Will a New Jersey Bankruptcy Resolve My Plastic Surgery Debt?

new jersey bankruptcy

Medical debt is one of the leading causes of excess debt in the US. Even when covered under medical insurance, many NJ residents find themselves facing bankruptcy as they struggle under the pressure of medical debts. Bankruptcy can seem intimidating, but it can be a great way to get a fresh start if you find yourself struggling to pay back medical debts. Whether you choose to fully discharge these debts under Chapter 7 bankruptcy or enter into a more manageable repayment plan with a Chapter 13 New Jersey bankruptcy reorganization, filing for bankruptcy can set you on the path to financial health.


Bankruptcy is meant to allow people to move forward from previous financial mistakes or setbacks.


What about plastic surgery debt?

While it is true that plastic surgery is a medical procedure, it is elective and that choice makes the difference when filing for bankruptcy. Plastic surgery is considered a luxury debt. Luxury debts include any goods or services you purchase with a credit card that are not considered necessary to the maintenance of you or your dependents. Also in this category are jewelry, home décor, beauty products/services, vacations, electronic devices, and even alcohol. It is important to include any luxury debt when you file for bankruptcy, but that doesn’t mean these debts will be discharged.

The timing of the purchase of these products and services is what is crucial to whether or not they will be discharged in your bankruptcy case. In NJ, if the debt was accrued within the 60 days immediately before you file for bankruptcy, it is within the right of the credit card company to refute your claim. The credit card company could argue that you made the purchase using credit you had no intention of paying back. This is called constructive fraud, or fraud that occurs when a debtor’s actions imply fraud even if their intentions weren’t to commit fraud. Any luxury purchases totaling $1,150 or more made in the 60 days just prior to your bankruptcy is filed could be scrutinized as constructive fraud.


There are a plethora of myths and misconceptions surrounding bankruptcy proceedings. Turn to an expert when you have questions.


If either your credit card company or plastic surgeon decide to sue for nondischargeability of the debt, you will become the defendant in a lawsuit. It will be your responsibility to prove to the court that the purchase was necessary. You will also have a chance to defend yourself against the suit if you can prove you had the intention to repay the debt and show that you made an effort to do so before filing for bankruptcy. If the court decides this purchase was unnecessary—or that it was considered fraudulent—your plastic surgery debt will be deemed non-dischargeable and you will still be responsible for paying off this debt.

Luckily, this only applies to luxury debt accrued within the 60 days before filing for bankruptcy. It is very likely that debt from plastic surgery accumulated before the preceding 60 days will be included as dischargeable debt in the final decision for your bankruptcy case. Whether the plastic surgery debt was from elective surgical or non-surgical medical procedures should not make a difference in making it eligible to be discharged under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is meant to allow people to move forward from previous financial mistakes or setbacks, and plastic surgery debt is no exception.

There can be a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding bankruptcy proceedings. Veitengruber Law is experienced in providing full-service debt relief solutions. We understand the stress caused by seemingly insurmountable debt and we work hard to offer solutions to even the most difficult financial problems. We know that bankruptcy is not the end of the line, but a chance for our clients to get back on their feet and on the road to financial health. We offer customized bankruptcy analysis based on your specific goals and financial needs. Call us today at 732-852-7295 for your free, no-obligation consultation with our experienced team of bankruptcy experts.

Filing for Bankruptcy in NJ = Finding Financial Freedom!

filing for bankruptcy in NJ

If you find yourself facing unmanageable debt from credit card bills, loans, medical expenses or a variety of other potential issues, bankruptcy can provide a path towards a brighter financial future. Filing for bankruptcy in NJ can be an excellent way to take control over your finances and make the process of repaying your debts much more affordable. Unfortunately, despite the many benefits of filing for bankruptcy, many people are hesitant to file when they should. Some debtors feel a sense of failure or shame in filing for bankruptcy and wait years to file, while their financial situation becomes more unmanageable in the process. This delayed filing can be disastrous for your financial future.

