Obama Student Loan Forgiveness Starts Here

With so many companies guarantying student loan debt forgiveness and using Obama’s words to market and sell their offerings, I thought I would set the record straight!

  1. YOU CAN HELP YOURSELF FOR FREE
  2. YOU CAN HIRE ONE OF THESE COMPANIES THAT MAY NOT BE LAWYERS; OR
  3. YOU CAN HIRE A LAWYER TO REPRESENT YOU

Don’t be fooled into thinking these companies can get you any better deal that you can get yourself.  In fact, you could end up actually paying more for these non-lawyer companies than you would seeking the advice of a student loan lawyer in your area.  For a legitimate attorney referral, contact the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA). First, you MUST separate your federal loans from any private student loans you have taken.

FEDERAL LOANS Help

  1. Gather your student loan information from National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS);
  2. NEVER GIVE YOUR PIN NUMBER TO ANYONE BECAUSE YOU APPLY FOR LOANS USING THIS NUMBER
  3. Review your options at Student Loan Borrower Assistance
  4. If your loans are in DEFAULT, you MUST bring them current through REHABILITATION first;
  5. Once your student loans are in good standing and current, then you can apply for a repayment program that you qualify for based on what you have learned from the Student Loan Borrower Assistance website
  6. IF you have applied for a repayment program and YOU CANNOT AFFORD THE LOWER PAYMENTS, contact a bankruptcy attorney for a FREE consultation to determine if you qualify for an UNDUE HARDSHIP bankruptcy discharge.

Don’t ignore your federal student loans because once in default, these loans generate painful fees and costs to collect, including income tax interception; and garnishments without a lawsuit.

PRIVATE STUDENT LOAN Help

  1. Pull a copy of your credit report: Private student loan will NOT be listed on the NSLDS website and may only show on your credit report. You may have legal rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act for errors on your credit report;
  2. Private loans have a statute of limitations on their legal right to sue you to collect on this debt (4 years from your last payment in California);
  3. These loans may be easily discharged in bankruptcy for a variety of reasons:  (a) Disallow their claims to payment in Chapter 13; (b) Sue lender for loans that are not “Qualified Education Loans;”
  4. If you’re being sued by a private student loan lender, consult with a reputable Student Loan Lawyer immediately to protect your rights;
  5. You may be able to sue these lenders for violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act if you are being harassed; inappropriately contacted; or you believe that amount you owe is not accurate.

The strategy or path you take is a personal one.  Whether you repay your student loans in full, or refuse to pay them and tackle them through lawsuits, or bankruptcy; it is important for you to know all the facts and your legal rights so that you can make a well informed decision.  You need to know what’s right for you, not what’s right for others.

Open Letter to the Bankruptcy Bar from Chief Judge Bluebond: Pro Bono Opportunities

From our Chief Judge:  Honorable Sheri Bluebond

March 3, 2015

An Open Letter to the Bankruptcy Bar

The Bankruptcy Judges of the Central District of California once again urge you to consider volunteering for one of the bankruptcy pro bono opportunities available in your area.  Over the past several years, notwithstanding the cyclical increases and decreases in our filing numbers, one thing has remained constant:  there are large numbers of low-income individuals in our court in need of representation.  Organizations currently assisting low-income people in our district see hundreds of families on the brink of foreclosure or in other economic distress each year.

Volunteer opportunities available range from commitments that require only a few hours every other month at a clinic to full representation in a chapter 7 case or adversary proceeding.  With a self-help desk in every division, you can easily volunteer close to home for only the number of hours that fit into your schedule.  Consumer bankruptcy training may be available for you. While most requests are for debtor assistance, low-income creditor assistance is needed as well.  The programs are structured so that attorneys who generally represent creditors may volunteer without concern about conflicts of interest or being designated a debt relief agency.  The vast majority of the people who come to these programs cannot afford counsel, but attorney referrals are also made through these organizations where appropriate.

Even a brief consultation with an attorney can make a big difference to an unrepresented party.  Attorney assistance also greatly helps the court and other litigants.  You can find contact information for an organization in your area, along with the types of opportunities available on the Court’s website (www.cacb.uscourts.gov), in the “Programs and Services” section, by clicking on “Pro Bono Opportunities.”  We encourage you to contact one of these agencies to explore whether there might be a way for you to contribute your time and expertise to someone in need.  To those of you who already volunteer or provide badly needed pro bono help in other ways, we say thank you. Your efforts help the court be more responsive to all litigants, regardless of income level and are truly appreciated.

