10 Guidelines for Hiring a Texas Bankruptcy Attorney

May 28, 2010

Filing for bankruptcy is one of those life changing events. But it need not be problematic. In fact, filing  bankruptcy can be a positive learning experience. You’ll better know how the system works; if you ever  have to file again, you can know the laws well. However, one big step which will impact how successful you are is hiring the right attorney. For Texas residents, you can look in the phone book and see hundreds in your area. Go online and find thousands in the state. So how do you differentiate them?

Well, first let’s go over the looking, then we’ll go over the doing.

Search Online

While the phone book is a good barometer, especially for local Texas bankruptcy attorneys, searching online can give you far more information. How much can the typical lawyer post in the phone book? Some might have a page and pay a lot of money; others may just have a name and number. If you go online, you can find pages of material for most reputable Texas bankruptcy attorneys in your area.

Go Local
And you can still look locally. Search “Texas Bankruptcy Attorneys” and you’ll get a lot of results. Going local is a must. This lawyer will likely have experience in the local court, you can meet them with ease, and you can avoid long drives and expenses.

Ask for Referrals

Another good reference for finding attorneys is through referrals This does not always work out; you definitely should not hire based solely on a referral. But you can get some leads on experienced bankruptcy attorneys in your area.

Look for References
You also want to know how many people this attorney has helped. Ask for references and relevant experience. You can find much of this on many attorney’s websites.

Query 5 to 10 Attorneys

Once you’ve decided a suitable approach, the next guideline is to not settle on only 1-2 options. Try and call or email at least 5-10 local bankruptcy attorneys.

Don’t Go for the First
One mistake many make is hiring the first attorney who offers a good deal. Just because they charge less does not mean they are less qualified, but be sure to meet with more than one.

Advertisements Good or Bad?

If you see advertisements on television for an attorney, many of which can help with bankruptcy, you may wonder if that’s relevant. Yes, any attorney who proves they want to help, have experience, and are affordable should be considered. You may want the personal touch of a small firm, as most big firms do put more money into advertising (but that’s not bad).

Know Experience

Once you consult with several, the next guideline is to look over experience. It need not be the #1 lawyer on your list; sometimes a lower price comes from a suitable but less experienced attorney. However, experience is where you see who has the time, ability, and effort needed to successfully help you file.

Consider Price
Price is the #1 issue for many. This makes sense: you are declaring bankruptcy because you cannot pay certain bills. So why hire the lawyer who wants thousands of dollars? Sometimes because they’re worth it. You definitely don’t want the highest priced attorney in most cases, but you do want one with relevant experience and ability.

But Factor Beyond Price
The final guideline is that you should consider price but not as your only concern. If you go to a lawyer who has little experience and offers you the best deal, you have to wonder why. If on the other hand one sounds good but quotes you thousands more than you can afford, think with your pocket book. Consider price but not only price,  factoring in experience, time available, as well as how helpful and courteous they are.

Are Bankruptcies On the Rise?

May 26, 2010

While job creation is growing exponentially as our economy rebuilds, bankruptcies are rising.

How is the job situation improving? Just in March of 2010, U.S. employers added well over 150,000 jobs. A recent  Huffington Post report showed how not only were jobs on the rise, but also wages and salaries are improving. Also, people are now more confident that the economy is coming back. Still, the reasons for job creation are clear: for 2 years jobs were lost, and now businesses are rebuilding and needing workers to do grow.

With this new rush of growth in one of the most important parts of any economy,job creation, you might expect bankruptcies to finally be lowering. Unfortunately, this simply is not the case so far in 2010. In  fact, just in March of 2010 over 150,000 bankruptcies were filed, more than in March of 2009. This is bad  news, but it’s not surprising in that we have yet to effectively stop the problems consumers have had with things such as subprime mortgages and housing values lowering.

With new job creation, there may be more interest in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. With better salaries, many may not have the option of Chapter 7 bankruptcy. And with the problem we still have in housing, you may be able to cut your losses. That may be why so many are still filing bankruptcy, but medical bills should also be considered.