A recent study by the Consumer Bankruptcy Project (CBR) found that nearly two-thirds of those who eventually file for bankruptcy report struggling under the weight of their debt for two or more years before filing. The study found that most people are filing for bankruptcy only after years of significant financial hardship. This period of time is commonly referred to as “the sweatbox.” While in the sweatbox, debtors are constantly bombarded by debt collectors, face the threat of losing their homes, and many even experience wage garnishment. Debtors in the sweatbox can find themselves in lawsuits over unpaid debt and may even be unable to pay for basic needs like food and electricity. Often times, these financial situations could have been avoided by filing for bankruptcy earlier.

When we meet with clients in the sweatbox, they almost always wish they had talked to us sooner. Often, those who wait to file for NJ bankruptcy do so with fewer assets and a much higher debt-to-income ratio than those who file earlier. Essentially, the longer you wait to file, the worse your financial situation is likely to be. On top of this, the stress and uncertainty of struggling through years of unmanageable debt will take a very real emotional and mental toll on anyone. And yet, many of our clients who finally file for bankruptcy long after the pros greatly outweigh the cons still express feelings of failure and shame.

At Veitengruber Law, our goal is to help people see bankruptcy as an opportunity for positive financial change—not as the end of the line. We work with our clients to dispel some of the prevailing myths about bankruptcy. We know that many of our clients face bankruptcy due to a number of circumstances outside of their control. Loss of employment or underemployment, divorce, medical expenses, and student loan debt are some of the most common obstacles to financial security that our clients face. We understand that no two clients are the same, which is why our debt relief solutions are created to fit your particular needs and goals. Bankruptcy is just one of the many tools we can help clients use to restore financial health.

Struggling through years living under the enormous weight of crushing debt is not a measure of personal integrity, nor is it financially advisable. Waiting too long to file for bankruptcy can put your financial security at greater risk. Don’t spend years struggling in the sweatbox. Veitengruber Law’s holistic approach to debt management and bankruptcy strategies will ensure that you receive personalized service for your specific needs. Filing for bankruptcy can be an intimidating process, but you do not have to do it alone, and working with us will not put you further in debt. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

When you call us for your free consultation, we will answer any questions you have and help you decide if bankruptcy is the right choice for your circumstances. If bankruptcy is not the right option for you, we will offer you alternative solutions that are viable in your specific situation. No risk – no obligation. We’re here to help!

Image: “FREEDOM!” by Gonzalo Baeza – licensed under CC by 4.0

Why We Stand Out as a NJ Real Estate & Debt Relief Law Firm

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At Veitengruber Law, we strive to provide service that is above and beyond the standard. We understand that there is no one size fits all solution to financial and legal issues. Our experienced team manages every single case on an individualized basis, providing proven solutions from years of experience managing cases. Our goal is to help our clients achieve financial security with a customized plan specific to their needs. As a result of our practices, our clients are able to move forward to make stronger financial choices confidently and independently.

George established Veitengruber Law to help families and individuals in need of financial help. During his seven years of experience working as a Senior Associate for a Monmouth County debt resolution firm, George saw first-hand the toll overwhelming debt can have. When he opened his solo practice in 2010, he decided to use his vast legal and courtroom experience to help clients achieve their financial goals. Beyond just providing legal expertise and defense, George and his team stick with clients to help them learn valuable financial lessons. This holistic approach allows George to help clients even after their case has been settled, allowing them to look forward to a brighter financial future.

Veitengruber Law maintains a concentrated legal focus, allowing George to bring the full strength of his experience and success to the table for every single client. As a full-service real estate and debt relief solutions practice, we can provide unsurpassed services to our clients.

The Veitengruber Law team has years of experience in all aspects of real estate transactions from contract review to real estate presentation and closing services. Your home is typically the largest investment you will ever make. NJ real estate transactions can involve highly detailed paperwork and complex contracts. George and his team can work with you during sales, purchasing, inspections, liens, titles, and contracts so you can feel confident in your real estate transactions.

