What is a Cloud on a Title Report?

As much as we all love to capture images of the beautiful and interesting “cloudscapes” above us, we know too, that clouds can signal storms. This holds true figuratively as well as literally. A cloud found on a title report during a real estate transaction can be quite disconcerting as well as potentially predictive of an impending problem.

Here at Veitengruber Law, we like to make sure that our clients as well as our blog readers have a clear understanding of as much legal language as possible. We’re the first to admit that almost every area of the law is absolutely bursting with legalese that can make many legal processes mind-boggling. We deal with these terms on a daily (dare we say ‘hourly’?) basis, but we know that you probably do not – so we always try to view legalese through your eyes.

What does it mean if there is a “cloud on title?”

If you are in the process of buying or selling real property (real estate), one crucial step in the process is the title search. This step is typically performed by a real estate attorney or a title company. The earlier in your real estate process the title search is performed, the better, because discovering a clouded title right before closing will put a real damper on your excitement.

When a title search comes back as “clouded,” one of several main reasons is generally the cause:

Issues with probate

These issues usually arise with older homes who have had a multitude of owners. There are a lot more opportunities for error when previous owners have died while still in possession of the home. Locating the necessary death certificates and other documentation can prove to be rather time consuming.

Previous foreclosures

While foreclosure on its own isn’t a sufficient reason to cause a cloud on a title, if there were problems with the foreclosure procedure or the judgement, they may appear as a cloud on a title. In order to clear up foreclosure issues, it may be necessary to resubmit foreclosure documentation or potentially re-open the foreclosure case.

Fraud

Although a rather uncommon reason for a clouded title, it is possible that the deed to the property was at one time recorded fraudulently. While rare, if fraudulent transfer of the deed has occurred, you’re in for a long road to resolving the matter.

Liens

The most common reason a property may have a cloud on its title is because the property has one or more liens attached to it. A lien is a notice indicating that the current owner of the home owes money to one or more creditor. Any outstanding liens must be cleared up before the property’s title will officially be called “clear.”

Paperwork/recording mistakes

Even though we’ve been living in the Technology Age for nearly two decades, it is only very recently that governmental agencies/bureaucracies have made the move to computerized record-keeping. This means that most past transactions of the property in question were likely done solely on paper, which is much more likely to lead to errors. Many recording errors can be relatively easy to fix, but some can prove to be quite challenging.

As you can see, a clouded title can often be rather difficult to fix. As you absolutely cannot move forward on your real estate transaction without a clear title, it is best to work quickly with a New Jersey real estate attorney who has experience with clouded titles. Attempting to fix the problem yourself or hoping it will go away on its own may very well end without the sale or purchase of your dream home.

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NJ Bankruptcy Forms: The Creditor Matrix

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If you are weighing the pros and cons of filing for bankruptcy in New Jersey, you’ve likely realized that there is a large amount of paperwork involved in the process. This is true whether your past due debts would be best resolved with a chapter 7 bankruptcy or if your unique financial situation lends itself better to a chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment plan.

Although there are additional bankruptcy chapters, chapter 7 and chapter 13 are the two most common types filed by individuals and small business owners. Because bankruptcy filers are already in debt, it isn’t uncommon to contemplate foregoing an attorney. While it may seem like an easy way to cut corners, a bankruptcy attorney’s fees can save you a significant amount of money in the long run.

With that being said, if you choose to move forward without a lawyer, some of the required forms may confuse you, leading to critical errors in your bankruptcy petition if you aren’t careful. Always do your research before filling out any of your paperwork that you have questions about.

What is the creditor matrix?

While it may sound like something more complex, the New Jersey bankruptcy creditor matrix is a list of everyone to whom you owe money. The creditor matrix is also referred to as the creditor mailing list, because throughout the duration of your case, the court will use the matrix to notify your creditors of important case information.

Why is the creditor matrix so important?

Every debt that you wish to have discharged must be listed on your creditor matrix. Omitting a creditor can lead to that debt not being discharged. Even listing a creditor’s information incorrectly is reason enough for them to object to your bankruptcy discharge of their debt.

Creditors who aren’t notified about your bankruptcy will be entitled to continue collecting money from you. This is simply because they weren’t included in your creditor matrix; therefore, they never knew about your bankruptcy petition.

What do I need to know about filing a creditor matrix?

