March 31, 2010

That Baseball Divorce…

Posted in Celebrity Divorce, Spousal Support tagged , at 4:53 pm by demetriagraves

Dodger’s owner Frank McCourt and his estranged wife Jamie are in a Los Angeles courtroom where a judge is considering Jamie’s request for $1 million in monthly support from her husband. It seems like the first pitches of the baseball season were thrown in that Los Angeles courtroom less than two miles from Dodger Stadium.

The divorce case of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt began recently with attorneys trading barbs and accusing the other side of greed — much as pitchers try to intimidate hitters by throwing brushback pitches right under their chin.

Sorrell Trope, an attorney for Frank McCourt, compared estranged wife Jamie McCourt with 18th-century French queen Marie Antoinette and it was further inferred that seeking $988,845 in monthly spousal support payments is akin to an “Alice in Wonderland” fantasy.

Dennis Wasser, one of Jamie McCourt’s lawyers, called Frank McCourt “a poor billionaire” and rejected an offer of $125,000 a month in support.

Wasser, a member of the Wasser, Cooperman & Carter firm of Los Angeles, said Frank McCourt pays $40,000 a month to live in a rented condominium and spent $30,000 to attend the Super Bowl on Feb. 7 in Miami. Wasser said Jamie McCourt is entitled to a similar lifestyle, and needs almost half the $988,845 to pay her share of mortgages on the couple’s seven homes.

Jamie McCourt wants to continue to relax at five-star hotels, jet-set around the world and eat at top restaurants. While most people can’t comprehend or even dream about that kind of opulence, she wants her first-class lifestyle back and believes it will take nearly $1 million a month to do so.

The spousal support hearing was a precursor to a trial that includes a fight over the ownership of the Dodgers, a team valued in legal documents submitted in the divorce case at $963 million as of May 2009.

Lawyers for the two sides are due back in court to discuss whether a trial in the divorce case — and, ultimately, control of Major League Baseball’s Dodgers — will be able to start as scheduled on May 24.

Frank McCourt, 56, claims he’s the sole owner of the team, based on documents the couple signed in 2004, the year they bought the franchise. Jamie McCourt, 56, a lawyer, says she should get 50 percent of the team and that she wasn’t aware those documents would affect her share of the Dodgers.

The couple separated in July after 30 years of marriage. Frank McCourt fired Jamie McCourt as the team’s chief executive officer on Oct. 21.

Commissioner Scott M. Gordon, who is hearing the case, has about three months to issue a ruling on the temporary support payments. He said yesterday that there have been tens of thousands of pages filed so far by the 10 lawyers involved in the case, delaying any ruling.

The hearings, in Los Angeles County Superior Court, are taking place less than a week before the baseball season starts.

March 30, 2010

Not All Bankruptcies Are Created Equal

Posted in Bankruptcy tagged at 12:23 am by demetriagraves

California bankruptcy law is based on federal law; however there are differences that make California’s state laws unique. If you are facing the possibility of bankruptcy, it is in your best interest to contact an attorney that is experienced with California bankruptcy law to help you regain control of your financial situation.

There are six different types of bankruptcy recognized under California bankruptcy law, but only a few are available to individuals. Though many people think that all bankruptcies are Chapter 11 filings, most individuals would not be eligible for Chapter 11. California bankruptcy law designates Chapter 11 bankruptcy for businesses and individuals with substantial assets.

The most common type of bankruptcy for individuals in California is Chapter 7, followed by Chapter 13. Chapter 9 bankruptcy is reserved for municipal bankruptcy. Those familiar with California bankruptcy law may recall that Orange County filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in 1994. Some Californians also qualify for Chapter 12 bankruptcy, a reorganization bankruptcy intended for family farmers and fishermen who earn money seasonally.

If you are an individual facing bankruptcy, Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 are most likely to fit your situation under California bankruptcy law. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your assets are liquidated and your debts are discharged. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you retain your assets but make payments toward your debts following a very strict repayment plan. Under California bankruptcy law, Chapter 13 bankruptcy is only available to people with a regular source of income. It is important that you discuss your case with an attorney with the knowledge and experience required to help you determine which type of bankruptcy filing you should make.

