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.

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.

Attorney vs. Debt Settlement Services: Which One Protects Your Interests?

NJ credit repair attorney

If you’re one of the millions of Americans facing a large amount of personal debt, you may have been tempted by the numerous ads you’ve seen for debt settlement companies. Debt relief sounds like a miraculous shortcut to a fresh financial start, but is it too good to be true?

In a word? Yes.

Like the deadly Venus fly trap plant, debt relief companies and consolidation services put up a beautiful, welcoming front, but once you’ve given them your trust and access to your finances, they’ll slowly devour you. This article will show you the truth about debt settlement services and outline the reasons a personal attorney will protect YOUR long-term financial wellbeing at every opportunity rather than using your troubling financial circumstances to endanger you even further.

 

First, let’s take a look at the methods debt settlement services will use to lure you in and subsequently destroy you financially.

 

Emotionally Manipulating Advertising

Debt settlement services rely on their aggressive advertisements to attract individuals who have poor financial literacy and are in dire straits regarding their current personal debt. They know that people who are paying attention to their ads are desperate for help and feel like they have no one else to turn to.

Dishonest Sales Pitches

Once they entice you to make contact, they’ll bombard you with an emotional sales pitch that will purposefully attempt to break down any critical thinking you might be using to analyze whether or not their services are a good match for you. Just when you’re at your most vulnerable, they’ll present a sales contract that seems to promise that they will arrange for you to be able to pay off your debt quickly.

Usually, these debt settlement companies will require money upfront. Alternatively, you may be asked to open a new bank account that you will be required to funnel money into. This money is supposed to pay off your debts.

No one in the financial world trusts or respects debt settlement service companies.

These companies are viewed with distain because they are for-profit. While it’s true that everyone needs to make a living, debt settlement services usually aim to siphon as much money from you as they can without actually helping you resolve your debts. This reprehensible approach is known far and wide in the financial world, so unfortunately for their customers, most creditors refuse to work with these scam services.

Worse yet, debt settlement companies won’t tell you about this huge barrier to success until you have already signed their contract. Once you’ve signed up, they have what they need. You will be left with a plan that won’t help you at all. Your creditors won’t have a good working relationship (or any kind of working relationship) with your debt settlement company, so your chances of being able to successfully get out from under your debts is actually worse once you’ve signed up.

We aren’t blaming consumers for getting tangled up with this awful companies.

Debt relief scams like this are highly skilled at spinning half-truths that we fully understand why people get sucked in. They cherry-pick information about their results and research; they might present evidence that their program helps clients at the 3-month mark. What they DON’T say is that their clients will be drowning in interest for years afterward. This unethical practice further demonstrates that debt relief services exist just to take your hard-earned money out of your hand when you need it most.

Your interest rates and credit score will be destroyed.

The first thing these companies will do is tell you not to make your minimum payments. They will instruct you to ignore any overdue notices or letters you will certainly receive. They’ll tell you that it’s all part of the plan, and that they have everything well under control.

While it’s true that after a long, hard-ball fight with your creditors, they MAY give up and reduce or write off your debts, but only at a great cost to your financial reputation. Your creditors will inform the credit bureaus that your debt has been negotiated, which will damage your credit score. A poor credit rating will raise your interest rates when you apply for credit cards, a mortgage, or a car loan. In some career fields, having a damaged credit score can even prevent you from being hired at all!

Creditors will still come after you directly, and debt settlement services can’t stop them.

The debt settlement company version of debt reduction will drag on for such a long time that creditors might decide to pursue legal action against you. Even if you do everything your debt settlement company has directed you to do, your creditor can gain a court order to seize your home, your vehicle, valuable belongings, and even garnish your wages directly.

If this happens, a debt settlement company cannot defend you in court, or help you with any legal proceedings. They aren’t lawyers. They don’t provide access to legal counsel, and they are not on your side.

Hire a consumer debt relief attorney to represent you.

Debt settlement companies, credit counseling and debt consolidation businesses cannot represent you in court when you are sued by creditors, they can’t give you legal advice, and they can’t represent you in court when you have the opportunity to sue creditors and collectors for violating your rights — ONLY lawyers can do so.

Why Should I Avoid Debt Settlement Companies?

Non-attorney companies that offer debt settlement services have a poor reputation in the U.S., particularly with the very creditors with whom you need to negotiate and who may sue you. And the industry is, unfortunately, plagued by scams.

A debt settlement company may commit to contacting your creditors on your behalf, but fail to do so. They may even succeed in having the debt frozen, but actually fail to negotiate the debt to an amount you can afford and then just withdraw money to pay themselves.

Assuming the debt negotiation company does as promised, they will still face many obstacles that affect you. To begin with, a creditor, most of whom are represented by a large team of attorneys, may up their game when they discover you are working with a debt settlement company instead of a law firm. This means the creditor could accelerate their collections process and file a lawsuit against you more quickly.

What makes an attorney different?

An attorney will represent you in court if your debt negotiations escalate. Your attorney will be able to give you accurate information about your legal options, your rights, and the risks you face during litigation.

