Category: Bankruptcy


Dividing debts during divorce

Debt division is often overlooked during the divorce process. Most couples and divorce attorneys focus on dividing assets rather then liabilities. Before finalizing your divorce we recommend meeting with an attorney who is experienced in resolving and dividing debt.

1 Get Organized: Create a list of all of your secured and unsecured debts. Include balances, interest rates, early payment discounts, tax benefits, and monthly payment amounts. Pull both your credit reports from Experian, Transunion, and Equifax at AnnualCreditReport.com. Don’t assume all your debt will be on your credit report.

2 Credit Freeze: Consider a credit freeze so no additional debt is incurred. Learn how and review FAQs about freezing your credit at the FTC website.

3 Start Dividing: Divide your debts based on advice from your divorce attorney and the factors listed on your debt list.

4 Remove Joint Liability: Insist your spouse refinance all debt in their name and remove any joint liability. They may be able to do this with credit card balance transfers, debt consolidation, and assistance from family co-signors. If they are unable to remove your name from a secured debt insist that the asset be sold to pay off the debt. If they cannot remove your name go back to step three and reconsider the division.

5 Worst Case Scenarios: Talk to your attorney about your options if your spouse files bankruptcy, passes away, or stops paying on any debt remaining with joint liability.

6 Hold Harmless Clauses: Ask your divorce attorney about the positives and negatives of including a hold harmless clause in your divorce agreement.

  • Need help? Call 608-829-1112 or email us.

  Tags: Bankruptcy, Divorce, Financial Freedom, Mortgage


FoodShare (Food Stamps) in Wisconsin

Food Stamps are called FoodShare in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department Of Health Services (DHS) administers the program. FoodShare provides financial support for low-income families and individuals to buy nutritious foods. The amount of FoodShare benefits you receive is based on the number of people in your household and your total net monthly income. The DHS defines a household as people who live together and buy food and prepare meals together. To be eligible for FoodShare you must be a U.S. Citizen or in the United State legally.

To apply for FoodShare online visit getaquestcard.org. To do it over the phone call 1-877-366-3635. You can download and review the FoodShare application here.

static1.squarespace.com

If you are eligible for the program your benefits will start within 30 days of applying. If you are not eligible you will get notice stating so within 30 days. There is an appeals process if you believe you were unfairly denied.

In certain urgent circumstances benefits are started within seven days of applying. You are eligible for expedited benefits if your household has $100 or less available in cash or in the bank and

    • Expects to receive less than $150 of income this month; or
    • Has rent/mortgage or utility costs that are more than your total gross monthly income, available cash or bank accounts for this month; or
    • Includes a migrant or season farm worker whose income has stopped

     

After you are accepted into the program you will receive a Wisconsin QUEST card. Your benefits will be credited to the card every month. The card works like a check card. Your social security number determines the day of the month your benefits are credited to the card.


FoodShare Wisconsin – A Recipe For Good Health

You can use your card at farmers markets and at grocery stores that have the Quest sign. Benefits can be used to by foods such as:
– Breads and cereals
– Fruits and vegetables
– Meats, fish and poultry
– Dairy products
– Seeds and plants to grow food for your family to eat.

You cannot use your benefits to buy the following.
– Nonfood items
– Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco
– Food that will be eaten in the store
– Hot foods (example; food that is purchased and cooked at the store)

FoodShare Statistics
14.4% of the 5.7 million people in Wisconsin receive FoodShare.
55% of the recipients are female and 45% are male.
57% are adults and 43% are minors.

eligibility-oct-2014

  Tags: Bankruptcy, Credit, Financial Freedom


Stop Utility Shutoffs

Throughout the winter families are forced to dig into their pockets for additional expenses. Among those expenses are rising utility bills. When facing the cold weather Wisconsin residents should know that they are legally protected against winter utility shutoffs. According to the Wisconsin Administrative Code customers may enter into a deferred payment plan that allows customers to avoid service disconnections. Under this plan utilities cannot be shut off when a customer pays a reasonable amount of the balance in installments.

