May 23, 2019

This is no April Fools’ Joke: Means Test Numbers are Going Up as of April 1, 2019!

After your initial consultation, 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.

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 then have passed the Means Test 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 Rose DeGray, to schedule your free consultation today!

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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)

Wife, Mother, Attorney and…now, Author!

About a year ago, over the course of many months, in between taking care of my son and clients, I co-authored a book called “Tiger Tactics: Powerful Strategies for Winning Law Firms.”  Below is a sample.  Copies can be ordered on TigerTacticsBook.com.

Balance

They say when you have a baby, you should sleep when the baby sleeps. I say work when the baby sleeps.

Thirteen months ago I had a baby. I did not have a maternity leave. I emailed clients within one hour of having a C-section. When you are a solo, there is no other choice.

My son’s name is Chase. I now think of my life in two parts: (1) Before Chase (aka BC) and (2) After Chase (aka AC). Before he was born, I worked all the time. And I mean All. The. Time. I loved it. I know, I am weird. But I wanted to be a lawyer all my life and I love what I do……all aspects of it, working in the business as well as working on the business. My husband didn’t love it. But he adjusted BC and understood why I didn’t have many friends or hobbies, because I was always working and that was my passion.

After Chase, things were immediately different. I now have this little human that depends on me 24/7 and is the cutest, most fun little guy in the world, so of course, spending time with him has become my first priority, and my work has naturally taken a close second place.

My number-one piece of advice to any lawyer who has children or wants to balance their work and life, even if they don’t have kids, is this: Make a schedule and stick to it.

Easy to say and hard to do, I know. It’s the nature of our profession and one of the top reasons why I love it. No day is the same. Mondays I might spend all morning in court and all afternoon in client meetings, and on Thursdays I might spend all day doing networking, going to Rotary meetings, and meeting new referral sources. But the longer you practice, the more you will notice a rhythm to your practice and your schedule, so you can make a rough schedule and try to stick to it. That goes for home too.

When you have small children, they rule your schedule, and you have to adapt to them. That’s where the rule “work when the baby sleeps” comes in. But as they grow and organically create their own routine, you can work your business and personal responsibilities, tasks, and events into and around their routine…

To continue reading, head over to www.TigerTacticsBook.com.

What to Expect at an Initial Consultation

THE FIRST STEP on your journey to a fresh start begins with a free and confidential consultation to learn exactly what your options are.  I offer initial consultations at various locations around the state of Connecticut (including Milford, Shelton and Wethersfield) 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 or facetime 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, please call us at 203-713-8877 or visit our website at www.ConsumerLegalServicesLLC.com.
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111 U.S.C. §§ 101-1532

GOOD NEWS: Updated Census Bureau Median Family Income Data

March 14, 2019

The Census Bureau’s Median Family Income Data accessible through the “Means Testing Information” page has been updated. The U.S. Trustee Program will apply the updated data to all cases filed on or after April 1, 2019.

SOURCE: https://www.justice.gov/ust

Turn Your Tax Refund Into Debt Relief Today

“Leverage: the use of a small initial investment…to gain a very high return.”

— Dictionary.com

          I have been debating how to talk about this in a delicate manner and I simply could not figure it out. So, I will just come out and say it: People being crushed by debt can leverage their tax refunds to file Bankruptcy and get a Fresh Start. There, I finally said it.

          It may not sound kosher but it is. Instead of using your tax refund to pay off a portion of your debt, or to buy a big screen TV, people can pay for their legal fees to get out of massive amounts of debt if they qualify and it is the right thing for them to do based on their circumstances.

          If you are struggling with debt and want to explore this option, please contact my office and schedule a free and confidential consultation.

