Chicago Bankruptcy Attorney Weighs in On Decreased Filings

One particular region in Ohio has seen a sharp decline in the filings of personal bankruptcies, according to the Dayton Daily News. Throughout the first half of 2012 personal bankruptcies in the Dayton, Ohio region fell to 3,265-a 13 percent decline in a region that was hit hard by the recession. From 2006 to 2010, bankruptcy filings in the area increased in the first half of the year every year. Many experts are divided on what this exactly means about the economic climate of the region.

“Fewer people are working right now, so you aren’t going to have as many wage garnishments if there aren’t that many wages,” says Russ Cope, a bankruptcy attorney in Centerville. “There is no point in filing bankruptcy unless you absolutely need to, and right now, many people are uncollectable.”

The driving force behind people filing for bankruptcy is debt, so when the recession hit, fewer people had access to credit than before. This could be one part of why filings are down, particularly in the Rust Belt, where the recession hit hard.

“Oddly, bankruptcy goes up when the economy is doing well and people are spending freely on credit,” said Jean Braucher, a professor at the University of Arizona and Vice President of the National Consumer Bankruptcy Center. “People can then suffer reverses, such as job loss or divorce or uninsured illness, but once they recover from the setback, they can use bankruptcy to shed debt they took on during a bad patch.”

Please contact our firm for a free consultation if you find yourself struggling with debt.

Benjamin Brand Services- Chicago bankruptcy lawyers.

Will Congress Adjust the AMT to Avoid Fiscal Cliff?

Following the November election, many media pundits and experts are warning of the impending “fiscal cliff” expected to hit the country in early 2013. The term is used to describe a series of enacted legislation that will lead to tax increases, federal spending cuts and a reduction in the budget deficit at the end of 2012. Most experts have proposed avoiding the fiscal cliff by extending certain parts of the 2010 Tax Relief Act or changing the 2011 Budget Control Act, which would decrease taxes, but increase the deficit.

Experts predict that if you have a household income over $75,000, you will see a substantial increase in your taxes. Residents in high-cost urban areas are expected to be hit hardest. Some congressional aides have speculated that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has advised Congress to adjust the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) after the filing season starts in January, which would lead to delays in return processing for nearly half of all Americans.

“That would be a disaster, an unmitigated disaster for the taxpayers of the United States,” said Nina Olson, national taxpayer advocate at the IRS. “It’s just not possible to do that.”

Many Americans plan their budget and finances based on getting their tax refunds in a timely fashion. This may be last thing many individuals who may already be on the verge on bankruptcy need.

Benjamin Brand Services- Chicago bankruptcy lawyers .

Obama Tweaks ‘Pay as You Earn’ Program

On November 1, President Barack Obama put the final touches on the Pay As You Earn program for the repayment of student loans. It is an Income-Based Repayment (IBR) that is applicable for federal student loans and those who are struggling to make monthly payments in a sluggish economy.

The program actually began in 2007, but student loan debt has continued to rise. Historically, the program has not been popular with students-only slightly over 1 million borrowers were enrolled this year. The Obama administration is hoping the recent tweaks will make the program more popular. The cap on loan payments was reduced from 15 percent of the borrower’s total income to 10 percent. Loan forgiveness is accelerated from 25 years to 20 years.

If a borrower implements all of these changes, they can capitalize on a 33 percent reduction in their monthly payments. These changes could be valuable in reducing the number of persons filing bankruptcy due to student loan debt. This will allow young professionals to establish their careers and pay off their loans in full. Getting rid of other debt through a bankruptcy can also help individuals pay back student loans faster.

Please visit our site for more information on student loan debt and bankruptcy , and contact our firm for a free consultation.

Benjamin Brand Services- Chicago bankruptcy lawyers .

Creditors of Student Loans Go after Co-Signers

Katy Stech of the Wall Street Journal recently wrote an editorial about Kristina Pietras, a student who became burdened with student loan debt before dropping out of the University of Toledo. Various lenders lent Pietras $132,000 in loans. Pietras’ parents had co-signed her loans.

