Author: Hale Andrew Antico

California bankruptcy exemptions can save your house.

California Homestead Exemption

California Homestead Exemption

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is liquidation; the bankruptcy trustee can take your stuff. They don’t take the shirt off your back, but at some point they draw the line regarding what you can keep. These are the bankruptcy exemptions, and each state has its own. The California exemptions include a way to protect some home equity. This is the California homestead exemption.

There are two sets of California bankruptcy exemptions. Bankruptcy attorneys call these the 703s and 704s. The California homestead exemption is found in the 704s, at California Code of Civil Procedure 704.730. There isn’t just one homestead exemption in California, but three.

The Three Homestead Exemptions in California

The California homestead exemption can save your house.
Don’t risk losing your house in Chapter 7. Talk to a experienced bankruptcy attorney about the bankruptcy exemptions and homestead exemption in California.

Firstly, there’s the bankruptcy exemption that a single homeowner gets. This is in subsection (a)(1). In 2018, a single person who lives in a house gets to protect $75,000 of home equity under the California exemptions.

Secondly, there’s a higher California homestead exemption for a married person’s residence. This is in (a)(2). The California homestead exemption for a married person is $100,000.

Finally, if you can tick one of three boxes, you get the superduper $175,000 homestead exemption in California’s bankruptcy exemptions. To level-up and qualify for this, you have to either be:

  • 65 years old;
  • have a disability that prevents gainful employment; or,
  • 55 years old, and make below a certain income level that changes from time to time

This may seem simple, but what is “disabled?” What is “as a result of?” What is the income level, and which time period is measured? You’ll want to speak to a qualified bankruptcy attorney in your area. But in the right circumstances, someone filing consumer bankruptcy can protect a lot more house equity under this third option.

Spouses Sometimes Count

A final note: a good thing about, in particular, the $175,000 California homestead exemption is that it extends to the spouse of the person filing Chapter 7. So if the debtor is, say, 63 years old, but their husband is 67 but really doesn’t want to file bankruptcy, the 63 year old who does file Chapter 7 bankruptcy gets the $175,000 homestead exemption in California anyway.

Be careful in Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  It’s not always the best type of bankruptcies.

Learn the differences between Chapter 7 bankruptcy vs 11 vs 13.

 

 

You really should talk to a qualified Los Angeles bankruptcy lawyer, as you get what you pay for, and it’s not worth risking your home.

Joey Lawrence bankruptcy

Joey Lawrence Bankruptcy Ends

Joey Lawrence Bankruptcy Ends

Some actors from the 1990s show “Blossom” have gone on to fame and fortune. Mayim Bialik has struck gold on “Big Bang Theory.” Others like Joey Lawrence, not so much. Despite earning over $500,000 in 2015, he took home just $60,000 the next year. Joey didn’t cut back enough on spending, couldn’t keep up. In 2017 a Joey Lawrence bankruptcy was filed, claiming over $355,000 in debts.

Joey Lawrence bankruptcy
Joey Lawrence from Blossom

With all that half-million-dollars income in 2015, Joey Lawrence still qualified for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. How can that be, you ask? Apparently he could barely cover his 2017 overhead, and passed the bankruptcy means test for Chapter 7. Now, in 2018, the Joey Lawrence bankruptcy has ended.

The Chapter 7 trustee was able to liquidate over $75,000 in assets for the benefit of Joey Lawrence’s creditors. Often, taxes are priority debts and get paid first, before the other, nonpriority unsecured debts. In the Joey Lawrence bankruptcy, the IRS didn’t even get half its debt. The same goes for the Franchise Tax Board.

Chapter 7 Can Be Tough

Chapter 7 involves losing stuff, and while Joey apparently didn’t have income to repay his debts, he had things the Chapter 7 trustee could take. So that’s what happened, and after almost a year, his case is now over and he can move on with his life.

People think that Chapter 7 is always better, and sometimes it is. But each situation is different and there are times someone is better off in another of the types of bankruptcies.

Finally, we’re often shocked when a famous celebrity we assume is rolling in cash falls on hard times. But acting is a profession just like being an engineer, sheriff deputy, or registered nurse. It’s human nature to spend what we earn. However, when the overtime is gone or next acting gig doesn’t come, not everyone adjusts their spending. The Joey Lawrence bankruptcy is a example that could be any one of us.

