Broaching the subject of Estate Planning with your Parents

When you were a kid, your parents dreaded having the “talk” with you, you know, that talk. Now that you’re an adult, it’s time to have an even more important talk with your parents. Bringing up the topic of death can be uncomfortable for both parents and children, but when it comes to handling financial matters, the sooner the conversation takes place, the better. Not only is talking about the prospect of your parents’ deaths dreadful, but it can be just as awkward to talk about their money and where it will go when they pass.

Starting the conversation

Though it may not be obvious, there are various financial and personal benefits to having sensitive conversations with your parents about the future. Ideally, it’s helpful to have this kind of conversation before your parent(s) require help with managing their money. Remember that this discussion is about your parents and their money. Chances are, they want you to be involved in some way, so make sure to listen carefully in order to understand their desires and needs. You may have a few suggestions for them. Bring them up when the timing is appropriate, but know ahead of time that they may not take your suggestions. One of your main goals should be ensure that your parents will be properly taken care of as they age.

With an open dialogue, you and your family will have a sense of empowerment, knowing that you have discussed and began planning for the future. By discussing these matters together, you will be forming a way in which your family legacy and values can be continued through generations. Initiating this conversation early will be beneficial if by the unfortunate chance one of your family members was to become ill or incapacitated before expected. Finally, you, your parents, and your children will develop a stable plan that will bring a sense of comfort and resolve.

How do you bring up the topic of money and death? In reality, there is no easy answer, since this is difficult for even the most open families.

  • Find a comfortable environment during a calm(er) time. This would not be a subject to broach during a disagreement or crisis; make sure everyone is emotionally stable before you start the conversation.
  • Be open and sincere about your plans. Make sure your family knows that you have good intentions about developing a plan that will guarantee care for them in the future. Be transparent, accept constructive criticism with grace, and offer any suggestions that may be helpful.
  • Emphasize the significance of the conversation for all individuals involved. Show your family an example of another family and estate that was not handled properly and as a result caused hurt feelings, confusion, and a financial mess because family members did not have this conversation.

Topics of Discussion

A few important things that you need to know include:

  • Where to find your parents’ will
  • If they have a power of attorney and who it is
  • Whether any health care plans or trusts are set up.

Also, find out if they have a life insurance policy or other assets, and how you can gain access to that when necessary. Make sure you gather or know the location of the passwords to their bank or online accounts and have a list of their debts. If your parents are retired, find out information regarding their pensions, IRA withdrawals, Social Security, and how they’re supporting their retirement.

If by chance, your parents are unable to manage their own finances, you need to seek out a power of attorney. A power of attorney will legally help you manage financial transactions. For example, if your parents need to enter a nursing home, but need to sell their home in order to afford care, a power of attorney will assist in this process.

Finally, there is a possibility that your parents will not have any of their financial matters sorted out and will have no idea as to how to deal with major financial decisions regarding their future. In this case, it may be best to meet with an estate planning lawyer.

Sorting through finances and developing a plan for the future is intimidating for both parents and children, but it’s a crucial step in the process of aging. It will be comforting to know that your parents are in a stable financial state and have all financial matters sorted out. When you feel the timing is appropriate, reach out to your parents and initiate the conversation.


How (and when) to Appeal Your NJ Property Tax

Each year, homeowners in New Jersey are required to pay property taxes, but when the time comes for you to make that payment, you may be in for a shock. If you have an understanding of how your property tax is calculated, you will be able to investigate whether you’re paying too much, depending on the assessment of your home. The good news is that the taxable value of your home may be sky high, but there are steps you can take to decrease that value and save a few bucks on your property tax bill.

Before you can move further along in the appeal process, it’s helpful to know how your property tax is actually calculated. In NJ, there are two aspects of your tax bill: first, the taxable value of your home and second, the tax rate. Normally, the municipal tax assessor will review your home to determine the taxable value. The taxable value is 100% of the home’s “worth” or the amount it would be sold for on the open market. The taxable value will be multiplied by the tax rate to decide the property tax. Unfortunately, local officials set the tax rate, so you don’t have much control over that. You may be able to get the taxable value reduced if you believe it is set too high.