Lenders took Pietras and her co-signers to court, where they argued that she was paying $150  month for a cable television package and recently had new carpet installed instead of paying back the loans. Her parents were paying her cell phone bill at $70 a month while she worked at an Arby’s restaurant.

“The court is, thus, confronted with this dichotomy: the debtors, when incurring obligations on behalf of their daughter, find the means to pay for one obligation but not the other,” wrote Judge Richard Speer of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Toledo.

As more and more students find themselves unable to repay loans, the creditors are going after the co-signers. More than 90 percent of student loans require a co-signer. More and more co-signers may find themselves in bankruptcy court if this trend continues. Contact our firm for a free consultation.

Benjamin Brand Services- Chicago bankruptcy lawyers .

Four Things to Remember About FTC Rules on Debt Relief

According to an October 23, 2012 WVTM-TV article, it has been two years since the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) implemented new rules regulating the debt relief industry. WVTM noted that consumers are carrying $864.2 billion in revolving debt, and the average American with credit card debt owes more than $15,500. The Federal Reserve says the total household debt in the United States is $11.4 trillion.

While the FTC changes were good for the many consumers who need help with debt, WVTM pointed out four things to know when seeking debt relief:

  1. Know what debt settlement is – Debt settlement plans can sometimes reduce total principals owed by about half, and the programs generally take two to four years to resolve a consumer’s debt. While WVTM wrote that debt settlement “can be helpful for individuals who are unable to make minimum payments on credit card debt ,” consumers must remember that debt settlement companies often engage in abusive practices. These abuses led Illinois lawmakers to pass legislation in 2010 that banned charging upfront fees for helping consumers negotiate relief from creditors. In July, one Chicago based firm agreed to refund $2.1 million after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said the lawyers were a “front” to collect hefty fees from desperate consumers.
  2. Understand the FTC rules – The FTC rules “require debt relief companies to renegotiate, settle or reduce the terms of at least one debt, with the consumer’s agreement, before collecting fees from the consumer.” (WVTM.) The FTC rules also define the advertising claims these companies can make. WVTM pointed out that debt settlement companies need to disclose how long it should take to see results, program costs and any negative consequences that may result.
  3. Know where to finding a debt settlement provider – WVTM noted that it remains legal for debt settlement companies and law firms that do not participate in telemarketing to charge up-front fees. The article recommended looking for a firm that is a member of the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC), which “enforces the strictest code of conduct in the industry,” according to WVTM.
  4. Proceed with caution – “Consumers should look for a firm that has an established, long-term record of successfully getting results for customers,” WVTM said. The article cautioned that impatient debt counselors, high-pressure sales tactics and claims that sound too good to be true are all “warning signs of firms that should be avoided.”

If you are among the many households carrying thousands of dollars in revolving debt, you should know that filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy may allow you to discharge all of your unsecured debt in a matter of months. You can also catch up on late mortgage payments or reduce your mortgage principle by filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy . Both chapters can be safer alternatives to debt settlement programs, and our Chicago bankruptcy lawyers can tell you which plan would work best for you when you contact our firm at (866) 930-7482 or fill out the form on this page.

Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorneys

Mayor Emanuel Critical of Governor Quinn Appointee Who Filed Bankruptcy

This Illinois Statehouse News video features Governor’s Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman Kelly Kraft, who Governor Pat Quinn chose to be executive director of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority-the state agency that operates US Cellular Field. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, however, said he wants a person with experience in managing finances to run the agency, the Chicago Tribune reported. Kraft’s personal history with finances became an issue when the Tribune reported on October 5, 2012, that Kraft filed for bankruptcy after owing more than $102,500, mainly in credit card debt .

Kraft is a former reporter for WFLD-TV who joined the Quinn administration as a budget office spokeswoman in 2009. She was later promoted to assistant budget director before being named Quinn’s top spokeswoman in July with an annual salary of $111,000, the Tribune reported.

“That board and that staff is the thin blue line protecting the taxpayers of the city of Chicago from paying, in case there’s something’s mismanaged,” Emanuel told WBBM-AM. “And I think we should find the best-qualified people for that, which is why I – given the board I inherited – replaced them, put in place a whole new board with backgrounds in financial management, and expect the staff to meet that standard.”