 

Sheri Bluebond
Chief Bankruptcy Judge

 

Here’s a link to the Judge’s letter:

http://www.cacb.uscourts.gov/open-letter-bankruptcy-bar

A list of organizations needing help:

PRO BONO ORGANIZATIONS SEEKING BANKRUPTCY VOLUNTEERS:∗

Organization: Public Counsel
Area served: Los Angeles County (Los Angeles and San Fernando Divisions)
Contact David Daniels, Pro Bono Director, at (213) 385-2977
or go to www.publiccounsel.org(link is external) and click on the “Volunteer” tab

Volunteers Needed for:
Self Help Desk – Mondays and Wednesdays 10 am – 12 pm and 2 pm – 4 pm
Reaffirmation Clinics, Chapter 7 Seminars, preparing chapter 7 bankruptcy petitions

 

Organization: Neighborhood Legal Services
Area served: Northern Los Angeles County (San Fernando Valley Division)
Contact: Jennifer Pham at Jenniferphan@nlsla.org(link sends e-mail)
or go to www.nlsla.org(link is external)

Volunteers Needed for:
Self Help Desk in Woodland Hills:
Thursdays from 9 am – 12 pm and 1 – 4 pm

 

Organization: Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County
Area served: Santa Barbara County (Northern Division)
Contact:  Jennifer Smith at JenniferSmith@lafsbc.org( link sends e-mail)
or go to www.lafsbc.org(link is external)

Volunteers Needed for:
Chapter 7 representation and Self Help Clinic – Weekly on Fridays 10 am – 12 pm

 

Organization: Riverside Legal Aid (formerly, Public Service Law Corporation)
Area served: Riverside and San Bernardino Counties (Riverside Division)
Contact: Diane Roth at droth@riversidelegalaid.org (link sends e-mail)
Phone: (951)682-7968
or go to www.riversidelegalaid.org( link is external)

Volunteers Needed in Riverside for Chapter 7 Self-Help Clinic
Tuesdays and Thursdays 10 am – 2 pm (pre- & post-filing issues)
Adversary Proceedings

Volunteers Needed in Cathedral City for Chapter 7 Self-Help Clinic
4th Monday of every month, 10:30 am to 2:30 pm

 

Organization: Public Law Center
Area served: Orange County (Santa Ana Division)
Contact:  Leigh Ferrin at lferrin@publiclawcenter.org (link sends e-mail)
or go to www.publiclawcenter.org( link is external)

 

Volunteers Needed for
Chapter 7 self-help clinic, Wednesdays 1:30 – 3:30 and Fridays 9 am – 11 am
Reaffirmation Clinic in Santa Ana; Chapter 7 and Adversary Proceeding Representation

Spring Cleaning For Your Finances

easter-bunny-2Some people make getting out of debt their New Year’s Resolution; while others wait for their tax refunds to either get out of debt or hire a lawyer and file personal bankruptcy.  We could even start this Springtime with a Money Makeover by facing and then taking bold action to eliminating our debt once and for all.

Bring the budget out of the attic and into the light and get determined, even “gazelle-like” about eliminating debt like the dust bunny that it is. I’ve been writing a lot about how bankruptcy is the cheaper, better, and faster way to financial freedom because it is when your debt repayment plan will take you more than five (5) years. Five years is the length of a court ordered repayment plan under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code. If you cannot afford to repay your debts at all, you may qualify to quickly and efficiently eliminate your debts under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code.

Your debt has been holding you back from saving for a home, college, and retirement.  It’s hard to plan and save for the future when the past still haunts you financially.  I know it takes courage and tenacity to overcome the fear of talking to a bankruptcy lawyer because I hear it from my clients all the time.  You know what else?  After speaking with me, they all wish they had done it much sooner because it would have saved them money.  There are bankruptcy attorneys like me all over the country and I know that many of them are members of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA).  Many provide free consultations.  What are you waiting for?  Hop into freedom from debt this Spring!

Image courtesy of Amelia’s Surf and Racquet Club

The Truth About Bankruptcy You Haven’t Heard

freeimages.co.uk workplace imagesWhy does Dave Ramsey, the Bible Belt personal finance guru, insist that filing personal bankruptcy is a “painful, life-changing experience. It hurts?” It’s because he himself filed for personal bankruptcy and had a bad experience.  Dave Ramsey also currently makes a very good living from selling “hope” in books and programs and “financial peace.” I don’t discount that his programs have helped many people get out of debt and avoid bankruptcy, but you must take the individual stories individually. So, the truth is that Dave Ramsey filed for bankruptcy to instantly and quickly relieve himself from unmanageable debt and now he sells a program of getting out of debt without filing for bankruptcy, which takes much longer and costs more money as I show in the numbers here.

The truth about bankruptcy is that it is often a cheaper, better, and faster way of eliminating your debt and freeing up what money you do have so that you can get on with your life and start saving for retirement or the purchase of a home.  Time is money when you spend more than five (5) years getting out of debt when you could have been building up a retirement account, that time can really cost you.

