Does Debt Disappear After Bankruptcy?

Does debt disappear after filing for bankruptcy? Debt relief attorneys at OlsenDaines in Oregon State

If you’ve found yourself battling against a mountain of debt, you may be considering bankruptcy as a way to get back on your feet. After all, filing for bankruptcy can be an effective method for relieving debt and regaining control over your finances. But, should you file for bankruptcy, will all of your debt disappear?

The answer to that question is a little complicated. Though bankruptcy can help relieve many different kinds of debt, there are some kinds that will stick with you. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, it’s important for you to know what kinds of debts are covered and which kinds are not.

What Debts Can Be Forgiven by Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy can help you regain financial stability by relieving a wide variety of debts. Your exact amount of relief, however, will largely depend on your specific situation and what kind of bankruptcy you qualify for. If you aren’t sure which path would be best for you, a bankruptcy attorney can help you find a solution that relieves as much debt as possible.

Chapter 7

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is intended for individuals with a lower income and fewer nonessential assets. To qualify for this type, you have to pass a means test, which verifies your income. The types of debt that this chapter can cover include:

  • Medical bills
  • Overdue utility charges
  • Outstanding credit cards
  • Collection agency accounts
  • Lease agreement deficiencies
  • Checks written on insufficient funds

Chapter 13

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is intended for individuals with more disposable income and more nonessential assets. This type of bankruptcy is considered “reorganization”, where you will create a payment plan to repay secured debts – such as alimony, child support, and mortgage delinquencies.

Depending on your specific situation, other types of debt may be reduced, but that is not always the case. Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be tricky to navigate, so it is best to contact a skilled bankruptcy attorney to determine the best approach for debt relief.

What Debts Cannot Be Forgiven by Bankruptcy?

Though bankruptcy can absolve many kinds of debt, there are a few types that usually cannot be discharged. The types of debt that bankruptcy generally cannot cover are:

  • Student loans
  • Alimony and child support
  • Tax debts

While these debts are generally not forgiven through bankruptcy, each person’s situation is different. A knowledgeable and experienced bankruptcy attorney can examine your unique circumstances to help you relieve as much debt as possible.

Experienced Debt Relief Attorneys

Bankruptcy can be difficult to navigate, and without the right guidance, you may miss
opportunities to relieve debt. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, contact the skilled bankruptcy attorneys at OlsenDaines in Washington and Oregon today. Our experienced lawyers understand the ins and outs of bankruptcy law, and they can help you get the best outcome possible for your situation. We can help you through any step of the process so you can regain financial security as easily and effectively as possible. Call us today to schedule your free legal consultation.

How to Avoid Debt This Holiday Season

How to avoid debt this holiday season in Salem OR - OlsenDaines bankruptcy attorneys

The reality of holiday debt usually doesn’t sink in until you get the bills or check accounts. Too much unpaid debt can cause your credit score to drop so we are sharing some tips to follow to avoid racking up holiday debt.

Pay in Cash When Possible

Statistics show 57% of Americans with credit card debt are willing to accrue more debt during the holidays. Gifts and décor commonly cause the most holiday debt, and since consumers rarely save for this, they charge for it.

Avoid this added debt by setting a little money aside each month to pay for gifts and holiday décor in cash. Leave your credit card at home to reduce the temptation to make spontaneous purchases, and use debit cards. Several studies have shown consumers spend less with cash, and it comes with less security risk.

Create a Budget and Make Lists

Decide how much you are going to spend, including travel, and ensure it doesn’t prevent you from making necessary payments. Make a list of things you need, a list for gifts, stick by it, and cross them off as you go.

Consider having some gifts be homemade, such as mixes in a jar, which you can often make for less than buying. If you are easily influenced by others, go shopping alone to avoid going over budget.

Use Credit Wisely

If you must use a credit card, try to stay within less than 20% of the limit, and don’t max them out. Set a budget the same as you would for cash, but check the remaining balance on the cards.

Use credit cards that give rewards for purchases and apply points you have already accumulated to gifts. Don’t be tempted to take out cash advances on your credit cards, because they often have high-interest rates.