Medical fees have been, perhaps surprisingly, the biggest problem in terms of debt. A recent study pointed out how the majority of bankruptcies were not because of mortgages, but because of medical bills. The news is that this may change very soon with medical reform passed by the president and government.

What are your options for filing  bankruptcy? For individuals, it’s no different today than last year. You can file under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. If you are married, you have the options of individual or joint bankruptcy.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is still the most common, even with new bankruptcy code stating how your income cannot be too high. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is more common than ever because of eligibility,and also for home owners who are not willing to lose their residence in exchange for discharging debts.

Joint bankruptcy is when you and your spouse file together, a very common occurrence. There are  decisions to be made in joint bankruptcy: if all the debts are from one person, why not file individually?

Beyond filing bankruptcy, there are alternatives. You can try to handle the problems yourself. It can be daunting, but is possible.

If you’re unsure of your options, consider contacting a bankruptcy attorney for a consultation. You can ask many questions to an attorney before you even hire him or her. Also, if you’re worried about fees, filing bankruptcy itself is very cheap, and experienced attorneys are often willing to work with you on rates. Just don’t wait too long before taking action; it could cost you valuable time, money, and assets.

Texas Rangers Hope Bankruptcy Will Move Sale Forward

May 25, 2010

Officials with the Texas Rangers baseball club and Hicks Sports Group (HSG) hope that a voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing will allow a deal negotiated and finalized in January to finally be completed.

So far, creditors for the team and HSG have successfully blocked the sale by saying that the price agreed on is well below market value. The Rangers Baseball Express, the group headed by Chuck Greenberg and current Rangers president Nolan Ryan, agreed to purchase the team for around $570 million, according to reports published at the time.

While most say the voluntary bankruptcy filing will make the sale a done deal, it is far more complicated than that. The filing seeks to separate the ball club from its parent company’s debts. In the bankruptcy filing, $75 million from the proceeds of the sale will go to the creditors of HSG as the Ranger’s portion of the parent company’s debt.

The rest of the proceeds will go to other unsecured creditors if the court approves the current sale agreement.

Former players Alex Rodriguez and Kevin Millwood will get the $24.9 million and $12.9 million owed to them. Other former players will get between $1.4 and $3.9 million a piece.

The remaining proceeds, reported to be between $280 and $290 million will go to the parent company to allow it to satisfy its debts, which are estimated to be over $500 million.

What is Texas Joint Bankruptcy?

May 24, 2010

If you’re interested in filing joint bankruptcy, it’s time to call an experienced attorney. Why? Joint bankruptcy is different from traditional bankruptcy, and has different laws. This post, however, is a very good start on learning the basics.

What is Texas joint bankruptcy?
In Texas, the laws are a bit different as it is in each state, namely via consideration of eligibility. Depending on your family size, if you want to file under Chapter 7 you must meet eligibility requirements. If not, you can file Chapter 13. We’ll go over both in this piece.

Here are the current median incomes for Texas.
1 person – $38,801
2 Person Family – $55,660
3 Person Family – $59,011
4 Person Family – $66, 145
If you have a larger family, the rates increase.

What is Chapter 7 joint bankruptcy?
Chapter 7 is a liquidation proceeding where you discharge debts. That means, on paper, you will be eliminating the majority of your debts –such as credit card, mortgage, and medical bills — and getting a fresh start. For joint bankruptcy, filing together can save you some time and money. If you file together, all your joint debts are eliminated. However, if you choose not to file with your spouse, you can. The spouse will still be responsible for his or her debts in this instance.

Filing jointly is a very simple process an experienced Texas bankruptcy attorney can help with. Not only can you save time and eliminate debts, but the filing fee, which is $299, will only occur once (small, but it’s money). You can also save time on paperwork.

If on the other hand you are recently divorced, you may want to go it alone and let the former spouse handle his or her debts separately. This can be problematic if the divorce and financial considerations are not resolved.