Every individual bankruptcy court has unique filing policies and formatting procedures for the creditor matrix. You can work with an experienced NJ bankruptcy attorney who will prepare and file the matrix for you. This eliminates any possibility of error, which is one of the huge benefits of hiring an attorney to file bankruptcy for you. Misfilings and omissions can cost you large amounts of money – much more than you would pay in attorney fees.

If I make a mistake on my creditor matrix, can it be fixed?

Making a mistake on your creditor mailing list won’t necessarily cause your case to be thrown out, but if you realize you’ve left off a creditor (or several), you’ll need to add them via matrix amendment. Each time you make changes to your bankruptcy petition, you’ll be charged another fee, and you’re required to notify all of your creditors about any changes.

Amending any part of your bankruptcy petition must be done according to the specific rules of your bankruptcy court. Creditors who are added to the creditor matrix will also need to be added to other sections of your bankruptcy petition, namely Schedules D, E or F.

Image credit: Judy van der Velden
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After Foreclosure: Living in a Bank-Owned Home

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As we make our way toward the end of the 2016 calendar year, we’re creeping up on the 10 year mark of the start of the U.S. housing crisis that began in 2007. Many states in the nation have recovered nicely by this point, with some reports saying that the housing market is the best it’s been in a decade.

In New Jersey, though, foreclosures are still a significant problem. The garden state has yet to find solid footing in the wake of the housing crisis (also called the housing bubble), and even nearly a decade later is still a state with one of the highest foreclosure rates.

Although it appeared as if things were moving in the right direction for New Jersey’s foreclosure situation this year, as we reach the end of 2016, the recovery rate has slowed to a crawl and nearly 13,000 new foreclosures entered the court system in the final quarter of this year alone. Because of the long, mandated legal foreclosure process in NJ, this new influx of foreclosures has once again caused a significant backlog in foreclosure court. We’ve taken a step backward in our recovery from the housing crisis, with Atlantic, Ocean and Essex counties  currently showing the highest numbers of new foreclosure filings.

One of the effects that the decade-long real estate recession has had on New Jersey is neighborhood blight in areas hardest hit by foreclosure. In reference to the housing market, blight is the dilapidation, deterioration or decay of certain towns and cities (or sections of those towns).

The reason for this phenomenon is that so many foreclosed homes are not being sold at auction. Since New Jersey hasn’t fully recovered from the 2007 crisis, buyers and developers are still wary about purchasing questionable properties, especially in areas that are downtrodden or showing potential signs of blight.

When a foreclosed home fails to sell at sheriff’s sale, the lender or bank retains ownership of the property. These homes are called REO: “Real Estate Owned.” Often the term “Bank owned” is used interchangeably.

REO properties are often empty for significant periods of time, which can lead to vandalism, drug activity, disrepair and squatters. All of these factors combine to create blight, especially when several or many homes in a neighborhood become bank owned and uninhabited.

Smart lenders realize the depreciation that occurs when a property becomes vacant – which means if you are at the end of your home’s foreclosure process and your home becomes bank owned (or REO) – you may be able to continue living in the home until your lender can sell it.

While not all lenders are amenable to giving former homeowners a “free ride” living mortgage free in a home that is now an REO property, some lenders acquiesce to the fact that a cared-for property is much easier to sell than one that has been destroyed by defacement and crime.

Your NJ foreclosure attorney can talk to your lender on your behalf if you are too nervous to do it on your own. If your lender is not open to letting you live in the home scot-free, there may be room to negotiate a rental agreement. Naturally, your attorney will request a monthly rent amount that you can afford. Lenders often realize that getting some money is better than getting no money at all.

If and when your lender does sell your home to another buyer, you will be given eviction notice. At that time, you’ve reached the end of the line in your REO home, and will be required by law to vacate the premises, usually within 30-60 days. So, if you are lucky enough to continue living in your home after its foreclosure sale, put away as much money as possible each month, and scout out a new living arrangement that you can afford. When the time comes, you’ll have a nest egg and hopefully your financial future will look much brighter.

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Can I File for Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 at the Same Time?

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“Sometimes one bankruptcy isn’t enough.” – George Veitengruber, Esq.

As we’ve discussed before on our blog, there are time limitations put into place that prevent a debtor from receiving a second chapter 7 discharge unless at least eight years have passed since their first chapter 7 discharge. You also cannot be granted a chapter 13 discharge unless at least four years have passed since you filed for chapter 7, so where on earth can we possibly be going with this?

