t find it without an experienced NJ attorney’s help.

While it’s understandable that you think you can’t afford to hire an attorney, the reality is that you can’t afford NOT to.

Call, write, or read about your options. It may not seem like it now, but there is a way out of even the worst kind of debt.

Image credit: Images of Money

Does my NJ Will Have to be Notarized?

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The laws surrounding estate planning differ from state to state regarding the signing of your will, how many witnesses must be present, and what conditions make your will complete and valid. It’s true that anyone can print up their own will – or hand write one if they prefer, but it must be in some written form to be legal. There are several qualifications a testator (person creating his or her will) must fulfill in order to execute their will without the help of an estate planning attorney:

  • 18+ years of age: In the State of New Jersey, you must be at least 18 years old in order to write your own Last Will and Testament.
  • Of sound mind: To be of sound mind means that you are able to reason and understand things on your own. You may have been found to be legally incompetent in a court of law if you’ve suffered a brain injury or other mental disability .  If you have been found to be incompetent, you likely have a guardian who was appointed by the court. That guardian can help you draft your will.
  • Two or more adult witnesses: NJ law requires that all wills be signed by the testator in front of at least two witnesses who are both 18+ years of age and are of sound mind. Your witnesses validate your will by agreeing that you are who you claim to be and that your signature is authentic. If a disability prevents you from signing your name to your will, you can authorize someone else to sign for you. This act must also be affirmed by your witnesses.
  • Signed by witnesses: Along with attesting your own signature on your will, the witnesses will also need to sign their names as official acknowledgement of your signature and their presence when you signed.

Does my New Jersey will have to be notarized?

Legally, you are not required to have your NJ will signed by a notary as long as you have met the above listed requirements. However, if you want to make the probate process significantly easier on your loved ones after you pass away, you’ll definitely want to have your will notarized. Your witnesses need to be with you when the will is notarized so that the public notary can attest to their identity.

Wills signed by a notary are considered to be ‘self-proving’ in New Jersey. A self-proving will is one that will move quickly through the probate system after the testator has passed away.

When a decedent has failed to have their will notarized, it means a whole lot of a headaches for their beneficiaries at a time when they are already undoubtedly grief-stricken and overwhelmed.

Additionally, self-made wills often have problems or omissions that lead to intense family disagreements, fighting and potential irreparable damage.

What can I do to ensure that my will is without fault, errors or omissions?

Naturally, you want to save your family members from any strife related to your will after you pass. The best and most cost-effective way to do that is to work with an estate planning attorney. Even if you are reading this page to find out how to execute your will without professional help – we’ll still tell you that your best bet, in this case, is working with an experienced NJ estate planning lawyer.

The cost of having your New Jersey will drawn up by an estate planning attorney is very affordable, especially compared to the exorbitant fees your heirs will end up paying after the fact to fix any mistakes you may make if you go the DIY route. Consultations are FREE at most estate planning firms. Take the time and invest in execute your will with a professional’s assistance. Your surviving heirs will be so thankful that you did.

Image credit: Dan Moyle

I’m too Broke to File for Bankruptcy!

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Nearly twelve years have passed since the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act took effect, which made it more difficult and expensive for struggling debtors to file for bankruptcy. The goal of the Reform Act was to prevent debtors from taking advantage of the US bankruptcy system in order to “write off” debts that they could actually afford to repay.

While good in theory, the hurdles put in place by the Reform Act have spawned a growing group of Americans who feel that they are doomed to live a life permanently broke and indebted.

Stricter qualification standards, mandatory credit counseling courses (on the debtor’s dime), increased homestead exemption restrictions and tougher attorney liability (read: higher rates) all add up to one thing: bankruptcy is now too expensive for those who need it most!

This has led many indebted Americans to attempt to file for bankruptcy on their own without the help of an experienced bankruptcy attorney. The concept of eliminating attorney fees may sound appealing at first, but the unfortunate truth for pro se bankruptcy filers is that the bankruptcy code is extremely complex and rife with opportunities for error. Mistakes on a bankruptcy petition cannot simply be erased or fixed with a simple “do-over,” and almost always cause a bankruptcy case to be dismissed.

What, then, is today’s flailing debtor to do?

If retaining a NJ bankruptcy attorney is cost prohibitive, and filing pro se is bound to lead to dismissal of your case – are there any real options? Living the rest of your life one step away from drowning in debt is not only undesirable; it can cause high stress levels that will prevent you from ever being truly happy.

Solutions for those “too broke” to hire a bankruptcy attorney do exist!

You don’t have to live with creditors breathing down your neck, watching your every financial move and prohibiting you from ever applying for a new loan. You also don’t have to lose your home to foreclosure (unless downsizing is something you want to do). Conversely, if you’re doling out steep rent payments every month, getting approved for a home mortgage does not have to be a mere pipe dream.

Bankruptcy is the fresh start and the only answer to financial insolvency. Despite the constraints placed upon consumers under the Bankruptcy Reform Act, there is help available. You just have to know where to look.

Attorneys, as a group, have a reputation for being solely focused on money. In New Jersey, there are bankruptcy attorneys who truly want to help their clients! For example, Veitengruber Law is a NJ bankruptcy firm that cares more about helping people than about taking their money. When you look for an attorney to help you file for bankruptcy, make sure your attorney is interested in helping you even beyond your bankruptcy discharge.

Attorneys like George Veitengruber will sit down with you for a free consultation to discuss your financial situation. During your consult, a long term plan to repair your credit will be mapped out. Retainer fees and other costs will be discussed, and a payment plan will be set up that actually works for you. We’ll also help you get creative in order to pay your legal fees.