If you want to file joint Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must first meet federal eligibility requirements, which allow most everyone to file unless you have hundreds of thousands in debt (in that case, you definitely need to contact a lawyer for some expert help). Chapter 13 bankruptcy does not discharge debts, but if for example you just lost your job and the spouse is paying the majority of bills, it can be considered to buy you extra time to find more work.

What are the advantages of each bankruptcy?

Advantages of Chapter 7
-Discharge the majority of your debts.
-You have the option to file jointly or individually.

Advantages of Chapter 13

-You can rework your bills so you can afford them.
-You can file together and  stop a home foreclosure.

There are disadvantages to filing bankruptcy in the first place, such as being on your record for up to 10 years. Also, if you or your spouse is fine and needs no bankruptcy, jointly filing will be on the credit report.

In the end, filing Texas joint bankruptcy requires the expertise of an experienced attorney who can go over the details of your case and offer advice.

Problem – What if You’re Not Eligible for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

May 21, 2010

What if you find out you’re not eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy? For Texas bankruptcy, this problem is unfortunately common. However, many are still eligible for bankruptcy. Under new bankruptcy code, you are eligible based on income. For Texas residents, the numbers are as follows.

1 Person – Annual Income Less Than $38,801
Family of 2 – Annual Income of Less than $55,660
Family of 3 – Annual Income of Less Than $59,011
Family of 4 – Annual Income of Less than $66,145
Add $7,500 in most cases per any more family members.

That’s the laws for Texas, and are different for other states. If you, for instance, are a married family of 3 including one child, and you make $50,000 combined, you are likely eligible. If you make $65,000 combined and you live in Texas, you are not eligible. Again, these are the  numbers for Texas median incomes. For other states, look on the web for the 2010 annual median income and you can find out.

What is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
For Texas and other states, the main goals of Chapter 7 bankruptcy are pretty common. One of the biggest reasons individuals and families file for bankruptcy is because of medical bills; some studies say as many as 60% of bankruptcies are caused by medical problems. Chapter 7, a liquidation proceeding, can eliminate these debts.

What if You Make too Much Money?

Okay, so you’re not eligible for Chapter 7. What are your options? You can still file under Chapter 13. Chapter 13 is a debt  repayment plan; you pay back debts instead of discharging them. The good news is, there are key advantages to Chapter 13.

What if You’re Behind on Mortgage Payments?

One of the biggest benefits of Chapter 13 bankruptcy is being able to keep your home. Say you are married, you and your spouse make $80,000 year, and you have two children. You make too much, for Texas residents at least, to file for Chapter 7. But, if you own a home and want to keep it, you can successfully head off foreclosure with Chapter 13. How? Chapter 13 comes with an “automatic stay” where your creditors cannot seize any property. If you are eligible, if you can maintain mortgage payments, you can save your home.

How Do You Qualify for Chapter 13?
If you make too much for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Chapter 13 is a good option. Now, you still have to be eligible. For every citizen the of the U.S. there is a set amount for Chapter 13 eligibility. You must have secured debts less than $1,010,650, and unsecured debts of $336,900. Most are easily eligible.

Can You Negotiate Outside Bankruptcy?
Yes, there are alternatives to bankruptcy. Bankruptcy has negatives; it would be wrong to say otherwise. But more often than not, simply negotiating with creditors or hoping you get enough money to pay back debts does not work. If you are one of the many with high credit card and/or medical debt, Chapter 7 is your best option. If you have a high paying job but are falling behind on bills and mortgage payments, Chapter 13 is very good.

6 Myths of Bankruptcy

May 19, 2010

Filing bankruptcy ruins your credit … you’ll never be able to get a credit card or loan again … and your possessions will all be taken.

Or: your debts will all fly away, your home will be safe no matter how far behind on payments you are, and your credit will improve.

With some creativity, you likely could come up with your own common “myths” of bankruptcy. But there is nothing wrong with mistaking the benefits and negatives of filing bankruptcy. These are all common online.