If you’re planning to appeal your property tax, one or more of the following must be true:

  • The tax assessor determined your property tax bill using inaccurate information. For example, the official may have assumed your home is 3,000 square feet when it’s actually only 2,500 square feet.
  • The current market value of your home is lower than what was actually concluded by the assessor.
  • Compared to similar homes in your community, the assessor may have determined the taxable value to be too high. It’s important to know whether or not your home is over-assessed, as some municipalities do not evaluate properties at 100% of the true value. If the assessment on your home is 15% higher than the market value, this would be a case in which an appeal would be acceptable. Before filing an appeal, contact your local assessor if you believe he or she has made a mistake. They will often correct it.

If you’re confused as to exactly what steps to take to appeal your property tax, keep reading!

  1. Request a copy of the card with the details of your house assessment from the local or county tax assessor.
  2. As stated above, know the details of your appeal and be sure that you can provide support. Also, compare your home to similar homes in the community to determine an appropriate taxable value for your home.
  3. Meet with a real estate attorney who has experience with tax appeals. Because each case has its own labyrinth of details, it may be unwise to try to handle it on your own. An attorney will understand the local real estate market and have knowledge of crucial deadlines and regulations specific to NJ.
  4. Collaborate with your attorney to determine whether or not you are going to appeal. Be aware that the appeal must be filed prior to the April 1st deadline. Once the filing is complete, a hearing before County Tax Board will be scheduled. It is crucial to comply with all of the deadlines and regulations to have a successful appeal. If you miss the date of your appearance before the Board, you will have to wait until the following year to refile.

If you submit your appeal, but do not agree with the final decision, you can take your appeal to the New Jersey Tax Court. If you haven’t yet, it would be helpful to hire a lawyer if you decide to take your appeal for further review. The appealing process can be difficult and involves many intricacies. Make sure that you do your research before making any quick decisions!

Pre-Bankruptcy Credit Counseling: Is it Required?

nj bankruptcy

If you are contemplating or have already made the decision to file for bankruptcy, you may be wondering about the NJ pre-bankruptcy credit counseling course you’ve heard mentioned. Is it required to do pre-bankruptcy credit counseling before filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in New Jersey? Does everyone have to take the course? What are the stipulations and specifics? Let’s take a look at the nitty gritty details.

When do I have to take the pre-bankruptcy credit counseling course?

Within 180 days of filing for bankruptcy in New Jersey, you must show proof of credit counseling from a non-profit agency that has been approved by the office of the U.S. Trustee. This step is required if you plan to file for bankruptcy. Within 15 days of filing for bankruptcy, you have to file the certificate of completion your credit counseling agency presented you with. Additionally, any suggested repayment plan(s) that you developed with the agency will also be provided so you can present it to your bankruptcy attorney.

Is this really necessary? Who is profiting from this course?

You may be asking, is there more than meets the eye when it comes to pre-bankruptcy counseling? Some debtors are initially suspicious of taking the course, with thoughts like:

  • “Am I going to be charged more money for this course?”
  • “I am already paying a bankruptcy attorney to help me with this.”
  • “Is this just a ploy for the government to make even more money?”

The goal of bankruptcy counseling is to help you determine if filing for bankruptcy is really the right move for you. During the course, you’ll work through your finances with a certified credit counselor. They’ll be able to assist you in deciding if Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is better for your unique situation, or if you can come up with an informal payment plan to help you overcome the debt without filing for bankruptcy. The repayment plan may not be realistic for you, especially if you have a low income and the bills are too high. You may not want to pay off high credit card debt with inflated interest rates or emergency room bills.

Even if either of the above stipulations in bold describe you, counseling is still required. Typically, the agency will prepare a repayment plan for you based on your income and debt, and then will review your available options for repayment. In the majority of cases, if you don’t have any other options besides filing for bankruptcy, the agency will confirm that no feasible options exist.

I’ll listen to what they have to say, but I’m not going to participate.

You are actually obligated to participate in the counseling, as well. This will be one of your first steps in getting your money mindset turned around. Your counselor will help you begin to formulate a working budget so that you don’t end up in this situation again. Whether you choose to follow the suggested repayment plan or not (if one was proposed during counseling), you do have to include it when filing for bankruptcy.

What kind of agency provides pre-bankruptcy credit counseling?