California bankruptcy law includes special sets of exemptions that protect certain assets from liquidation when the owner files for bankruptcy. Exemptions that exclude the debtor’s home, income used to support his or her family, and other valuable assets and savings are available to debtors who use an attorney with knowledge of California bankruptcy law.

California bankruptcy law has a provision which allows creditors to challenge the discharge of a debt in bankruptcy if the debt was incurred through fraud. The creditor must present facts at the debtor’s trial to show fraud, and can win a judgment against the debtor if fraud is proven under California bankruptcy law. This provision means that people who run up debts with the intention of filing for bankruptcy at the end of their spending spree will be liable to repay those debts.

This provision protects creditors, but can be a problem for debtors. If you had a few months of flashy spending before financial disaster struck, you’ll need an attorney skilled in California bankruptcy law to shield you from fraud accusations during your bankruptcy trial.

An experienced attorney can assist you with dealing with the complex nature of bankruptcy filing under California bankruptcy law. Your attorney will work as your advocate and will help you get on the road to restored credit and financial health.

I offer a free confidential initial consultation where I can discuss your individual circumstances in more detail and answer all of your questions. Understandably, the prospect of filing for bankruptcy can be very daunting. This is why it’s so important to have an experienced attorney to guide you through the process.

Splitting Assets in a Divorce

Posted in Divorce tagged , at 12:20 am by demetriagraves

All marital assets are not equal! Even if the goal is to try to “split down the middle”, asset valuation prior to making a final division is critical. If for example the family home and a pension/retirement plan are both worth $400,000 today, the home is a non-liquid asset requiring cash-flow to support it, while a retirement account grows tax deferred with no cash input required. Retirement assets can be reallocated with changing economic factors, and thus can more easily rebound from market fluctuations.

Before waiving rights to a retirement plan that is a marital asset, be certain you will be able meet your own retirement needs. When assets are tied up in the equity in the family home, the only way to access that equity is with an equity line (interest is charged to access your money/equity) or by selling your home. The tax liability should be understood beforehand, and you will still need housing!

Taxable accounts differ from a tax-sheltered account for the same reasons, as earnings will be taxable each year. The age of the couple at the time of the division (ie, the number of years to rebuild retirement assets) must be weighed. An experienced financial planner and a CPA can determine the true value of marital assets, and suggest the best possible long term strategy for you. Thinking beyond today’s value is extremely important in reaching a fair settlement.

Earnings Potential: One spouse often earns a lesser percentage of the household income, or has minimized a career in order to raise children. In this situation, they may need help to pay for additional career training or education, as well as to meet the children’s needs during the time that additional training or education is being obtained. A house cleaning service or childcare may be needed for this to be realistic and successful. Short term assistance may result in greater long-term financial independence. Providing the financial means for the spouse who now needs to boost their earnings, or return to the workforce, for career counseling, or personal and career coaching, may help move the family along the path of healthy divorce recovery. Think of it as similar to career outplacement services in the corporate world. Facilitating a smooth and successful transition ultimately financially stabilizes and benefits both the children as well as both former spouses.

QDRO: A spouse who receives part of his or her spouse’s qualified retirement accounts will need a court order called a “Qualified Domestic Relations Order.”(QDRO). Your attorney should be made aware of ALL retirement accounts and the QDRO rules are for each plan. To expedite the QDRO, your attorney needs to obtain pre-approval from each plan before the settlement is final. The court must sign the order before an account can be divided. Be sure the order is sent to the retirement plan sponsor and is approved early in the divorce process. If not completed before the divorce is final, you will have to return to court later, incurring more legal expenses and risking the loss of assets in the account. Include survivor benefits in the QDRO. If you will be receiving retirement benefits from your former spouse’s pension, be sure the QDRO includes survivor’s benefits, if the plan allows them. Otherwise, those benefits could stop if your spouse dies before you do.

Also, understand your Social Security benefits. If your spouse earns more money than you do and you were married ten years or more, you will be eligible for Social Security benefits based on your spouse’s work history. That may mean higher benefits than if you have to rely on your own work history, and does not impact the benefits of the ex-spouse at their retirement time.

