Sunday, June 28, 2015

Free ebook on Bankruptcy written by Erich M. Niederlehner, Esquire
Erich M. Niederlehner, has just completed a free ebook on Bankruptcy and encourages anyone considering filing for bankruptcy or just wants to know more about Bankruptcy to download and read the free ebook.  Erich M. Niederlehner, currently has offices in Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach and Panama City and has been practicing Bnkruptcy law for 14 years in the Gulf Coast Panhandle.  Go to and download the free "Book on Bankruptcy" by Erich M. Niederlehner today or click on the image above.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Can I Keep My Vehicle During Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

Can I Keep My Vehicle During Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
One of the most serious questions a client may ask is, “If I file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, can I keep my vehicle?” Like many simple, straight-forward legal questions, there are no simple, straight-forward legal answers. However, while each case is different, the vast majority of bankruptcy debtors keep their vehicles during Chapter 7.
Keeping a vehicle during Chapter 7 bankruptcy starts with a simple accounting: is the fair market value of the vehicle more than the amount owed on the loan? In other words, does the debtor have equity in the vehicle? If there is no equity in the vehicle, the Chapter 7 trustee cannot take and sell it since there is no benefit to the unsecured creditors.
On the other hand, if there is vehicle equity, that equity must be protected otherwise the trustee can take and sell the vehicle to reach the unprotected equity. The vehicle’s equity may be protected by one or more legal exemptions. The total amount of exemptions available to a debtor is determined by state and/or federal law and varies from state to state, and case to case. In some cases the ownership of the vehicle may protect the vehicle’s equity, such as in cases of joint ownership with a non-filing party.
If the vehicle has unprotected, non-exempt equity, the debtor has a few options. First, instead of taking and selling the vehicle, the trustee may accept a cash payment. Generally this cash payment is less than the amount of available equity, because there are actual costs involved in selling the vehicle. Second, the debtor may consider a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. A payment equal to the amount of non-exempt equity must be paid to the debtor’s unsecured creditors during the Chapter 13 plan, but this payment is stretched over 36-60 months. Third, the debtor may choose to allow the trustee to sell the vehicle. Any claimed exemption will be paid to the debtor from the proceeds of the sale. Finally, the debtor may choose to trade or sell the vehicle prior to bankruptcy and use any proceeds for necessary household expenses.
The truth is that it is rather unusual for a debtor to have a vehicle equity issue during Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you have a vehicle with a great deal of equity, your bankruptcy attorney can discuss your options for keeping your vehicle and protecting your equity.

Flood Waters after Massive Rains in the Florida Panhandle

This video was taken on Highway 98 in Gulf Breeze/Midway Florida the day after massive amount of rain fell within a 24 hour period. 

Obscene lack of professionalism! Brevard County Florida Judge Beats Down Assistant Public Defender for Objecting to Waive Right to Speedy Trial

What an obscene lack of professionalism!  Both the Judge and Assistant Public Defender should be suspended if not disbarred, and the Judge should be removed from the bench.  How could any plea by any of the defendants in this courtroom be considered voluntary after this incident?  How could any defendant perceive this Judge to be fair and impartial?

Why were the defendants clapping for the judge when he returned?  The judge was trying to intimidate the defendant into waiving his rights to make the Judge's life easier, and just beat down an attorney who was standing up for one of them and who was literally fighting for their rights.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Three Bad Bankruptcy Mistakes Before Filing Bankruptcy

Three Bad Bankruptcy Mistakes Before Filing Bankruptcy

The bankruptcy laws are confusing and complicated. Fortunately Congress and the US Supreme Court have given us a guidepost by stating that the bankruptcy laws exist to help debtors who are poor and honest. The bankruptcy trustee will investigate your case to determine whether you are both poor and honest. Excess money or equity in property can be taken to pay creditors, and efforts to hide money or assets will be punished. With this in mind, here are three bad mistakes you can make before filing bankruptcy:  

Mistake #1: Cashing Retirement Funds
Most retirement funds are fully protected from creditors and the bankruptcy court. That means if you file bankruptcy, you keep your retirement money. Congress wants you to have money for your retirement.

Along with the obvious problems associated with losing your future retirement money, cashing out retirement funds is also huge mistake because (1) your attorney may no longer be able to protect available retirement money converted into cash; and (2) in some cases the money you pay on a loan may be recoverable by the bankruptcy trustee. Money paid to creditors before bankruptcy does not improve your financial situation or help you recover from bankruptcy. Always discuss cashing out 401(k) or IRA retirement funds with your attorney prior to your filing bankruptcy.

Mistake #2: Transferring Property for Less Than Full Value
Anytime an individual transfers property for less than full value, the transfer seems “suspicious.” This is especially true when the transfer occurs just before a bankruptcy filing. The bankruptcy trustee scrutinizes all property transfers before bankruptcy, and if a property transfer was not a fair and honest exchange, the trustee may avoid the transfer and get the property back.

One common bankruptcy mistake is transferring property to a friend or family member in an effort to hide it from the bankruptcy court. This is a very bad mistake that can result in: (1) losing the property anyway; (2) denial of your bankruptcy discharge; and/or (3) criminal prosecution for bankruptcy fraud. If you need to sell or transfer property before your bankruptcy, contact an experienced attorney and discuss your options!

Mistake #4: Paying Off Loans
When a debtor pays off a loan before bankruptcy, the trustee becomes very interested in your case. First, if you paid a large sum of money to one creditor just before filing, the trustee may ask the creditor to return the money.  Second, paying off an unsecured creditor that is otherwise dischargeable (like a credit card or payday loan) is like throwing your money away. You need that money to help rebuild your finances. 