Suze Orman was deeply in debt and uneducated when she walked onto the world stage.  The poor and middle class have followed her advice right into bankruptcy. The Oprah effect launched Suze Orman’s own personal financial revolution, selling a prepaid debit card.  What really happened was the card had more than 20 separate fees and alleged their FICO scores would increase. The truth is that her prepaid debit cared did nothing. Check out this video on Suze’s career and scams. The truth is that Suze Orman has been paid tens of millions of dollars by FICO to tell you how important your credit score is.

Keep your finances simply and get out of debt as quickly as you can, and bankruptcy is usually a more efficient way to eliminate debt.  After bankruptcy, build up your emergency fund in cash and continue to chip away at your expenses so that you can continue to build savings for retirement, or even a home.

Attorney’s Fees in Chapter 13 Cases To Increase Under the RARA

I am a member of the Central District Consumer Bankruptcy Attorney’s Association (“CDCBAA”) and have served as a member of the board of directors for this group for the past three (3) years. I have also participated in one bench/bar committee meeting during this time where judges and lawyers meet to discuss issues we all face in helping our debtors achieve freedom from debt. This committee has been at work for several years, working very hard to make certain that the consumers are provided with adequate representation and that their lawyers receive reasonable compensation to represent  them.  Our current president, Nancy Clark, Esq., of Borowitz & Clark LLP announced today that at last month’s Board of Judges Meeting, the judges voted on our proposal to increase the Chapter 13 RARA fees. Our proposal was to increase the Chapter 13 RARA fee to $5,000 for individual cases and to $6,000 for business cases. Judge Jury, of the Riverside Division, informed us that by an overwhelming majority the judges voted in favor of the proposed increases.

The Chapter 13 Bench/Bar Committee has been working on increasing the RARA fees for several years. Until he resigned due to health reasons, James T. King was the chair of the subcommittee, and he co-authored the proposal. Thank you Jim!  Nancy Clark also thanked Erik Clark, Aki Koyama, Renee Sawyer Blume, Marcus Tiggs, Judge Zurzolo, Elizabeth Schneider, Judge Jury, Peter Lively, Tom Ure, David Tilem and Sylvia Lew for their assistance with the committee.

Ms. Clark noted that an overwhelming majority of consumer attorneys in the Central District of California submit the RARA in Chapter 13 cases pursuant to Local Bankruptcy Rule 3015-1. This fee increase has been a long time coming. Although we worked very hard to increase the RARA fees, please keep in mind that you always have the option of submitting a detailed fee application instead of the RARA in Chapter 13 cases. By filing detailed fee applications, the courts have an opportunity to see how much work goes into chapter 13 cases. Therefore, we encourage you to file fee applications.  An important note for both attorneys and consumers is that this increase in attorney’s flat fees will NOT become effective until notice is given by our courts.

Pros and Cons of Bankruptcy as Debt Relief

Scales

No one wants to file for bankruptcy.  I know it and so do you.  I read the scathing comments about good people who struggle with debt and their perceived “moral” obligation to repay their debts.  I also enjoy watching Jimmy Fallon (@jimmyfallon) and his humorous Pros and Cons segement each week.  So, here are my Pros and Cons of filing for bankruptcy.

Pros of filing for bankruptcy

  • You get out of debt quickly (4-6 months for Chapter 7; up to 5 years for Chapter 13), saving valuable TIME;
  • Stop wage garnishment; stop foreclosure; stop lawsuits; and all harassing debt collectors;
  • Save money by paying less toward your debts and more toward your financial future (retirement, home ownership, college)

Cons of filing for bankruptcy

  • Your credit will be ruined; check out this article
  • You will lose your car, house, or boat; read this
  • You’re looking for the secret trick to get out of debt
  • Your family/friends have told you not to do it
  • You haven’t cashed out your life insurance; or retirement plans yet!

What ever your motivation for getting out of debt, the process you choose to get you to your goal will cost you time and money.  What if you could eliminate your debt today and start saving for your future immediately?  What would you do then?

Help For Bankruptcy Adversary Proceedings

Bankruptcy CourtIf you are served a Summons and Complaint during your bankruptcy case you MUST take action to protect your rights.  You cannot ignore court papers and should seek the advice of an attorney immediately, or you may lose your rights and be left on the hook for a debt that may be discharged in your bankruptcy. Conversely, you may want to sue a creditor to discharge a debt like your student loans and need a student loan lawyer that understands bankruptcy to help you.

Here in the Central District of California we have so many bankruptcy lawyers that limit the scope of their client’s representation and do not handle bankruptcy litigation cases known as adversary proceedings.  Here are some important tools for consumers to find competent representation to help them through this complex process.

  1. Ask your current lawyer for a referral to a bankruptcy litigation attorney;
  2. Use the links below to find a reputable attorney to handle your case;
  3. Consult with at least 2-3 lawyers to find one that has knowledge, skills and the ability to help you.