Tax Implications: Access to expert tax advice plays a critical role in determining the structure of a property settlement. Say it’s proposed that one spouse keeps a $150,000 individual retirement account and the other keeps a $150,000 taxable investment account. Sounds fair, but it’s not. A traditional IRA grows tax-free, and is then taxed when their money is withdrawn, while the non-retirement account is taxed on annual earnings along the way. So the two accounts are not truly equal in value, and sound assumptions of the projected net values are needed. Also, be sure the parties taking tax benefits are clearly spelled out, as well as how taxes will be filed and paid, for any partial year of marriage.

Life Insurance: If you rely on an ex-spouse for child support, retirement benefits, spousal support, or other financial benefits such as a commitment to pay for the children’s college education, purchase a life insurance policy on your spouse to ensure the money will be there. You should own the policy, and purchase it before the settlement is final so you know whether your spouse is insurable.

Sometimes people fail to consider the financial impact of the death of a non-working or part-time employed parent who is caring for children. The cost to replace all the contributions of that individual in order that the surviving parent may continue with job security and income production needs to be calculated and also covered in a life insurance plan. Some estimates are as high as $160,000 a year to outsource the services that custodial parents provide. The option to continue existing coverage and transferring those responsibilities along with updated beneficiary forms should be explored. This includes any current coverage of minor children.

Protecting Your Own Credit: When it comes to your credit, both spouses are liable for debt incurred on jointly held loans and credit cards during a marriage. Even when the divorce decree states that one spouse should pay certain bills and the second spouse pay others, both spouses are legally responsible, and creditors will pursue both parties in debt collection. It is important to request duplicate statements from creditors, close jointly held accounts, and immediately begin establishing credit in your own name. Working collaboratively on establishing separate credit is advised as during the time you are doing so, both parties’ credit scores are impacted by all of the joint credit and debt from the marriage. This can delay approvals and impact credit limits approved, as well as the ability of the individuals to refinance mortgages and car loans. Order and review reports from the primary credit monitoring agencies. This is recommended prior to finalizing the asset allocation agreement because there may be errors that need to be identified and addressed by the divorcing couple jointly. Re-check credit reports before signing final documents to be sure there are no “hidden”, new, or forgotten debts that may surface after the divorce is final.

With the emotional strain and financial complexities of divorce, a comprehensive, integrated, and coordinated approach is the best way to assure a fair and equitable distribution of assets. Everyone benefits when both parties have the support, guidance and means to move forward with their lives and children are the biggest winners when parents work together for their benefit.

If you’re contemplating a divorce and have specific questions about what you might be entitled to as part of a divorce settlement, please don’t hesitate to contact me for a free confidential initial consultation.

Do I Qualify for a Loan Modification?

Posted in Loan Modification tagged at 12:17 am by demetriagraves

Are you financially on the edge? Just barely making the house payments by pushing off other payments? Is your house now worth less than what you originally paid?  You may qualify for a loan modification and it may be just what you need to balance the family books.

Outlined here are the key factors that you should know about loan modifications, especially in regard to what is needed to qualify.

1. Firstly, you must occupy the property, it must be your primary residence and it must be four units or less. Yes, duplexes and quads qualify, although most people applying have single family residences. The federal government is trying to assist home owners, not investors and they will verify the primary residence based on tax returns, utility bills, and credit reports.

2. To be eligible for a home modification, the first mortgage must have originated prior to Jan. 1, 2009

3. The current monthly mortgage payments must be greater than 31 percent your gross income, which means just about everyone qualifies on this point.

4. You’ll need to present evidence of a financial hardship, which is most often the loss of an income, but could be loss of overtime, furloughs, etc. Another point that isn’t hard for most people to prove.

5. To qualify for a loan modification your loan amount needs to be less than $729,750. The federal government wants to offer modifications on homes that are not considered excessive loan amounts.

6. Finally, the Making Home Affordable (HAMP) Program will end. The federal government’s current plan will be allowing for new borrowers to be accepted until December 31, 2012.

