Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Representation in Woodland Hills

Woodland Hills Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Attorney

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Representation in the Central District Of California

Living with debt can be exhausting, and it might not seem like you have any options. No matter how low you may feel, know that debt does not have to determine your future. Relief is available, and The Law Offices Of Hagen & Hagen are here to help.

If you have reached the point where you have an excessive amount of debt, whether you’re still current on your payments or behind on your payments and dodging calls from creditors, it’s time to explore your options and consider bankruptcy. Our Woodland Hills Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer will provide the experienced, compassionate guidance you need to explore your options. When you hire our firm, you will work directly with our attorney, Jeff Hagen, throughout each and every stage of the filing process. He will walk you through how your case will work and what Chapter 7 will accomplish for you. You will likely be able to eliminate many types of unsecured debt and get the fresh start you deserve when you pursue this form of relief, so do not wait to discuss your options with us.

Contact us online or call (818) 217-8781 to schedule a free initial consultation. We offer our services to clients in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside, and Ventura Counties.

For debtors without the means to pay what they owe, Chapter 7 bankruptcy is often the best way to quickly wipe out debt. Not everyone is a good candidate for Chapter 7 relief, however.

If you and, if applicable, your spouse, currently earn less than the median income of a family of your size in the county in which you live, Chapter 7 may be a good option for you. If you and, if applicable, your spouse, currently earn more than the median income, you may still be able to file Chapter 7 if your qualifying living expenses leave you with little to no disposable income. Our Woodland Hills Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney will assess your eligibility and recommend whether Chapter 7 is the best strategy for you.

Upon filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a stay automatically goes into effect preventing all collection actions being pursued against you. Collection lawsuits, creditor communications, foreclosures, repossessions, wage garnishments and bank levies cannot proceed. Chapter 7 accordingly provides you immediate relief.

One of the risks you take when filing Chapter 7 is that your assets are analyzed by a bankruptcy trustee whose job it is to determine whether any of your assets ought to be liquidated in order to pay your creditors, whether in whole or in part. But not to worry; only in approximately 5% of the Chapter 7 cases filed does a bankruptcy trustee actually liquidate one or more assets. In the vast majority of cases, one’s assets are exempt pursuant to California law.

The Law Offices Of Hagen & Hagen will carefully review with you your assets to determine whether there is a genuine risk that one or more of your assets will be liquidated so that you can decide if you’re comfortable with that risk. And we will carefully determine which set of California’s exemptions are best suited to provide you maximum protection from liquidation of assets by your bankruptcy trustee. 

You’ll likely be able to exempt the following assets:

  • Up to $626,400 of home equity or up to $33,750 of ‘wildcard exemptions’ that can protect anything you own
  • Up to $7,500 of value in a motor vehicle
  • Personal property and household items
  • Health aids
  • Jewelry
  • Life insurance cash equity
  • Up to $9,700 of tools you use in connection with your work
  • Up to $1,826 (or the amount needed to support yourself) of bank deposits
  • Retirement and pension accounts
  • Public benefits, including unemployment benefits, social security income, and workers’ compensation benefits

Do not believe rumors that claim you will lose the bulk of your property in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This simply is not true, as most Chapter 7 bankruptcy filers lose nothing at all.

If your case, like most Chapter 7 cases, does not result in the liquidation of any assets, it will likely take slightly under four months to wind your way through the entire bankruptcy process. If assets are in fact liquidated by the bankruptcy trustee, the case may take a year or longer to finalize, although nothing prevents you from moving on with your life, earning income, and transacting business, while the case finalizes.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy permits you to discharge the following types of unsecured debt:

  • Credit card bills
  • Personal loans and payday loans
  • Medical bills
  • Unpaid utility bills
  • Business suppliers and vendors
  • Former landlords
  • Deficiencies to auto lenders following repossession
  • Deficiencies to mortgage lenders following foreclosure
  • Personal guarantees of the debts of others

You will no longer have to worry about these debts once the bankruptcy case is filed. Creditors cannot lawfully ask you about them, attempt to collect them, or take any adverse action against you related to them.

Stop struggling to make ends meet and reach out to our Woodland Hills Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer. We are prepared to immediately work on your case and will do everything we can to maximize the benefits of the Chapter 7 process, while minimizing the risk. If Chapter 7 is not the best of your available options, we’ll suggest alternatives, including Chapter 13.

FAQs

How Can We Help You?
  • How Much Will It Cost for Me to File Bankruptcy?

    It depends on which chapter you file, the complexity of your case, where within the district you live, and the number of creditors you have. Note that there is no difference in fees for both spouses to file together as it is for one spouse to file alone.