2018 median income limits bankruptcy means test

2018 Median Income Limits Changed for Bankruptcy Means Test

2018 Median Income Limits Change for Bankruptcy Means Test

The means test decides eligibility for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The Chapter 7 means test lets people file bankruptcy without having to repay their debts if they earn less than the California median income limits, or those in their own state. So, 2018 median income changes impact who qualifies, since it sets the bar for who can get into Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Means Test: 2018 Median Income Adjustments

As the economy changes, from time to time, the government updates the median income limits used. As a result, on April 1, 2018, the DOJ started utilizing new 2018 median income numbers for the Chapter 7 means test.

The California median income numbers have increased for bankruptcy means-test takers. Consequently, many Californians should now have an easier time qualifying to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

California household size and California median income for Bankruptcy

  • 1 – $54,787
  • 2 – $73,162
  • 3 – $79,061
  • 4 – $91,349
  • add $8,400 each add’l person

Read Our Means Test Guide.


Just because a household earns more than the median income, it’s still not barred from Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy means test would just need to be filled out completely. It’s still possible to qualify. However, even if someone isn’t eligible, there is still a way out in Chapter 13.

Finally, we don’t know the next time changes to the median income limits will happen again. So, be sure to check before relying on this 2018 median income limits in the future.

 

credit after bankruptcy

Credit After Bankruptcy Discharge Doable – study from LendingTree

Credit After Bankruptcy Discharge Doable – study

Last week, LendingTree, the largest online lender, released study results about credit after bankruptcy discharge. It followed people after their case was completed. This is consistent with my article asserting that there is indeed credit after bankruptcy discharge.

credit after bankruptcy
Yes, Virginia, there is credit after bankruptcy.

The researchers learned that a credit score of 640 or more was achievable after bankruptcy:

  • one year after bankruptcy for 43 percent of borrowers
  • two years after bankruptcy for 65 percent of borrowers

In fact, the researchers concluded:

 

People recovering from a bankruptcy are in a similar position to anyone who needs to repair their credit standings. The study finds no indication that people in the aftermath of a bankruptcy will have a harder time accessing credit than their peers who did not file for bankruptcy (except for potential mortgage loan embargos caused by the Fannie Mae policy discussed above).  Some people may even find themselves in a much better position to recover, thanks to a reset of their debt-to-income ratios.

See also LendingTree’s pointers for how to rebuild credit after bankruptcy discharge. This validates everything we’ve been teaching people, and shows that even if you feel trapped by bad credit, a bankruptcy can provide the fresh start you need.

 

bankruptcy debt limits

Is There a Debt Limit to Chapter 7

Is there a debt limit to Chapter 7?

One question people ask is, “How much do you have to be in debt to file Chapter 7.” Unlike Chapter 13 bankruptcy, there is no debt limit to Chapter 7. It just becomes a matter of practicality. There are financial benefits to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but these must be weighed against the costs, monetary and otherwise..

Too little debt for Chapter 7

The Bankruptcy Code has no lower limit to file bankruptcy under Chapter 7. The only limit is common sense. One the one hand, if you owed someone a dollar, and the Chapter 7 filing fee is $335, most people would just pay the dollar. No brainer. Another example: if you owed someone $1000, the debt is greater than the filing fee, but now there are other costs you’d weigh, like the hit on your credit. Is it worth it to discharge $1,000 of debt but have a bankruptcy on your credit report? Most would say no. Each individual weighs their own personal limit line differently. Many people would agree that $20,000 or $30,000 of debt is a lot to ditch in a bankruptcy discharge. A debt amount that high may outweigh the cost of the bankruptcy filing fee, paying a bankruptcy attorney, and the credit report ding. While there’s no debt limit to Chapter 7, we bankruptcy lawyers do see a typical range of debt.

Too much debt for Chapter 7?

On the other hand, there’s nothing written in the law that has a specific dollar amount that becomes too much debt to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy (note: this is in contrast to Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which has a maximum debt limit set by law in 11 USC 109(e), which periodically adjusts, so check current limits).

There are other factors though that can stop a bankruptcy with too much debt. Firstly, the government looks at whether the debt was obtained in good faith. If someone unemployed for years has $250,000 of credit card debt, were they really intending to pay it back? Secondly, they look at the nature of the debts: were they luxuries like travel? Another factor is if the debts or discharge was obtained by fraud. Too much debt is situation specific. It may make sense for a business owner to have a lot of debt, but maybe not so much for a retired grandma.