Here are a few tips when searching for a professional credit counseling agency:

  • Look for a non-profit agency that has at least 7 to 10 years of experience.
  • If you can’t afford the fees, ask around – some agencies are willing to renounce or lessen them.
  • Debtors who make less than 150% of the poverty level for a family of the same size, there must be a sliding scale fee or fees must be waived completely.
  • The agency should be a part of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) or the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies (AICCCA).
  • It’s important to check with the Better Business Bureau to see what information they have on the agency you’re researching.
  • The agency must be approved by the Department of Justice if you’re specifically in need of pre-bankruptcy credit counseling.

I’m disabled; do I still have to take the course?

Pre-bankruptcy credit counseling is required whether you’re considering filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The only people who are exempt from the course are those who are:

  • Currently on active military duty in a combat zone
  • Physically and/or mentally impaired or handicapped so severely that it prevents you from taking the course

If, for some reason, you intended to take the required course but became ill or encountered an emergent situation that prevented you from attending, you’ll need to petition your bankruptcy court to allow you to take the course after your case has been filed. Talk to your NJ bankruptcy attorney about this, if this situation arises.

What do I need to do to prepare for the credit counseling course?

Make sure you are knowledgeable regarding your current financial state before attending counseling. If you have already met with a bankruptcy lawyer in NJ, you can ask what they recommend you have with you when you begin the course. In short: anything you’d share with your bankruptcy attorney is applicable and should be mentioned and discussed during your credit counseling course.

It’s crucial to be mentally present during your credit counseling (avoid going on “auto-pilot” or “zoning out”) because it will help you reach your goal of climbing out of debt. Not only is it a practical way to deal with your debt outside of bankruptcy, but it can also help you to avoid adding even more debt to what you already owe.

Remember: your NJ bankruptcy attorney can assist you with setting up the pre-bankruptcy counseling course, as well as help you get all of your financial paperwork and information organized prior to attending so that you’re prepared. This will allow you to get the most out of the assistance the counseling will offer you.

Image: “Pieta House” by Joe Houghton – licensed under CC 2.0

My NJ Landlord Won’t Fix My Heat: What are my Options?

NJ renters rights

It’s the middle of winter and so cold that your teeth begin to chatter the second you step outside. It’s frigid enough that cold air manages to travel into your apartment, chilling you to the bone. You suddenly realize you can see your breath inside your home. Upon checking, you come to the sinking realization that your heat has stopped working – anyone’s worst nightmares at this time of year.

When you contact your landlord, he refuses to repair your heat. Now what?

According to New Jersey State codes and local ordinances, if your lease mandates that the landlord must provide a specific amount of heat, the landlord must grant it to you. Between October 1 and May 1, a landlord is required to provide enough heat to warm a rental space to 68 degrees from the hours of 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Between the hours of 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., the apartment must stay at or above 65 degrees.

If you’ve already composed and sent written correspondence to your landlord regarding this issue (keep it professional) with no response, you can take stronger measures. An apartment or rental that is truly uninhabitable simply requires more action.

A few steps you can take include: contacting the local and state building and health inspectors, withholding rent, suing the landlord for the difference between your rent payment(s) and the value of the faulty premises, or you can simply move out. Keep in mind that these are “big stick remedies” and should only be taken if your apartment is completely uninhabitable.

Before you employ one of the aforementioned tactics, make sure a few other conditions are met.

  • Assure that the problem is not just one that annoys you, but actually puts your health and safety at risk.
  • Be sure that you or a guest did not cause the issue, either on purpose or by accident.
  • Follow all procedures according to state rules, such as allowing sufficient time for your landlord to be notified and fix the issue.
  • Make sure that you have no violations or unresolved issues between you and your landlord. You cannot legally withhold rent if you are already behind on payments or are violating any aspect of your lease.

Additionally, be aware that you run the risk of your landlord prematurely terminating your lease, increasing your rent, or evicting you immediately. The potentially for these outcomes depends on the specific wording of your lease and the details of your unique situation. Avoid making rash decisions and be sure to compose yourself before approaching your landlord in person. Handling the situation in the most professional manner will only benefit you in the long run.

If you choose to contact the agency that is in charge of enforcing the local or state housing law, keep in mind that the helpfulness of the inspector can vary. The inspector will typically come and inspect the rental space, and if an issue is found, a notice of violation (with a deadline) will be issued to the landlord. Typically, the deadline to fix the problem is 30 to 60 days.

