Thanks for inquiring about how to quickly find “relief” from the harsh collection activities of your creditors through Garrett Law Offices. We are a law firm providing services as a federally designated debt relief agency and have over 25 years of experience helping people just like you find such relief under the bankruptcy code. With a properly handled bankruptcy, you can eliminate many kinds of debt and even stop garnishments, repossessions, and foreclosure. We have thousands of delighted and grateful clients. You can see our ratings and read our reviews at AVVO.com. We know you may have understandable reluctance to take this step. To help, we intend to make sure you have a great experience with our office! It’s bad enough suffering with the anxiety which comes from debt let alone dealing with an unsympathetic, expensive, or inexperienced law firm who wants you to do things on its terms. We believe bankruptcy should be confidential, convenient, professionally handled and competitively priced.
— David W. Garrett
What is Pre-Bankruptcy Counseling and why is it required?
Everyone who files for bankruptcy relief now must have a "credit briefing" before they file. A credit briefing is usually a 90-minute interview online or on the phone with a trained pre-bankruptcy counselor approved by the court. A certificate will be issued by the counselor after you have finished your interview, which must be given t the court for your case to go through.
Expect to spend anywhere from $15 to $50. Counseling can be done individually if you are filling individually, but must be done jointly is both spouses are filing.
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How long is a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy plan?
Bankruptcy cases generally run not less than 36 months to not more than 60 months from the date of first payment. There is a “control” date of 60 months on the trustee reports and correspondence so the deadline can be tracked but that doesn’t necessarily mean your case will go 60 months. How long your case will go is a function of the claims that get filed, the payments you make, the way the Plan is written, and whether or not you surpassed the Means Test threshold. You and I don’t control when the case is completed. The trustee’s office will let us know. Be patient. You must complete the Plan to receive the benefit and some plans must go 60 months.
What happens after I file for bankruptcy?
After your case is filed you will receive by mail a substantial amount of correspondence from your trustee’s office and the court. Read everything thoroughly. You are responsible to comply with everything that is asked of you and you risk dismissal if you fail while you are under the court’s protection from your creditors.
You should take the second required course called Debtor Education as soon as possible after your case is filed. You should now have your case number. A handout was provided by my office to you earlier which has directions to follow. It also contained information about the first course you took.
An interview called a “341” Meeting of Creditors is scheduled about a month after we file. Usually, only the trustee, you, and I are present for the meeting. Creditors rarely attend. You will shortly or may have already received a notice from the court telling you where, when, and what to bring to the Meeting. Some of the trustees have orientation classes you must attend as well. Bring your recent paystubs, bank statements, social security cards, and driver’s licenses to the interview. The trustees will give you several very important handouts to read. Hang on to these for future reference. Virtually any question you have about bankruptcy can be answered by reading the handouts or visiting the trustee’s websites. They will give you their web addresses or you can google them easily.
More often than not the trustees will ask you for even more information and documentation at the interview. If you filed a chapter 13 case they also frequently request amendments to your Petition and Plan. Don’t be alarmed. I will prepare the amendments for you. It is your responsibility to sign and return them immediately. If I ask you for a document you believe you have already provide please send it again. It may not have scanned or faxed properly.
Timeliness and full compliance are probably the most important things in the bankruptcy process at this point. Move heaven and earth to do what the trustee or I ask you to do. You will not be asked for things that are not absolutely necessary. Our goal is to get your case approved by the court so you can obtain the relief you are after. Bankruptcy is a challenging but rewarding process. The court is very strict about the requirements. If you are doing a chapter 13 your first full payment must be made to your trustee’s “Payment Address” within 30 days of filing. Look on the trustee’s websites for the correct address to send it to. You can pay it in installments if you like but it must be paid in full within the 30 days. Keep making payments directly until the first time you see your payment taken either out of your bank account or paycheck. It takes time to set up the automatic withdrawals for you and you don’t want to miss a payment. Non-payment is a basis for dismissal of your case. This is a “second bite of the apple” for you with your creditors and the court is very strict about your compliance.
After we have the attended the interview with the trustee and if you have filed a chapter 13 case a “Confirmation Hearing” is scheduled. You do not have to attend the confirmation unless I advise you to do so. The hearing is occasionally postponed however because there are still things which must be done for your case.
With regard to tax refunds our bankruptcy district regards them as “disposable income” and so they must be endorsed over your trustee. If you have an important financial need not anticipated in your budget you can apply to retain a portion of the refund. The tax returns themselves must be sent directly by you to the trustee’s business office by May 1st of each year in any event. Cross out all but the last 4 numbers of your social security numbers.
I prefer that you text me at 231-735-8235 or email me at [email protected] rather than leave a phone message. I am often in court or on the road so I don’t have your file with me to consult in order to give you well considered advice on the phone. I usually can get back to you by text or email within 24 hours. You can also mail your questions to my office.
When you are asked for copies of documents or your signature please do your best to scan the paperwork into PDF format and email it to me. A second choice would be faxing it to 800-747-6655. A third choice would be pushing it through my Muskegon mail slot. A final choice would be mailing it to my Muskegon office. Do not snap photos. They have insufficient quality.
9 Reasons to choose to file a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?
1) I will feel better about filing for bankruptcy if I at least do my best to pay back what I can to my creditors over a period of time and then get a discharge. I incurred the debt so I should do what I can to
2) I want to increase the likelihood I will not lose any of my property because it might not be fully exempt in a Chapter 7 case.
3) I want to increase the likelihood any transfers of property I may have made recently will not be undone. I am willing to pay my creditors a little more to keep things as they are especially if I transferred property to a relative. I have/will disclose any transfers to the trustee, of course.
4) I hope to delay my scheduled student loan payments.
5) I hope to reduce the interest rate paid on my vehicles.
6) On vehicles that I have been paying on for the last 3 years or so I hope to reduce the principle due my creditors to what the vehicles are worth.
7) I hope to limit the interest/penalties on income tax arrears I may owe.
8) I think I will benefit in the future from following a Chapter 13 budget now since it will help me with my spending habits.
9) I believe filing a Chapter 13 will provide more flexibility and adaptability for my financial situation.
How to expedite the Debt Relief process:
You are always welcome to make an appointment at any of our offices. However, if you would like to speed up the process of obtaining relief from your creditors please get a pen and answer all the questions as completely as you can in this package and mail it to our business office at 1732 Lakeshore Drive in Muskegon, Michigan 49441 to start the process. We will then contact you and take it from there. Keep in mind Garrett Law Offices does not represent you until we have both signed a Retainer Agreement.
It is important to carefully evaluate your budget and circumstances before choosing which type of bankruptcy to file. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy you jump to the end of the process right away and all of your unsecured debt is forgiven without a payment plan. However, you must be able to demonstrate you have no reasonable ability to repay even a portion of your debt in order to qualify for Chapter 7. Otherwise, you risk what’s called a “bad-faith” dismissal of your case altogether. There are significant pros and cons in choosing which type of bankruptcy to file. That’s why experienced attorneys do a thorough evaluation first. The alternative is a milder form of bankruptcy relief called Chapter 13.
A good way to think about Chapter 13 “Ability Based Bankruptcy Relief” is as follows: “You do your best, they dump the rest.” In other words, you make a 3 to 5 year commitment to pay whatever your budget says you can afford on all of your unsecured debt (with one monthly payment through a bankruptcy trustee) and at the end of the case the rest of your debt including interest and late fees will be forgiven. Examples of unsecured debt are credit card debt, medical bills, repossessions and foreclosures. As a general rule if you can afford at least $150 per month for this purpose you should consider Chapter 13 bankruptcy.