If your attorney refuses to represent you your first step should be to consult with several local attorneys to determine who you would like to work with, but even more importantly, to listen to these experienced practitioners tell you their strategy for helping you and estimate fees and costs for their work on your behalf.  We have a great group of local attorneys here at the CDCBAA and for those in other parts of the state and nation can visit the NACBA website for an attorney. We also have public counsel for referrals to pro bono lawyers that may be able to serve.

Help For Identity Theft Victims

You Can Have an Excellent Credit ScoreIf you’re a victim of identity theft, where do you begin to clear your good credit and your name? With the increased internet hacking cases, it’s more important than ever to protect your identity.  No matter how proactive you are, identity theft can strike anyone at any time.  When it does, you need a plan to immediately take action to repair the damage that has been done. The Fair Trade Commission provides helpful resources cope with identity theft losses. Here’s a more in-depth article that provides some simple steps you can take immediately to protect your rights. It’s important to take action immediately to stop the thief from

If, after you have (1) filed a police report, (2) Contacted each of the creditors about the accounts opened by the thief, and (3) Notified all three major credit bureaus in writing and the problems is not resolved, then a consultation with a consumer protection lawyer is your next step. The National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA)  is a great referral resource for consumer lawyers in your area. What’s great is that consulting with a lawyer about your rights is FREE.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a powerful set of laws that will expedite the deletion of the credit problems created from the identity thief and help get your financial life back quickly.  In addition to the corrections required on your credit report, you may be entitled to compensation, if the creditors and credit reporting agencies fail to take swift action to correct the problems.

Ask Your Bankruptcy Lawyer: Why?

Law Office of Christine A. Wilton proudly uses Dave Ramsey's Debtor Education Course For Her Clients.

Law Office of Christine A. Wilton proudly uses Dave Ramsey’s Debtor Education Course For Her Clients.

Today I am going to answer the question:  Why?  Why did I choose to practice bankruptcy law as a lawyer.  The answer is what motivates and drives my practice to help my clients grow financially.  This is the question you should ask of your lawyer too.

I became a lawyer because I wanted a graduate degree that had some teeth to it.  That, and I was tired of being ignorant of my rights.  Life wasn’t fair for me and I was determined to do something about it.  After passing the bar in 2008, at the same time as the economy was tanking, I found myself in a cubicle job with the state that seemed rather coveted at the time because there were thousands of good lawyers, with experience, being laid off from their jobs.  When that happens, many seek shelter in the government sector.

I spent some time thinking about my career choices and the many practice areas available.  I had nearly 14 years experience in the insurance industry, but chose to practice in bankruptcy instead.  I chose bankruptcy because the practice needed more lawyers at the time because of the economy.  It also had the potential for litigation and I was very interested in how bankruptcy could help people stay in their homes.  I was also selfishly motivated because I too, had a litany of debt that followed from my education.

I understand what it’s like to be in debt over my head.  I know the feeling of nervous anxiety from the first time I chose to stop paying my debts after making my decision to get out of debt through bankruptcy.  I did not make these decisions lightly.  I started my journey with the folks at Dave Ramsey’s team with the book, Total Money Makeover.  During the two years prior to bankruptcy, I paid down nearly $40,000.00 in debt from cashing in life insurance; getting rent from a roommate; and collecting back child support. The problem was that I could not keep up that pace and it was going to take me a lifetime to pay off all my debts.

Why do I practice bankruptcy?  Because I enjoy lifting the burdens off my clients.  I love partnering with them to make well informed financial decisions for themselves.  I love making a difference in the lives of those I work with.  That’s my why.  What’s yours?

Book Review: The Big Short by Michael Lewis

It was recently announced that the book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, written by Micheal Lewis will soon be made into a movie starring Brad Pitt. The book is essentially a Wall Street perspective about the housing and credit bubble of the 2,000s. It depicts the long bull market where a nation loses its financial mind. What started as a government campaign to help Americans into home ownership, became a great idea on Wall Street, to take the consumer out of high interest credit card debt and put them into lower interest mortgage debt.

I remember the Countrywide commercials like it was yesterday.  They talked about your home being a “bank” that you could just tap into.  Countrywide bragged about helping those that had previously been turned down for loans because they had no down payment, no proof of income, or even a growing family with alot of debt.

The doomsday machine was built on easy credit and Wall Street greed.  Young Wall Street had no business making huge bets with other people’s money, selling complex securitized mortgage bonds from loans that Americans could not afford and had no idea how they worked.  The financial gluttony of investors led to and caused the financial crisis of 2008.  America is left with a bad taste for Wall Street and our government’s “brilliant” ideas to help Americans.  At what price do we take a hard look at America’s budget?  At what point does any individual declare their own freedom from debilitating debt? How do we even stop ourselves from getting into financial trouble in the future?

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