  • If I Want to Schedule an Initial Consultation, Should I Bring Any Documents with Me?

    At the initial consultation, whether in-person, by-phone, or by-video, we need to explore your financial situation, so if you can give us general information about your financial situation without resorting to documents, it won't be necessary for you to bring documents to the initial consultation.

    If you are unable to provide information about your financial situation without resorting to documents, please have available the financial information we’ll need in order to get a general understanding of your financial circumstances.

    If you wish to proceed with a bankruptcy filing, we are going to want to be provided the following documents:

    Income And Expenses:

    • Your three most recently filed federal and state tax returns, all schedules, all pages, including if available all attached W-2s and 1099s. If you operate your own business, whether corporation, limited liability company, or partnership, please provide copies of its tax returns for the same years.
    • Paystubs, if applicable, for the past sixty days (required), and as much of the past seven months (preferable) as possible. Please continue to send copies of paystubs until the bankruptcy case is filed.
    • If you operate your own business, whether corporation, limited liability company, partnership or sole proprietorship, we’ll need a profit and loss statement for the past six months ending on the last day of last month, and we’ll need a profit and loss statement for the current calendar year to date.
    • A rough draft of monthly budget:

    Compensation:

    • $____ Compensation from employment - spouse 1
    • $____ Compensation from employment - spouse 2

    Other income:

    • $____ Renting out a room to tenant #1
    • $____ Renting out a room to tenant #2
    • $____ Unemployment
    • $____ Social Security
    • $____ Disability
    • $____ Government assistance

    Rental property:

    • $____ Income from tenant

    Less:

    • $____ Rental property mortgage payments
    • $____ Rental property taxes paid directly
    • $____ Rental property insurance
    • $____ Rental property homeowners association fees
    • $____ Rental property maintenance

    Expenses:

    • $____ Mortgage/rent
    • $____ Homeowners association fees/dues
    • $____ Utilities--Electricity
    • $____ Natural gas
    • $____ Water
    • $____ Telephone-landline
    • $____ Telephone-cell
    • $____ Cable or satellite
    • $____ Internet
    • $____ Trash removal
    • $____ Alarm
    • $____ Pest control
    • $____ Landscaping/gardening
    • $____ Pool cleaning/maintenance
    • $____ Other home maintenance/repairs
    • $____ Groceries/food including meals out
    • $____ Clothing purchases
    • $____ Laundry/dry cleaning
    • $____ Recreation/newspapers/magazines
    • $____ Insurance--Life paid directly, not via payroll
    • $____ Health paid directly, not by payroll
    • $____ Dental paid directly, not by payroll
    • $____ Vision paid directly, not by payroll
    • $____ Disability paid directly
    • $____ Long-term care paid directly
    • $____ Auto
    • $____ Property
    • $____ Home warranty
    • $____ Pet
    • $____ Umbrella
    • $____ Other:
    • $____ Automobile (gas/parking/renewals/repairs)
    • $____ Medical/dental out of pocket (not by insurance)
    • $____ Monthly portion of quarterly tax estimates
    • $____ Auto installment payment - vehicle 1
    • $____ Auto installment payment - vehicle 2
    • $____ Auto installment payment - vehicle 3
    • $____ Spousal and/or child support payments
    • $____ School tuition
    • $____ Child daycare
    • $____ Housekeeping services
    • $____ Pet food and care
    • $____ Storage
    • $____ Gym membership
    • $____ Income tax preparation
    • $____ Other (describe)

    Property:

    • Copy of most recent month's mortgage statement from any and all mortgage lenders regardless of whether you intend to continue paying the mortgage.
    • Copy of most recent month's statement from auto lenders or lessors regardless of whether you intend to continue paying for such vehicles.
    • Copy of most recent real estate property tax bill if paid directly (unnecessary if paid via mortgage impound).
    • Copy of most recent month's statement from timeshare companies.
    • Copy of most recent month's statement from mobilehome lender.
    • Copies of the most recent six month's bank statements for all bank accounts that have been open in the past six months, whether open or closed today.
    • Copies of most recent month's statement from retirement plan administrators, including IRAs, 401(k)s, and pension plans.
    • Copies of binders or declaration pages reflecting current insurance coverages, including life, health, dental, vision, automobile, homeowners, earthquake, professional liability, home warranty, pet, and umbrella insurance.
    • Copies of the face pages from any and all lawsuit complaints initiated by you against others that remain pending today or have been pending at any time within the past twelve months.

