September 19, 2017

25% Off Estate Planning / Reminders & Announcements

For the month of January 2017, all Estate Planning Packages are 25% off.  They include a Will, Living Will and Power of Attorney.  Also, we are announcing that we are moving from 74 Cherry Street to 50 Cherry Street, Milford, CT as of February 1, 2017, and we will be starting a new Blog/Vlog Series in February 2017 regarding the entire Chapter 7 Bankruptcy process!!

FORECLOSURE DEFENSE & BANKRUPTCY SEMINAR | JUNE 8, 2016 | STAMFORD, CT

seminar 6-8

Estate Planning & Identity Theft Seminar | Thursday, April 28, 2016 | Stamford, CT

FCBA SEMINAR

How To Get A Credit Card If You Have Bad Credit

It’s a bit of a catch-22, isn’t it? In order to build your credit, you need to have and use a credit card. But in order to qualify for many credit cards, you need to have good credit. What are you supposed to do when you know that your credit is bad, and you fear that you won’t be able to get a credit card and bring up your credit score? Luckily, all is not lost! You can still qualify for many credit cards even if you have a low credit score. Just follow these tips on getting a credit card with bad credit.

  1. Find out your credit score. You might have a rough idea of what your credit score is, but you won’t be able to truly determine what credit cards you should and should not apply for until you know your credit score. You can get a free credit score report online. Once you know your score, you can plan accordingly.
  2. Know what you qualify for. If your credit score is 600 or above, you will probably be able to qualify for an unsecured credit card. If your credit score is below 600, you will most likely only qualify for a secured credit card. A secured credit card will require that you have the equivalent of your card’s limit available to the card issuer. An unsecured credit card doesn’t carry this requirement.
  3. Shop around. Just because you have a low credit score does not mean that you should be paying outrageous interest and fees. Do some research to determine what the most practical, reasonable credit card is for you. Make sure that you also find a credit card that comes from a reputable bank. Avoid credit cards that have high interest rates, don’t offer a grace period for interest, and that have expensive monthly fees.
  4. When you find the card you want, apply for that card only. You should apply for credit cards one at a time. If you have poor credit, you don’t want to be juggling multiple credit cards. If you are approved for your first choice, stick with this card. If you are denied, apply for your second choice.
  5. When you get a credit card, make your payments responsibly. If you are approved for a credit card, don’t make the company regret accepting your application! Make sure that you make all of your payments on time and that you do not overextend your line of credit. With online payments and credit card apps for phones, staying on top of your credit card has never been easier!

These are my top tips for getting a credit card, even if your credit is less than perfect. For additional advice to help you improve your credit, you can contact me here. I am happy to discuss your situation during a free consultation!

5 Easter Ideas On A Budget

Holidays can be a lot of fun, but they can also get expensive! As Easter approaches, you are probably interested in making some festive food and partaking in fun activities with your children, but you might not be sure if you can afford it. Luckily, Easter is a holiday with many opportunities to save money. For some cheap Easter ideas that your family is sure to love, read on!

easter 2015

  1. Dyeing hardboiled eggs. This is a classic Easter activity, and it is a resourceful one at that! At 1-5 dollars per dozen – depending on the type of eggs you buy – eggs are a cheap and filling meal. High in protein and good cholesterol, eggs make for a healthy breakfast, so you can feel confident serving them to your family. On top of the money-saving and health benefits, coloring Easter eggs is a classic activity to do with your kids. For a few extra dollars, you can pick up an Egg Decoration and Dye kit. You and your kids can have fun decorating Easter eggs, which will double as a delicious breakfast. Total cost: $3-7.
  2. Easter egg hunt. Another classic Easter activity, you can save a lot of money by reusing plastic eggs and putting small presents in each. Plastic egg packets only cost a few dollars per dozen, and you can fill them with loose change, candy, stickers, special coupons, stick-on tattoos, glow sticks, fruit snacks, etc. Once you invest in the eggs, you will be able to reuse them for years to come. In all, you can create an incredible hunt for your kids for around $10.
  3. Deviled eggs. Another great use for your decorated Easter eggs is to turn them into deviled eggs. This is a simple and easy recipe. All that you need are hardboiled eggs, mayonnaise, mustard, sweet relish, and paprika. You can make a dozen deviled eggs for around $3. Bring them to a party or share them with the family – deviled eggs are always a crowd pleaser!
  4. Easter bunny project. You and your kids can use old paper towel tubes, paint, markers, stickers, and more, to create a cute Easter bunny family. Use whatever you have in your house to create a fun, free activity that you can do with your family. Total cost: free!
  5. Host a potluck arts and crafts party. Invite the kids in the neighborhood or your child’s classmates over for an arts and crafts party. Have each child bring their own activity to contribute to the party – this will provide tons of different ideas for the kids to do at little cost to you. Total cost: $10 to provide some snacks and basic craft resources for the kids.

