Lancaster Bankruptcy Lawyers
Many southern California families struggle to pay their debts. Whether we are talking about mortgage payments, credit card bills, or medical debts, it is easy to become overwhelmed and feel like there is no escape. But you do have options, and we can help you explore them. Wadhwani & Shanfeld is a team of dedicated Lancaster bankruptcy lawyers who have helped more than 25,000 people get back on their feet after a financial crisis. Raj Wadhwani and Greg Shanfeld are Board-certified bankruptcy specialists who can guide you through a number of legal strategies for reducing and eliminating your debts. We can advise you on whether bankruptcy is the right choice for your family, or whether there is an alternative that can keep you out of court.
Providing a Full Range of Debt Relief Services to Los Angeles County
At Wadhwani & Shanfeld, our practice is 100 percent dedicated to providing bankruptcy and debt relief services. This enables us to dedicate all of our resources to a complex area of law. Some of the specific financial issues we can assist you and your family with include:
- Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: Chapter 7 allows debtors without significant income to discharge most (if not all) of their unsecured debts, affording them a “fresh start” free of prior obligations.
- Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: If you have a regular income and do not qualify for Chapter 7, you may still be able to gain control of your debts through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which requires you to repay certain creditors over 3 or 5 years while discharging any remaining debts once the process is complete.
- Debt Settlement: Bankruptcy is a last resort. In many cases, it is possible to pursue other legal strategies for settling debts with a creditor out of court.
- Foreclosure Protection: If you are behind on your mortgage payments and are looking to keep your home, filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy can buy you time to avoid immediate foreclosure.
- Student Loan Debt: Federal law affords special protections for many student loan debts, which can make it much more difficult to discharge these obligations in bankruptcy. So it is critical to work with an experienced attorney if you are behind on your student loans.
- IRS Tax Debts: Many southern California residents, particularly those who are self-employed, fall behind on their tax obligations. We can advise you on strategies for negotiating with the IRS and getting you current with the government.
- Stop Creditor Harassment: There are federal and California state laws in place to prevent creditors and collection agencies from harassing or threatening people who owe them money. We can advise you on how to put a stop to creditor harassment and take legal action to recover damages when necessary.
Chapter 7 vs Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Financially distressed consumers have several bankruptcy options, but the most popular are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Their names come from their location in the bankruptcy code. At Wadhwani & Shanfeld, our firm has helped more than 25,000 people deal with their debt. Your choice of bankruptcy matters a great deal. File the wrong bankruptcy, and you could end up in worse financial shape than before. Please call us to speak with our Lancaster bankruptcy attorney about your case.
Chapter 7: The Basics
About 2 out of 3 consumers file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Here are the highlights:
- Who qualifies? You only qualify if you pass a “means test,” which essentially compares your income to the state’s median for a family of equal size. If your income is too high, you can’t file.
- What debt gets eliminated? Most unsecured debts, like credit cards, payday loans, personal loans, and medical debt. You can’t easily eliminate student loans, and you can’t get rid of a secured loan without giving up the asset. You also can’t eliminate family law obligations, like child support or alimony.
- How long does it take? This is a short bankruptcy, which is usually completed in 3-4 months.
- Do you lose assets? Possibly. California filers can exempt certain assets, such as their retirement accounts. But you can lose any asset that’s non-exempt. The trustee sells it and gives the proceeds to your creditors.
- How long does it stay on your credit report? 10 years
Many people choose Chapter 7 for its ease. Within a few months, their debts are gone and they can breathe a sigh of relief. However, it’s not a great option if you have too many non-exempt assets.
Chapter 13: The Basics
This bankruptcy is less popular than Chapter 7, but it certainly has its place and is a good option for some people. Here are the basics:
- Who qualifies? Anyone can qualify so long as they have regular income and not too much debt. The debt limits change regularly, but the unsecured limit is more than $400,000 and the secured limit is more than $1 million.
- What debt gets eliminated? Debts are not discharged until the filer completes a payment plan. At the end of the plan, unpaid debt is discharged. You can discharge many of the same debts as you can under a Chapter 7.