This posts shows you 6 myths you no longer need to believe. Some you may know, but read on, because some may surprise you.

1-You’ll Lose Everything
In most Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases, actually over 90 percent, you lose absolutely no assets. And the point of Chapter 13 bankruptcy is that you pay over an extended period so you lose nothing. The myth is that you 1) will lose your home and car and 2) you won’t be able to get them back. In fact, if you work with a trustee in the rare case you might lose something, you can negotiate to keep items such as your car. With Chapter 13, you can put an automatic stay on your home and stop any foreclosure proceedings if you are not too far behind.

2-You’ll Eliminate All Debt
Taxes, alimony, and child support cannot be eliminated. And with Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you are paying back everything, just typically over an extended period of time. Chapter 7 bankruptcy can eliminate credit, medical, and mortgage debt.

3-You won’t have to pay on your house
You still have to stay current on your home in order for the bankruptcy to work out. For instance, if you file Chapter 7, you can eliminate that debt, but you’ll lose the house. With Chapter 13, you must stay current on the mortgage or you’ll lose it.

4-Credit cards will no longer be an option
Let’s get back to the positives. Bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for, in most cases, 10 years. However, you will still get many offers for credit cards and you will have the opportunity to rebuild your credit. The interest rates on the credit cards may be high, but if you stay up on them it can be beneficial in rebuilding your credit.

5-Filing Bankruptcy Will Improve Credit Scores

Just because you eliminate debts with bankruptcy does not mean you get a clean slate. As noted above, a bankruptcy will show up on your credit report for 10 years. It’s not going to ruin you, but it certainly won’t improve your credit.

6-You won’t be able to make large purchases

You can still make purchases. Just because you file bankruptcy does not mean all options are off the table. You can still get credit cards, loans, and buy properties. You may have to work on rebuilding your credit, but if everyone who filed bankruptcy could never make a large purchase again there would be far less car and home owners.

How Many People Filed Bankruptcy in 2009 and Why?

May 17, 2010

How many people filed bankruptcy in 2009?

The numbers are not surprising being the troubled economy we had in Texas and in the country in 2009. The estimates first noted about 300 million people lived in the U.S. in 2009. Of those, about one in 300 individuals filed bankruptcy. That means over 1 million people filed for bankruptcy in 2009 (some estimates at about 1.1 million).

It’s hard to estimate exactly how many filed in each state, but there are already some projections saying 2010 will have even more bankruptcy filings.

Why are so many people filing for bankruptcy?

The statistics vary on this particular issue. The clear result of bankruptcy is not being able to pay off debts; that’s the leading factor involved in bankruptcy. Surprisingly, foreclosure because of subprime mortgages or other reasons was not the main reason bankruptcy was filed. As noted in, “Leading Causes of Bankruptcy,” medical bills were a key reason for bankruptcy.

Foreclosure Rates
How many homes were foreclosed upon in 2009? Real numbers are hard to find, but the rates in 2008 said 861,664 families lost their homes. The numbers were up last year.

Why are medical bills so problematic?

Chapter 7 bankruptcy was used in the majority of bankruptcy filings in 2009. Why? Medical bills can sometimes get out of hand. And the best way to eliminate some if not all medical bills is Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The problem stems from families with little to no insurance being given extremely high medical bills. Consider that a family member has a major heart condition or other problem which calls for a hospital stay, and this person is not covered in any way or has minimal coverage and has to pay out of pocket.

The costs over days of staying in a hospital, tests, and operations are incredibly high. It’s scary for families, but one solution is filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Chapter 13, which does not eliminate debt, can also be used.

What are other causes of bankruptcy?

If you fear your car or another valuable asset may be repossessed, you can also file for bankruptcy to save it.  If you just lost your job and had to pay bills with your credit card to live, you might have high debt and few options. There are countless reasons to file bankruptcy, but what are the key advantages?