These are just five ideas for Easter food and fun, but the possibilities are endless. Start with these activities, which will be easy on your wallet, and expand from there.

Happy Easter!

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Series Part Six: The Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee

ust-banner-photo

In your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy process there will be 3 main characters: you, your attorney and the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee assigned to your case.  In short, a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee is the person who oversees your Bankruptcy Case.

There are currently ten Chapter 7 Trustees in the State of Connecticut who are appointed by the United States Trustee.  The Trustee Program is a part of the Department of Justice.

“The United States Trustee Program is a component of the Department of Justice that seeks to promote the efficiency and prote ct the integrity of the Federal bankruptcy system. To further the public interest in the just, speedy and economical resolution of cases filed under the Bankruptcy Code, the Program monitors the conduct of bankruptcy parties and private estate trustees, oversees related administrative functions, and acts to ensure compliance with applicable laws and procedures. It also identifies and helps investigate bankruptcy fraud and abuse in coordination with United States Attorneys, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other law enforcement agencies.” –The U.S. Department of Justice

Upon filing of your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition you will be assigned a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee randomly by the Bankruptcy Court’s computer system.  I will deliver the name and address of your Chapter 7 Trustee to you by phone or email the day you sign and I file your Petition, and a few days later an official Notice from the Bankruptcy Court will be mailed to you with this and other pertinent information about your Bankruptcy case.

The primary duties of the Chapter 7 Trustee are (1) to examine your Bankruptcy Petition and Schedules, (2) conduct a 341 Meeting of the Creditors (a Hearing you must attend and testify at under oath) and (3) determine if you have any non-exempt assets that can be liquidated to pay your creditors.  Additionally, the Trustee has the power to refer cases to higher authorities to be investigated for Bankruptcy Fraud and/or other crimes, if appropriate.  Therefore, it is imperative that you fully disclose all of your income, assets and liabilities to me during your Bankruptcy process so I may properly prepare your Bankruptcy Petition to avoid any improprieties.

After your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition is filed but before you attend your 341 Meeting we will mail to you a Questionnaire provided by your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee.  The questions are simple and you should be able to answer them all without assistance (but of course, we are always here to guide you).  An example of one inquiry on the questionnaire would be “have you ever filed bankruptcy before?”  If the answer is “yes,” there will be a few follow-up questions like “What was the case number?” and “Did you receive a discharge?”

Your Chapter 7 Trustee will also provide to my office a list of required documents that the Trustee will examine in conjunction with your Bankruptcy Petition.  The list of requested documents will include such things as Tax Returns, Bank Statements and Paystubs.  Usually I will already have everything that is requested, but I may ask you to provide additional documents to satisfy the requests of your Chapter 7 Trustee.

The next part of my Chapter 7 Bankruptcy series will take you through your 341 Meeting of the Creditors so you are fully prepared to attend the Hearing.

Contact Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray at Consumer Legal Services, LLC (203-713-8877) for more information on this and other Bankruptcy related topics.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Series Part Five: Preparing, Signing and Filing a Bankruptcy Petition

In this blog we will explore a very important step in your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy process: Your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition Signing and Filing.

Once you have met with me for your free initial consultation, retained me to file your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition and delivered to me all of the required documents, I will then prepare your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition and schedule a convenient time for you to come in to our office to sign your Petition.

Your Bankruptcy Petition signing is a very serious step in your Bankruptcy Process and you will be required to carefully read your petition.  This appointment will take approximately one hour in which I will go over each and every page with you and answer any questions you may have.  Ultimately, you will be asked to sign several pages of the Petition under oath, swearing that the information provided is true and accurate to the best of your ability, and I will then electronically file your Petition with the Bankruptcy Court.