Experts in Bankruptcy Law

With some careful planning, you can avoid falling into the holiday debt trap and you will enjoy the holidays better without the stress of debt.

We hope you have a great holiday season and if you need debt relief, consider OlsenDaines. We have offices all throughout Oregon and Washington with highly experienced bankruptcy attorneys ready to help! Just give us a call today to schedule a consultation. 

What You Need to Know About Bankruptcy

Woman holding document, thinking. The bankruptcy lawyers at OlsenDaines serving Oregon and Washington talk about what you need to know about bankruptcy.

If you’re dealing with serious debt issues, filing for bankruptcy may be an option. It’s like getting a second chance. But it cannot wipe out all of your debt and it comes with some consequences, so keep reading to learn more about bankruptcy as you weigh your options.

What is Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is a legal court proceeding when a person is unable to repay their debt. A judge and court trustee will examine the person’s liabilities and assets and determine to discharge the debts. If they find the person cannot repay their debts, the person will have to declare bankruptcy.

Filing for bankruptcy can stop repossessions and foreclosures, and it can temporarily halt evictions.

There are two main types of bankruptcy people file for:

  • Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: this is the most common type of bankruptcy. You must earn less than the median income for family size in your state to qualify for this type of bankruptcy. In Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, the court will sell all of your assets, so you can pay off as much debt as possible.
  • Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: Also called a wage earner’s plan. To qualify, you must have a steady income and unsecured debt (less than $394,725) and secured debt (less than $1,184,200).

How do I know If I Should File for Bankruptcy?

While job loss and medical debt are the most common reasons people file for bankruptcy, here are some other situations which could cause you to consider bankruptcy.

  • Your wages are being garnished
  • You’re getting a divorce
  • You are unable to negotiate your debt
  • You have no assets or they’re worth less than your debt
  • You’re being sued
  • You can only afford to pay for things using a credit card
  • You use one credit card to pay off another credit card

If you’re facing serious debt, contact OlsenDaines for your free consultation because every situation is unique. As experts in bankruptcy law, we’ll address your financial difficulties and help you determine whether bankruptcy is right for you. We also offer a complimentary credit rebuilding program.

How to Move Forward After Bankruptcy

 

Going through a bankruptcy —– from decision to discharge— can be a long and stressful ordeal. Eventually, though, you get the breathing room you so desperately need. And after Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 comes the next chapter: putting your life and your credit back together.

How can you do that? A bankruptcy stays on your credit report forever, and you’ll never be able to get a mortgage or another credit card, right?

Wrong.

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years; a Chapter 13 for 7. Maybe restoring your credit won’t be easy, and maybe it won’t be instant, but you can put your life and your credit back together after bankruptcy. We can help you figure out what strategies will work best for you. We have offices in Tigard, Salem, Albany, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, Bend, and several other cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. How quickly you recover from bankruptcy depends a lot on you and what you do after discharge. We can help you develop a sound approach to your fiscal recovery.

In the meantime, here’s a few tips to help you get started down the road to emotional and financial recovery.

Let it Go. Put it Behind You and Move on.

If you’ve recently gone through a bankruptcy, you might be feeling like a failure. You might feel like you are all alone or are some kind of financial outcast. Think again. According to the United States Courts, bankruptcy filings were down in 2017 but they still totaled a whopping 794,492.  You are definitely not alone. But you are the only one that you must forgive.

In order to rebuild your life and move forward, you need to be able to come to grips with the past. You need to take a look at what happened and why, so you can prevent it from happening again, if at all possible. You should look at the past, but you don’t have to live there. Think about what happened and how you can make sure things will be different from now on. Then forgive yourself, and move on. Make a plan to live a better, more responsible fiscal life, and start living that life!

Pay Your Bills on Time. Consider Getting a Secured Credit Card.

One of the best ways to get your financial life back on track is to make a plan and be diligent about paying your nondischargeable debts (taxes, child support, alimony etc.) on time. You can also consider getting a secured credit card. Unlike other credit cards, with a secured credit card, you deposit small amounts of money in your bank account and that becomes your credit line. However, not everyone qualifies for a secured credit card and they often come with high fees.