- How long does it take? This bankruptcy lasts 3-5 years. You will need to make regular, monthly payments according to a payment plan. If you stop, then you lose bankruptcy protection.
- Do you lose assets? No. You will not lose assets if you complete the plan. However, you need to pay creditors an amount that’s at least equal to any non-exempt assets.
- How long does it stay on your credit report? 7 years
This bankruptcy is a great option for those who don’t want to lose assets or need time to catch up on unpaid mortgage debt.
- Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
- Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
- Bankruptcy & Divorce
- Bankruptcy & Retirement
- Credit Card Debt
- Creditor Harassment
- Debt Settlement
- Financial Stress
- Foreclosure Protection
- Investment Property Foreclosure
- IRS Tax Debt
- Lawsuits & Judgments
- Loan Modifications
- Means Test
- Medical Debt
- Personal Loan Debt
- Rebuilding Credit
- Second Mortgage Debt
- Small Business Bankruptcy
- Student Loan Repayment
- Student Loan Debt
- Wage Garnishment
Myths About Bankruptcy
Bankruptcy has helped millions of consumers get out from under heavy debt loads, but it isn’t the right choice for everyone feeling financial stress. Furthermore, consumers have several options, including filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. To make an informed choice many people go online in search of information.
Sadly, there are many bankruptcy myths floating around the internet, which our Lancaster bankruptcy lawyer tries to correct in this article. Please contact Wadhwani & Shanfeld if you have questions or want to meet for a consultation.
The Top Bankruptcy Myths
Many myths have a grain of truth, so it isn’t easy to dismiss them outright. Here are the top myths and the correct information you need to know.
1. Only reckless spenders file for bankruptcy. The truth is more nuanced. Some people certainly spend more than they should on entertainment, vacations, and fine dining. Nonetheless, large numbers of distressed consumers only file because they suffer some catastrophe, like a home fire, medical crisis, or job loss. At that point they realize their debts are too large.
2. You can file for bankruptcy without a lawyer. Sure—you can file. But studies show you’re more likely to get debts discharged if you work with a lawyer. Also, you don’t want to choose the wrong bankruptcy and realize once you’ve finished that you still have debts. Let a lawyer help you identify which steps to take.
3. You can discharge all debt. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. You can eliminate certain debts, like credit cards, personal loans, and medical debt. But there’s a long list of debts you can’t eliminate, like unpaid child support, drunk driving tickets, and most back taxes. Student loans are also notoriously difficult to discharge, and if you try to discharge a secured debt (like your mortgage), you’ll lose the house.
4. You can run up debt right before filing. Actually, doing that probably qualifies as fraud. A creditor can object, and the court won’t discharge the debt. You need to be careful about any purchases you make in the months leading up to your filing.
5. You’ll lose your house if you file. That depends on the facts. If you complete a Chapter 13, you will not lose your house. Also, the equity in your home might be exempt if you file for Chapter 7 protection. It’s sometimes possible that people will lose their homes, but it doesn’t always happen.
6. Your credit will never recover. Your credit will tank initially—that’s right. Some people see their credit scores nosedive 300-400 points. But like anything, what goes down can eventually go back up. We have seen people rebuild credit in as little as two years, and before long they are taking out a home mortgage.
Why Hire a Lancaster Bankruptcy Specialist?
Filing for bankruptcy might seem easy. After all, many websites publish blank forms you can fill out and then file with the clerk at your nearest federal court. Other people hire paralegals or a notary public to help them complete paperwork before filing. Unfortunately, these people are not lawyers and aren’t qualified to provide legal advice. Relying on them to help you navigate the bankruptcy system is a serious mistake.
Please call Wadhwani & Shanfeld today to discuss bankruptcy. If you are feeling financial distress, now is the time to lean on our network of expert attorneys. A Lancaster bankruptcy attorney will help explain what debts you can eliminate with bankruptcy and whether this is the correct choice for you. There is no risk in calling.
Five Reasons to Hire a Bankruptcy Specialist
Instead of relying on a notary or online advice, you should call an experienced Lancaster bankruptcy lawyer. Our firm can help with the following:
- Reviewing your options. Only a lawyer understands the details of the different bankruptcy options (Chapter 7, 11, and 13). A lawyer can help you decide which one is right for you—or whether you even want to file for bankruptcy in the first place. It might be that you’re better off waiting to file until you divorce or retire, or until your income drops.