This blog is intended to give you preview of the many parts of a typical Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition. Please keep in mind that your Petition may differ according to your specific financial circumstances and that it is vitally important to always disclose all of your income, assets, debts (liabilities).  Not fully disclosing all of your information could lead could be deemed Bankruptcy Fraud which is a crime.

The first part of your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition consists mainly of identification and general information.  It will list your name, address, and the last four digits of your social security number.  It will give a rough estimate (or a “range”) of how many creditors, assets and liabilities you have.  It will also include your signature (as the “Debtor”) and mine (as your “Attorney”), affirming that the information provided is true and accurate under the penalties of perjury.  Please note that your Bankruptcy Petition is a public document and due to that fact your Social Security Number will always be redacted to the last four digits for anti-identity theft purposes.

The next several pages in your packet will be your Means Test, the assessment used to determine if you qualify for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy filing.  For more information on your Means Test please consult me, and/or my previous Blog in this Chapter 7 Series.

Your Means Test will be followed by Exhibit D which is your statement to the Court that you successfully completed your Credit Counseling requirement.  Credit Counseling is a mandatory course taken usually on the telephone or internet, which takes about one hour, analyzes your financial circumstances and helps you create a budget.  For more information on the Credit Counseling requirement please consult me, and/or my previous Blog in this Chapter 7 Series.

The next part of your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition will be a Summary of the Schedules to follow.  This is a snap-shot view of your income, assets and liabilities as more fully reported on each individual schedule (described in detail below) and a Statistical Summary of Certain Liabilities (in layman’s terms that mean you “debt-to-income ratio”).

The Summary will be followed by a series of Schedules as follows:

  • Schedule A – Real Property: This Schedule will list any Real Estate that may be in your name according to the Land Records with a brief description and its location, along with the nature of your interest in the property (e.g. whether you own it solely or jointly), its current value and the amount of any liens (e.g. mortgages) against the property.  This list may also include time shares, if any.
  • Schedule B – Personal Property: This Schedule will list all of your personal belongings, such as cash, contents of bank accounts and safe deposit boxes, security deposits with public utilities or landlords, clothes, jewelry, antiques, collectibles, firearms, sports equipment, household goods and furnishings, stocks, bonds, retirement accounts, patents, copyrights, or other intellectual property, future interests in any estates or life insurance policies, legal claims against other persons or entities, vehicles and any other personal property not already listed.
  • Schedule C – Property Claimed as Exempt: This Schedule will list all of your property that is exempt (or, in other words, immune) from being liquidated by your Chapter 7 Trustees in order to pay back your creditors.  It will also list the specific law that provides for each exemption.  A typical exemption is that for the equity in your car, or home (usually referred to as a “homestead exemption”).  Depending on your specific set of financial circumstances, I will determine if it is in your best interests to utilize the State or Federal exemption scheme in order to maximize the protection of your assets under the law.  (Check back to the Consumer Legal Services, LLC Blog site in the future for an extended explanation of the exemption system!)
  • Schedule D – Creditors Holding Secured Claims: This Schedule will list any creditors you have holding a security interest in any of your property.  Common examples of such interests are mortgages for homes and and car loans for cars.
  • Schedule E – Creditors Holding Unsecured Priority Claims: This Schedule will list any of your creditors that are holding unsecured (for which they do not have a lien) priority claims.  These types of claims arise when you have child support obligations, government student loans or tax debt.  These types of debts are considered “priority” and take precedence over your other debts.  They are usually not discharged in Bankruptcy and you will continue to pay them while your Chapter 7 case is pending.  Some exceptions apply, especially with regard to taxes. (Check back to the Consumer Legal Services, LLC Blog in the future for an extended explanation of taxes in bankruptcy!)
  • Schedule F – Creditors Holding Unsecured Non-Priority Claims: This Schedule will list all of your unsecured debt, such as credit cards, personal loans and medical debt.  Unless otherwise determined by the Bankruptcy Court, all of the debts listed on this Schedule will be discharged.  There will be an ancillary document related to this Schedule called the Verification of the Creditor Matrix.  This verification will include a list of your creditors in a matrix format for easy uploading to the Bankruptcy Court.
  • Schedule G – Executory Contracts and Unexpired Leases: This Schedule will list all unperformed contracts and leases that you may be subject to.  The example I often give for an executory (or unperformed) contract is for snow plowing when it has not yet snowed and/or you have not yet paid the plowman.  A lease, for example, for an apartment or a car is an executory contract to the extent that it has not expired.
  • Schedule H – Codebtors: This Schedule will list any persons you have become liable with on a debt, other than a spouse in a joint petition.  Examples often include parents you have co-signed a loan for a child.
  • Schedule I – Current Income of Individual Debtor(s): This Schedule will list all current income you are receiving at the time of the signing of the petition.  If you are married, your spouse’s income must be included whether or not your spouse is filing Bankruptcy.
  • Schedule J – Current Expenditures of Individual Debtor: This Schedule will list all of your expenses that you will continue paying regardless of ever having filed for Bankruptcy, such as your mortgage, utilities, transportation and food expenses.