As you can see, MANY people qualify for a loan modification!

If you have further questions about qualifying for a loan modification, please don’t hesitate to contact me for a free initial consultation. I can go over your individual circumstances in more detail and help you work out a solution that is best for you.

March 24, 2010

Choosing Bankruptcy or Foreclosure? STOP!

Posted in Bankruptcy, Forclosure, Loan Modification tagged , , at 6:44 pm by demetriagraves

If things are getting tight and you think it is a choice between losing the house or declaring bankruptcy, I have news for you. You have other choices and you should avoid bankruptcy if possible! It is widely acknowledged now that less than 5% of people who file for bankruptcy actually avoided the compounded pain of foreclosure.  Avoid getting stuck with both a foreclosure and bankruptcy, try for a loan modification immediately!  If you qualify, it may save you from both these fates.

A home loan modification is the process of restructuring your current mortgage into a mortgage that is more affordable. This means that the terms of the loan change, but the lender remains the same. Modifications to your mortgage generally involve the reduction of your interest rate to make the monthly payments more affordable. In many cases, a loan modification is the only way for homeowners who are unable to refinance to avoid default or foreclosure.

Most know that a foreclosure or a bankruptcy will put their credit in poor standing. Often people tend to think a loan modification would affect them the same way.  Previously a loan modification may have negatively affected your credit, but this is not necessarily true of the current economic times.

In today’s economic crisis the government, and credit companies, are being forced to reevaluate this process.  The government in fact, has encouraged credit bureaus to start using a different code when showing loan modifications in order to give the consumer a break on their credit score.

The government has tried to enforce rules in the last year or so to make it so that a loan modification does not strongly impact your credit in a negative way.  While some credit bureaus or financial institutions may not follow suit as well as the feds would like, the fact remains that a loan modification may not impact your credit as much as it may have in the past.

The reason for this change was so that the government could encourage more people to get loan modifications so they would in turn have a greater chance of keeping their homes…and lives, intact.  So if a loan modification might help it would definitely be worth your time to consider it, regardless of what you have heard about your credit.

Loan modification is not something you want to do just because you want to do it, but it is definitely better for your short and long term goals than a bankruptcy or foreclosure.

In today’s economy, the answer to many people’s financial woes is to get a loan modification.  However, many people feel they may not qualify for the loan modification, or even worse, don’t apply because they believe it will affect them negatively.

Unfortunately there are home loan modification scams, so homeowners need to be aware of this. I recommend using an attorney who is experienced in handling loan modifications. They are used to dealing with many lenders and know exactly what it takes to get your loan modification approved. All major lenders do offer loan modifications. Some of the smaller companies or hard money lenders may not, but generally speaking, the well-known lenders will all offer modifications. Homeowners should begin considering a home loan modification once they’ve fallen into a state of financial hardship.

The truth is that the process of modifying your home mortgage may be stressful. The same could also be said about going into foreclosure or bankruptcy. So this is why you need an experienced attorney to guide you through the process and advise you on your best options. I offer a free confidential initial consultation, where you can get all your questions answered. Please don’t hesitate to contact me as I’m here to help.

Asking Yourself, “Do I Need an Attorney?” YOU DO!

Posted in Divorce tagged at 6:42 pm by demetriagraves

Even if we lived in a perfect world there would be divorces. Life just throws too many curves to be able to predict what may happen in 10, 20 or 30 years.  In a perfect world, the perfect divorce would be one of complete understanding, wouldn’t have any upset and would not require any professional assistance.

Alright, you can come back to earth now!

Feelings about a divorce may start off in a relatively friendly manner but it’s not uncommon for a divorce to get unfriendly, especially when it comes to dividing the assets (or liabilities). Despite both of you starting out with the best of intentions, any feelings of goodwill may not last to the end of the settlement. Naturally you have the option to represent yourself in your own divorce case but this is not a good idea and is not in your best interests especially when there are assets or children involved.