Finally, paying off secured property could create too much non-exemptible equity. The bankruptcy laws allow you to keep property up to a certain amount. The protected amount is determined by taking the fair market value of the property minus any secured loans. When you pay off the loans, you increase your equity in the property which may exceed the amount you are allowed to keep. When that happens the bankruptcy trustee may ask you for the property or the cash difference between the equity and the exemption amount. Bottom line: don’t pay off loans before bankruptcy!

If you are struggling financially, avoid these common bankruptcy mistakes by discussing your situation with an experienced bankruptcy attorney. Your attorney can guide you through the bankruptcy process and help you emerge on the other side with a brighter financial

Winning the Lottery May Not Help

Winning the Lottery May Not Help

Who hasn’t fantasized about winning the lottery when you are cash strapped? It seems that winning the lottery would solve all of your financial problems.

Not so fast.

A March 2010 study by economists at the University of Kentucky, University of Pittsburgh, and Vanderbilt University suggests that winning the lottery does not reduce the likelihood of a future bankruptcy. The study examined data from 35,000 winners of Florida's Fantasy 5 lottery from 1993 to 2002, and compared this information with state bankruptcy records. The economists found that more than 1,900 lottery winners filed for bankruptcy relief within five years after winning, a rate double that of the general population during the study period.  "The results show that giving $50,000 to $150,000 to people only postpones bankruptcy," the authors concluded.

Not every lottery winner will act like Callie Rogers, winner of a $3 million UK lottery in 2003. Callie spent every dime of her winnings on shopping, cocaine, friends and breast augmentation, and two years ago she was working as a maid. But then, Callie was probably not a skilled money manager, like the three co-workers who won a $254 million Powerball lottery in Connecticut. If you are lucky enough to win a large lottery, these professionals offer a blueprint on how to protect your money from yourself.

Financial management may seem like common sense, but Americans have many pressures to spend now and worry about the consequences in the future. It takes a reasoned approach and discipline to make a budget and stick to it. To help educate individuals and combat financial illiteracy, Congress amended the bankruptcy laws to require debtors to complete a course in financial management before the completion of the bankruptcy case. The hope is that by providing a bit of education, the debtor will take a more active interest in managing his or her finances and avoid future costly mistakes.

If you are battling insurmountable debt, don’t wish for a magical cure. Take charge of your finances and educate yourself about your options. Speaking with an experienced bankruptcy attorney is a solid first step in taking control and building a better future.

Are Your Family Finances Sustainable?

Are Your Family Finances Sustainable?

Corporate Knights, a Canada-based sustainability-focused media firm, publishes a unique list every year that predicts the world's most sustainable large corporations. Started in 2005, the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World is a list of publicly traded companies that, based on research and analysis, are best equipped to manage the environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks and opportunities they face. The idea is to look at the company today and predict the company's future ability to thrive.

Predicting the financial future of a company is tricky business. Of the original 100 announced in 2005, ten companies on that list are now inactive. Another good example is Eastman Kodak, which appeared on the Global 100 list in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. Kodak is synonymous with photography, and has a long and proud history. Kodak practically invented the amateur photography market back in 1888. Kodak is also responsible for the first digital camera in 1975 and developed cell phone photo technology. Unfortunately, in recent years Kodak has not changed fast enough to keep up with the changing marketplace. Kodak's shares once soared to an all-time high of $95 in 1997 and was a mainstay member of the Dow Jones industrial average for 74 years. In September 2011 its stock plummeted to close at $.69 a share.

Eastman Kodak is a lesson of how quickly the financial outlook of a company can change. Individuals, like companies, sometimes make bad decisions that can lead to financial trouble. Other times, circumstances happen that simply cannot be predicted. Fortunately, what looks bleak today can be better tomorrow. That is a hope that bankruptcy offers to individuals who are struggling with overwhelming debt. Bankruptcy offers the individual the "do over" opportunity to discharge or restructure debts.

If you need help reshaping your financial future, consult with an experienced attorney and discuss how the federal bankruptcy laws can help. Your attorney can offer you options for eliminating debt and making your finances sustainable for years to come.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Help! My Bank Account Is Frozen!

Help! My Bank Account Is Frozen!

Fewer things can throw your world upside down like having your bank account frozen. A bank garnishment or seizure is usually the result of a creditor attempting to collect after a court has issued a judgment against you. The court orders the bank to freeze your account and turn over its proceeds to the judgment creditor. The order is usually timed by the creditor's attorney to take effect just before your paycheck is deposited. Seizing a bank account is generally a creditor's first action because federal and state laws limit the amount that can be garnished directly from an employee’s paycheck. These limitations do not apply to cash money in a bank account.

Once your bank account is frozen, it is important to act quickly. You are entitled to protect some money from garnishment, but you must notify the court, the creditor, and the bank that you are asserting your legal exemption rights. Additionally, if you receive Federal benefits that are directly deposited into your bank account, the federal law will protect an amount equal to two months of these benefits. These benefits include Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income benefits, Veteran’s benefits, Railroad Retirement benefits, and benefits from the Office of Personnel Management. Federal benefits are exempt from garnishment, and the law places the burden on the bank to determine if the funds are protected.

Finally, a bankruptcy filing will immediately stop a garnishment and unfreeze your bank account. A debtor can often force the garnishing creditor to return money seized just prior to a bankruptcy filing. The general rule is that involuntary payments that amount to over $600 seized by a creditor in the 90 days before filing can be recovered.

If you have had your bank account seized, it is important to speak with an experienced bankruptcy attorney immediately and discuss your short term and long term options. Quick action is necessary to unfreeze your account, but it is also important to discuss your long term plan to avoid garnishments in the future. Your attorney can help you decide on a sensible plan to eliminate your debt and progress to a better financial future.