If your heat stops working, and your landlord won’t fix it, Veitengruber Law can help. It’s important to consult with us as soon as possible so that we can advise you and take action in a timely manner. We don’t want you to continue living in uninhabitable conditions! Please consider the severity of the issue, and if possible, stay with friends of family until the situation has been resolved. Call us today to consult FREE of charge.

What to do When Your Client Files for Bankruptcy

NJ collections attorney

From the perspective of a company owner doing business with a client (or company) who files for bankruptcy: how can you go about getting (even some of) the money you’re owed?

The second someone files for bankruptcy of any type, the Automatic Stay slams down like a sledgehammer – coming between the bankruptcy filer and anyone they owe money to. The Automatic Stay protects debtors during the bankruptcy process by making it illegal for any creditor to make contact asking for money.

Why can’t I contact my client?

After all, you and your client likely signed a working contract wherein you agreed to provide services and they agreed to pay you X amount of dollars for said services. Even though you continued to provide your end of the deal, your client filed for bankruptcy and now you aren’t even allowed to contact them. This can be very frustrating for a business owner who is owed payment(s) – money that may very well be making or breaking the creditor’s own business.

The reason you can’t contact a bankruptcy client is because the Automatic Stay is a protective measure put into place by the bankruptcy court to protect struggling debtors. It gives them enough time and breathing room to gather their financial information and meet with their bankruptcy attorney and/or a potential NJ credit counselor to come up with a plan that makes sense for getting them back on their feet again.

Chapter 11 and 13 bankruptcies are filed with the intention of reorganizing monies owed into a more feasible and achievable payment plan. As soon as these bankruptcy cases are complete – you will once again begin receiving payment from your client. According to their debt reorganization plan, you may not receive the full amount due, but you will get paid.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the vast majority of bankruptcies filed today are chapter 7, which entails debtors liquidating assets and discharging many of their debts altogether. If your client files for chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may have to write off their past due amount as a loss. In any case, remember NOT to contact them at all until you receive notice that their bankruptcy case is no longer active in the NJ Courts system.

To contact a debtor while they are actively going through the bankruptcy process (if an Automatic Stay is in place) means that you risk being sued. You will have broken the bankruptcy code if you even attempt to contact a bankruptcy client.


What You Can Do:

  • File a Proof of Claim – Downloadable from the USCourts online and easy to fill out.
  • Attend the Meeting of the Creditors; also known as the 341 Hearing – At this meeting, you will be able to question your client. You’ll also be permitted to object to the repayment or reorganization plan if you deem it unfair.
  • Thoroughly review any plan that is formulated by the debtor and their trustee. If less than half of their creditors do not consent with the plan, it won’t be approved by the bankruptcy court.
  • Make sure you are listed on the Creditor Matrix.
  • Wait and see. Truthfully, most of your time will be spent waiting to find out the outcome of your client’s case. If the case is dismissed, or “thrown out,” you will once again be allowed to attempt collection. If an agreement or repayment plan was formulated, you will receive a notice about how much you can collect. Be sure that all of your contact information is correct with the bankruptcy court and your client’s bankruptcy attorney to ensure you will receive any and all payments.


NJ Estate Planning for the Very Wealthy

NJ estate planning

Though every person should take the initiative of proper estate planning, it is even more essential that the very wealthy do so. Many wealthy individuals have their financial lives buttoned-up, but have forgotten about planning for the future of their estates. The vital step that is most commonly skipped over is developing a plan that protects that accumulated wealth. Without a plan, the individual and family members are at risk for losing a significant sum of money.

Simply stated, estate planning entails arranging for assets, such as property and other valuables, to be properly distributed to heirs when faced with death or incapacity. This process also usually includes coming up with a plan to decrease estate taxes when assets are bestowed to heirs.

Though estate planning does involve a will, it can also mean establishing trust funds that can easily be transferred to heirs as well as naming a power of attorney who can manage all financial affairs if and when the individual is unable to do so anymore due to physical or mental reasons. Transferring assets before death is extremely helpful in avoiding family disputes and randomly disappearing assets. Also not uncommon as age increases, is dementia. Along with the possibility of dementia comes the potential for manipulation or exploitation of the individual by family members, friends, and other loved ones. Distributing the wealth before this point makes life easier for all parties involved.