 Talk to a Lawyer!

Don’t know where to start? If you need help making a plan to rebuild your life after bankruptcy, or if you are considering filing bankruptcy, contact us. We can give you the help and guidance you need.

Bankruptcy and Student Loans

 

Ahh, the American dream. You start with nothing, get an education, work your assets off, and end up rich and successful. But is that really how it goes? Everyone knows that it is absolutely critical that you get a good education in order to get ahead. The average price of a college education can range anywhere from  $24,610 to $49,320! So what happens when you have little to no money yet need a college education or advanced degree to live the American dream? Many times, you take out student loans. And sometimes you end up living the American nightmare instead of the American dream. You find yourself drowning in student debt and despair.

Does that mean that you are you destined to drive a truck, work in the factory, be a farmworker, waitress, or work construction forever? Or that you have to always live near the poverty line in order to pay back your student loans?

We don’t think so. We believe that the poor should have access to good financial advice and be empowered with the financial information they need to not be taken advantage of when it comes to student loans or anything else.

Student Loan Debt.

We know that it is difficult to discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy. Most debtors won’t be able to discharge student loan debt through a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 filing. But that does not mean you don’t have any options or possibilities.

The Undue Hardship Test.

Most courts are reluctant to discharge student loan debt. However, if you can qualify for the “undue hardship” exception, you may get your student loans discharged in bankruptcy. To qualify for undue hardship in Oregon, you have to be able to prove to the court that:

  • You have no money left over each month to pay your student loans
  • Your money problems aren’t going to get any better in the future
  • Over the years, you made a good faith effort to repay your student loans.

If you can answer these and other questions honestly, you may be able to qualify to have your student loans discharged.

Defenses to Student Loan Debt.

Another possible source of relief from student loan debt lies in unfair and illegal treatment. If you have defenses, such as a breach of contract, unfair business practices or fraud against your loan companies, you may not have to pay the debt at all.

Learn Your Options.

When it comes to student loan debt, there is no magic wand you can waive to get rid of them. But that does not mean you do not have hope or options. We are Oregon and Washington bankruptcy attorneys. We offer free consultations and we can help you. To set up an appointment, call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568.

Bankruptcy and Medical Bills

As the old saying goes, “nothing is more important than your health.” When you are injured or sick, you know how true that is. When you or a loved one is facing a serious or catastrophic illness, the cost of medical care can very quickly skyrocket. Before you know it, the costs of medical care can drive you into bankruptcy.

If that’s your situation, don’t despair. We can help. A significant number of people file bankruptcy every year due to crushing medical bills. At least one study has found that nearly 1 billion people filed bankruptcy due to medical costs.

In fact, filing bankruptcy may not only be a good choice for you if your medical bills have gotten out of control, but looked at correctly, it is the right thing to do.

How can that be?

Because overwhelming medical bills are exactly the type of debt that the bankruptcy code was designed to address. The whole point of bankruptcy is to give an honest debtor relief from overwhelming and insurmountable debt. When your mountain of bills was caused by an accident or serious illness, that’s not something you deliberately sought out. It’s not your fault. It very likely could not have been avoided or foreseen. After the illness or injury, you needed medical attention to recover. Now you need bankruptcy to recover from the insurmountable costs of health care.

How Medical Debt Is Classified in Bankruptcy.

So, will bankruptcy erase all of your medical bills? Yes. When you file for bankruptcy, your debts are separated into different categories. Some debts, like child support or alimony, are not dischargeable (in other words, can’t be wiped out). But other debts, like credit card debt and medical bills are considered unsecured debt and do get discharged in bankruptcy.

Chapter 7 and Medical Bills.

Chapter 7 (often called “liquidation bankruptcy”) is the most common type of bankruptcy filed by individuals. To qualify for a Chapter 7, you must pass a “means test.” That is to say, you must be at or below a certain disposable income level. If you are, then you can qualify for Chapter 7. If you qualify for Chapter 7, there is no limit to the amount of amount of medical debt that a Chapter 7 discharge can wipe out. Just like credit card debt, medical debt is considered unsecured debt that is dischargeable. And any medical bills that you paid with your credit card can also be discharged.

In Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Unlike a Chapter 7 which is designed to liquidate your assets and pay off your debts wiping the slate clean, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is designed to put a repayment plan in place (“Chapter 13 Plan” or “Plan”) that will allow you to pay off your creditors over time. In a Chapter 13, your medical bills are lumped in with all the other general unsecured debts in your Plan. The amount you have to pay to general unsecured creditors depends on your income, expenses and nonexempt assets.

In Chapter 13, each creditor receives a pro rata portion of the total amount going towards these debts in your plan which is typically only pennies on the dollar. However, keep in mind that you may not qualify for Chapter 13 if your medical bills and other debt exceed the Chapter 13 limits.

We Can Guide You To The Right Decision.

If you are facing insurmountable medical bills, we can help. We have offices in Portland, Eugene, Coos Bay, Medford, and other cities in Oregon and we have offices in Washington. We offer free consultations and reasonable rates. Contact us by phone or email anytime to set up your free consultation.

What You Can Keep After Filing for Bankruptcy

Many people believe that they will lose everything they own if they file for bankruptcy. Not true. In fact, most people who file for bankruptcy do not lose anything they own at all.

How can that be?

Well, the secret lies in…

Exemptions.

Most consumers file for Chapter 7 (or “liquidation”) bankruptcy. In a Chapter 7, exemptions determine what property you get to keep. If your property is exempt, whether it is your home, your car, your pensions, furniture, your clothes, etc., you can keep it during and after the bankruptcy. Exemptions protect your property and put it beyond the reach of the bankruptcy trustee (“trustee”).

If the property is nonexempt, then the trustee is entitled to sell it to pay your unsecured creditors.

In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it is the exemptions that determine how much you will have to pay to nonpriority, unsecured creditors.

If you are considering bankruptcy in Oregon or Washington, it’s important for you to understand how exemptions work and to know what property is exempt in those states. We can help. We have offices in Tigard, Salem, Albany, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, Bend, and several other cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington.

A Little More About Exemptions.

Every state has its own set of bankruptcy exemptions and most states require that you use the state exemptions only. However, some states allow a debtor to choose whether to use state exemptions or federal bankruptcy exemptions. Like all states, Oregon has its own set of bankruptcy exemptions. But in Oregon, if you file for bankruptcy you can elect to use the federal bankruptcy exemptions instead of the Oregon state exemptions. In Washington, you can use either the federal exemptions or the state exemptions.

How Exemptions Work.

There is a lot to know about exemptions, but briefly, this is how it works: if you have property that is worth a certain dollar amount that is equal to or less than the exemption, you will be allowed to keep the property. If, on the other hand, the property’s value exceeds the exemption, it is highly likely that the trustee will sell that property and use it to pay your unsecured creditors. Why? Because the federal government assumes that honest debtors try to pay off their debts. So, if a debtor has excessive property, the federal government believes it should be sold to pay those debts. On the other hand, the bankruptcy laws are designed to give debtors a “fresh start” —– not to leave them destitute. As a result of these dual concepts, both state and federal bankruptcy laws provide debtors with property exemptions.  Generally, Chapter 7 exemptions are far lower, stricter and are less flexible than Chapter 13 exemptions.

 We Can Guide You Through It.

If you are considering bankruptcy and want to know what property exemptions you would be entitled to, contact us. We have offices throughout Oregon and in Washington, and we offer free consultations.

 

 

Bankruptcy in the Context of Divorce

Statistics show that 55% of all marriages end in divorce. And 39% of all divorced couples say that conflict over finances was the reason the marriage fell apart. Fights over money ruin relationships. That’s why we so often see divorce occurring when there is a bankruptcy. It’s because of this that it is critical to understand the intersection of the bankruptcy laws and divorce laws.

 What Comes First – Divorce or Bankruptcy? No Simple Answer.