Bankruptcy law disallows back to back bankruptcy discharges in order to avoid people abusing the bankruptcy system. With no restrictions, any debtor could theoretically bounce from one bankruptcy discharge to another, and that wouldn’t be fair to creditors, nor would the debtor learn any valuable lessons regarding their finances.

There are situations, however, wherein a debtor can file consecutive bankruptcy cases, but only when the desired outcome is not a second discharge.

Most people associate bankruptcy with ridding themselves of all of their debt, the closest thing to a financial “do-over” that exists in the real world. While a bankruptcy discharge can indeed be akin to a capital tabula rasa, giving debtors a clean slate isn’t the only function of the bankruptcy system.

For example, one of the most beneficial (and immediate) effects of filing for any type of bankruptcy is the automatic stay:

Automatic stay \noun\  a judicial order known as an injunction that halts any and all lawsuits as well as actions by creditors attempting to collect money from someone who has filed for bankruptcy

Many people file for chapter 7 when they have a significant amount of unsecured debt.

Unsecured debt \noun\ a debt that doesn’t have any collateral attached to it that a creditor could take for payment if the debtor defaults
Examples of unsecured debt: credit card debt, student loans, utility bills, medical bills, some taxes, and most personal loans

In filing for chapter 7 relief, many or all unsecured debts can be discharged at the end of the bankruptcy case, as long as the applicant meets the filing requirements and no fraud is at play.

Frequently, a discharge of all unsecured debts so significantly reduces the financial strain on the debtor that they are then able to resume paying their monthly living expenses without difficulty.

Sometimes, though, even after a chapter 7 wipes out a huge chunk of their debt, some people are still left facing a significant amount of non-dischargeable debts.

Non-dischargeable debt \noun\ money owed that can almost never be discharged via any type of bankruptcy proceeding
Examples of non-dischargeable debt: child support, alimony, student loans, income tax debt

Still other people, after filing for chapter 7 and receiving a discharge, are left with secured debt(s) that they want to continue making payments on in order to keep the property that secures the debt(s) in question.

Secured debt \noun\ a debt that has collateral attached to it that a creditor could take for payment if the debtor defaults
Examples of secured debt: home mortgage, auto loan, valuable personal property loan (mechanical equipment, furniture, tools, etc)

Whether the debtor is left with substantial non-dischargeable debt or secured debt(s) that hold important value (usually a mortgage and/or auto loan), filing for chapter 13 immediately after a chapter 7 discharge will allow for a reorganization of any subsequent arrears owed, allowing the debtor to bring the loan(s) current.

Veitengruber Law can navigate your path through multiple bankruptcies! If you thought your financial situation was too “messed up” to be fixed – think again. Even better – we want to help you. Please give our office a call if your debts have gotten out of control. Your consultation won’t cost you thing, so you’ve got nothing to lose.

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Pro Bono Vs Pro Se Legal Representation

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Veitengruber Law understands that many of our clients seek out our services precisely because they are financially strapped, or worse. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for us to meet people who are more than $20,000 in debt. By the time they’ve reached out to us, we can see the anxiety written all over their faces. One of the most pressing questions on our clients’ minds is: How much do we charge?

We’ve written about our fees regarding bankruptcy matters before, but let’s just reiterate this part of it first: We are not in this field because we want to make money off of other people’s problems. Our team does need to get paid, but first and foremost, we want you to know that our number one motivator is helping people – NOT getting rich.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about a few legal terms that you need to understand when discussing legal fees and low-cost legal representation.

Pro bono = Donating professional services without charging for them

Pro se = A person representing onesself in court

Naturally, it’s totally your prerogative if you decide that you want to represent yourself in court. Anyone is free to do so in any legal matter. Our opinion, however, is that you should never actually represent yourself in court anytime the outcome could significantly impact your life.

It may seem like a form of injustice that criminal defendants are appointed an attorney when they cannot afford one while civil litigants are almost never afforded the same favor. Criminal defendants are involved in a fight for their freedom (avoiding prison time) and/or their lives (avoiding the death sentence), which is why they will be assigned legal counsel at no cost.

People who are involved in civil cases like bankruptcy, foreclosure defense, landlord/tenant disputes and custody disputes are almost never granted the services of a court appointed lawyer if they can’t afford to hire one on their own. Although the details surrounding criminal cases quite obviously have the potential to be life-changing, the outcome of many civil matters can also have considerable consequences. Think: losing custody of a child, losing a home to foreclosure or having your bankruptcy petition denied.