Veitengruber Law saves an average of 60 families from foreclosure eviction each year. George is highly experienced in the wide variety of legal strategies and foreclosure defenses to help keep our clients in their homes. We analyze our client’s specific circumstances and provide expert guidance on the best foreclosure alternative case-by-case. Our team will explain your options in plain language so you can understand all of your options.

We are also experienced in providing proven debt-relief solutions tailored to every situation. Our team has significant experience negotiating with difficult lenders, creditors, and other financial institutions. Our insight into the way credit card companies work informs the effective solutions we can offer our clients. Your individual debt solution may involve a mortgage modification, loan refinancing, settling with a creditor, or simply creating a good budget to follow. We make sure our debt relief solutions are realistic, appropriate, and unique to each client.

While we know bankruptcy is not a solution for every situation, we work against the myth that bankruptcy is the end of the line. Time and again, we have helped our clients take bankruptcy as a first step back to financial health. Not only can bankruptcy save your home as an automatic stay to halt a foreclosure, it can be an excellent tool to get out from under unmanageable debt. Our team will only suggest bankruptcy if it is truly the best solution for you.

Beyond our expertise and proven success, we offer an approachable experience for our clients. We understand how much stress and anxiety these heavy financial decisions can cause—and how intimidating it can be to reach out to a lawyer for help. Our goal is to make our clients as comfortable as possible throughout the entire process. We want to understand your goals and help you find comprehensive solutions to your problems. Contact us today for a free consultation!

STOP a NJ Sheriff’s Sale and KEEP YOUR HOME

NJ sheriff's sale

In New Jersey, it can take a long time to foreclose on a home. There are a lot of options to explore before you get to the point of foreclosure. If, however, you find yourself unable to work with your lender to get a loan modification and a foreclosure commences, you may be facing a sheriff sale of your home. The good news is, even at the point that a sheriff sale has been scheduled, there are still ways to stop the auction and save your home. Veitengruber Law is here to offer valuable legal advice to get you through this time sensitive situation.

After it has been decided the home will go to sheriff’s sale, the lender or the homeowner can ask the court to adjourn, or postpone, the sale temporarily. Under NJ law, the adjournment can be requested for any or no reason at all, but the homeowner can only ask for adjournment twice whereas the lender can ask as many times as they want. These adjournments last for two weeks and give the homeowner time to consider their options.

In New Jersey, each county has its own adjournment procedures and sets its own costs for requests. Generally, the fee is small – around $28 – in most counties. All requests for adjournment must be made in person and the fee must be paid up front. The request can be made in a letter listing the docket number and sheriff sale number along with the property address and date of the sale. Some counties offer a standard form to request the adjournment. We can help you submit this request to make sure you are approved for your two week adjournment.

In limited situations, the homeowner can ask for additional adjournments. This formal request to the Court would only be granted for good cause, like if a sale of the home is pending or the homeowner is likely to be approved for a loan modification. Additional requests for adjournment can be costly and are at the full discretion of the judge, so it is important to try to work toward a solution within the time limits provided by your two allotted adjournments.

Once the sale of the home has been stalled or stopped, you have a few options to consider. Because you have missed more than three payments, the loan is declared to be in default and the lender will not just let you start paying again to catch-up on missed payments. These missed payments and late fees are combined with any real estate taxes or insurance that has been paid by the lender along with any legal fees to make up the “arrears.” The arrears must be paid before the lender will allow you to start making monthly payments again.

There are a few ways to pay off the arrears. The first is to pay them off in one lump sum, which can be difficult if not impossible for most people. The second is to negotiate a loan modification with your lender and have the arrears added to the principal balance of the loan. Even if you have tried and failed to get a loan modification in the past, with Veitengruber Law’s help it may still be possible to work out a loan modification. This could permanently close your foreclosure case and save your home. A loan modification is often the most ideal way to resolve a foreclosure case and we will do everything they can to work toward this goal.