If you are facing divorce and a bankruptcy, the first thing you need to consider is timing. You must decide whether to file for divorce first or for bankruptcy first. (Filing the two together causes significantly more problems.) How you answer that question depends on a number of things: your income, your spouse’s income, what type of bankruptcy you are filing for or qualify for (Chapter 7 or Chapter 13), what assets you have, the costs of divorce and bankruptcy, and more.

There is no easy answer to this question. You must take into account both the facts of your situation, the divorce laws, and the bankruptcy laws before you can come to a final decision. That’s why you should sit down with an experienced bankruptcy attorney to discuss your situation and what is best for you. We have offices throughout Oregon and in Washington, and we offer free consultations.

Here are just two things you need to think about when facing bankruptcy and divorce:

Divorce and the Automatic Stay
Once a bankruptcy is filed, whether it is a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13, the “automatic stay” immediately goes into effect. The automatic stay stops all attempts to collect on your debts and it freezes your assets and your property. The purpose of the stay is to allow the bankruptcy court time to sort through what debts you owe and what assets you have (if any) to pay them with. The automatic stay remains in place until your bankruptcy case is fully resolved (by discharge, dismissal or the case is closed).

Since dividing up a couple’s assets and property (in addition to other things) is what the divorce is all about, bankruptcy’s automatic stay means that the family court will be prevented from making any decisions or dividing up the marital property until the bankruptcy is completed. And that means that the divorce will take longer.

 What Type of Bankruptcy?

Another factor to consider is the type of bankruptcy that you should file for. A Chapter 7 (“liquidation”) bankruptcy requires that you meet the income requirements of the “means test.” If your income compared to certain expenses is too high, you will be required to file for Chapter 13 (“reorganization”) bankruptcy instead.

If there is a big difference between what you earn and what your spouse earns, it might make more sense to file for divorce before you file for bankruptcy. On the other hand, if you earn significantly less than your spouse and you file for bankruptcy individually after the divorce is final, you may have a better chance of qualifying for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Then there is the fact that if you both agree to file for bankruptcy jointly, you may not qualify for Chapter 7 as a couple, because the income amounts are based on household size, and the income maximum for two people is not twice that of one person.

The intersection of bankruptcy and divorce may be a common occurrence, but it is not a simple one to navigate. But the good news is that you do not need to try to figure all this out on your own. We are here to help.

 Let Us Help You Decide.

If you are facing filing a bankruptcy and either your spouse has filed for divorce, or you have both agreed to divorce, let us help you think through your options. We are bankruptcy attorneys with offices in a number of cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. We offer free consultations and we can help you. To set up an appointment, call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568 or contact us here.

Core Proceedings and the Bankruptcy Court

Let’s say you’re having a really, really, bad week. You were injured in a car accident, the extension the contractor put on your house fell apart and now you’re suing him for breach of contract, your wife just found out about your (latest) girlfriend and has filed for divorce, and you can’t pay your creditors, so you just filed a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. In the middle of reeling from all of this you think to yourself, when I get into bankruptcy court, is the judge going to decide the liability, breach of contract and divorce cases too?

Good question.

When you file for bankruptcy, it is important to understand what matters the court will decide and what matters it won’t decide. Knowing the extent of the court’s  jurisdictional authority is one reason why it is important that you hire competent bankruptcy counsel to represent you. We have offices throughout Oregon and in Washington State. Our attorneys are experienced bankruptcy attorneys and they know the law.

The Bankruptcy Court’s Jurisdiction. Core Proceedings.

Bankruptcy courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. That means that they do not hear and decide everything and anything. Congress granted bankruptcy judges jurisdiction over certain issues, which are called “core proceedings.” A bankruptcy judge’s decisional power is generally limited to bankruptcy matters.

Core proceedings are proceedings or issues that are entirely related to the bankruptcy case. The bankruptcy judge has the power to hear and decide these matters and enter judgment on them. Some examples of core proceedings are: the bankruptcy trustee’s duties, matters concerning debtor exemptions, or proceedings to determine, decide or recover fraudulent transfers. There are many more, but this should give you some idea of what the bankruptcy court will hear and decide.