- Completing paperwork accurately. Submitting incomplete and/or inaccurate court filings can delay the bankruptcy process. Inaccurate information could also lead to allegations of bankruptcy fraud. You can protect yourself by working with a seasoned Lancaster attorney who knows what information is required when filing.
- Getting debt discharged. Studies have shown that those people who file with the help of a lawyer are more likely to get debts discharged than those who file without an attorney. There’s no reason to go through bankruptcy only to end up with debt still in your name.
- Helping you rebuild credit. A bankruptcy specialist can provide helpful tips for rebuilding credit after bankruptcy. Our firm has worked with hundreds of clients, so we know what techniques work and which ones don’t.
- Handling unforeseen issues. Some bankruptcies are seamless, with no issues cropping up after you file. But some people face unforeseen hurdles. For example, a creditor might object to the discharge of their loan, or the trustee argues that certain property isn’t exempt and tries to sell it. You’ll need a seasoned lawyer to make your case to a judge relying on the most recent case law to protect your rights.
A good lawyer is also a sounding board who can answer any questions you have before or during the bankruptcy process. Let us put our experience to work for you.
California Bankruptcy FAQs
Indebted consumers need accurate, timely information to help them think through their options. The fact is that it’s possible to find financial freedom, but you need a seasoned guide to help lead you there. At Wadhwani & Shanfeld, our lawyers have assisted more than 25,000 individuals and investors handle their debts. Bankruptcy is an excellent option for many people, and we answer some of the most common questions below.
Question: Will my credit tank after filing for bankruptcy?
Answer: Yes. The exact size of the drop will depend on your credit history. Most people who file for bankruptcy have multiple accounts in collection, have defaulted on debts, and have high credit utilization. Their scores are already in the 400s. But others have managed to stay on top of debts (with difficulty) and have a score in the 700s. You can expect your score to crash more than 300+ points with a bankruptcy. But it’s possible to rebuild credit.
Question: How long does a bankruptcy stay on my credit report?
Answer: It depends on the bankruptcy. A chapter 7 stays on for 10 years; a Chapter 13 stays on for 7 years. The negative effect lessens with time, however.
Question: What debt can I get rid of in bankruptcy?
Answer: Bankruptcy doesn’t eliminate everything. For example, some debts are excluded by the bankruptcy code, such as family law obligations (child support and alimony). Other debts excluded include drunk driving tickets or a court judgment based on drunk driving. However, you can eliminate many types of unsecured debts, like medical debts, personal loans, and credit cards.
Question: Can I eliminate my mortgage payment?
Answer: You can eliminate your mortgage debt in a Chapter 7. However, the security interest in the property survives, which means your lender can still foreclose if you stop paying.
Question: Will I lose my home if I file for bankruptcy?
Answer: It depends. You might lose your house if you file for Chapter 7 and there is equity in the home that you can’t exempt. In that case, the trustee might force a sale and distribute equity to your creditors. You can avoid a sale by filing for Chapter 13.
If you can exempt the equity, then it’s a question of whether you are current on your mortgage. If not, then the lender can foreclose on the property. However, you might catch up or file for Chapter 13 which gives you more time to pay back unpaid mortgage debt.
Question: Can I have a paralegal or a notary file bankruptcy for me?
Answer: They can certainly help you fill out the forms. You provide the information, and they can type it in. But they can’t provide legal advice, and they aren’t up to date on bankruptcy law.
Contact Wadhwani & Shanfeld Today
One reason many people file without a lawyer is that they wrongly believe they can’t afford one. At Wadhwani & Shanfeld, our Lancaster bankruptcy specialists will explain our fee structure and why you can get top-shelf legal advice at an affordable price. Nobody should feel ashamed because they are dealing with debt. The important thing is to take charge of the situation and assert your legal rights. Our Lancaster bankruptcy attorneys can help. Contact Wadhwani & Shanfeld today to schedule a consultation. We assist clients in Los Angeles County and throughout southern California.