Benefits of Bankruptcy
Clearly, bankruptcy is not for everyone and there are some alternatives such as consulting with those you owe money to. In this case, you might be able to negotiate. However, Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a good option if you have high medical bills, credit card debt, or other debts (some you can’t eliminate, such as taxes). You should know that with Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may lose your home. Chapter 13, which is essentially a repayment plan designed to buy you time to pay bills, is in fact the better options if you want to keep your home.

Chapter 7 or Chapter 13?

It’s pretty clear that each have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Chapter 7: You can eliminate most debt, but you can lose assets
Chapter 13: You can save your home from foreclosure and car from repossession, but you have to pay back the bills over 3-5 years.

If you are really interested in this process, consult with a professional bankruptcy attorney in your area.

Problem: Choosing Texas Attorneys

May 14, 2010

If you’re looking for a Texas attorney in any part of the state, you likely see you have literally thousands of options. If you want a bankruptcy attorney, there hundreds for every part of the state — north , south, east, and west. So how do you choose one?

This blog guide helps. You can save time, money, and headaches by using a query, review, and consulting process.

The Query for Texas Attorneys

As of this writing, you have over one million options for lawyers in the U.S. That can be daunting number, but if you’re looking for a specialist attorney, say a bankruptcy attorney, you can cut that number down quite a bit. While there are still thousands of bankruptcy attorneys, there are those who specialize in your area of Texas.

So you can narrow them down by specialty and state. The next step is the basic lawyer query for hiring one. Using the bankruptcy attorney example, you can find local ones by looking online. You can also look phone books, but the web is the prime place to find attorney to query.

A simple query lets the attorney know you’re interested. They might be too busy too take on your case. They might not be in your area. And they might lack the experience you need — one can be just out of law school and starting out. In either case, you can review them based on price, availability, experience, and skill. In your initial query, phone calls are good but if you have no time, most attorneys in Texas give emails.

The Review for Texas Attorneys
If you’re interested in hiring a Texas bankruptcy attorney, you can save time by 1) focusing on local firms in your area and 2) reviewing experience. If the attorney is local and has the experience you need, the next step is to review their price and availability. The attorney may try overcharging you; on the other hand, you might save thousands if they offer to help for a low price.

The attorney may in fact be too busy to take your case, but says they can still help. In this case, you should consider that time is essential, that they might move your case to the bottom of their file, and there won’t be much movement for weeks if not months. This is why you should review how much time they can initially consult with you; this shows availability.

Experience can mean a higher price. In order to hire an experienced Texas bankruptcy attorney, you can review how long they’ve been working in bankruptcy, typical cases they take, and perhaps client testimonials. These are can prove experience.

Who do you hire?

There can be, in some cases, a big rush to get an attorney. If you fear you’ll lose your Texas home to foreclosure, if you’ve been charged with a felony, or the multitude of other Texas law problems,  you should still review them. It might take extra time, but it will save you far more time and money than you might think.

Common Questions on Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Texas

May 12, 2010

There are are many important questions when it comes to filing personal bankruptcy, so here on Higgins and Associates Texas law blog, we’ll be answering common questions.

For this post, let’s focus on Chapter 7 bankruptcy. What it is; how much it costs with lawyer fees; what you need to do to file; if you’re eligible, and more.

What is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the most common form of bankruptcy for filers who want to eliminate debt. You will file with the courts, usually and preferably with the help of a lawyer, and a trustee will be appointed. A “trustee” is someone who handles the liquidation of any nonexempt assets. Your car or some other asset may be worth more.

Do you always lose assets with Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

One of the disadvantages of Chapter 7 is that you may lose some assets. In bankruptcy, the less you have the less you lose. If you are jobless, rent an apartment, and have few assets, in most cases you lose nothing. There are many other ways where you lose nothing, even if you have a job, home and assets. In fact, most bankruptcy filers, of all situations and various income levels, typically lose nothing by filing. If your assets are valued too high, you might file under Chapter 13.