Estate planning entails three main areas:

  • Distributing assets to the desired heirs
  • Ensuring that beneficiaries are not left with extreme taxes
  • Naming people that are responsible for making financial and medical decisions.

The first crucial task is creating a will and identifying someone who will be responsible for making sure all parts of the will are carried out according to your wishes. Next, you will most likely want to set up trust funds. A trust fund can legally determine to whom and at what point your assets are bequeathed to heirs. Trust funds also decrease the amount of taxes that beneficiaries will be required to pay and they eliminate having to go through the probate court process.

Beneficiaries should also be established for any life-insurance policies as well as for individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and other retirement plans, like a 401K. If you set up any of these accounts earlier in your life, it’s important to review the beneficiaries named, especially if you’ve gone through a divorce or other significant life change.

Another important step to consider is sitting down with your family and close friends to share with them your intentions for your assets, and what will be bequeathed to each person. After a person passes, there is potential for dispute about the decision(s) made, and this usually results from a lack of communication. Explain your decisions to family members and share your reasons for setting up your estate the way you did. This will decrease the likelihood of division between yourself and family members.

One final piece of advice is to consult with a person who is experienced in the field of estate planning. Different states require different documents and other formalities, and a professional will likely know the specifics for their state. Your estate planning attorney should also be up-to-date on changes in laws or new laws that have recently been passed.


Choose a NJ Bankruptcy Attorney Who can Offer Personalized, Caring Representation

Are you hesitating to call an attorney because you are experiencing financial hardship and think you may soon be facing bankruptcy? Are you involved in a complex legal case involving a large amount of money or debt? In the case of bankruptcy, hindsight is not better than foresight, so act in a timely manner and choose a bankruptcy attorney who can provide you with personalized, compassionate representation. Taking this action is both very personal and intimidating at the same time.

At Veitengruber Law, we want to provide you with advice on your financial needs and help put your mind at ease to regain control of your life.

Financial strain can hit anyone at any time. Dedicated, hard working individuals may lose their job or get laid off. Health insurance costs may skyrocket. Divorce can affect both parties financially. A medical emergency, sudden sickness, or unexpected hospitalization may cause never-ending medical bills. You may face a complex legal action with a hefty amount of debt. Each one of these or any combination can lead to financial worries, causing great stress and making you feel as if you’re losing control of your life.

A good bankruptcy attorney will analyze your income and expenses/debts along with real estate assets to determine if bankruptcy is the path you should take, or recommend other alternatives such as loan consolidation, short sale, debt negotiations, debt forgiveness, etc. If filing for bankruptcy is the only option, you want to make sure your attorney completes the filing timely and accurately. They will guide you through the process and lead you back to financial recovery through a tailor-made plan specifically for you. They also need to ensure that in the aftermath of filing for bankruptcy, they minimize any adverse consequences for you.

Many myths surround bankruptcy, with the most common involving losing everything or losing a home to foreclosure. Many times, filing bankruptcy can ease your financial burdens by assisting with late mortgage payments, giving you the chance to catch up on payments, providing an avenue for safe wage garnishments, halting the repossession process, and erasing your debt.

Most assets are retained in Chapter 7 bankruptcy and individuals and families with a steady income can preserve their assets through a Chapter 13 payment plan. Chapter 7 bankruptcy may require you to liquidate assets to pay creditors, however all property is exempt. Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to adjust your debt by making regular payments based on your income.

Veitengruber Law has team members who specialize in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Our team also expertly handles real estate law and transactions, short sales, deed in lieu of, and quit claim matters. We can provide housing and urban development (low-income) counseling and specialize in loan modifications, foreclosure defense and home retention.

At Veitengruber Law, we have confident, highly educated and qualified attorneys, paralegals and other legal aides to assist you in overcoming your financial struggles. Our professionals will translate legal jargon into “layman’s terms” so that you understand completely what you’re facing and what your recovery plan will be. We understand what you’re going through, not only because are we experts in our field, but most importantly, we are people. We want to help you be financially healthy and fiscally fit. Call us today for a free consultation to put you on the path towards financial fitnesss.

Should I Sell my Home in Winter? Tips from a NJ Real Estate Attorney

nj real estate attorney

Do the frigid temperatures and snowy weather turn you off from potentially selling your house during the winter season? Although spring and fall are the most popular times to sell a house, there are always going to be people searching for a new home in every season. With updated technology and on-the-go apps, homeowners are less likely to have difficulty in selling, regardless of the weather. Since there are less homeowners who attempt to sell in the winter, your market competition will sparse and buyers will have less options.