The final option to repay arrears and end your foreclosure case while keeping your home is to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Once bankruptcy is declared, a sheriff sale of your home will be immediately stopped. While the idea of filing for bankruptcy can seem intimidating, bankruptcy is actually a very useful legal tool to get back on top of your finances. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy will likely save your home from foreclosure and also give you options to mitigate your debts. If you also have excessive credit card debt or other debt from medical or other unplanned expenses, these debts can be managed within the same bankruptcy case. Working with an experienced  bankruptcy law attorney who also provides foreclosure defense services will help you determine the best way to save your home and get you on the path to a better financial future.

There are a lot of considerations to take into account when facing a sheriff sale of your home in New Jersey. We understand that this is a deeply personal decision and we will be there to support you every step of the way. Don’t assume you are out of options because a sheriff’s sale is scheduled. Contact us today for an expert assessment of your situation and save your home!

5 Mistakes to Avoid After NJ Bankruptcy

NJ bankruptcy

After your NJ bankruptcy, a common concern is how to re-establish your credit score. The real challenge is creating new financial habits so you don’t find yourself back in the same hole all over again. At Veitengruber Law, our holistic approach to financial health means our job doesn’t end after the bankruptcy is closed. We work with you to repair your credit and create healthier financial habits.

 

Top Mistakes to Avoid After a Bankruptcy Discharge:

 

1 – Ignoring your credit report

When rebuilding your credit subsequent to a bankruptcy discharge or reorganization, you will want to be very attentive to your credit report. Your creditors are supposed to report any discharged debts included in the bankruptcy to the credit bureaus. These reports should show a zero balance and include a note indicating the debt has been discharged. It is crucial to follow-up on this and ensure that all creditors are reporting to credit bureaus correctly. If discharged debt is being wrongly reported—as either a charge-off or an open account—late or missed payments can continue to show up on your credit. This can further damage your score and make it more difficult for you to get new credit.

2 – Applying for multiple new credit lines

It can be tempting after bankruptcy to rush out and apply for a gaggle of credit cards or loans in an attempt to quickly repair credit. However, it is important to give your credit score time to rebound before applying for new credit. The impact of a bankruptcy is strongest in the first year after filing, although it can stay on (and affect) your credit report for up to ten years. Instead of rushing into opening several credit lines at once, be patient and take the time to research your best options.

3 – Failing to read the fine print

When you do start applying for credit cards, it is important to remember that not all credit cards are created equally. Some credit cards will be more helpful to those rebuilding post-bankruptcy. A secured card, for instance, allows you to deposit cash as collateral up front to create a line of credit. That way, you are not able to charge more than your initial deposit. With any card you choose, it is important to read the fine print of your terms to make sure the card will work in your favor.

4 – Falling for credit repair scams

Many unethical “credit repair companies” make big promises about performing miracles to improve credit scores, but they rarely ever deliver the results promised. These companies rely on misinformation to scam those that don’t know much about how credit works. Some of their tactics may even be illegal. Keep in mind that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

5 – Making things too complicated

Ultimately, when it comes to rebuilding your credit after bankruptcy, you need to go back to the basics. What bad habits caused you to file for bankruptcy in the first place? An unflinching assessment of your spending habits will help you determine which factors led to the bankruptcy and determine where you need to make changes. Figure out what your credit-bingeing triggers are and work toward setting spending limits for yourself. Simple things like making on time payments, keeping debt to a minimum, and sticking to a healthy budget are excellent foundations of any financial strategy and will get you on the road to financial health quickly.

You’ve been through the hard-fought financial battle of bankruptcy and come out victorious on the other side. Now is the time to think positively about your financial future. Rebuilding your credit after bankruptcy takes time and patience, but you can use the knowledge and financial savvy you’ve learned along the way to move forward to a brighter future. Veitengruber Law is here to help. We are skilled in advising clients and creating easy-to-follow strategies to rebuild credit. Call for your free consultation today.