What is the difference with Chapter 13?
Chapter 13 is a debt repayment plan; you don’t discharge debts, you pay them back over time. Chapter 7 means you discharge (eliminate) many forms of debt. So you pay with Chapter 13, and not with Chapter 7. However, if you make a lot of money and/or have many assets, Chapter 13 lets you keep them.

What are the advantages?

We kind of pointed out how Chapter 7 can discharge debts, but what debts? You can discharge mortgage, credit card, and medical bills. You can’t discharge taxes, alimony, and child support. If you have thousands in credit card debt, Chapter 7 is a very good option. It should be noted, you can eliminate mortgage debt, but you will lose your home in this case unless you can pay it.

Are you eligible for Texas Chapter 7 bankruptcy?
In  order to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must be eligible. In order to be eligible, you need to be below the median income for households in Texas.

Texas Median Income
1 Person Family – Annual Income $38,801
2 Person Family – Annual Income 55,660
3 Person Family – Annual Income $59,011
4 Person Family – Annual Income $66,145

And it goes up if you have larger families than this. If you make too much, under new Bankruptcy Code you can still file Chapter 13. Chapter 13 has definite advantages that an experience Texas bankruptcy attorney can help you with.

How much does it cost?

Chapter 7 bankruptcy costs $299 and Chapter 13 $274, in any state including Texas. Lawyer fees can range in variety, but typically are from $1,000-$2,000. Higher price does not always mean they’re an expert. Be thorough in reviewing bankruptcy lawyers.

Who should you hire?
You have all the answers you need but one: who should you hire? A Texas bankruptcy lawyer helps you fill out documentation, claim exemptions, stop creditor harassment, and gives you a fresh start financially. Hire a lawyer who cares about his or her clients, who has the time to handle your case, specializes in personal bankruptcy, and has a fair price.

How a Texas Attorney Can Help with Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

May 10, 2010

How can an attorney help you before, during, and after bankruptcy? Clearly there are advantages in filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, especially in Texas, so let’s find out those first.

Advantages of Texas Chapter 13
Since unemployment rates and foreclosures are a still a problem  nationwide, including Texas, you might wonder what Chapter 13 bankruptcy can help with.

Plenty, because by filing you can save your home from foreclosure, buy time to catch up with bills, and be free of creditors during the entire plan.

There are some disadvantages for Chapter 13 when compared to Chapter 7, namely the fact you cannot eliminate debt in Chapter 13. However, if you make too much money, if you fear you’ll lose your home to foreclosure, an experienced attorney will tell you Chapter 13 is the best. You can’t save your home with Chapter 7.

How do you hire a Texas attorney?
Hiring an attorney is that big first step before bankruptcy. To hire one, look over 3 crucial parts: experience, availability, and price. When used together, these can really help you choose between the lawyer who has an office in town and the lawyer who specializes in helping home owners avoid foreclosure in Texas.

How much experience does a Texas bankruptcy attorney need? First, they should specialize in personal bankruptcy. They should have close to a lifetime in training and work. When it comes to price, it depends on your financial institution, but you can get an experienced Texas bankruptcy attorney for $1,000-$2,500 in most cases.

How does the attorney help?

Before you even file with the Texas court in your area, be sure to hire an experienced bankruptcy attorney. Before the bankruptcy, a good attorney will see what you’re eligible for, if you’ll lose any assets, if Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is best, and how to plan for your future. During the proceeding, you’ll be asked to appear briefly in Texas court for Chapter 13. For the most part, your attorney will handle the entire process, saving you valuable time and avoiding mistakes.

Also during the bankruptcy, your attorney can stop all creditor harassment. If the phone is ringing off the hook from creditors calling about past due bills, an attorney can either stop these calls completely or handle them in his/her office. This may seem minor, but if you’ve ever been the subject of creditor harassment, you know how invaluable this is.

Finally, before the bankruptcy is over your attorney helps you prepare for a fresh start. For Chapter 13, it will be a 3-5 year process, where you will be able to save your home, car, and other assets, and maintain your job without threat of wage garnishment. The process start when you hire the right Texas bankruptcy attorney.

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