Putting your house on the market during the holidays doesn’t have to spell disaster.

Selling your house during the winter provides its own advantages; all you have to do is show off your cozy abode and create an enjoyable experience for potential buyers. Here are a few ways you can set up a welcoming environment despite the frightful weather that may be brewing outside.

1. Warm and cozy

A cold house will probably lead to a cold first impression for a potential buyer. Play to the buyer’s senses by heating up the house. Not only should the temperature be cranked up, but create an inviting mood. Add a warm touch to each room by adding an area rug in a cheerful hue, draping a blanket over the back of an armchair, or folding a comfy quilt at the end of a bed. Warm tones and a cozy mood will make all the difference in the prospective buyer’s showing experience. A few cookies out on the counter or warm apple cider cooking on the stove may be an invitation for the buyer to stay around and ask questions. If you happen to have a fireplace, be sure to get that fire crackling, as this will add ambience and heat!

2. Let there be light!

It’s perplexing to designers as to why the perfect lighting sets the mood for a house hunter, but it definitely makes a big difference. Areas in the house where the buyer is going to have a first impression, such as the entryway, should have warm, bright lighting. Roll up the blinds, open the shutters, and turn on all of the lights in every room. Because of daylight savings, darkness arrives sooner, and buyers are not going to want to see a dim house. If you do have a darker room, add a spotlight or two to give it some warmth. Winter days can be dreary, but with a warmly lit hearth, you’ll be sure that your house is a beacon of light.

3. The outside appearance matters, too

Yes, the indoor appearance of the house is crucial, but house hunters aren’t only going to be observing what’s on the inside. Begin by clearing all entryways of snow and ice. Make sure each path is clear so that the doors are easily accessible. Though your patio furniture may go into hibernation in the winter, buyers are going to want to see the potential of an outdoor patio or porch. Try adding a spotlight, taking your patio furniture out of hibernation, or placing a fire pit in the yard or on the patio to brighten up the outdoor space.

4. Emphasize specific spaces

If you have areas in your house that are more useful during the winter months such as basement playrooms, indoor exercise spaces, or a heated shed, be sure to bring attention to them. Clear the area of any unrelated items so that the room’s true purpose can be accentuated. Since winter is prime time for hosting parties and other festivities, whet the senses of potential buyers by setting up a holiday display. Decorate as you would to entertain so that guests can see the entertainment potential of a certain space in your home.

Trends in the New Jersey housing market are constantly varying, but as a home seller, it’s important to stay up-to-date on what will appeal to the most potential buyers. Obviously, you want your house to offer a unique look, but not so different that it turns off most buyers. In the winter, it’s easy to let things slide, such as keeping up with the cleaning, making necessary house repairs, etc., but you need to be sure to keep your house clean and inviting – even on the outside. By taking these tips and coming up with a few of your own ideas, you’ll be more likely to sell your house during the coldest time of year.

Applying for and Refinancing a NJ Home Equity Loan


Do you have a brilliant idea for a new house project?

Have you been trying to figure out how to pay for the new roof you’ve needed for a few years?

If you’re nodding your head, a home equity loan (HEL) or a home equity line of credit (HELOC) may be the answer you’re looking for.

A home equity loan can provide you with access to a large amount of money with which you can complete a project with the added benefit of borrowing against the value of your home. A home equity loan is essentially a “second mortgage,” with your first mortgage being the one that you used to purchase your home.

Because this kind of loan is locked in by your house, a home equity loan can be relatively easy to obtain from a bank or lender. The beauty of a home equity loan is that it can provide funds for virtually anything you want, as long as your home is worth more than you owe (in your first mortgage) – and you’ve built up enough equity.

Home Equity Loan Options: Lump-Sum or Line of Credit


A home equity loan as a lump-sum is like any other loan; you attain a large amount of money up front and then pay it back with fixed monthly payments. Your interest rate will be set when you take out the loan. With each monthly payment, the total that you owe on the loan will decrease.

A home equity line of credit works much like a credit card. You’ll be approved for a specific amount of money and then only use what you need. Following approval, you can borrow money in small amounts, but at some point, you’ll need to make larger payments to finish paying off the loan.