Summing up the Debt Limit for Chapter 7

In short, there is no debt limit to file Chapter 7. Common sense factors would make it not worthwhile to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy for some. There is an upper limit that will get you on the trustee’s radar, though it’s not sure exactly what that number is. Like most things, if it’s reasonable it should work, though your mileage may vary.

modern debtors prison

Modern Debtors’ Prison

Modern Debtors’ Prison

A long time ago, in the days of Charles Dickens and chimney sweeps, people were incarcerated until they satisfied their debts. These debtors’ prisons resulted in a Catch-22. You can’t get out of jail until you paid your debts. And you can’t pay your debts until you get out of jail. There’s now a new modern debtors’ prison.

The New York Times recently had a piece describing a new program to enforce debt. If someone falls behind on their student loan payments, they can lose their professional license and their job. Without income, this guarantees only one thing: debtors for sure won’t be able to pay their student loans.

 [I]n 19 states, government agencies can seize state-issued professional licenses from residents who default on their educational debts. Another state, South Dakota, suspends driver’s licenses, making it nearly impossible for people to get to work.

Student Loans are the Problem, not Debtors

debtors prison
We’ll set you free once you pay your debt.

It’s bad enough that student loans are the second highest kind of household debt, after mortgages. There are a lot of reasons for this. Firstly, the federal government subsidizes the Big School industry. The government encourages high tuition costs by guaranteeing them with programs like Direct Loans. If payments aren’t made, Uncle Sam can seize a tax refund, bank accounts, garnish wages, and seize other assets. And bankruptcy court isn’t a safe haven for the graduate with unaffordable student loans, as education debt isn’t dischargeable.

Big Education is an Overpriced Service Churning Out Poor Product

Overpriced

Because tuition costs are subsidized by government and a loan industry, there are disincentives for schools to compete in the open market. Let’s face it, if you knew you could sell a glass of lemonade for $1000, that you could get people to go into hock for it, and get Uncle Sam to use his muscle to help collect, why would you ever settle for only get 25 cents a glass? Especially if your competition had the same guarantees?

Colleges are not encouraged to compete with each other in the market to be the most affordable. Since there’re no market forces in play. The average student leaves school owing almost $40,000. Schools get the tuition paid from the government. The government can get it from you. As a result, very few can pay their way through school. Over 70% of graduates leave college with debt, starting their new career with a burden on their back.

More Competition for Jobs

Because everyone is encouraged to go to college, standards for getting into college are getting lower. Schools have an incentive to admit as many people as possible. Students are sold a bill of goods and pot of gold on the other side of graduation. As a result, more and more people are getting into college, leading to more competition for jobs once they graduate.

The Student Loan Bubble

Consequently, there is a student loan bubble, or student loan crisis. More and more graduates are in the job market leading to a saturation, some settling for lower-paying jobs, causing more and more unable to pay for their student loans.

The schools aren’t lowering the costs; why should they? Universities win, because they can charge whatever they want, independent of market forces. The government wins because it knows it can collect this debt because the graduate can’t ever escape from it.

The optimistic incoming student isn’t comparing costs as much as they look at school prestige, or maybe how well-known its sports programs are. They think they win. That is, until they graduate. Then they realize that maybe they can’t find a good-paying job as easily as hoped, or the job they could find pays much less than needed to make ends meet.

Faced with a choice between paying the student loan or paying rent and food, they choose the necessities. So they let the student loans go.

A solution is to reduce the payments for the student loans, and (cut future tuition costs). Another idea is to get the government out of student loan business. Yet another fix is to do all they can to bring the wayward sheep back into the fold. To increase forgiveness programs that waive interest and penalties to get the student loan out of default.

We Need Bankruptcy Reform on Student Loan Debt

Under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(8) of the Bankruptcy Code, student loan debt is not discharged in bankruptcy. There are rare instances where it can be discharged, but the exception is so narrow as to hardly exist.  “Undue hardship” requires a showing that the debtor is mostly dead, and even that isn’t always good enough.

We need student loan reform of the bankruptcy code. Student debt reform is needed in bankruptcy so that more people can discharge their school debt.  What good is bankruptcy to the consumer debtor is the second largest form of debt is untouched by bankruptcy? Lower the bar a bit, so that after, say, five years after graduation if the student isn’t earning the median income, the schools don’t get paid the tuition. Imagine what that would do to admission rates.