Seeking Legal Counsel When You’re Out of Money and Out of Time

nj bankruptcy attorney

 

You have reached that critical point; you can no longer keep up with your bills. You might have a mountain of credit card debt, a house going into foreclosure, a looming sheriff sale on your property, shut off notices for services, a garnishment or repossession on a vehicle, or all of the above! Perhaps you are considering bankruptcy. The point is that you need the help of a legal professional. You need it done well, you need it now, AND you need to find a way to pay for it.

 

How Can You Afford It? (How Can You Not??)

You’re going to have to spend money to save money.  HOWEVER, you’re going to save your peace of mind and hopefully some assets too.

 

  1. Take advantage of a free consultation. A qualified attorney can give you your options. Is bankruptcy right for you? Is your situation ripe for credit consolidation or negotiation? How far along are you in the foreclosure process? Is it possible to stop a pending sheriff sale? Be honest and you’ll receive realistic expectations for your individual circumstances.

 

  1. Use Your Tax Refund. Uncle Sam has been holding on to your money, but now it’s the perfect nugget of cash infusion to save you bigger money in the long run.

 

  1. Ask family and friends. It’s difficult to swallow your pride, but you never know what your support net is until you ask. If it’s a gift, then that’s great. If it’s a loan you can let your loved one know that he or she will be listed as a creditor if you file bankruptcy. For other situations; set up a plan of when and how much you can realistically repay. It’s much easier to keep your job if you have stable housing and a solid financial plan under your belt.

 

  1. Stop Paying Your Unsecured Debt. If, after your consultation, bankruptcy is in your future, stop making payments on credit cards or other unsecured debt. The total owed will be dealt with as part of the bankruptcy, so those monthly minimums can now finance your legal fund.

 

  1. Reduce your expenses and minimize outgoing expenses. Fancy coffee every morning, premium cable channels, gym membership, daily lunches “out” – all gone. It adds up fast!

 

  1. Try to earn some extra money aside from your primary occupation. Sell old electronics or find a temporary part time job. Go through your attic or basement and have a yard sale, or hit eBay. Lighten your load while filling your wallet.

 

  1. Request a payment plan. Your bankruptcy attorney may allow you to list them as a creditor in a Chapter 13 filing, thus allowing you to pay them over a period of months. Chapter 7 fees can be paid over time as well, although without the federal court supervising. (Keep in mind that you must be paid in full before your attorney will file the case.)

 

  1. Withdraw from your retirement account. Only do this as a last resort. Those funds are otherwise protected, but you could be facing a large tax consequence if you withdraw early. That being said, in some circumstances it may be the best option. Also, consider options where you essentially “borrow” the funds from yourself and replace them with a payroll reduction each pay period going forward.
    IMPORTANT NOTE: Always discuss this option with your credit repair attorney BEFORE taking any money from your retirement fund(s).

nj bankruptcy attorney

How to Find the Right Attorney

You want someone with a proven record of results who can and will act in a timely manner. You could call your local bar association or attorney referral number. You could get a referral from a friend. Or, you could count one problem solved and realize that you already know a top legal representative for all types of financial duress – Veitengruber Law.

 

Don’t represent yourself.

This isn’t small claims court, or a traffic ticket. This is your entire financial future. Your chance of successfully completing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy without legal counsel is less than 1%; the chances of completing a solo Chapter 7 is less than 50%. Besides, you might end up losing more money trying to navigate your financial issues alone than you would have spent on legal counsel in the first place.

 

You wouldn’t ask a podiatrist to work on your car, or the babysitter to fix your plumbing. You need the right person for the job – you need an expert! When you’re looking for a NJ lawyer with experience who you can trust, you need Veitengruber Law.

Bankruptcy Balderdash Basics: Know the Lingo

bankruptcyNew Jersey is a great place to live. We have mountains and beaches and lakes, great sports teams, attraction such as Six Flags and Atlantic City, and we are conveniently close to Manhattan and Philadelphia. That being said, we also have one of the highest costs of living in the nation. That amounts to our residents having more debt than most of the country. Average credit card debt is the second highest in the US, and don’t forget student loan debt, higher property taxes and longer commutes. All of these factors contributed to nearly 27,000 NJ residents filing for bankruptcy between October 2017 and September 2018.