At the end of all of the Schedules there will be a “Declaration Concerning Debtor’s Schedules” which you will sign under oath stating that all of the foregoing information contained in the various schedules is true and accurate to the best of your ability.

Next there will be a document called “Statement of Financial Affairs.”  This statement will include information about such things as any pending lawsuits you are involved in, how much you paid for debt counseling and information related to any businesses you may own or have owned, among other pertinent information.

That statement will be followed by a Disclosure of Compensation of Attorney for Debtor.  On this document I will list the amount of money you have paid for my services.

The final document in your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition will be your Form B21, otherwise known as your “Statement of Social Security Number.”  This statement is the only non-public part of your Bankruptcy Petition and will only be seen by, you, me and the Bankruptcy Court.  It is not a public document and therefore, your entire Social Security Number will be protected against identity theft.  This is quite possibility the most important document you will read and sign at the time of filing.  In fact, I will require that you re-read this document several times, and even show me your Social Security Card to confirm the accuracy of your Social Security Number.  If your social security number is wrong on this form, your debts will not be discharged…but someone else’s may be!  So always triple check…and then check again!

After you have read and signed all of the documents you will be given a copy of your entire Petition.  After you go home, I will then electronically file your Petition.  During the e-filing process a Case Number, a Chapter 7 Trustee, and a date for your 341 Meeting will be randomly generated and assigned to your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case.  I will deliver this information to you by phone or email, and a Notice will be delivered to you directly on the mail by the Bankruptcy Court including this and other pertinent information about your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case.

Stay tuned for our next blog entry in this Chapter 7 Series which will explain just who and what the Chapter 7 Trustee is and why the Trustee plays such a vital role in your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy!

For more information or to find out if you qualify for Bankruptcy, please call our office at 203-713-8877.

July-2014-Photos-37

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Series Part Four: Credit Counseling

Once your Means Test is complete and it is determined that you are a qualified candidate for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, I will the instruct you to complete a Credit Counseling Course which is the next step in the bankruptcy process.  The completion of a Credit Counseling Course is required by the Bankruptcy Code.1 I will give you a list of credit counseling agencies approved by the United States Trustee and answer any questions about the course you may have before you start. 

After you select an approved agency, you can take the course in person, or, more conveniently, online or on the telephone in the comfort of your own home.  The course takes approximately one hour in total to complete. 

[Quick Tip: If you take your credit counseling course online (versus in person or on the phone) you can start it and stop it as many times as you need to, like a DVD.  This is usually more convenient for people who have jobs and children!] 

The course customarily consists of an introductory briefing, a budget analysis (some call it a “mini-means test”) and at the conclusion of the session, you will be given a final briefing on your options in bankruptcy as well as non-bankruptcy alternatives.  The class is rather straightforward and nothing to be nervous about. 

Most approved agencies charge $30 to $50 for an individual and may give a discount to a married couple.  It is important to note that the credit counseling course must be done within the 180 days before the day you file your petition and may not be done on the day you file.  There are few exceptions to the credit counseling requirement (e.g. exigent circumstances, etc.) but failure to comply with the credit counseling requirement, unless otherwise ordered by the Bankruptcy Court, could result in a dismissal of your case.  

Upon completion of the course you will be given a “Certificate” of completion.  You can also instruct the agency to deliver a copy of the certificate to my office via e-mail or fax, or you can send me a copy yourself.  Your certificate will ultimately be delivered to the Bankruptcy Court upon filing of your Bankruptcy Petition along with an “Exhibit D” called the “Individual Debtor’s Statement of Compliance with Credit Counseling,” which you will sign under oath stating that you completed the course within the required time period before your filing and completed it with an approved agency.   