Perhaps you have received notification of your spouse’s desire for a divorce via their attorney. In this case, you should seriously consider arranging a divorce attorney of your own. A specialist divorce attorney can serve many functions but at the top of the list is the need for someone impartial to represent you and make sure you get a fair settlement. Your divorce attorney is also there to be your level headed guide as many divorces can end acrimoniously and it’s advantageous to have someone who will be there to ensure all your questions and worries about the proceedings are answered.

It’s vital that you have someone who is familiar with the divorce laws of your State. You wouldn’t buy a home without knowledgeable assistance, don’t consider getting a divorce without someone who has been through it all before. Another excellent reason to have yourself represented by a good divorce attorney is that there may be support involved otherwise known as alimony.

To many people the word alimony brings fear into the proceedings as it is support for the spouse. It is an amount calculated on the earning ability and standard of living both partners had as part of their marriage. Alimony can be awarded for a specified period of time or an indefinite period and this decision is based on the particular circumstances of each spouse.

Each spouse does have the opportunity to appeal the divorce settlement should their income level drop to any degree. However be aware that if spousal support is waived, then the spouse who gave up the spousal support cannot come back and ask for it again in the future.

Of course a divorce lawyer is also there to help protect pension rights, which can be vulnerable in a divorce case. Although a person may believe these are their individual property, they are not and can be divided up like everything else.

The courts do try to be fair with their division of retirement plans and pensions but having a divorce lawyer represent you will help ensure this is the case. Your divorce attorney’s fees could easily be paid out of the money you are saved in this one area alone.

If you’re thinking about divorce and don’t know where to turn for the right advice or if you’ve been served with papers somewhat unexpectedly, then please don’t hesitate to contact me for a complimentary and confidential initial consultation. I can answer all your questions and make sure that you are headed in the right direction for a fresh start.

Recognizing Loan Modification Scams in California

Posted in Loan Modification tagged at 6:39 pm by demetriagraves

There has been a lot of media attention recently on the increase in scams regarding loan mods. Unfortunately, those who are most likely to be targeted are the elderly, anyone entering foreclosure, people who have recently lost their jobs, families who have lost a loved one, people who have limited knowledge of English, people with limited resources, and homeowners whose payment amounts have recently been raised.

You need to read this, even if your home is safe. A friend or relative who is not so fortunate may come to you for advice, and this will help save their home and your friendship!

The moment someone enters foreclosure, it not uncommon for them to be inundated with offers of help from many individuals with important, legal or governmental sounding names, some even claiming to have references from neighbors and nearby churches.

The person who will approach you in this type of scam is, more often than not, well-dressed, well groomed, and seems personable, kind, and trustworthy. Some will put you at ease by representing themselves to be of the same religion, to have been in the military, and others will claim to be working for non-profit organizations, or even some branch of the government.

These are some of the most common scams and what you can do to avoid being a victim.

1) The Disappearing Foreclosure Consultant – With a helpful sounding name and armed with references and a kind voice, the person who contacts you promises to help you stave off foreclosure with just an up-front fee for their time. The only problem is, as soon as the check clears their bank, you never see or hear from them again. The soon-to-be phantom performs little or no service, takes your money and you are left with your original problems and less time to try to save your home from foreclosure.

2) Loan Modification Helpers – Unlike Santa’s Helpers, in this scam you pay a fee up front to the “loan modification expert” to negotiate directly with your bank, only here you don’t get a present from Santa. If the expert really gains your trust, you also make your mortgage payments directly to the expert rather than to the mortgage company. Both the up front fee and the mortgage payments go directly into the pocket of the loan modification helper with the white beard and the kind voice and by the time you receive notice that your house is in foreclosure, this elf has disappeared and is back at the North Pole.

3) Just Sign Here Scams – As you face the prospect of foreclosure, one offer of help seems far better than all the others because it allows you to stay in your home as they save it from foreclosure. Unfortunately, in the papers you sign without having a lawyer look at them, you agree, knowingly or unknowingly, to sign over the ownership of the house and still remain responsible for the mortgage payments. This person either then sells your house, collects other fees from you or holds onto the house and evicts you.