 


Just the word BANKRUPTCY can loom large. It’s without a doubt a very overwhelming concept to contemplate.


 

Ultimately, though, the process can provide help on many fronts such as relief from hounding creditors, stress, and uncertainty. Bankruptcy is a complicated process, and you should avoid trying to navigate it without a consummate professional by your side.

 

Going into your first consultation with a debt management attorney can feel almost as daunting as the bankruptcy process itself. Chapter 7, Chapter 13, Chapter what?! Trustees, claim forms …. before you know it, you’re swimming in jargon. Veitengruber Law wants you to feel at ease from the very beginning. Alleviate some of that apprehension by understanding the bankruptcy balderdash and get to know the lingo.

 

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy – Also known as a straight bankruptcy, it provides protection from creditors to individuals (or companies) who legally file for bankruptcy, providing for sale of certain assets to pay debts. Only certain possessions, up to specific dollar limits, can be kept when you file for Chapter 7. It’s an option for people with limited income. Chapter 7 is basically a liquidation of most of your assets – the proceeds of which are divided up among your creditors. Then, any remaining debt is “forgiven,” and you financially start anew with a clean slate. Keep in mind that you will be debt free at the end of the process, but the bankruptcy will remain on your credit report, making you a high credit risk for the next 10 years. That may be a more desirable outcome than drowning in debt, but you have to consult with legal counsel to have your personal circumstance evaluated.

 

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy – a reorganization bankruptcy, similar to Chapter 13, but used primarily by businesses and corporations.

 

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy – This option allows you to keep key assets such as your primary residence and your vehicle. Under this plan, the court gives you a repayment plan to satisfy your debts.  You’ll have between 3 and 5 years to pay off that debt by sticking to the plan. You are expected to keep to the repayment plan and be current with all of your debts through the end of the plan. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 7 years.

 

Exemption rules – New Jersey has its own set of exemptions that you may use when filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Exemptions determine what property (such as a residence, vehicle, retirement accounts, etc.) you may keep in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and how much you must pay to certain creditors in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. You may use either the NJ state exemptions or the federal bankruptcy exemptions. You are not allowed to mix and match from both lists. If you choose to use the New Jersey state exemptions, you may also use any applicable amounts in the federal non-bankruptcy exemptions. Unless noted otherwise, if a couple is married and filing jointly in New Jersey, each spouse may claim the full amount of each exemption. The lingo for that is “doubling.” (You can see how it gets complicated quickly, and why it is vital to have expert counsel to guide you.)

 

Examples of New Jersey exemptions: burial plots, household goods up to $1,000, stocks valued up to $1,000, pensions, certain life insurance proceeds, some disability and health benefits.

 

Examples of Federal exemptions: homestead, jewelry up to $1,600, health aids, lost earnings payments, public benefits, alimony and child support.

 


This is by no means an exhaustive list, and each exemption has caveats, so be sure to discuss the best option for you with your legal counsel.


 

Proof of Claim – a form that creditors file with the court to prove that they have a valid claim against the bankruptcy estate. Before a creditor can get paid through your bankruptcy, they must file a proof of claim. When you file for bankruptcy, all creditors listed in your schedules receive notice of your case as well as a deadline to file their proof of claim. If a creditor doesn’t file a proof of claim, they can’t get paid through your bankruptcy. The debtor can also file a proof of claim on behalf of a creditor who has not done so on their own. This usually happens if the debtor specifically wants to pay that creditor through the bankruptcy. (Proof of claims must contain certain requirements, and are not always required in certain types of Chapter 7, so if you are in doubt, consult with an expert.)

 

Repayment Plan (Chapter 13 only) – a plan which lasts from three to five years, whereby you pay off some debts in full; other types of debts are paid in full or part depending on how much disposable income you have. Putting together a plan that the court will confirm, with the assistance of counsel, is key to your Chapter 13 bankruptcy’s success.

