In these tough economic times, many folks are worried that they might not make it. It is pretty normal these days to worry about foreclosures, repossessions, and creditors bothering you. Bankruptcy might be a good option for you, but is it the right time to file? Let’s assess the situation and see where you stand.
How’s Your Financial Health?
There’s always an emotional aspect of financial trouble. For this reason and others, people tend to hide their heads in the sand, denying that there’s a problem. Here are some telltale signs that you should seek some professional help to bring your finances under control.
- You keep getting calls from bill collectors
- You are having trouble making minimum payments on your credit cards
- Thinking about your finances makes you feel out of control or scared
- You’re not sure exactly how much you owe
- You are using credit cards to pay for everything, including food, household supplies, and gasoline
- You’re thinking about debt consolidation
Reasons to File for Bankruptcy Now
- You might have an immediate need to file bankruptcy to avoid financial disaster. Do any of these apply to you?
- You have been unemployed for a long time, and are not eligible for unemployment
- You are about to have your car repossessed
- You are having your wages garnished
- You’re facing eviction from your home
- Your mortgage holder has started foreclosure proceedings
- Your prospects are good for starting a higher paying job… you might want to file while your income still qualifies you
- You are getting ready to move to another state that has less favorable exemptions for bankruptcy
- You are expecting a windfall in the future, but not immediately
As you see, there are many factors to consider when you’re thinking about filing for bankruptcy. This is why getting sound legal advice from a lawyer is a good idea. Bankruptcy laws can be complicated and difficult for the average person to navigate.
Planning is Essential – Timing is Everything
In some cases, it makes sense to delay filing for bankruptcy if you can hold things together for a while, and do not have a crisis. Sometimes you need to file to get immediate relief. Either way, it requires advance planning and a good lawyer who will help you understand your best strategy, based on your current situation. Some reasons you may want to take a closer look at your options are:
- You are moving to another state that has more favorable bankruptcy exemptions
- Your job position is changing, and you will be making less money
- You’ve repaid a debt to a relative within the last year
- You have recently (within the last year) purchased luxury goods
- You are waiting to receive a large income tax refund
These are just a few reasons why you need to plan your filing properly and discuss with your attorney how to address these issues. Bankruptcy is not a simple action. You need help and guidance if you want the best result from your bankruptcy case.
Mummert Law has many years of experience handling bankruptcy cases for clients. Call today, and let’s see what course of action makes sense to you.
With the global pandemic of COVID-19, many people are having a hard time staying afloat. Others see a looming disaster in their finances coming down the road. One of the benefits of claiming bankruptcy now is the Automatic Stay, which can help you avoid action against you by creditors. Let’s take a look at some of the immediate problems that can be solved by the automatic stay.
What is an Automatic Stay?
Once you file bankruptcy, creditors are required to stop the action to collect the debt. This means that they cannot bother you on the phone, send collection notices through the mail, evict you, initiate a lawsuit against you, contact your employer to garnish your wages, turn off your utilities, or seize your bank account. If a creditor does continue to contact you after the filing Bankruptcy, they can be found to be in contempt of court and may owe you money.
How Does an Automatic Stay Affect Your Mortgage?
One thing of which you must take note… if you want to keep your house, you must continue to pay the mortgage. If you don’t pay, your mortgage company can petition the court to lift the automatic stay for them to start/continue the foreclosure proceedings. This action does not happen immediately and can buy you some time to work things out with your mortgage company.
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you should be able to either catch up on payments in a hurry or work something out with your mortgage holder. If you are filing for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will be allowed to put the past due payments into a 60-month payment plan as well as seek a loan modification.
What Does an Automatic Stay Do If You’re About to be Evicted?
The automatic stay will temporarily halt the process of being evicted. If the Landlord has not obtained a judgment for possession, you can save your tenancy. You will need to take immediate action on whether to assume or reject the lease, as well as how to catch up on past due payments. So, if you only file for bankruptcy, it will only delay your eviction, and not prevent it entirely unless you properly plan for it.
When Your Car is Going to Be Repossessed, Can an Automatic Stay Help?