4) Sale and Leaseback Scams – In this scam, if you are a homeowner who still has some equity in your home, you will be convinced to sign over title in your home and pay rent to the scam artist with the promise that they can bail you out, cure your problems and that you will be allowed to buy back the house later at a bargain price. All of this can be accomplished, but only if the property is in the consultant’s name. The payments you make go directly to the scam artist and eventually you will find yourself holding the bag. You may also find yourself evicted when you can no longer make the excessive rent payments. If you have lost your job and are having trouble making your house payments, even if you have equity in your home, you may be tempted by this scam. And while you would be entitled to the excess equity in your home if the house is sold in foreclosure, when you fall victim to this scam, you will lose the equity when it is either sold out from under you or the equity is stripped away by the new owner.

5) The Trust Me, I’m Religious or I Was In The Military Too Scam – These people posing as Christians, former members of the military or members of whatever social organizations you belong to come complete with references from members of your church or with military haircuts and promise that by adding them to the title to your home, they can rescue you from foreclosure, and have your credit repaired. Having gone through your mail or your trash, they probably know all about you. There’s no need to see a lawyer, they tell you. Just pray with them or have a drink with them and swap military stories. Just be sure to hold on to your wallet, don’t give them any money and don’t sign anything.

6) Sign Me Up Scotty And Get A New Loan Scam – In this scam, you are told that if you add the nice looking Good Samaritan onto your title by signing a Grant Deed or other legal instrument, (which you are told, you don’t really need to read) this friendly person can apply for a new loan, which, unfortunately, if approved, will leave you on the hook for both the old loan payments and the new loan payments, and any up front fees you pay for this service will disappear with this fraud.

7) Buy My Books, Take This Seminar And Make Millions Scam – You may see this offer on late night television, on roadside signs or even on billboards. Only this time, you are talked into buying materials that are full of worthless information that will do nothing to help you avoid foreclosure. Even worse, the materials you receive may offer advice that will land you in jail by telling you how to approach others in foreclosure and advise them that you can save them from foreclosure. The trouble is, what you will be doing is either practicing law without a license or acting as a credit repair agency or loan modification expert without a real estate license and without an advance fee agreement approved by the Commissioner of the California Department of Real Estate and without being registered with the California Department of Justice.

8)The Short Sale Scam – In this scam, the “short sale specialist” who contacts you promises his expertise to accomplish a short sale in a small amount of time that will protect your credit. There is a fee of course that would have been better spent on groceries. When the real estate market was better, there were additional wrinkles to this scam that today are more difficult to perpetrate due to the difficulty of selling homes in this economy.

9) It’s Like Magic – Here the homeowner is told to sign one thing, but the homeowner winds up signing something else altogether. In some instances of this bait and switch scam, the scam artist will serve as the notary as well. In conjunction with this and other scams, or in other variations, forgery may be utilized, and identity theft could be employed as well.

As you can see from the above examples, the current financial crisis has brought a lot of scammers into the loan modification, short sale and foreclosure arena and you really need the expert advice of an experienced attorney. I always apply the old saying of, “If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is!” I offer a free confidential initial consultation, where you can get your questions answered and I can help put you on the right track, so you don’t end up a being a victim.

March 18, 2010

Declaring Bankruptcy – what’s really involved?

Posted in Bankruptcy tagged at 6:24 pm by demetriagraves

Some clients I have spoken to, have the idea that you just declare bankruptcy and that solves all your financial problems. Suddenly the slate is wiped clean, with a simple declaration and there’s nothing else to worry about. Unfortunately the process is a little more involved than just the declaration of bankruptcy. So what is really involved in “declaring bankruptcy”?

Before doing anything, I’d recommend consulting with an experienced attorney who is familiar with handling bankruptcy. They’ll be able to go over the steps in detail and give you an outline of all the evidence and paperwork that needs to be compiled. But in a nutshell, here’s a brief outline of the process of declaring bankruptcy. First, you must file a petition with the United States Bankruptcy Court located for the district in the state in which you live.  The petition is a fairly straight-forward document with basic information about you.