The next step in the Bankruptcy process is to return to my office for the signing and filing of your Bankruptcy Petition.  In our next installment of this Chapter 7 Blog Series I will explain each section of a typical Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition so you will have a preview of what you will be reading and signing before we meet again. 

For more information on Credit Counseling or for a Free Consultation, please contact Consumer Legal Services, LLC, the Law Offices of Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray, at 203-713-8877.

_______________________________

1See 11 U.S.C. § 109(h)

68da5bef3ece09b68659e05b851ceb4c

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Series Part Three: Means Testing

After we have our Initial Consultation and you have delivered your documents to me, I will analyze your financial circumstances and perform your Means Test.  A Means Test is an assessment used to determine if you qualify to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

Before 2005 it was easy to file for bankruptcy; virtually anyone could do so.  In 2005 Congress enacted the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA)1 and added the Means Test requirement to prevent abuse of the Bankruptcy process.  Simply put if you “pass” the means test, you are a qualified candidate and can file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition.  If you “fail” the means Test, you may not file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy but you may enjoy other alternatives such as a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy (which will be discussed in a future series of Consumer Legal Services, LLC’s blog posts).

The Means Test primarily encompasses a two-step analysis.

STEP ONE: Your (the “debtor’s”) gross income is calculated on an average over a six month period prior to filing for Bankruptcy.  Gross income for means testing purposes includes wages, salary, tips, bonuses, overtime and commissions.  It does not include social security benefits.  The figure derived from taking the average is than considered the Debtor’s Current Monthly Income which is then compared to the median income for your state and household size.  If your current monthly income is less than the median income for your state and household size, than you “pass” the means test and are allowed to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition.  If, however, your current monthly income is greater than the median income for your state and household size, you may proceed to Step Two.

STEP TWO: If your current monthly income is greater than the median income for your state and household size, there is, in technical terms, a “presumption of abuse.”2 In order to rebut the presumption, or in other terms, to pass the means test by using the second step, the means test’s second section allows you to subtract from your current monthly income certain allowable and deductible expenses.3 These allowed deductions include, but are not limited to, expenses for living (mortgages and property taxes), transportation (car loans and car taxes), health insurance and charitable donations.  After the calculations are performed, and the allowable deductions are taken, and if you then have no disposable monthly income available, you will than have passed the Means Test (with no presumption of abuse) and may file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.  If, on the other hand, you do have remaining disposable income, you may consider a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

The discussion above is an overview of the Means Test in basic terms and is in no way intended as a specific analysis of your personal financial circumstances.

For an analysis of your own financial circumstances, please contact Attorney Theresa DeGray at Consumer Legal Services to schedule your free consultation today.

________________________________

1See: 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)
2See: 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)(2) and 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)(3)
3See: 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)(2)(A)

Theresa-83-M

“Do I need to bring anything?”

     “Do I need to bring anything?” This is the most frequently asked question I get when making an appointment for an initial consultation with a new client. The answer is always “no.” All I need to help you…is you!

     If you, or someone you know, has a legal issue, the best thing to do is to find a local law firm that offers free initial consultations. I offer free initial consultations at various locations around the state of Connecticut and will strive to find a convenient time and place to meet with you. I have day, evening and weekend appointments available…and will even Skype with you!

     An initial consultation with a lawyer is a great opportunity. When you meet with me for the first time you will be treated with respect, dignity and compassion. The meeting will be an opportunity for you to interview me, just as much as it is an opportunity for me to interview you. Always remember, when you hire an attorney, they work for you, and you must feel comfortable with them.

     During our consultation I will ask pointed questions that are focused on painting a picture of your circumstances. Through your answers I will be able to analyze your situation and offer you options.

     At the conclusion of the initial consultation I will give you a folder with all of my contact information and copies of any documents you read and signed during the meeting. A follow-up appointment will be made with you for either a telephone conference or an in-person meeting to go over any further questions you may have.

     If you, or someone you know, would like to schedule a free initial consultation with me, please call, text or email me:

The Law Office of Theresa Rose DeGray

Call: 203-713-8877 | Text: 203-814-0600

Email: TRD@ConsumerLegalServicesLLC.com

July-2014-Photos-37

This firm is a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief amongst other things, under the Bankruptcy Code.