A bankruptcy attorney who cares about your financial future does exist! If you’re looking for New Jersey debt resolution assistance in Monmouth, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester or Atlantic county, fill out our contact form today. We can help.

Image credit: Sodanie Chea

 

 

 

Can I get my Retainer Back?

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What is a legal retainer?

When you meet with your New Jersey attorney, you may be offered a free consultation meeting. During this consultation, you will be able to discuss your legal problem(s) while your attorney asks a number of pertinent questions. These questions and your answers will help him ascertain whether or not he wants to take on your case.

If and when your NJ attorney decides to represent you, you will be required to pay a legal retainer fee. This fee serves as payment for the services the attorney will provide for you regarding your legal matter. Every attorney’s retainer fee is different.

What is a retainer agreement?

Prior to paying your attorney’s retainer fee, you’ll be presented with a retainer agreement. This is essentially a contract stating what legal actions will be taken for you in exchange for the payment of the retainer up front. The retainer agreement is legally binding and ensures the attorney that he will be compensated for his hard work.

Can I get (any of) my retainer back once my case has ended?

The expertise provided to you by an experienced attorney is a very valuable service. The amount of money spent by those who decide not to hire an attorney is often actually quite a bit more than any retainer fee would have cost them.

Many attorneys know and understand their jobs so well that they have calculated precisely how much it will cost them to represent you. This amount is typically what they charge as their retainer fee. If your case becomes more complex, your attorney may need to use all of your retainer and bill you for any subsequent fees.

All of these details will be specified in the retainer agreement, which you should read in full before signing and paying your retainer fee. This will prevent any surprises regarding payment later.

If I “fire” my attorney before my case is complete, will I receive any leftover retainer?

Whether or not you will be owed any of your initial retainer depends on a lot of factors, namely how much work your attorney had already completed on your case before you severed the contract. Court appearances, motion filings, negotiations and legal correspondence all cost time and money, and chances are high that you will not have much left (if anything) in your original retainer unless you decide you don’t want their services almost immediately after hiring them.

Can’t I just represent myself and save money on the attorney fees?

While it is legal for you to represent yourself in court, there is a reason most people decide to work with an attorney on their legal matter. That reason is that an attorney’s knowledge of the legal system is simply irreplaceable, and 9 times out of 10, clients who retain attorneys actually end up making a noticeable return on their investment (with the investment being the attorney’s fees).

For example: bankruptcy attorneys in NJ will never miss a filing deadline. They will counsel you on the most beneficial time for you to file bankruptcy. All of your bankruptcy paperwork will be filled out and filed with the courts without any worry on your end. Legal documents can often be confusing, stressful, and lengthy without an attorney’s help.

Failure to comply with bankruptcy laws could cause you to inadvertently commit bankruptcy fraud. Your attorney’s expertise will guarantee that will not happen, saving you money on fines and potentially, even jail time.

As your legal case moves through the court system, your attorney will consistently review it to ensure that everything is filed appropriately so that you will achieve your desired outcome. You can represent yourself, but why would you risk it?

 

Image credit: ccPixs

Divorce and the Stay-at-home Mom: Your Financial Rights

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Although we are not a family law firm, a number of our clients are recently divorced. Divorce can do a number on anyone’s finances for a variety of reasons, and many divorcees eventually file for bankruptcy in order to get a fresh start.

Today, let’s take a step back from bankruptcy and take a look at how to get through the divorce process itself. If both spouses are wage earners who then move into separate residences, the financial burden on each person suddenly becomes much higher than it was while supporting only one household with two incomes.

Even more challenging is the experience of the stay-at-home mom who has heretofore relied on the income of her spouse. Naturally, the stay-at-home mom (or dad) is, by definition, not employed outside of the home and therefore has no income of her own.

What rights does a stay-at-home mom have during a divorce?

When a couple makes the collective decision for one parent to stay home to raise children rather than work a traditional “job” with a paycheck, the stay-at-home parent becomes entitled to part of the working spouse’s income. Giving up years of work experience and potential earnings to care for the couple’s kids is worth something if and when the marriage fails.

Although a parent who has been out of the work force for many years may need to explore employment once the divorce is final, this will not happen during the lead up to divorce. The working spouse will be required to continue paying all of the household expenses throughout the duration of the divorce negotiations.

Non-working parents can also petition the court for temporary spousal support before the divorce is final. This money is paid by the wage earning spouse so that the stay-at-home parent can afford food and basic necessities.

Once your divorce case reaches the court system, many financial decisions must be made regarding child support, alimony, equitable distribution, the marital home, joint debts and more. During this time, a judge will determine if the stay-at-home parent is “employable,” and if so, what her earning potential is.

If the stay-at-home parent has never been employed and has always been dependent on her spouse’s income, alimony is likely to be granted. This is especially true if the unemployed parent has no college degree and zero work skills.

A stay-at-home mom with a college degree may still receive alimony along with child support, but the amount of alimony awarded will likely be lower because her degree gives her potential to find a decent paying job.

If you are currently a stay-at-home mom who is facing divorce, know that you will not be left on your own with no money to support yourself and your children. Dedicating a number of years of your life to raising your children is an important decision that you and your husband likely made together. Regardless of who filed for divorce, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that there are laws in place to ensure that you’ll be able to pay your bills.

Been all the way through a divorce and are now looking to improve your overall financial outlook? Filing for bankruptcy post-divorce is often a good decision. To learn more about whether bankruptcy is right for you, shoot us a quick message. We’ll consult with you free of charge.

 

Image credit: The Hidden Collection