Filing for bankruptcy will stop the repossession process, but once again, only temporarily. Similar to delaying a foreclosure on your home, when filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will need to bring your auto loan current in short order. You may be able to redeem your car for its current fair market value in Chapter 7. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy will allow you to pay post-petition arrears over time, but you will also need to make your regular car payment too. You may also be able to reduce the principal on your car loan if you meet specific requirements.
Wage Garnishment and the Automatic Stay
Once you file for bankruptcy, the automatic stay will stop wage garnishment, if you have any garnishment orders in place. You may also be able to get back money that was garnished 90 days before filing for bankruptcy.
Will the Automatic Stay Help with Lawsuits for Debts?
The lawsuit will be stopped when you file for bankruptcy under the automatic stay.
An automatic stay is only part of the bankruptcy process. The first step if you are considering filing for bankruptcy is to seek legal advice. With your lawyer, you will be able to evaluate your position, and they will work with you to determine your best course of action.
There are good reasons for and against filing bankruptcy. Legal advice can help you determine if bankruptcy is a good option, whether you should file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, and if this is the best time for you to file.
Contact Us Today at Mummert Law if you need help learning more about filing for bankruptcy in Maryland.
Imagine this… if you can. Your life is just beautiful. You’re working, spending time with friends and family. The farthest thing from your mind is estate planning. Everything’s going so well! Then, out of nowhere, something happens to upset the status quo. At first, it might be no big deal. Then, it starts to spread and affect other areas of your life.
With the pandemic of Coronavirus on our doorstep, more and more people are wondering, “What if?” In this article, we will explore options and ideas for having the peace of mind that comes with estate planning.
Do You Have Your Basic Documents Completed?
There are three essential components to estate planning that apply to everyone, and these documents must be completed first as part of any estate plan.
Your Last Will and Testament
This document sets into writing how you intend or desire your estate to be distributed upon your death. Careful planning will prevent unnecessary drama at the time of your passing. If you should die without a will, the state will decide how your estate will be handled.
Power of Attorney
With a power of attorney, a “principal” (the person granting power of attorney) assigns these rights to an “agent.” It’s essential to understand the distinction between two different types of powers of attorney. A limited power of attorney assigns an agent and gives them the ability to act for the principal only in certain circumstances. A general power of attorney allows them to conduct ALL business transactions for the principal. In Maryland, written powers of attorney are considered “durable,” which means they remain in effect even if the principal is no longer able to make decisions on their own.
Advance Medical Directives
This particular power of attorney designates someone to act on your behalf when it comes to making medical decisions for you when you are unable to. Typically, a medical professional, or a group of professionals, will make a judgment when the advance medical directive is in effect.
Planning Your Estate Online… Do You Need a Lawyer?
Many lawyers, including this office, offer estate planning via video conferencing apps. If you are uncomfortable leaving the house, we can help you to assemble the necessary documents by discussion over a teleconferencing app, and prepare them to your specifications
When you are planning your estate online instead of in person, you might think it makes sense to use an online estate planning software. It may be tempting to save a little money and go this route. However, there are many aspects of estate planning that you will miss if you decide to take advantage of this option.
What Are the Advantages of Hiring a Lawyer for Estate Planning?
Once your estate planning is complete with your attorney, you have the peace of mind that everything is in place should the worst happen. Completing a form online may leave you thinking, “I guess it’s okay.” Consider the following advantage of hiring a lawyer to help you.
You Can Ask A Lawyer Questions
Unless you’ve done this several times before, you’re likely to have a lot of questions. These can be answered on the spot during a meeting with an attorney.
A Lawyer Will Know and Be Able To Explain Alternative Solutions
If you have no idea of the alternatives, how can you be sure that you’re making the right decisions? An attorney can explain different options to you so that you can consider your best course of action.
A Lawyer Can Explain any Legal Terms You Don’t Understand
When you’re dealing with legal documents, it’s not unusual to get overwhelmed with all the legal terminology. Getting an explanation of legal terms in everyday language can help you from misunderstandings later.
