West Chester, PA Bankruptcy Lawyer
Consumer bankruptcy has helped millions (upon millions) of Americans to consolidate their debts, resolve their financial issues with creditors, and create the foundation for a future of solid credit. Bankruptcy has the power to eliminate insurmountable debt, prevent or postpone foreclosures and repossessions, protect valuable assets, and even prevent aggressive and persistent creditors from making collection attempts.
With a population of approximately 18,500, West Chester is the county seat of Chester County, Pennsylvania. The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania reports that in 2013, Chester County reported 855 bankruptcy filings. Due to its numerous benefits, bankruptcy has become a very popular route toward repairing damaged finances and ultimately, regaining stability and independence.
Do I Need a Lawyer to File for Bankruptcy in West Chester, PA?
At the law offices of Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates, we pride ourselves on offering our clients the very best bankruptcy representation available. With more than 20 years of bankruptcy law experience supporting us, no matter how difficult, confusing, or overwhelming your circumstances may seem, we have the practical knowledge and expertise to help resolve your financial issues and move forward with your life. We have filed more than 5,000 bankruptcy cases across West Chester, Chester County, and Pennsylvania, and in many cases, our clients are able to jump ahead financially by as much as 10 years.
It is not uncommon to hear that a prospective client is hesitant to hire a bankruptcy attorney because he or she is concerned about burdening themselves with an additional expense. We are sensitive to these concerns, and our team strives to minimize the stress of the bankruptcy process by providing clients with cost-effective legal representation. We offer affordable rates with flexible payment plans.
The Disadvantages of Filing for Bankruptcy in West Chester Pro Se
Filing for consumer bankruptcy without the guidance of a knowledgeable, seasoned bankruptcy attorney is ill-advised. The United States Bankruptcy Courts explicitly recommends against filing without a lawyer, known as filing pro se. To quote a statement from the Courts’ official website:
“It is very important that a bankruptcy case be filed and handled correctly. The rules are very technical, and a misstep may affect a debtor’s rights. […] Bankruptcy has long-term financial and legal consequences — hiring a competent attorney is strongly recommended.”
The Bankruptcy Code is complicated and a potential debtor must comply with both the federal regulations and the local Pennsylvania rules. Any error, omission, or missed deadline could result in your case being immediately dismissed. If you are filing to save your home from foreclosure, hiring our knowledgeable West Chester bankruptcy attorney could be the difference between keeping and losing your house.
It is also essential to remember that filing for bankruptcy extends far beyond the initial paperwork. There are concrete deadlines to forward important documents to the court-appointed trustee. In Chapter 13, you must propose a plan that complies with the Bankruptcy Code. Additionally, there is always the chance of post-filing motions by the trustee and your creditors to address. Your creditors will have attorneys working on their behalf. The trustee is an attorney working to ensure you comply with the rule and regulations. To file for bankruptcy without an attorney at your side is a disadvantage. Furthermore, it is often more expensive to hire an experienced attorney to fix a case than to have our West Chester bankruptcy attorney representing your form the very beginning.
If you need a West Chester, Pennsylvania bankruptcy attorney, Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates is ready to help. Our attorneys can help you take the Means Test, understand the differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13, file the initial petition for bankruptcy, prepare and submit all required documentation, negotiate a repayment plan, choose which exemptions you should claim, and protect your most valuable possessions.
The Benefits of Filing for Bankruptcy in Pennsylvania
If you live in West Chester, and your quality of life has been negatively impacted by debts which you are unable to repay, you may be an excellent candidate for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. So how can filing for bankruptcy provide financial relief, and what are the benefits of bankruptcy?
Eliminate Certain Kinds of Debt
First and foremost, bankruptcy has the power to discharge (eliminate) the majority of the most common types of debt. According to a recent study which used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Census, and the federal courts, medical bills are the leading source of consumer debt in America today. Medical debt is dischargeable in consumer bankruptcy, along with many other categories of debt. Other debts which bankruptcy can reduce or erase include:
- Personal Debt
- Credit Card Debt
- Social Security Over-Payments
- Overdue Rent Payments
- Utility Bills
- Personal Loans
- Certain Income Tax Obligations
- Unemployment Over-Payments
Unfortunately, not every type of debt is dischargeable in bankruptcy. If you are behind on your alimony or child support payments, then bankruptcy might not be able to help you. Additionally, criminal restitution is not dischargeable. For many people, student loans present ongoing economic hardship. However, student loans are only dischargeable under rare circumstances. Despite being typically non-dischargeable, our experienced West Chester bankruptcy attorneys might still be able to provide needed assistance. First, we will carefully look at your situation to see if you are one of those rare cases. Secondly, Chapter 13 might alleviate your monthly payment for a few years, allowing you to reach a better financial position. Additionally, filing for Chapter 7 might eliminate other monthly payments, making your student loan payment more manageable.