“I think we have a good person, a strong person, a strong woman who knows how to manage the budget, find economies and efficiencies, knows how to work with people,” Quinn told WBBM. “There’s a lot to be said with someone who can work with all kinds of folks, make sure we have diversity and fairness, and also a person who understands the world of finance and bonds and things like that, and I think that’s Kelly Kraft. … I think it’s time for the mayor to recognize that.”

Tribune columnist Eric Zorn correctly asked with the title of an October 10 blog post, “When, if ever, is personal bankruptcy a disqualifying entry on a job application?” As we have noted before in our blog posts about famous bankruptcies , many notable modern and historical figures also had to file bankruptcy before they became successful. The truth is that Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy are legal ways for people to reorganize debt when life delivers unexpected changes. Contact our firm at (866) 930-7482 or complete the form on this page to have our Chicago bankruptcy lawyers see if Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy might be able to help you turn your own situation around.

Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyers

Which Workers Will Be Commanding Higher Incomes in 2013?

The Chicago Tribune reported on October 4, 2012, that technology, finance and administrative workers are among the professionals who are likely to be making more money next year. A report from staffing resource company Robert Half Management Resources (company profile in the video above) said mobile applications developers will earn an average of 9 percent more in 2013, technology employees can expect a 5.3 percent boost, and accounting and finance professionals will see an average 3.3 percent increase. The Menlo Pak, a California firm, also said administrative and office support positions will see a 3.5 percent pay boost, according to the Tribune.

A separate report issued in July by management consulting firm Hay Group predicted that American workers will see a median 3 percent pay raise, according to the Tribune. However, the group noted that salary increases between 3.5 and 4 percent were common before the recession, and the expected 3 percent median raise will not do much in the face of inflation.

The Commerce Department reported that personal income grew only 0.1 percent in August, the same amount as July. Furthermore, the savings rate slipped to 3.7 percent of after-tax income after reaching 4.1 percent the previous month, the Los Angeles Times reported.

If your income is not increasing enough to keep up with rising gas prices, mortgage payments and all of your other bills, you may be able to discharge you unsecured debt by filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy . You can use the form on this page to let our Chicago bankruptcy lawyers determine whether Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 works best for you, or you can contact our firm today at (866) 930-7482.

Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorneys

Obamacare May Reduce Some Large Medical Bills, But Not Everybody Can Be Protected

A Harvard study published in 2005 found that nearly two-thirds of bankruptcies were linked to illnesses and medical bills . “The cost of health care now causes a bankruptcy in America every 30 seconds,” President Obama told a March 2009 summit that marked the starting point for the Patient Care and Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as Obamacare. “By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes.”

The US Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the constitutionality of the health reform bill has given many families hope that they will not find themselves going bankrupt because of medical bills. However, a Salt Lake Tribune story published on October 22, 2012, noted that “the pioneering reform law in Massachusetts upon which federal reform was built may have kept debt in check, but it hasn’t solved it.” The Tribune reported that two surveys have shown no significant change in the percentage of residents struggling with medical debt.

Mark Rukavina, a former consumer advocate and founder of a hospital advisory group, Community Health Advisors in Massachusetts, told the Tribune that medical debt is a problem that affects everyone but the extremely wealthy, and it is a matter of bad luck for the people who incur it. “Health reform will probably succeed at reducing many of the large bills,” Rukavina told the Tribune. “But there will still be out-of-pocket costs that eat into people’s budgets.”

Mark Rieger, a vice president at Gateway EDI, a St. Louis-based company that sells software to help doctors better manage their bills, told the Tribune that it used to be that no more than 9 to 10 percent of a physician’s income came directly from patients. In some parts of the country, that figure is now close to 20 to 30 percent. However, Rieger told the tribune that health care providers “are only about 50 to 60 percent successful on collecting on patient responsibility.” This has led to more clinics and hospitals becoming “less tolerant of past-due balances.”