Mediation is an effective alternative to court. During mediation sessions in Baltimore, a neutral third party helps parties who are at odds with each other explore the issues and discover mutually agreeable solutions. Mediation is useful for many situations, including family law matters such as child custody disputes. Even when parents have experienced significant breakdowns in communication, they may decide to attempt custody mediation in order to make the arrangements themselves, rather than entrust the custody decisions to a judge.
Children may have a limited role in custody mediation.
In most cases, children are not involved in settling custody disputes. Family law judges do not generally want to see minor children in the courtroom because of the significant stress this can inflict and the potential damage to family relationships. The same is true of custody mediation sessions. One of the goals of settling custody disputes is to avoid putting children in the middle; they should never feel as though they must choose one parent over the other. That being said, there may be some situations in which children can play a very limited role in custody mediation, provided that neither of the parents attempts to influence the children.
Children can aid in the identification of challenges.
Although children may not participate in the actual mediation sessions with all three parties, the mediator may decide to meet with the children separately to hold a low-stress discussion of the family situation. The mediator must be careful not to create a psychologically difficult situation for the children. Instead of asking a question such as, “Which parent would you rather live with?” the mediator might ask, “Who usually helps you with your homework?” The mediator might also prompt the children to identify challenges that may be settled during the mediation sessions. For example, a child might express concern about being able to participate in sports or other after-school activities despite the visitation schedule. The mediator can then bring these challenges into the mediation sessions and guide the parents in working toward solutions.
It may not be pleasant to think about what might happen to you if you become incapable of expressing your care preferences , but it is necessary to prevent interpersonal conflicts among family members. The document in which you can specify your healthcare preferences is called an advanced medical directive or a living will. Consider talking to an estate planning attorney in Baltimore about creating your advanced medical directive before speaking with your family about it.
When you are ready to discuss your living will with your family, watch this interview with a physician to get some helpful tips. He recommends that you first reassure your loved ones that you are not seriously ill, depressed, or otherwise experiencing trouble. This physician also discusses what adult children might consider when broaching this subject with their aging parents and he explains the types of decisions that a living will can encompass.
Family law in Baltimore and throughout Maryland allows possible fathers to challenge paternity, regardless of whether or not they are married to the mother. Men may seek to establish paternity because they want to be sure that the child is theirs, while mothers may seek to establish paternity for the purpose of obtaining child support. Family law allows paternity to be legally established with an Affidavit of Parentage, which is a document that the father will sign while the new family is still at the hospital or birthing center. Family law requires that this document be signed in the presence of a notary public.
If the father isn’t completely sure that he is indeed the father, then he may wish to consult a family law attorney before signing this affidavit. The man who is presumed to be the father has the right to request a genetic test before signing it. If paternity is not established with an affidavit, then genetic testing may be requested. The parties can use a consent order to legally establish paternity when the probability of paternity as determined by the genetic test is higher than 99%.
It’s often assumed that a last will and testament will be followed to the letter, regardless of the personal preferences of the surviving family members. But in fact, will disputes are not as uncommon as you might think. If you suspect you are about to become involved in a will dispute, you should consult an estate planning lawyer in Baltimore without delay. Certain situations may be more likely to lead to a challenge of the will than others.
Divorce and remarriage can be contentious situations after death as well as during life, particularly if the first marriage produced children. Sometimes, it is discovered that the decedent left the entire estate to the last spouse that he or she married. In turn, the inheriting spouse may leave the assets to his or her surviving children. The children from the previous marriage may become disgruntled that they were not named as beneficiaries in the will. These children may decide to contest the will, perhaps by claiming that the spouse from the second marriage coerced the decedent into signing a new will.
Deciding whether or not to leave children an inheritance can be a highly sensitive choice. It is the right of the testator to decide exactly how his or her assets will be distributed. In some cases, individuals prefer to give their entire estate to charities, rather than to family. While this is certainly a legally allowed decision, the children or other family members who are disinherited may raise objections to it. Testators may try to avert future will disputes by writing a letter that explains his or her choices.
A similar situation is when one of the beneficiaries receives a significantly larger inheritance than the others. Sometimes, a testator will decide to leave a larger portion of the estate to an adult child who served as a primary caretaker of the testator. In other cases, the testator may leave a larger inheritance to the family member who is most likely to be financially responsible. Again, this is a legal right of the testator, but it may lead to future conflicts.
