The increase in exemptions available in New Jersey to protect the equity in your home has made it easier to keep your home in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. As of April 1, 2019 the exemption a home owner is allowed under federal exemptions, which are used in New Jersey, increased to $25,150.00 per home owner. For example, if you and your spouse own a home in, say, Cherry Hill, NJ or Voorhees, NJ and the home is worth $200,000.00 and there is a mortgage of $130,000.00 you would be able to file a chapter 7 and keep your home as long as you are able to continue making your mortgage payments and as long as you meet the other chapter 7 eligibility requirements such as those relating to income. That is because there would be no reason for a trustee to sell your home since there would be no benefit to your creditors. If a trustee sold the home in this example, the trustee would have realtor and other fees of about $20,000.00, the mortgage of $130,000.00 and you and your spouse could protect from creditors a total of $50,300.00. Consequently, if you are in need of a bankruptcy but are concerned you will lose your home, you should immediately consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney
When a bankruptcy is filed the individuals filing are allowed to protect a certain amount of equity in their assets and keep those exempt assets. In New Jersey and Pennsylvania debtors filing bankruptcy can protect assets using Federal or state exemptions. Except for certain types of assets, most bankruptcies in New Jersey or Pennsylvina rely on Federal Exemptions. Those Federal Exemptions increased as of April 1, 2019. For example, the amount of equity in your residence increased from $23,675.00 per owner to $25,150.00 per owner. Household goods and furnishing exemptions increased from $12,625 to $13,400.00. Other increases include motor vehicle from $3,775.00 to $4,000.00, jewelry from $1,600.00 to $1700.00 and proceeds from personal injury lawsuit from $23,675.00 to $25,150.00. As a result, even when filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy often the debtor will not lose any assets in the process.
A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy can eliminate obligations from a Judgment of Divorce that cannot be eliminated in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Neither will eliminate domestic support obligations such as child support or spousal support. However, if there are other obligations relating to a property settlement agreement or an allocation of liabilities, those obligations can be reduced or eliminated in a chapter 13 but not in a chapter 7. This is because the exception to discharge section that applies to chapter 7 basically makes all divorce related liabilities nondischargeable but the exception section for chapter 13 only applies to domestic support obligations. Because of these differences, if you are filing a bankruptcy after a divorce, it is imortant to discuss with your attorney all obligations under the Judgment for Divorce because it may make more sense to file a chapter 13 when at first blush the case may seem appropriate for a chapter 7.
You can build your credit after bankruptcy. Sometimes clients will come into my office in Cherry Hill, NJ and express concern that if they file bankruptcy they will not have credit again for 10 years. That is not accurate. In fact many times credit scores of clients are already low from missed payments and filing will actually lead to improvement in credit score. If a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is filed, approximately three months later the individual receives their discharge. If they own a vehicle with payments and they have reaffirmed the debt, they are already on their way to reestablishing credit since their credit report will show the vehicle payments. After the bankruptcy is completed, often in less than one year an opportunity to obtain a credit card will arise. While avoiding credit cards is a good policy, it may be helpful to get a credit card with a low limit, use it for a small purchase like gasoline or groceries, and pay it off each month. At that point, your defaulted unsecured debt will have been eliminated and the current status on car payments and a credit card will have you well on your way to reestablishing credit.
Bankruptcy trustee suing college to recover tuition. What happens when you pay your child's college tuition and then file a chapter 7 bankruptcy within the next couple of years? Some bankruptcy trustees are suing the colleges to get the money back to pay the creditors in the bankruptcy. The theory is the parent did not have a legal obligation to pay the tuition and received no benefit so the payment was a fraudulent conveyance and therefore must be returned. Some courts have agreed with this argument and required the college to return the money. In that case the student now owes the unpaid tuition. Some courts more recently have determined that the college does not need to return the money because the parent is receiving a benefit such as making child independent so parent does not have to support. However, there is certainly a risk at this point when a bankruptcy is filed after tuition payments were made.
At one time or another, most people have been asked to cosign a loan. The request is made because the credit of the borrower prevents that borrower from getting credit on their own. When someone agrees to cosign a loan, they are doing more then just lending their credit. They are putting themselves at financial risk in the event the borrower does not pay. For example, if you cosign on a credit card and the borrower files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and eliminates their own liability, the cosigner remains responsible for the entire debt. In certain circumstances, such as the cosigning of a car loan, if the borrower files bankruptcy but decides to keep vehicle and continue to pay, the cosigner is ok as long as payments are made. However, if payments are not made and the car is repossessed, you are liable for the deficiency. Before you cosign a debt for anyone, know the risks.
In order to proceed with a bankruptcy, federal, state and local tax returns that were required to be filed must be filed for the last four years in a Chapter 13 and for the last year in a Chapter 7. In other words, if you did not make enough income to file a tax return then you do not need to file that return just for the bankruptcy. If you are a Pennsylvania resident, you must file a PA tax return if you had income of more than $33.00. While this is a nominal amount, not all money received counts as income, such as social security. Pennsylvania law lists eight classes of income, including compensation, net profits from business, income from rents, dividends, interest and gambling losses among others. Consequently, if a bankruptcy is being considered, make sure tax returns are filed
The Law Office of Robert Braverman, LLC has recently opened a law office at 200 Campbell Drive, Willingboro New Jersey to better serve the individuals and businesses of Willingboro and nearby cities such as Westampton, Willingboro and Burlington City, NJ. Assisting clients with financial issues in bankruptcy, including Chapter 7, Chapter 13, Chapter 11 and Chapter 12 and debt negotiation will remain the primary focus of the law firm.
When the Bankruptcy Code was amended, one of the purposes was to make it more difficult for high income earners to eliminate their debt in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. As a result, sections were added to the Bankruptcy Code which essentially add some limitations on expenses if you make more than the average family your size in your state. However, the "means test" as it is called, only applies if the debts are "primarily" consumer debts. If your business related debts, such as debts from personal guarantees for a failed business, constitute more than 50% of your debt, the means test does not apply. This generally makes it easier to fit into a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. New Jersey courts may interpret whether a debt is a consumer or business debt differently from other states, so it is best to consult an experienced bankruptcy attorney to make this determination