Even when a deferred payment plan cannot be maintained certain circumstances prevent a utility company from disconnecting a customer’s utility service. The following are examples.

  • When a customer is unable to pay between November 1st and April 15th if the utility is necessary for a heating system.
  • During a heat advisory declared by the National Weather Service.
  • When the shut-off would cause a medical emergency or interfere with protective services.
  • When the disconnection is a result of a utility company knowingly assisting a landlord in the removal or eviction of a tenant.

Customers who are involved in a dispute with their utility company can file a complaint with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (“PSC”). The PSC assists residents who are unable to directly resolve disputes with their utility company by allowing them to file a complaint with a Consumer Specialist. The complaint may be filed by telephone, letter or through a form that can be found on the PSC website.

If you do not fall into one of the exceptions above and are facing a utility shut off you may be able to keep your power on by filing bankruptcy. The balance owed on the day you file bankruptcy will be discharged in the bankruptcy. You however are responsible to pay for any services after that time. Most utility companies will turn your power on and then require that a deposit be paid within 20 days to keep the service on. The deposit can be as high as two or three months of peak service.

  Tags: Automatic Stay, Bankruptcy


What should I wear to the Meeting of Creditors?

Clients often call me the day before or the morning of their meeting of creditors and ask me what they should wear. You definitely do not need to wear a suit.

The meeting is not in front of a judge and isn’t even at the court house. Most clients filing bankruptcy complete the entire process without ever seeing a judge or walking into a courthouse. Formal court attire is not necessary.

Dress in layers and wear what you would normally wear to work. If you are not working wear what you would wear to visit the dentist. Make sure not to wear anything too tight, short or low cut. If you decide to wear a hat expect to take it off during the meeting. If you are wearing any jewelry you didn’t list in your paperwork let your attorney know before the meeting starts. Your attorney will let the trustee know you plan on amending the paperwork to include the overlooked jewelry.

  Tags: 341, Bankruptcy


Get Out of Debt Without Filing Bankruptcy

Before deciding to file bankruptcy we always ask our clients to look at alternatives to getting out of debt. The most obvious option is to pay everything off. We created the following exercise to figure out if you can afford to get out of debt and how long it will take.

1. The Form: Take out a piece of paper and draw a table with five columns and enough rows to include all of your creditors. Label the first column CREDITOR, the second column BALANCE, the third column INTEREST RATE, the fourth column MNIMUM PAYMENT and the last column MONTHS. Click here to download the form.

2. Gathering information: Fill out the first four columns by looking at your account statements or calling your creditors. If you don’t know who all of your creditors are visit AnnualCreditReport.com and request a free copy of your credit report.

3. Total Minimum Payments: Add up all the minimum payments and put the total under that column. Circle the number.

4. Budget: Look at your budget and figure out how much a month you can afford to spend on getting out of debt. Write that number under the circled number on your debt list and draw a square around it.

5. Can You Do It?
If your squared number is less then your circled number go back to step four and adjust your budget.

If the squared number is equal to your circled number move on to step 6.

If the squared number is greater then your circled number increase your payment amount on the debt with the highest interest rate. Increase the payment by exactly how much more you have in your squared number. (Redo this every time you pay a debt off.)

6. How Long Will It Take: Use the calculator below to figure out how many months it will take you to pay off each creditor. Fill out the final column for each creditor. (If the calculator says 0 months it is because your payment is not high enough to ever pay off the debt. You have to increase the payment amount.)

7. Are You Willing to Commit?
If you are happy with your results start following your plan to becoming debt free.

If you are not happy with your results consider going back to step four or seeking professional advice regarding other alternatives.

  Tags: Bankruptcy, Credit, Financial Freedom


Create An Emergency Fund To Stay Out Of Debt

When I bring up emergency funds some people start laughing. Why am I advising them to save money when their paycheck is already coming up short? After creating a budget, an emergency fund is my second most important step to financial freedom. Without one you will always be in debt. Why? What do you do when your car breaks down or you have unexpected medical bills? You pull out your credit card. If that is already maxed out you head over to your local payday lender and grab some quick cash. Problem solved? No!