CLICK HERE TO SCHEDULE

FAQ: Child Support Enforcement Services (Re-posted from Connecticut Judicial Branch Website)

BANKRUPTCY COURT OPEN DURING PARTIAL GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

Tax Amnesty

A Guest Blog by Joshua M. Dickinson, CPA

Now is the perfect time to come clean and catch-up on your outstanding tax obligations. Connecticut has introduced “CT Fresh Start” which is a Connecticut tax amnesty program which runs through November 30, 2018. Almost all tax types are eligible under the program including both business and individual income taxes, payroll withholding taxes, business entity taxes, gift taxes, and sales & use taxes. A taxpayer is eligible if they failed to file a return, or failed to report the full amount of tax on a previously filed return, for any return due on or before December 31, 2016. The program is generally not available for taxpayers who have already received a bill for unpaid taxes or are currently under audit by the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services. The benefits include no assessed penalties on the outstanding obligation as well as interest at 50% of the normal rate. The program also allows for a limited look-back period for eligible non-filers of only three years and no criminal prosecution. Connecticut has not offered a tax amnesty program in quite a few years and the window to apply under the program is relatively short, so don’t miss out! To see if you can take advantage, please contact Joshua M. Dickinson, CPA of Walsh & Dickinson at 203-447-0550 immediately.

Special thanks to my colleague, Joshua M. Dickinson, CPA (pictured here on the right with me and Attorney Karen Zarkades on the left), for submitting this article to my newsletter and blog. He is a partner at Walsh & Dickinson, a full-service CPA firm operating out of Shelton, Connecticut, specializes in the needs of small to medium size privately held business and individual clients. Josh has over 22 years of diverse experience helping clients located throughout Connecticut. Please contact Josh at Walsh & Dickinson at 203-447-0550 or www.cpaswd.com. Thank you.

October or…Never?

MEANS TEST NUMBERS ARE GOING DOWN

 

Bad News in the Bankruptcy World:

Bankruptcy qualification is based solely on household income. Every six months or so the Office of the United States Trustee changes the Means Testing figures. Come Novermber 1, 2018, the Means Testing Numbers are going down. This directly results in less people being qualified to file for Bankruptcy.

Good News For You:

If you are contemplating Bankruptcy, I am urging you to get tested as soon as possible to see if you qualify and can file in October before the changes take effect. During the remaining days of October, I am offering FREE Consultations 7 days per week and FREE Means Testing. Click HERE to schedule your appointment right away.

What’s your focus?

At Consumer Legal Services, LLC, we offer a variety of ways to help get you out of debt. Since every person has a different situation, we offer many different solutions.

If filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is the best choice for you, we can discuss what is involved and how the process works at a free in-person consultation.

However, we believe other options should be explored before deciding on Bankruptcy. Bankruptcy should always be your last resort.

We’re here to help, to listen, and to offer advice.  We’ll be with you every step of the way.  If filing for Bankruptcy is the best option for you, you will be taken through the process from the Free Consultation, to the signing of the Petition, to the Discharge.  It will be done in a friendly, pressure-free way with courteous and diligent services.

Many famous people and companies have had to restructure and start over.  There is no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed.  Bankruptcy is a path to a fresh start.

Consumer Legal Services, LLC is dedicated to achieving the best outcome for every client.  With Consumer Legal Services on your side, you will see things through a new pair of glasses!

Financial worries do not need to consume your every thought. We have the solutions you’ve been looking for.

Give us a call at 203-713-8877 or text “help” to 203-814-0600.

  • Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray is admitted to practice law in the State of Connecticut and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She is also a member of the Federal Bar for the Districts of Connecticut and Massachusetts. She earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, where she majored in Legal Studies. She worked several years as a paralegal before heading to Law School, during which time she developed practical experience which she used to start her own Law Firm where she focuses on helping consumers with financial issues in the areas of Bankruptcy and Foreclosure Defense.

    Credentials:

    • Attended Quinnipiac University as an undergraduate
    • Attended the University of Massachusetts School of Law at Dartmouth, earning her Juris Doctor
    • Certified in Chapter 7 electronic filing of Bankruptcy within the Federal Court
    • Member of the Milford and West Haven Bar Associations
    • Wife, Mother and Attorney at Law
    • Owner and Sole Member of Consumer Legal Services, LLC, a Law Firm and Debt Relief Agency operating under the Bankruptcy Code

Click HERE to schedule your Free Consultation.

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