September 19, 2017

Gain Financial Freedom in your Pursuit of Happiness!

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Every year I re-read the Declaration of Independence and meditate on the amazing freedoms I enjoy (and sometimes admittedly, take for granted). This year I have been studying the history of Bankruptcy in America and came across this wonderful book called Republic of Debtors: Bankruptcy in the Age of American Independence by Bruce H. Mann.

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After reading a bit of this book, I realized how incredibility blessed we are to have the laws that allow us to file Bankruptcy with ease of process, and without judgment or fear. It wasn’t always that way and not everyone who suffered from crushing debt was given that second chance. It took years and a lot of legislation to get the laws where they are today; the laws that protect debtors from their creditors.

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I believe the secret to happiness is the freedom of choice. When you choose to take the first step to get out of debt you begin on the road to financial freedom. Bankruptcy will help you keep your home, relieve you of unsecured debt, keep your utilities on and give you the freedom to start over. It was the best thing that ever happened to me (read my personal Bankruptcy story here) and was my own declaration of independence.

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!!

Back To School Shopping On A Budget

Back to school shopping is no doubt a pain for all parents. If you’re watching your finances, school supply shopping can be even more difficult. However, back to school shopping on a budget can be a breeze if you do it right. Below are some tips every parent should incorporate into their August-September back to school shopping for their children.

  • Set a budget. Go into the back to school shopping season with a specific budget. Let your children know what the overall budget is and that there will be no going over it.
  • Make a list! Get a list of supplies that your children need from each of their teachers. Before you go out and purchase everything, go through your home and look for things you may be able to cross off the list. Look at what school supplies your children have left from the previous year and what things you may be able to reuse. Also separate the list into needs and wants. Get all of the essentials for your child and in order to keep under budget, consider skipping some of the “wants” on the list.
  • Don’t go right to Staples for your child’s school supplies. Get things like pencils and pens from your local Dollar Store.
  • Buy your child a bookbag that will last! Brands like L.L Bean and Jansport have a lifetime guarantee on all their bags so buy one that your child can use year after year so you will definitely get your money’s worth.
  • Reuse! Buy your children plastic folders instead of cardboard and such. The plastic will be reusable for years after the purchase as long as your children take care of them.
  • Look through your children’s closet and see exactly what they need so you may plan ahead. Avoid shopping in August for clothes. If you can, wait until mid September or around that time in order to hit the sales that go on after stores think that everyone in town has already completed their back to school shopping. Alternatively, your family can go clothing shopping for fall clothes at the beginning of the summer in order to take advantage of some deals.
  • Try shopping at local thrift stores or outlet malls. Some thrift stores sell name brands for cheap and outlets always have good deals on clothes and shoes.

 

Back to school shopping no longer needs to be a dreadful, money-sucking event that happens at the end of every summer. If you use these helpful tips, you will succeed in getting all the supplies your children need, but also stay well under your budget.

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!

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  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 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.

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1See 11 U.S.C. § 109(h)

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Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Series Part One: Initial Consultation

When you find yourself in debt and want to learn what your options are, the best thing to do is to find a local law firm that offers free initial Bankruptcy consultations.  I offer free initial consultations at various locations around the state of Connecticut (including Milford, Shelton, Hartford and other various locations) 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 for many reasons.  When you meet with me for the first time you will be treated with respect, dignity and compassion.  I understand the hardship you are facing and will give you my full attention.  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 as you will have to trust your attorney to guide you through each and every step of the Bankruptcy process. 

During our consultation I will ask pointed questions that are focused on painting a picture of your financial circumstances.  This inquiry will include questions pertaining to your income, assets and debts.  Through your answers I will be able to analyze your financial circumstances and offer you options. 

Next I will show you various disclosure statements that I am required to give to you by the United States Bankruptcy Court under the Bankruptcy Code1.  These documents will explain the Bankruptcy process, the difference between the various chapters of Bankruptcy, what a Discharge is and what credit counseling services are, among other important things.  You will be asked to sign these documents, acknowledging that you received them. 

Finally, if I determine that you are a likely candidate for Bankruptcy and you are interested in hiring me to file your Bankruptcy Petition, I will conclude my presentation by guiding you through a checklist of documents I will need from you to perform a Means Test.  A Means Test is a formal assessment used to determine if you qualify for Bankruptcy.  Do not be alarmed, it is not a test like the SATs and does not require you to pencil in any bubbles!  On the contrary, you will gather the documents and my staff and I will prepare the test for you as part of our package services. 

Throughout the consultation and especially at the end, I will ask you if you have any questions.  I will be happy to answer all of your questions and you should not hesitate to ask any question or ask for clarification if something is unclear. 

At the conclusion of the initial consultation I will give you a folder with all of my contact information and copies of all the 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 and to help you with the gathering of your documents. 

The next part of this series will go into more depth about the specific documents you will gather so that we will be able to analyze your financial circumstances and prepare your Means Test.  