 

Trustee – a person appointed by the court to administer and oversee your case. The trustee reviews your bankruptcy paperwork (and supporting documents) to gauge accuracy in your petition. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing, the trustee’s primary responsibility is to find and sell your nonexempt property to pay back your creditors. In a Chapter 13, the trustee does not sell your assets but reviews your repayment plan to make sure it is both realistic for you and fair to your creditors. After approval by both the trustee and the court, you make one monthly payment to the trustee, and he or she distributes your monthly payments to your creditors pursuant to your plan. Depending on your situation and the type of bankruptcy you file, you may also be required to attend certain hearings, in which your trustee will preside, before your case is completed. These can include: Confirmation Hearing, Meeting of Creditors, Reaffirmation Hearing, Hearing on Creditor’s Motion, and others.

 

Automatic Stay – the simple request for bankruptcy protection automatically halts most lawsuits, repossessions, foreclosures, evictions, garnishments, attachments, utility shut-offs, and debt collection activity, by way of injunction. There are numerous provisions and exceptions to the automatic stay.

 

Credit Counseling – required before a debtor may obtain bankruptcy relief under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. It involves education in personal financial management, and an overall assessment of your financial situation to see if bankruptcy is your only option. The process is used to help individual debtors with debt settlement through education, budgeting and the use of a variety of tools with the goal to reduce and ultimately eliminate debt, rather than discharge it through the court.

 

As you can see, there are a lot of choices to be made, and even more questions to answer. Don’t risk a misstep that could affect your entire financial future.  Call Veitengruber Law today for your free consultation.

 

How “Keeping up with the Joneses” can Send You into Bankruptcy

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What exactly is “Keeping up with the Joneses”?

 

“Keeping up with the Joneses” is a phrase that originates from a 1913 New York Globe comic strip by Arthur (Pop) Momand. The use of this coined phrase now refers to the actions of striving to keeping up with one’s neighbors in reference to social status and spending. “Keeping up with the Joneses” sometimes begins to happen for an individual when they bear witness to a neighbor or loved one coming into a large financial windfall – perhaps by winning the lottery. The neighbor may start to spend their newfound money on luxuries like cars, vacations, clothing, etc. This inspires said person to begin spending money outside their means to compensate for jealousy of the newly rich neighbor. Unfortunately, these actions can lead to debt, financial crisis, and bankruptcy.

 

Take the story of NJ lottery winner Pedro Quezada, formerly from the Dominican Republic. Quezada was from Passaic, New Jersey, and winner of $338 million. After hitting the jackpot, Quezada (owner of a local bodega) proclaimed he was thrilled because he could properly take care of his family.  Spending immediately began, but maybe not in the exact way his neighbors anticipated.  He was constantly approached by frequent customers of his bodega and friends of his looking for handouts, some traveling from as far as Colombia. There were even several false reports on news outlets claiming he declared to pay the rent for his neighbors, and eventually this led to a falling out with them. In fact, Quezada was even sued by his live in girlfriend of ten years for half of his winnings a year after winning the lottery. Eventually Quezada’s attorney won the case because the couple had never been married therefore his ex-girlfriend was not entitled to any of the winnings.

 

Unrealistic expectations

 

Suppose you have a neighbor (or family member) who just won the lottery. They decide to throw a lavish party to celebrate and show off their windfall. Maybe they add in that in-ground pool they have always wanted, or purchase that car or boat they had been dreaming of, and while they’re at it they make upgrades to their landscaping and home. These types of actions can cause a trigger effect with neighboring individuals who begin to look for ways to get rich quick or take out a loan much larger than they are capable of repaying just to be able to unrealistically and irrationally upgrade their lifestyle to keep up with their newly rich friend or loved one. This is a common theme that leads more often than not to bankruptcy and financial crisis.

 

Managing your money well

 

Watching someone win the lottery may seem like a super exciting event, and you may feel inspired to make rash decisions which can then result in irresponsible spending. Our advice? Forget about “Keeping up with the Joneses.”