    Liabilities:

    • Copy of most recent month's statement from creditors, including credit card statements, student loan statements, medical bills, delinquent tax notices from the Internal Revenue Service, California Franchise Tax Board, or California Department Of Tax And Fee Administration (formerly the State Board Of Equalization). Include most recent correspondence from collection agencies and attorneys. Do NOT include utility bills unless you want to include them as creditors in your case. If you are still receiving services from such utility companies, it is generally wise to NOT include them as creditors in your case.
    • Copies of the face pages from any and all lawsuit complaints initiated by others against you within the past twelve months, whether pending today or reduced to judgment, dismissed, settled, on appeal or otherwise.

    Other:

    • Copy of valid driver's license(s) or other form of photo identification, such as state identification card, or valid passport. Please provide a color version in pdf format (no screenshots please).
    • Copy of social security card, if available, or if unavailable, a copy of a W-2, 1099, or 1098, provided it reflects all nine digits of your social security number. Please provide a color version in pdf format (no screenshots please).
    • Copies of all escrow closing statements from the sale of real property in the past four years.
    • Copies of all escrow closing statements from the refinancing of any real estate loans in the past four years, even if the property was subsequently sold or lost to foreclosure.
    • Copies of all marital dissolution judgments, child or spousal support orders, and marital property division agreements to which you have been a party in the past four years.
  • Are There Any Viable Alternatives to Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

    There are several alternatives to bankruptcy, some more attractive than others.

    1. Pay the creditors, whether it be by liquidating assets, borrowing the funds from relatives and/or friends, withdrawing funds from retirement, or by inheritance. Of course, paying creditors in full is easier said than done; usually not very realistic and rarely the desired option.

    2. Try and work out settlements with creditors whereby you pay them a lump sum discount. Our experience is that it will take around 50 cents on the dollar to make settlements with credit card companies happen, but every case is a bit different. If you haven't paid the creditor in two to three years, they might be a bit more willing to accept 20% or 30%. If you're still current on your payments, or only recently defaulted for the first time, creditors are likely going to want considerably more, perhaps 80% or 90%. Note that settling at a discounted payoff is not a viable option at all for student loans. And of course, paying around 50% of the balance owed to creditors is still not a terribly realistic option either. Keep in mind as well that when you settle with creditors, they're supposed to issue you, and usually do issue you, a 1099-C, so you may well be required to declare as income the forgiven portion of the settled debt.

    3. Try and work out settlements with creditors whereby you pay them over time. The problem with this option is that creditors, if they're going to offer two, three, four, or more years to repay the debt, are likely going to want to be paid 100 cents on the dollar. Debt consolidation and debt negotiation companies may be able to help you with such settlements but be careful and watch very closely how such a company completes the task.

    4. Status quo. Bring creditors current, if applicable, and keep paying them on a current basis. If you're current on your payments, creditors cannot sue you and they cannot even report you negatively to the credit bureaus. The problem of course is that it's quite difficult to repay 100 cents on the dollar with interest accruing on the debt.

    5. Do nothing, stop paying creditors, and let them or their collection agents sue you. Of course, that's not a very attractive option. Creditors will sue, win judgments, lien any real estate that might be in your name (if applicable), garnish wages (if applicable), levy bank accounts, and possibly even conduct debtor examinations to locate additional assets to pursue. If you're elderly, own no real estate or other assets of significant value, and receive only Social Security, this option might not be the worst of these options, but otherwise not a very attractive option.

    6. Do nothing, stop paying, let creditors sue you, and fight the resulting lawsuit or lawsuits. This option makes some sense if there's only a small handful of obligations and you have a legitimate argument for why you should not be held responsible, such as that the debt is so old that statute of limitation has expired, that you are a victim of identity theft and that it's therefore not really your debt, or that you have offsetting counterclaims against the creditor. But unless you have valid defenses and/or counterclaims, this option is not going to work in the long run and paying attorneys to advance such arguments can get costly.

    7. Sell all your assets and move to Australia, or some other country where creditors, although technically allowed to chase you, are highly unlikely to pursue you further. Not a very appealing option to most people.

    8. Chapter 13

  • How Can I Expedite the Process of Rehabilitating My Credit After Bankruptcy?

    The best ways to begin the process of rehabilitating your credit after bankruptcy are:

    • to avoid suffering further credit reversals, such as foreclosures, repossessions, judgments, evictions, tax liens, etc.,
    • continue paying home mortgages, auto loans and leases, equipment loans and leases, etc., and
    • obtain a secured credit card.
    Most of the major financial institutions offer such accounts, whereby you deposit a certain sum, such as $500, and the institution gives you a $500 credit line. If you fail to pay, the institution is at no risk, as it is already holding your money as its protection. If you are making your payments each month and the institution sees that you are a worthy credit risk, it will likely eventually return the deposit to you and make the account a true credit card, or will increase your credit limit without demanding additional deposit funds.

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