Many ACA provisions will not go into effect until 2014, but you should take action now if your family is struggling because of medical expenses. If you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy , it is possible to wipe out your medical bills in a matter of months. If you enter a Chapter 13 repayment plan, you may be able to have your medical debt discharged without having to pay the full amount. If you want to know which option would work best for you, contact our firm at (866) 930-7482 or complete the form on this page to see how our Chicago bankruptcy lawyers can help.

Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyers

More Consumers Refuse to Be Cleaned Out by ‘Messy Business’ of Debt Collection

Dr. Chris DeRitis, a consumer credit expert at the economic research and consulting firm Moody’s Analytics, told the Times-Tribune of Scranton, Pennsylvania, that all debt collection is under the microscope. “A lot of this debt gets traded three, four or five times,” Dr. DeRitis told the Times-Tribune for the story published on October 21, 2012. “It’s a messy business.”

The Times-Tribune noted that many collection agencies that buy debt do not have all the documentation to support the original agreement, meaning many companies are filing debt-related lawsuits with “insufficient records, faulty documents and questionable claims.”

“Some companies are doing this more responsibly than others,” Dr. DeRitis told the Times-Tribune. “There are cases of fraud where unscrupulous debt collectors put charges on people’s accounts.”

Allegheny County Judge R. Stanton Wettick, who has presided over “hundreds of cases in which banks sold delinquent credit card accounts to debt buyers who filed litigation to recover the money,” told the Times-Tribune that sometimes the affidavits do not appear to be signed by the right people. The story noted that debt collectors frequently prevail in court because many defendants in credit card suits never contest the action. “If 100 get filed, 75 turn into default judgments,” Judge Wettick told the Times-Tribune.

However, the Times-Tribune also pointed out that because default judgments enable debt collectors to freeze a consumer’s bank account or garnish wages to recover obligations, more consumers are now challenging the evidence. “For a lot of companies now, if someone shows up and contests it, it may not be worth their while to pursue it,” Judge Wettick told the Times-Tribune.

If you are being harassed by debt collectors about your credit card debt , filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy will end those phone calls. You may be able erase your credit card bills and other unsecured debt by filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy , or you could pay back a fraction of what you owe through a Chapter 13 plan. Contact our firm at (866) 930-7482 or complete the form on this page to have our Chicago bankruptcy lawyers determine which plan would work best for you.

Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorneys

US on Pace for 70 Percent Increase in Foreclosure Rescue Scams in 2012

This is a 2008 documentary produced by the Northwest Justice Project about foreclosure rescue scams. Four years later, these schemes remain a real problem, as the Chicago Tribune reported on October 19, 2012, that the Treasury Department’s  Financial Crimes Enforcement Network said reports of foreclosure rescue scams rose during the first half of the year. “Nationally, if the reports of suspicious activity continue at their first-half pace, the total for 2012 could be as much as 70 percent greater than in 2011,” the Tribune reported.

Debra Olson, executive director of the DuPage Homeownership Center, told the Tribune that she thinks there are “plenty of incidents of scams that are never reported” because people are embarrassed. Olson told the Tribune that she believes that there are people who have been taken advantage of, but do not even know it. Many homeowners throughout the country in need of foreclosure help paid several thousand dollars to someone promising to help them save their homes, realizing too late that they were duped.

“By the time people come to us, more than likely they’ve been the victim of the fraud,” Olson told the Tribune. “The sad thing is by the time they come to us, they’re so much farther in arrearage.”

As the Tribune noted, “while authorities might be able to shut down bogus companies and order them to pay fines and restitution, it is often too late for victims.” Michael Dickman, an attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services in Chicago, estimates he is working on 150 cases. Dickman told the Tribune, “It’s truly like we’re standing behind a dike and we have 10 fingers and there’s 100 holes in the dike.”

If you are facing foreclosure, do not let a bad problem become worse by falling victim to one of these rescue scams. Filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be a legal way to stop foreclosure proceedings, end debt collector harassment and reorganize your finances. If you are facing foreclosure, it is in your best interest to contact our firm at (866) 930-7482 or complete the form on this page to let our Chicago bankruptcy lawyers see what Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy could do for you and your family.

Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyers

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