Because a home equity loan can offer a fixed and steady repayment schedule, it can be a valuable way to decrease debt or pay for large expenses. If you’re considering completing a home improvement project, a home equity loan could be beneficial, especially since it’s a one-time remodeling project that involves directly investing money back into your house.

Other valid uses for a home equity loan:

  • Paying for a college education (for you or your child)
  • Making a vehicle purchase
  • Eliminating credit card debt
  • Investing in the stock market or real estate

You can also use a home equity loan for any other one-time investment that has value. Additionally, you may want to consider refinancing a home equity loan. If you are looking to decrease your monthly payment or want to lock in a lower interest rate, refinancing would be helpful. In addition, if you want to change from an adjustable rate to a fixed rate or vice versa, you should consider refinancing. While completing the project (or paying for school, etc), you may discover that you need a bit more money than expected, and refinancing could allow you to obtain supplemental funds or potentially extend or shorten your repayment period.

If interest rates have lowered from when you first purchased a home equity loan or if you’ve dramatically improved your credit score, always be sure to check into refinancing. As previously mentioned, if you switch from an adjustable rate to a fixed rate while interest rates are low, you can guarantee that the interest rate will stay that low throughout the rest of the life of your home equity loan.

If you’re considering taking out a home equity loan or refinancing one that you currently have, visit your credit counseling attorney who has your best interests at heart. Here at Veitengruber Law, we can also connect you with trusted lenders with whom we have cultivated valuable professional relationships. From there, you’ll meet with a lending specialist who has experience with refinancing home equity loans.  Refinancing a home equity loan can save you money, provide access to money, and help you reach your financial goals!

What are the Duties of a Bankruptcy Trustee?


A NJ bankruptcy trustee is responsible for completing the administrative tasks of a specific bankruptcy case and is typically appointed by the New Jersey bankruptcy court. These individuals are not judges, but are sometimes lawyers, though that is not a requirement. The trustee’s jobs include (but are not limited to): management of all of the petitioner’s bankruptcy paperwork and documentation, leading the meeting of creditors, and handling the liquidation of the petitioner’s assets.

When filing for bankruptcy, you need to first gather the necessary information and paperwork, either on your own or with the guidance of your New Jersey bankruptcy attorney. Based on the New Jersey exemptions, it’s also important to figure out what property (of yours) is exempt from seizure. Once you have filed for bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court will take legal control of all debts and properties that are not free from New Jersey exemptions.

The next step in a NJ bankruptcy case is when a trustee will be assigned. His or her responsibility is to review your paperwork in a detailed manner, especially any possessions and exemptions you want to claim. You may contest any decisions or rulings made by your trustee. About one month after you’ve filed, the trustee will be responsible for calling a meeting of creditors. The debtor must attend this meeting.

A trustee either deals with Chapter 7 cases, where the profit is made from liquidating (selling) the petitioner’s nonexempt property, or Chapter 13 cases, in which the profit comes in the form of a repayment plan. Because the trustee receives a portion of what he or she can collect for the filer’s creditors, the trustee has a powerful incentive to collect as much as possible for the creditors.

Regarding Chapter 7 cases, there are typically no non-exempt assets. If there are non-exempt assets, you will have to release non-exempt property, or the cash equivalent of its market value, to the trustee. This takes place following the meeting of creditors. The trustee will then split the proceeds from selling this property to the creditors. In some cases, if the property does not have a high value, the trustee may turn the property back over to you.

Regarding Chapter 13 cases, the trustee is responsible for handling the most important piece of the puzzle – the repayment plan. The trustee will work with the filer to set up a repayment plan of his or her debts. While the filer is in the process of repaying creditors, the trustee will be responsible for collecting the monthly payments and distributing them to the creditors. The trustee will also give the petititioner occasional updates on who has been paid and how much is still owed to each creditor.

Because bankruptcy trustees have a significant role and power in the bankruptcy system, it’s important to start off on the right foot with the trustee that is assigned to your case. A working relationship with your trustee will be vital, especially if you are involved in a Chapter 13 case. Be meticulous and honest when completing the bankruptcy forms and make sure you let the trustee know immediately if you’ve made a mistake. Open communication will make the bankruptcy process easier for both you and the bankruptcy trustee.

Image: “November 9th” by Kate Hiscock – licensed under CC 2.0