As an NJ bankruptcy attorney firm, we at Veitengruber Law focus on aiding individuals with managing their debt and finances more realistically to protect their assets in order to avoid bankruptcy. If you feel as though you are lost in your expenses and debts because you’ve tried to live beyond your means, please reach out to us PRONTO. We can help, and we WANT to help.

Debt Limits in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

NJ bankruptcy attorney

For most people, the word bankruptcy doesn’t incite a positive response, especially if it’s a personal obstacle that you’ve faced. Despite its often negative reputation, bankruptcy does provide a second chance to start fresh. It’s not the easiest monetary maze to navigate, but in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a significant emphasis is placed on devising a repayment plan, which offers direction to a financially divergent individual.

When a debtor files a petition through the bankruptcy court, the bankruptcy case is initiated. Though there are various types/chapters of bankruptcy, Chapter 13 can only be filed by individuals. In order for you to qualify for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your total debt cannot exceed a specific limit according to the bankruptcy law. At first glance, if your debt exceeds the set amount, don’t panic. It’s still possible to qualify for Chapter 13, and we’ll explain what that looks like.

Some parts of debts can be contingent, disputed, or not yet liquidated and therefore will not be combined with the rest of your debt. Unliquidated debt occurs when the amount that you may be required to pay has not yet been determined or cannot easily be determined. This can be a common occurrence in personal injury or auto accident claims. A debt that you are not mandated to pay unless a specific event takes place is known as contingency debt. If the event never occurs, you will not be obligated to pay the debt.

Every 3 years, the Chapter 13 debt limits are altered. Set on April 1, 2016, if your secured debts, such as mortgages and liens, amount to more than $1,184,200 or unsecured debt totals more than $394,725, you may not be eligible for Chapter 13. These amounts are not negotiable, but there are steps you can take in order to get your debt total below the limits.

Review and Separate Types of Debt

1.      Distinguish which debts are not counted into the debt limit.

You are not obligated to pay contingency debts unless the contingency event occurs. Be careful; cosigned debts are not contingent.
Example: You cosign on your sister’s car loan with the assumption that she will repay the debt. Legally, you are just as responsible for the debt, even if you and your sister are in agreement that she will be responsible for repayment.

Unliquidated debts are easy to understand, but know that breach of contract claims are not normally deemed unliquidated.

2.      Separate debt into unsecured and secured categories.

What is the difference between unsecured and secured debt? Connected to a property, mortgages and car loans are standard examples of secured debt. Since the borrower has an incorporated motivation to make payments, the property linked to the debt is said to “secure” the loan. If the individual ceases to make payments, the lender can take hold of the property that is associated with the loan.

Unsecured debt includes credit card debt and student loans. In other words, it’s debt that is unattached to property. The creditor can take action against the debtor, but they are not able to seize property to make up for ignored payments.

If you have secured property in bankruptcy, it’s possible to strip down a lien or part of a lien. Any portion that is removed turns into unsecured debt. The conversion of some secured debt to unsecured debt can assist you in remaining beneath the debt limit.

Other Filing Requirements

In order to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it’s not only necessary that you meet the debt limits; there are a few additional requirements. It’s suggested that you have a steady, reliable income. This is crucial because a repayment plan occurs over the course of 3 to 5 years and you need to be sure that you will have a paying job throughout the life of your plan.

A credit counseling session is also mandated before an individual can file for Chapter 13. You’ll be required to submit a certificate that states that the counseling was completed before your bankruptcy case can be opened.

If you find that you do not meet the debt limits for Chapter 13 bankruptcy even after taking our suggested steps, there are other options that you can pursue. Chapter 11 bankruptcy offers reorganization and many of the benefits of Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but it’s typically less stream-lined. Chapter 7 would also be an option, but it only provides liquidation.

If you’re considering filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and have questions about the process or even more specifically, debt limits, be sure to contact our office. We offer all new clients a free, holistic debt evaluation, which will help you determine what action(s) will help your financial situation the most.

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.