Mediation services available in Baltimore can help you and your spouse avoid the expense and hassle of a lengthy trial. With the help of a neutral mediation lawyer, you and your spouse can review the marital assets and liabilities, and ideally, reach mutually agreeable decisions. To get the most out of each mediation session, you should arrive prepared with all of the necessary documents.
Set aside plenty of time to gather together financial documents. You will need statements of all of your accounts, including sole and joint accounts. These include statements for your checking and savings accounts, money market accounts, pension plans, Roth IRAs, and stock and bond investments. You’ll also need current balance statements for all accounts held for the children, such as CDs, money market accounts, and savings accounts. It may be necessary to hire a professional actuary to determine the present day value of certain accounts such as retirement funds.
After you have gathered together account statements, it’s time to print out balance statements for all of your credit cards, mortgages, lines of credit, and home equity loans. Student loans, motor vehicle loans, personal loans, and business loans also play a role in marital asset mediation. Additionally, you’ll need to bring information on any pending civil lawsuits in which either of you or both of you are named as defendants.
If your job offers benefits, you’ll need statements for each of them. These include incentives, stock options, and golden parachute plans.
You may need to hire a professional appraiser to obtain appraisal statements for personal property. The mediator will request evidence of the current market value of all tangible assets, including motor vehicles, artwork, jewelry, antiques, and all other valuables.
Bring copies of your state and federal tax returns for the past three years. Include copies of all 1099 and W-2 forms. If you or your spouse has a business, the past three years of corporate tax returns are also required. Additionally, you should expect to bring statements of your income for the past six months.
It isn’t always easy to make arrangements for your own future care. Many people avoid estate planning matters because they simply don’t want to think about dying or becoming incapacitated. Others may avoid visiting an estate lawyer in Baltimore because they feel they are too young to worry about that sort of matter. But the unfortunate truth is that accidents and illnesses can befall anyone at any time, regardless of age or current health. Talk to an estate planning attorney about creating an advanced medical directive.
You can rest assured knowing that you’ve made arrangements.
Certain estate planning documents, such as wills, need to be updated from time to time. Usually, an advanced medical directive only needs to be done once. After you’ve completed this document, you may feel some peace of mind knowing that this important estate planning task is finalized.
You will receive the medical care you want.
Advanced medical directives empower individuals to choose their own medical care, even after they become incapacitated. This document will specify exactly which type of care you do and don’t want to receive in the event you fall into a coma, require life support, or otherwise experience some sort of calamity. With this document, you can spell out your wishes pertaining to life support, end of life care, palliative care, and organ donation. You can also use this document to specify the types of care that you do not want administered to you.
Your relatives will be free of the burden of making decisions.
When a loved one becomes incapacitated, the burden of making decisions often falls to the closest family members. Deciding whether to keep a parent, sibling, or other loved one on life support or not can be an impossible choice to make. By establishing an advanced medical directive, your loved ones won’t be forced to make these difficult decisions and they won’t face the possibility of regret.
You will reduce the possibility of family conflicts.
It is not unheard of for a family to be torn apart over a disagreement about what an incapacitated loved one would have wanted in terms of life support or other medical care. You’ve spent a lifetime caring for and cherishing your family. You can preserve family bonds by spending a little time with an estate lawyer to create an advanced medical directive.
In the Baltimore area, mediation is commonly used to settle disputes. This venue is appropriate for virtually all types of disputes , including those concerning inheritances. Often, these family conflicts arise when a will isn’t sufficiently specific about which items will go to which heirs or when the heirs are left confused about why the decedent made certain decisions. By turning to a mediation lawyer instead of resorting to litigation, families can maintain discretion while sorting through these matters. Ideally, mediation will also help preserve familial relationships.
During a mediation session for a will dispute, the mediator will strive to read between the lines. These disputes aren’t always about financial gain; heirs may argue over a particular item because of its sentimental value. Mediators cannot enforce binding agreements, but they can propose solutions that the heirs might not have thought of by themselves. Mediation enables heirs to work through their differences and agree to a compromise that will benefit each party.