Your attorney’s entire focus will be protecting YOU. Your attorney only cares about your immediate and long-term financial well-being.

Furthermore, your attorney will guarantee total confidentiality. Every communication with your attorney, their firm, and any member of their staff is protected. Only attorneys are bound by this confidentiality ethos.

Veitengruber Law can help you resolve your debt. Come in and meet with us at zero cost to you. Let us analyze and assess your current financial situation. We’ll give you the truth about whether hiring an attorney is in your best interest. If we aren’t sure that you need us, or if we aren’t sure we can help you, we will tell you up-front.

If we think there’s a high likelihood that we CAN help, then we will begin to protect you immediately. We will do everything we can to prevent your creditors from dragging you into court. We will carefully and skillfully negotiate and document each settlement to stop creditors from suing you.

In the event that you are sued, we will be prepared to ferociously defend your interests in court. You will not be alone at any stage of negotiation, litigation, or settlement.

Give us a call today to set up an appointment. The stress of mounting debt can start to take over your life; before you lose any more sleep or waste another hour fretting, allow us to step in and take action on your behalf. We can turn the tide and start taking back your life one negotiation at a time.

Image: “Broke” by Christian Schnettelker – licensed under CC 2.0

How Can an Attorney Help me Get out of Debt?

If you find yourself saddled with more debt than you can comfortably pay back in a timely fashion, it may be time to consider seeking professional counsel to help you resolve your debt in a manageable way. An attorney is often a good place to start, even if you’re unsure if your debt is serious enough to warrant professional help. A qualified attorney will be able to determine if and how they can be of assistance to you during a private consultation.

Learn your options

For starters, you need to find a NJ-certified attorney you are comfortable with disclosing your unique financial information to, including all of your debts. Whether you’re drowning in six figures of debt, or simply have a few unpaid medical bills, your attorney will need to know the scope, nature and sum of your debt to determine if you may be a candidate for any reputable debt consolidation programs, whether it’s time to consider bankruptcy, or, if they may be able to negotiate a lower debt repayment rate with any debt collection agencies pursuing payment from you. Debt collectors do appreciate when you reach out and demonstrate a good-faith effort to consistently pay on time, even if you cannot afford to pay the minimum required amounts.

Debt repayment negotiation

If you have something like past due medical debt, it may be easier to negotiate a lower rate, as oftentimes hospitals are able to write off at least a portion of the debt and use a sliding scale to determine whether or not a patient is eligible for financial aid. Do you have childcare, child support or other necessary expenses? Have you demonstrated a consistent effort to chip away at your debt even if you cannot afford your monthly minimums? An attorney will be able to better negotiate with your debt collector on your behalf. While many debt collectors can be heartless and ultimately do not care about any of your other financial responsibilities other than the debt you owe to them, your attorney has a good chance of arguing successfully on your behalf and ultimately negotiating a pay-back plan you can realistically afford.

The B-word

If your debt is truly beyond your financial ability to realistically pay back, it may be time to consider a more drastic solution like bankruptcy. While bankruptcy can sound like a scary word, it need not be as daunting and overwhelming as it sounds. An attorney will be able to walk you through every step of the process and explain how bankruptcy may impact your life going forward. With careful planning, bankruptcy may not be as painful of an experience as rumor would have it. It will not hinder you financially for the rest of your life, however you can expect some changes to your immediate financial future.

Life after bankruptcy

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You will be taught how to bring your score back up even higher than what it was pre-bankruptcy, which is possible in just 12-18 months. There are some fairly straightforward steps you can take to start rebuilding your credit, even during bankruptcy proceedings to get on a better financial path. An attorney can steer you in the right direction, and if necessary refer you to a financial planner who has experience in budgeting, credit building and other financial planning skills to set you up for success once your bankruptcy has been fully discharged. There is no time like the present to get established on the right path to a debt-free future.

5 Ways to Get Caught Up on Bills After the Holidays

 

debt resolution

Just as a little too much partying on New Year’s Eve can leave you with a painful hangover — a little too much spending during the holiday season can result in a financial hangover. Unfortunately, the latter can’t be cured by drinking plenty of water and getting some extra rest.

When your out-of-town loved ones have gone back home and the decorations are starting to come down, credit card debt and crumbling finances can be a cold, unwelcome reality check. While we want our holiday memories to last a lifetime, holiday debt is something we’d really rather not think about. Avoiding the truth about how much you really spent on gifts for all and sundry won’t make the problem disappear; what it will do is snowball the interest and late fees.

5 effective ways to begin tackling your excessive holiday spending:

 

  1. Assess the Situation/Make a Plan

Tackling excessive debt is anything but fun, but it can’t be avoided. Begin by looking over all of your banking statements and making sure that you agree with all listed charges. Then, make a list of your debts from smallest to largest (based on total amount) to get an idea of  how much you’re in the hole for. Next, create a list of their interest rates from highest to lowest.

Once you have a clear picture of what you’re dealing with, choose either the Snowball or Avalanche debt repayment strategy and start working on the plan of your choice ASAP.