Flagler, CO 5/17/11

Pull out a list of all your creditors and how much you owe them. How much of that debt started out as an emergency expense? Did you stick to the plan? Use the card for emergencies and pay it off before something else comes up…of course not. You’re only human and the temptation to spend is hard to resist. Constant marketing surrounds us and the pressure to spend has never been higher.

Don’t make things worse. Create an emergency fund and plug the problem. If you’re completely drowning in debt consider filing bankruptcy and starting over fresh.

If you’re ready to get started keep reading. If not, click here.

Creating an Emergency Fund In Four Steps

1. Open A New Savings Account: Don’t use an account your already have. Open a completely new account. Try to get something without fees and high interest. Make sure you can pull a majority of the money out within 24 hours. If you don’t need the money fast it may not be an emergency.

2. Figure Out How Much You Want To Save: Most experts say save three to six months of your income. For most people who are already in debt that isn’t realistic. Set a small goal of $1,000 and aim higher once your there.

3. Start Saving: The easiest way to build an emergency fund is to use your tax refund. If tax time is months away don’t wait! Look at your budget and work it in. Automatically deposit a set amount into your emergency fund every month. I don’t care if it is just $20 a month. Just get the ball rolling.

4. Only Use The Money For an Emergency: If you need a new car start budgeting for a new car. If your car breaks down look at your other options first. You may be better off getting a ride or using public transportation until you have saved up enough to fix your car. Be proud of yourself for building an emergency fund. Don’t force yourself to start over for a wasteful expense.

  Tags: Bankruptcy, Financial Freedom


Don’t Let An Inexperienced Bankruptcy Attorney Waste Your Time!

Most initial bankruptcy consultations are all about you. The attorney your meeting with will ask you dozens of questions. I suggest your turn the tables on your bankruptcy attorney. Decide if you would even consider hiring him before you open up to him. There is no point in sitting there for an hour going trough your life’s history until you figure out if the attorney even knows what he is doing.

walking out the door

Large ads and fancy offices don’t mean anything. I know many attorneys who call themselves bankruptcy attorneys and they have little or no experience. Just as the economy has been hard on you it has been hard on attorneys. When business slows down they start practicing in new areas of law they do not have experience in. Don’t become one of their learning experiences. Your not paying them so they can practice on you. You are paying for expertise.

If your bankruptcy attorney can’t say yes to the following ten questions it is time to call another bankruptcy attorney!

1. Do you have experience filing bankruptcy cases after the 2005 law change?

2. Is bankruptcy more then 50% of your practice?

3. Did you file over fifty bankruptcy cases last year?

4. Do you file Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases?

5. Are you a member of local and national bankruptcy bar groups?

6. Does the local bankruptcy judge know who you are?

7. Do the local Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 trustees know who you are?

8. Do you use a written fee agreement?

9. Will you be the one communicating with me and preparing my filing?

10. Will you be available after hours and on the weekends for emergency questions?


If you would like to throw the questions above at me call 608-829-1112. I would happy to help.

  Tags: Bankruptcy


Wisconsin Median Income Guidelines 3/15/11

On Umag's little beach

Effective March 15, 2011 the median income in Wisconsin will increase.

Current Figures
Household of 1: $40,486
Household of 2: $55,175
Household of 3: $65,187
Household of 4: $76,188
Add $7,500 for each individual in excess of 4.

Effective March 15, 2011
Household of 1: $41,150
Household of 2: $56,080
Household of 3: $66,256
Household of 4: $77,438
Add $7,500 for each individual in excess of 4.

If you are below the median income you automatically qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and do not have to take the means test. If you are above the median income and do not pass the means test you may not be able to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and will likely have to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

If you have questions about the median income and your household size call or email for a free consultation.

  Tags: Bankruptcy, Means Test