Attached to that petition, you must file a Statement of Financial Affairs.  This document sets out financial information such as income that you have earned year-to-date; last year and the year before.  It will also require you to list any business income that you may have received or other type of income such as Social Security payments, child support payments and other sources of income.  You will also be required to list payments made to your creditors within certain time frames.  You will need to list any charitable contributions; whether you closed any financial accounts and the amount contained in those accounts.  You must also list any property that you transferred within certain time frames.

Additionally, you must file a series of schedules.  These schedules list a variety of information including your assets, a list of creditors, and income/expenses.  A detailed listing of your assets is critical because you are under an obligation to list your assets and if you want to protect your assets to the maximum extent available, you must list them.  You are required to state your income on a schedule and your expenses.  A listing of your creditors is also required divided up into secured creditors (creditors with collateral securing the obligation), unsecured creditors, and priority creditors–usually tax claims, child support obligations and other claims.

You must also file a Statement of Current Monthly Income (Form B22A or B22C).  You will need your paychecks or other evidence of income for the six months prior to the month you file to calculate your current monthly income.  If your income exceeds the median income for your state, you may have to complete the “means test”.  After completing the “means test” calculations, if applicable, you determine if you are eligible to file a chapter 7 and/or to see what amount of money must be paid to your unsecured creditors under a chapter 13 plan.

You can see, just from the above, there is a lot of information to compile for the court.  And we have not even gone to court, yet?

After these documents are filed, a creditors’ meeting is scheduled approximately four weeks after you file your petition.  At that meeting, you will meet with the trustee who will examine your case to ensure all is in order.  Your trustee is also looking for assets that can be liquidated or sold to pay your creditors if a chapter 7 case or to see that your plan complies with the Bankruptcy Code.  If all is in order, then, if you are in a chapter 7 case, your case will ultimately go to a discharge and your debts eliminated.  If you are in a chapter 13, you continue to pay your money to the trustee and once all the payments are made, your debts will be discharged and your mortgage current if included in the plan.

As you can see, there is far, far more required of a bankruptcy filing, than even most people realize.  If you are facing debt issues, it is worthwhile to consult with experienced bankruptcy attorney. I offer a free confidential initial consultation, where you can get your questions answered and you’ll be better informed of all your options.

Top 10 Questions about Loan Mods

Posted in Loan Modification tagged at 5:58 pm by demetriagraves

Let’s face it; times are tough for everyone these days. On the top of the list are homeowners struggling with their mortgage payments as well as other financial hardships. The loan modification process can be frustrating and confusing for many distressed homeowners. This is why having expert advice is so important, plus many of my clients have asked me to provide some basic information up front. To help you understand how the process works and what to expect, here are the Top 10 Questions I get asked about Loan Mods and some simple answers:

1. What exactly is a loan modification?

A loan modification is a permanent change in one or more terms of a borrower’s home loan, allowing the loan to be reinstated, and resulting in a lower payment the homeowner can afford.

2. Can the lender include late charges in the Loan Modification?

According to HUD (US Department of Housing and Urban Development), the accrued late charges should be waived by the lender at the time of the loan workout. This varies depending on the type of loan, but it’s wise to always request a complete breakdown and description of all fees and penalties from the lender.

3. Can the bank require an interior inspection of the property if they have concerns about its condition?

Yes, the lender may conduct any review it deems necessary to verify that the property does not have physical conditions which might adversely impact the value.

4. How do I know if I will qualify for a loan modification?

The main criterion your lender is looking at is your ability to make the new modified payment now and in the future. The lender needs proof of your income and a complete and accurate financial statement detailing your income and expenses, to show them that, if granted the modification, you will be able to afford the new, lower payment.

5. Do I have to be currently delinquent on my payments to get a loan modification?

Most lenders are now accepting applications from homeowners who are not currently delinquent, but who are able to prove to their bank that due to imminent interest rate increases or other factors, they will no longer be able to afford the loan payment under the terms of their loan. It is advisable to contact your lender as soon as possible to start the loan modification process, whether you are delinquent or not.

6. What is an acceptable Hardship situation?

Each homeowner has a unique set of circumstances that caused them to fall behind on their home loan, but generally the lenders consider divorce/separation, loss of income, death of spouse, co-borrower or family member issues, illness, job relocation, or military service to be acceptable reasons to consider a loan modification. A compelling hardship letter is a very important part of a successful application.