The Automatic Stay
While debt erasure may be the most well-known benefit of bankruptcy, it isn’t the only advantage which Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 have to offer. In addition to discharging debt, bankruptcy also invokes the power of a court injunction which is referred to as the automatic stay.
The general purpose of the automatic stay is to allow debtors to regroup financially while their bankruptcy is ongoing. To achieve this, the automatic stay grants petitioners several protections, including:
- Immediate relief from creditor harassment. While your bankruptcy is in progress, your creditors are prohibited from contacting you or making any collection attempts.
- Immediately unfreeze frozen bank accounts.
- Return of full income. If your wages are being garnished, the automatic stay will return your full income to you.
- Prevent utility shut-offs. If a utility provider is threatening you with a shut-off due to nonpayment, the automatic stay will prevent interruption of service.
- The moment you file your initial petition for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you are protected by the automatic stay.
Stopping Lawsuits, Foreclosures, and Repossessions
Perhaps the most important protection provided by bankruptcy and the automatic stay is the halting of all legal collection proceedings against you. In Pennsylvania, a creditor has the right to sue your if you owe them money, such as a personal loan or credit card debt. In addition to a court order that specifics what you owe, a judgment in Pennsylvania also results in a lien on your real property. This judgment means that your once unsecured credit debt is now secured by your home. If you wish to sell or refinance your home in the future, the judgment lien will pose a problem. By filing for bankruptcy, you can stop a lawsuit before a judgment is entered. In some cases, if a judgment lien already exists, you might be able to have it removed through bankruptcy. It is critical to review any liens or judgments with our West Chester bankruptcy attorney before filing for bankruptcy.
A foreclosure is a legal collection action. So is a sheriff sale. If you have fallen behind in your mortgage and your lender has filed a lawsuit to take possession of your home, bankruptcy might be the only way to prevent losing your house. By filing for Chapter 13, a homeowner can stop a pending foreclosure or sheriff sale while proposing a payment plan through their bankruptcy.
When you default on your car payment, a lender is entitled to repossess your car without obtaining a court judgment. If you believe your vehicle will be taken, you should call our office immediately. Filing for bankruptcy will prevent a repossession. If your car was repossessed, filing a timely Chapter 13 bankruptcy could force your lender to return your vehicle.
Cramdown Your Car Payment
One of the benefits of Chapter 13 is not widely known. When you purchased a new car, it will start losing its value as soon as you start the ignition for the first time. Many people who file for bankruptcy have a monthly car payment on a vehicle they purchased years ago. In some situations, the car’s value is lower than what the person owes on their loan. If the car was bought 910 days before the bankruptcy filing date, a debtor might be able to cram down the amount due under their car note. With a cramdown, a debtor will propose paying the car lender through their bankruptcy plan.
However, instead of the amount due on their loan, the debtor will propose to pay the fair market price of the vehicle. For instance, if you owe $15,000 on a car worth only $7,000 on the date you file for bankruptcy, you could lower the amount you have to pay by $8,000. Our experienced West Chester bankruptcy attorney will have to file a motion with the Bankruptcy Court to request this modification of your car loan.
Eliminate a Second Mortgage
You cannot modify the terms of your first mortgage in bankruptcy. However, if you have a second mortgage, you might be able to convert it to an unsecured status and have it discharged. If your home is currently worth less than your first mortgage or close to what you owe, this advantage could be available to you. It is important to note that discharging a second mortgage is only available when you file for Chapter 13. If you have a second mortgage, you should speak with our West Chester bankruptcy attorney to review your options.
Bankruptcy also comes with the benefit of built-in financial education. Before debtors may be allowed to file for bankruptcy in Pennsylvania, they must complete a course of credit counseling. Later, before debtors may be granted a final discharge, they must also complete a course of debtor education. These brief but informative courses are designed to arm debtors with the tools they need to learn effective budgeting and money management, empowering debtors to avoid additional bankruptcies in the future.
Bankruptcy Lawyers Serving West Chester, PA
It is not uncommon for people facing a financial crisis to ignore it. When someone is in a car accident, everyone has an attorney for them. However, people are not as open about their economic difficulties. Debt and money issues do not go away. They typically continue to get worse and the problems they present become more challenging. You should not let any misconceptions about bankruptcy sway you from considering it as an option. If you or someone you love is thinking about filing for consumer bankruptcy, a West Chester, Pennsylvania bankruptcy lawyer can help. For a free and confidential legal consultation, call the law offices of Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania, or contact us online today.