 

  1. Return, Return, Return

Did you end the holiday season with scads of decorations, gifts, or other items that were never even opened? Perhaps you bought gifts for a friend’s significant other only to discover that they broke up in November. Maybe you lost self-control and brought home that ridiculously overpriced holiday decoration you’ve coveted for months.

Do not hesitate — GO NOW, this minute, to return any still-in-box, tagged items. If you are able to get your money back – put it to good use by making an extra credit card payment before you have a chance to buy something else you don’t need. Without a receipt? Use store credit to buy something you’d purchase anyway, like home goods or diapers.

 

  1. Work to Cut Regular Monthly Spending

If you have assessed your budget and concluded that there isn’t enough money left over each month to pay off your credit card debt, then reducing your monthly expenses is a must. Chances are, you have at least some recurring monthly payments that could be eliminated or decreased. Try calling your cell phone provider or cable company to see if they have any New Year’s offers or plans that would be cheaper than what you’re currently paying. Be sure to mention that you’ll have to change providers if they can’t lower your monthly bill.

Look around for a new (lower) quote on home and car insurance. Keep searching until you find a company that has the coverage you need and is willing to work with your budget.

Lastly, assess any larger loans you’re currently repaying (mortgage, home equity, education). Consider refinancing or modifying some or all of those more substantial loans. Every dollar you decrease your monthly payments by can go directly toward paying off credit card debt.

 

  1. No Credit Diet

Until you have that credit card debt completely paid off, we strongly recommend putting yourself and your family members on a “no credit diet.” When you purchase anything, use debit cards, cash or write a check (ancient, but still better than spending money you don’t have). Using these forms of payment will avoid racking up any more credit card debt.

 

holiday spending

 

  1. Every Dollar Counts

Everyone has some expenses that could be considered “flexible” – grocery bills, clothing, entertainment, recreation, and more. Determine what items in your budget are ‘must-haves’ and what you or your family could go without.


In short: Evaluate your spending habits and start making better choices until they become habits.


Example: When you’re tempted to buy that five dollar cup of coffee, think about how quickly your coffee habit could put a dent in your debt. Bonus: Getting off caffeine (or reducing your intake) is good for your blood pressure!

We’ve given you a few ways to start lowering that holiday debt that you had so much fun charging last year. Take the tips that work for you and add your own debt pay-down tricks into the mix.


One caveat: If your holiday debt goes far beyond just the recent holidays, and you’re finding your monthly minimums are more than you can handle, regular debt pay-down strategies probably won’t get you very far. That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck.


When you’re so far behind on your bills that they just keep piling up, unpaid, on your kitchen table, it’s time to ask for professional help. Call Veitengruber Law. We will provide you with a holistic analysis of your debt and tailored solutions that will get you “back in black.”

The best part about reaching out to us for help?  The first meeting’s on us.

Collection Defense vs NJ Bankruptcy

If you have been sued by a collections company or “debt collector,” and the debt truly belongs to you, the most important piece of advice is: Do not ignore the lawsuit.

With that being said, people in your position naturally wonder if they have options. Being sued for a debt that perhaps you thought had been forgiven, or that had reached its statute of limitations, can come as a surprise. Many times we put these things out of our minds because it is easier than focusing on it and worrying about it.

Unfortunately, by putting a large debt that you failed to repay out of your mind, you are now faced with a lawsuit that asks you for the entire lump sum that you owe. This sum may even be larger than you remember due to late fees, attorney fees for the collections agency, and interest.

Is filing for bankruptcy your only option?

While it is impossible to give a blanket answer to this question (as everyone’s case will vary wildly) – the general answer is that no, bankruptcy is not your only option when you are being sued for an unpaid debt.

There are several things your NJ bankruptcy attorney will ask when you meet with him or her. Is this your only significant debt? What is your income? Can you repay this debt if it is broken down into payments?

If you have other debts along with the one in the lawsuit, and your income doesn’t allow you to get ahead on paying them back, it may be that bankruptcy is right for your situation.

Can you negotiate with the debt collector?

On the flip side, if the debt in this lawsuit is literally your only debt (outside of your mortgage and car payment), and your income is steady, you might want to have your bankruptcy/debt resolution attorney negotiate with the collection company.

For example, if your unpaid debt amount is $15,000, you may be able to talk the debt collector down several thousand if you pay in a lump sum. It is also possible to negotiate a payment schedule if you wish to avoid bankruptcy.

Is collection defense an option for you?

Collection defense is only appropriate if the debt in the lawsuit doesn’t belong to you, or if the lawsuit contains errors. So, if you are being sued in error, then collection defense is an option, but the reason many people opt for a different resolution is that collection defense representation can get expensive. Regardless of how much you pay your attorney, you can still end up losing the case, even if the debt collector is in the wrong. This is because NJ law doesn’t require strict proof of signed agreements when it comes to credit cards. Therefore, you may end up owing hefty attorney’s fees and still have to repay the debt in full when all is said and done if you go this route.

The only way to know for sure which direction you should go is to sit down with a NJ bankruptcy lawyer or debt resolution attorney. Often, bankruptcy attorneys also specialize in credit repair and debt resolution strategies other than bankruptcy, so look for an attorney who is well-versed in all areas in which you need assistance.