7. Will a loan modification help me stop foreclosure?

Yes, that is the goal. By working with your lender to find a loan workout solution, your loan is brought up-to-date and the foreclosure process is halted.

8. Can my missed payments be added back into my new loan modification?

Yes, the missed payments can be added to the new loan balance and spread out over the term to allow the loan to be brought up-to-date.

9. What are the advantages of having an attorney represent me?

An experienced attorney knows your legal rights and is experienced in dealing with many lenders. A good attorney knows what it takes to get your application approved. Do you really want to risk losing your home by not getting the right legal advice? Beware of loan modification companies that require a substantial up front fee, as unfortunately there are many scams to do with loan modification.

10. So how do I get started to modify my loan?

Before contacting your bank’s loss mitigation department or a loan modification company, I’d recommend that you contact me for a fee initial consultation. So you can learn as much as you can about the loan modification process, and you can make informed decisions. There is a lot of information online about loan modifications, but it can be difficult to get all the information you need in an easy to understand format. I’m here to answer all your questions and give you as much support as you need.

Everything you need to know about prenuptial agreements

Posted in Prenuptial Agreement tagged at 5:55 pm by demetriagraves

Nothing can kill romance faster than the word prenup. But with about one in three of all first marriages ending in divorce, and 50 percent of second or third ones bombing out, a prenup is smart financial planning.

Marriage is always considered as a long-term bonding and a social and legal association of two people who intend to stay together for the rest of their lives. Unforeseen circumstances, conflict of interests, and other situations or conditions leads to extreme decisions like divorce and separation. To overcome the odds of divorce or separation, the legal system has devised outcomes that may arise, in order to protect the interest of both the parties, when legal separation happens. One such agreement is commonly known as prenuptial agreement, also widely known as antenuptial or premarital agreement.

Marriage is not just an emotional and physical union — it’s also a financial union. A prenup and the discussions that go with it can help ensure the financial well-being of the marriage.

A prenuptial agreement is a contract made between two people before the marriage or civil union that outlines how assets will be distributed in the event of a divorce or death. Such agreements have existed for thousands of years in some form or another, particularly in European and Far Eastern cultures, where royal families have always made provisions for protecting their wealth and many marriages, especially those of the wealthy which primarily were financial transactions.

A prenuptial agreement typically has many clauses but it commonly includes provisions for spousal support and division of property when a couple files for divorce. Some other important terms may include forfeiture of assets when a divorce happens on the grounds of adultery; terms related to guardianship are also included. A Pre-nup has some crucial points that form an important part of this agreement, like voluntary execution of agreement (should not be forcibly done); the agreement must be in writing (oral pre-nup not considered), complete and fair disclosure at the time of execution, moral sense should be maintained, and should be executed by both the parties, not their attorneys, in presence of a notary public.

You don’t have to be a Rockefeller or Trump to need a premarital agreement. A person who has managed to save $30,000 may be more protective of their little nest egg than someone who has millions.

You should consider having a prenup if you fall into any of the following categories:

You have assets such as a home, stock or retirement funds
Own all or part of a business
You may be receiving an inheritance
You have children and/or grandchildren from a previous marriage
One of you is much wealthier than the other
One of you will be supporting the other through college
You have loved ones who need to be taken care of, such as elderly parents
You have or are pursuing a degree or license in a potentially lucrative profession such as medicine
You could see a big increase in income because your business is taking off, or that garage band you play in has just gotten a contract with a big record company.

So how does one broach this touchy subject? First, do it as early as possible. The mention of a prenup shouldn’t come as a surprise if you and your sweetheart have been open with each other as the relationship became serious.  Let your intended know you believe these agreements are important and that you’d like to go over the topic. You have to be real candid about why you want the agreement. It’s not very romantic, but it’s also important to appreciate what the other party’s concerns are.

If you have questions, or would like more information about prenups, please contact me for a complimentary initial consultation. I’m also able to give advice if you’ve been asked to sign a prenup and you’re not sure about the conditions of the agreement.

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