Non-core Proceedings.

Non-core proceedings are issues that arise in a bankruptcy case that are not technically bankruptcy matters. These are called “non-core proceedings.” Examples of non-core proceedings in our fact pattern above would be your divorce, the car accident and the breach of contract action against your contractor. These matters are not governed by bankruptcy law but by other state laws and they are not directly related to your bankruptcy.

However, that does not mean that the bankruptcy court cannot hear and decide issues that may be non-core proceedings yet are matters directly related to your bankruptcy. For example, in our fact pattern above, while the bankruptcy court will not decide your divorce (in other words, it won’t enter a dissolution of marriage), it may decide issues in the divorce case that are related to your bankruptcy— like division of the marital property.

If the bankruptcy judge makes a decision in a non-core proceeding, that decision cannot become a final judgment unless all parties consent. If the parties don’t consent, then the bankruptcy judge must submit proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to the Superior or Circuit court.

We Know the Law!

If you find any of this confusing, don’t worry. We are bankruptcy attorneys with offices in Tigard, Salem, Albany, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, Bend, and several other cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. We offer free consultations and we can help you. To set up an appointment, call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568.

What the Automatic Stay Can and Cannot Do

One of the immediate benefits of filing bankruptcy is the relief that the Bankruptcy Code’s “automatic stay” gives to a debtor. The automatic stay brings all collection efforts against the debtor to a screeching halt. It prevents creditors from collecting on their debts until discharge, the case is closed, or the stay is lifted. The automatic stay goes into effect immediately— without need for a court order —and it applies to all of the chapters of the Bankruptcy Code. It has a very broad reach. But it’s reach is not limitless.

As you might expect, there are many things the automatic stay can do, but there are also some things it cannot do.

Let’s take a closer look at the powers of the automatic stay.

What the Automatic Stay Can Do.

The automatic stay is found in Section 362 of the Bankruptcy Code. It prevents creditors from taking pretty much any action outside the supervision of the bankruptcy court that would give one creditor an unfair advantage over any other creditor.

Here are just two of the things the automatic stay prohibits:

  • Anyone from bringing or continuing any judicial, administrative, or other action or proceeding against the debtor that either was commenced before the bankruptcy was filed, or which could have been commenced before the bankruptcy was filed.
  • Enforcement of a pre-petition judgment against the estate (i.e., the bankruptcy estate), property of the estate, or the debtor. It prohibits all collection activity including: levies, garnishments, restraining notices and all post-judgment collection remedies.

What the Automatic Stay Cannot Do.

While the automatic stay applies to many actions against a debtor, as we said, it is not limitless. Here are just three things that the automatic stay cannot do:

  • Stop criminal proceedings. The automatic stay does not apply to criminal proceedings or criminal investigations against the debtor.  
  • Prevent tax audits or some actions to collect taxes. The automatic stay does not apply to prevent tax audits, notices or demands. It does not prevent all acts to collect any tax, or to enforce, create or perfect any tax lien. It doesn’t restrict the government from continuing with any tax audits. It won’t prevent the issuance of notices of tax deficiencies or a demand for tax returns or tax assessments.
  • Last forever. Generally, the automatic stay terminates on the happening of one of these events:

1. The case is dismissed;
2. The case is closed;
3. A discharge order is entered or denied by the court;
4. The property is no longer property of the bankruptcy estate; or
5. An order is entered that terminates, vacates or modifies the automatic stay.

Understanding the automatic stay— its reach and its limits —is very important. We have attorneys in Portland, Eugene, Coos Bay, Medford, and a number of other cities in Oregon and in Vancouver and the Tri-Cities in Washington, who can explain the reach of the automatic stay to you.

We Are Here To Help You.

If you are looking for relief from collections calls and creditors coming after you, the automatic stay may give you the break you need. We are experienced bankruptcy attorneys with offices in Washington and throughout Oregon. We offer free consultations, reasonable fees, and are committed to getting our clients the relief they need. To set up an appointment, call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568 or contact us through our website.