For these reasons, anyone involved in a civil case deserves to have an attorney assigned to them if they can’t afford one. Since that isn’t public policy, you must look to other avenues that will allow you to have legal representation that you can afford.

For affordable legal representation in New Jersey, you can contact the Legal Aid Society located in your county. These groups work with low income residents to match them with an appropriate attorney who will work pro bono or at a reduced rate.

Another option is to select highly experienced attorney groups like Veitengruber Law who allow you to set up payment plans that you can actually afford. We will work with you to put together a unique payment plan that doesn’t impede your financial goals. We understand that even though you have a steady income, a lot of that money is tied up because you are so far in debt.

Our plan is to relieve you of much (if not all) of that debt. Not only will that ensure that you can easily make our monthly payments, but it will also allow you to get caught up on utilities, personal loans and any other living expenses that have been weighing you down for ages.

Lastly, Veitengruber Law doesn’t charge a consultation fee, so you have absolutely nothing to lose by talking with us on the phone and/or setting up an appointment to discuss your legal needs.

Locations/Contact Info:

Wall, NJ 732-852-7295
Marlton, NJ609-297-5226 or 856-318-2759

You can always fill out our online contact form, too!

 

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What is Credit Counseling? Is it Right for Me?

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All of the terms associated with getting out of debt can get so confusing that you may end up not even understanding which service(s) you could benefit from. That’s why we’re putting out a Back to Basics series, explaining many of the most common terms we use regularly. Look for a new Back to Basics post every week.

What is Credit Counseling?

Just as a marriage counselor sits down with a married couple in order to evaluate the state of their relationship, a credit counselor takes a good look at your finances. He will then work with you to design a plan of action that will see you paying off your debts faster, spending less money on non-essentials, and putting more money into savings.

Typically, you’ll be seeking credit counseling when you’ve found yourself deep in debt with no end in sight, but you can also seek this kind of help if you don’t have a lot of debt but want to save for retirement, pay for your child’s college education, refinance a loan, and more.

During your credit counseling sessions, you will essentially receive an education about how to improve your ‘Money IQ.’ This means that credit counseling is not just a temporary quick fix; you will learn how to maintain financial stability for good.

Who Provides Credit Counseling Services?

Firstly, you should know that there are many credit counseling services in business today who use unethical and often illegal methods to attempt to get you the results you want.

It is important to choose wisely when looking for help with your finances. If you have a lot of debt and need assistance negotiating with lenders, look for a certified and experienced NJ debt settlement law firm.

Many credit counseling services will claim to be able to help you settle your debts in addition to providing you with credit counseling assistance. The truth is that they usually don’t have the ability and necessary knowledge required to negotiate with lenders or to help you file for bankruptcy. All too often, debtors end up even deeper in debt after working with a so-called ‘credit counseling company!’

When you work with a certified debt negotiation attorney, you’ll be in good hands. Look for a New Jersey credit counseling law firm that also specializes in debt restructuring, bankruptcy, credit repair, asset protection and real estate matters (especially if your debt has pushed you into or toward foreclosure.)

How Much Does Credit Counseling Cost?

While you may be able to find a company that will quote you a remarkably low price for their services, remember the saying: “You get what you pay for.” Also – keep in mind that these companies are routinely engaging in fraudulent methods (scams) that have them promising results to customers that they simply cannot, and will never, deliver.

Rather than paying an uncertified company for credit counseling services that’ll get you nowhere fast, consider paying someone who really knows what they’re doing and get a huge return on your investment!

It can be a knee-jerk reaction to balk at the thought of hiring an attorney, but when you find the right certified New Jersey bankruptcy attorney, he will always have valuable experience in the areas of credit counseling and debt negotiation.

Will you have to pay an attorney to teach you how to get out of your unfortunate financial bind? You definitely will – but it will be more than worth it when your debts are either completely discharged (via bankruptcy), negotiated down to much lower amounts, or refinanced and restructured.

Do you think you could benefit from some high quality credit counseling? Would your life be less stressful if your finances weren’t constantly on your mind? If you want to learn more about our credit counseling program – call today and we’ll set up your free consultation. [(732) 852-7295]

We are happy to consult with you in our offices or over the phone, and we look forward to helping you.

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