To schedule your initial consultation with Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray, please call 203-713-8877.

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111 U.S.C. §§ 101-1532

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Vlog: What is Bankruptcy?

Do you feel like a zombie walking through life not sure how to pay your next bill?
Let me unmask the myths behind Bankruptcy and give you some basic knowledge
about a process that can give you the fresh start you need.

Bankruptcy is a legal process in which you ultimately receive debt relief. The two main types of Bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and 13. In a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, all of your unsecured debt, like credit card and medical debt, is completely discharged and you are no longer responsible to pay it. In a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, you pay back some of your debt and some of it gets discharged eventually. In order to qualify for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy you must pass a Means Test. A Means Test compares your income to a median income for your state and household size. If you feel like you are drowning in debt and you don’t know how to pay the bills coming in the mail every day, or how to stop those harassing calls you get multiple times a day, please hang up on your bill collectors, and call me to schedule a free and confidential consultation at your convenience. As a bonus, I will perform your Means Test for free to see if you qualify to file Chapter 7 Bankruptcy to get the fresh start that you deserve.

Contact Attorney DeGray for more information.

Frequently Asked Connecticut Bankruptcy Law Questions

Q: What is bankruptcy?

A: Bankruptcy is a legal process for people who cannot afford to pay their bills, and offers them a fresh start. The right to file for bankruptcy is granted by federal law, and all Connecticut bankruptcy cases are handled in federal courts located in New Haven, Bridgeport and Hartford.

Q: How can Bankruptcy help me?

A: Bankruptcy can eliminate unsecured debt, end collection harassment, stop foreclosures, prevent repossessions, stop wage garnishments and bank executions, and/or restore utility service.

Q: How often can I file bankruptcy?
A: You can file for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy every eight (8) years. Chapter 13 Bankruptcies can be filed every six (6) years.

Q: What is the difference between a consumer bankruptcy and a corporate bankruptcy?

A: A consumer bankruptcy is for individuals or married couples that have personal, and not business, debt. A corporate bankruptcy is for a corporation, or non-human entity.

Q: What is the difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13?

A: A Chapter 7 results in a total discharge of most unsecured debt. A Chapter 13 is a repayment plan. Please see our Laws Page for an extended discussion on this topic.

Q: What does it cost to file for Bankruptcy?
A: We charge a fee for our services which will be quoted at our initial consultation. In addition to our fee for services, the bankruptcy court also charges filing fees.

Q: How can I pay for my Bankruptcy?

A: We offer affordable payment plans and accept all forms of payment, including cash, check, and debit cards from the person filing for bankruptcy. If a non-filer wishes to pay for our fees for their family member or friend, we will accept a credit card from that person. We honor MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express.

Q: What property can I keep?

A: You may keep all “exempt” property like your home, car, wedding rings, home furnishings, etc. All property that is not exempt is subject to liquidation and the resulting monies used to pay back your creditors. Do Not Be Alarmed: we strive to maximize your exemptions and protect all of your property.

Q: Will bankruptcy wipe out all my debts?

A: Yes, both Chapter 7 and 13 are designed to give you a fresh start with a clean slate.

Q: What is a discharge?

A: A discharge is a court order that says you do not have to repay your debts, but there are some exceptions, such as child support.

Q: Will I have to go to court?
A: Yes, in a Chapter 7 case, you will have to attend a proceeding once which is like a “court hearing,” although, it is very informal and presided over by a trustee and not a judge. A Chapter 13 case may require more than one court appearance, usually two or three.

Q: Will bankruptcy affect my credit?

A: Yes, but there are easy ways to rebuild your credit in a relatively short period of time following your final discharge.

Q: Will I be able to keep any credit cards?

A: No, you will have to fully disclose all of your debts and accounts, which will be closed and discharged. Bankruptcy is an all or nothing process. Full disclosure of your assets and liabilities is required and subject to penalties of perjury.

Q: Can I keep and use my debit card?

A: Yes, a debit card is not a credit card.

Q: Can I get a credit card after bankruptcy?

A: Yes, and you will be counseled on how and when to apply, and which type of card works best to rehabilitate your credit.

Q: Are utility services affected?
A: Current services will not be affected if the account is current or near current. Requests for new services after a bankruptcy may result in the utility company requiring a deposit.

Q: Can I be discriminated against for filing bankruptcy?

A: Absolutely not. Filing bankruptcy is a right given and protected by Federal Law.

Q: I am married, can I file by myself?

A: Yes, you may file as a married individual.

Q: If I am married and I file individually, will my spouse’s credit be affected?
A: No, your spouse’s credit will not be affected if he or she does not file.

Q: Can filing bankruptcy stop bill collectors from calling?
A: Yes, they will be prohibited from harassing you.

Q: Can I discharge my student loans by filing bankruptcy?

A: Generally student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. There are a few exceptions to this general rule.

Contact Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray if you have any further questions. Thank you.

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

“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

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