License-Pulling Makes Repayment Less Likely, Not More

The government should be enacting change that makes it more likely the defaulting graduate can pay their student loans. It should not cutting the source of income. We’re through the looking glass to believe that if you don’t pay your bills we’ll take away your job so you can’t pay your bills. The license-pulling job-killing measure that’s spreading only ensures the jobless graduate earns less income. It makes it more likely they’re dependent on government programs. Finally, it puts defaulting graduates in a modern debtors’ prison that says they’ll get their license to earn money back as soon as they give enough money to pay their debt.

save home

Chapter 13 can Stop House Foreclosure

Chapter 13 bankruptcy can Stop  House Foreclosure

Save your Home and Catch up on the Mortgage

by Hale Andrew Antico, Esq.

In August 2005, just before the bankruptcy laws changed, I wrote in this space that there was a perfect storm brewing for the average consumer.  Since then, the bankruptcy laws have changes (in the name of reform), and indeed, it is harder — but not impossible — to get a fresh start.

One area where we can get into debt trouble and feel a financial squeeze is with regard to mortgage payments.  The past few years, property values have been soaring here in Southern California.  This has led to many people to refinance their homes and take “cash out” — in essence using their house as an ATM.  The result of this is that it leads to less equity and a higher mortgage payment.

What happens if these homes with tapped out equity drop in value?  We’re conditioned to believe that property values only go up Up UP! in Southern California.  However, in 1989-1991, the real estate market peaked, leading to dropping property values.  The result is that many people were “upside down” in their homes, meaning that that they owed more than it was worth.  We expect this from a car loan since a car almost always depreciates faster than we can pay it off.  But with a house?  Yikes.

Some experts believe that history may be repeating itself. Recently, economics experts are looking at reliable benchmarks like Price-to-Income Ratios and Price-to-Rent ratios and noting that home value are much higher than normal levels.  Even houses in your neighborhood are no longer selling within the same week they’re listed with someone offering $10,000 over the listing price.  Instead, we’re seeing “Reduced!” signs nailed onto those For Sale signs, and reading advice like that in the Los Angeles Daily News suggesting that you list your home in the lower 25% as related to the comparable homes in the neighborhood.  Is there a real estate bubble which will shortly burst, or is the housing market temporarily resting before it continues upwards and onwards?  No one knows for sure.

If you find yourself in the awful situation where you fall one or two payments behind on the mortgage, there is still hope to stop foreclosure.  A Chapter 13 bankruptcy might be the solution.  This option allows you to get some “breathing room,” stop the collection calls and headaches, and even stop a foreclosure.  People can fall a few months behind, they want to catch up but the lender won’t accept anything but a massive lump sum payment that the troubled homeowner doesn’t have.  A Chapter 13 case can allow you to catch your breath as you demonstrate how you will catch up on your past due mortgage payments, but on a schedule you can actually stick to and afford.  This very helpful type of bankruptcy allows you to reorganize your debt and save your house in Southern California and stop foreclosure.

Even for people who don’t have a home, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can provide a light at the end of the tunnel.  It can provide a way to pay what you can afford, and in return, stop lawsuits, wage garnishments, collection headaches and yes, even foreclosures. And then, yes, you can be debt-free in three or five years.  That time will tick off the calendar either way… why not be out of debt in that span?

So, just because you’re a payment or three behind on that car or home and don’t think you can stop the house foreclosure, don’t lose faith.  There is a way to get some space and time to catch your breath.  You can be out of debt and most importantly, save your home.  Sometimes, bad things happen to good people.  We don’t intend for things to work out the way they do.  But when “life happens” and there is an unanticipated debt problem, when you’re ready to solve it then a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be the solution to your problem.

CONTACT US FOR A CONSULT NOW

Hale Andrew Antico (aka Attorney Antico) is an attorney who specializes in consumer finance. 

iheartmedia bankruptcy

IHeartMedia Bankruptcy About to Happen

IHeartMedia Bankruptcy

This weekend, IHeartMedia bankruptcy is about to finally happen. What is IHeart Radio? It’s the largest radio broadcaster in the United States. What is radio? That’s a different question. Ask your grandparents.

There’s speculation the broadcaster will file Chapter 11 this weekend. It won’t necessary end all the radio stations. It’ll just give the business a chance to restructure, kind of like a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but a lot bigger.

With Sirius XM satellite, iTunes downloads, Spotify and Pandora streaming, music is delivered very differently — and more fragmented — than the old days of Radio Gaga. Think of it: music delivery has gone from CDs to mp3s to streaming apps on our phone. And that’s just the last 10 years. Radio is what you listen to for updates there’s a weather disaster or can’t get iTunes to load.

It’s a new world, and businesses need to adapt. The IHeartmedia bankruptcy shows that very lesson.