America’s Funniest Chapter 13 and I Wish It Were On Video!

Chapter 13 Hearing

I was a brand new attorney and following the suggestion of a friend of mine, I attended some chapter 13 bankruptcy hearings in Downtown San Diego. Intent on gaining a greater understanding of the process I made my way to Trustee David Skelton’s offices to watch the hearings for a couple of hours.

The audience was made up of people who had filed bankruptcy, their attorneys, some creditors and attorneys for creditors.  There were probably about 60 to 70 people there that day. I sat about 5 rows back on the right side, aisle seat. Next to me sat a tall man with a congenial smile who was African American and slightly balding.

Typical for the First Half Hour

I sat through at least a half hour or some fairly typical cases. People were paying the arrears on houses or the payments they were behind on their homes, managing car payments and paying off the principal of their credit cards interest free. All the benefits of typical Chapter 13 cases.

Funniest Case I’ve Ever Seen

I can’t remember the debtor’s name anymore, (for the purposes of this story). But he had a gotee and the first thing that struck me was that Trustee Skelton, just said, “Hello, I’m Trustee Skelton, and my attorney will be taking over now,” and he got up and left. Wow, what was happening? Maybe he just had to go relieve himself, I didn’t know, I’d never been to a chapter 13 hearing before.

With this particular debtor, (or person who files a bankruptcy), sitting in font of him, the trustee’s attorney asked a lot of the more usual questions, did the debtor understand the penalty of perjury, did he list everything he owned, did he list all of his debts, did he understand that the penalty for perjury is up to 5 years in prison and or $500,000 in fines, blah blah blah . ..  What?  I had’t heard the Trustee ask those extra perjury questions of anyone else.

Then the attorney moved onto more specific questions such as, how did he choose values for his cars? How did he look up the value of his house?  Whom did he owe the mortgage to?  Had he transferred any money to anyone prior to filing? Had he ever been married to Dagmar Coleridge (name changed)?

Now, the debtor had been sitting there with his chin resting on his thumb and his fingers kind of resting over his chin. He was silent. The room fell silent. During the silence his head dropped slowly until he was looking down at his feet. Then slowly he spoke and said only the word: “No.”

I could not have laughed harder or louder if the man had been Eddie Murphy. All of the audience laughed. After almost falling out of my chair, the tall man next to me said with a big grin, “I’m the other Chapter 13 Trustee and I’d heard this one was going to be good.” And that was my introduction to Trustee Billingslea.

So remember out there, tell the truth, you want your case to be nice and boring.

8 Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Pitfalls You Can Avoid

Chapter 13 is a Great Tool, Unless . . . 


There are pitfalls to avoid. Getting your case dismissed when you thought it was your last hope to save your house is a disaster.  Yet, it happens much more often than not.

Pitfall 1: Losing Your Job

Such a no-brainer, yet it may sound like something you cannot avoid. However, we all know that sometimes it is.  If you don’t get along with your boss, take a deep breath.  Take an anger management course.  Take a Tylenol. Take a break. Take a nap. Because it could be a case of lose your job, lose your house. If you’re in a chapter 13 bankruptcy to catch up the arrears on your house, then you must keep up your mortgage payments current and you must keep up your plan payments.  Quit paying either one and your chapter 13 will be dismissed.  Once it gets dismissed, and you no longer have bankruptcy protection, you go back into foreclosure.

Pitfall 2: Don’t Get a Divorce

Again, while it may sound like something that probably can’t be avoided, often it can be. Be the best spouse that you can be. Bring flowers. Bring chocolates. Bring movie tickets. Read, How Full Is Your Bucket?  On my wedding day, the officiant gave me 5 little magic words for when you come home and find the baby in the highchair, his food is everywhere, the dishes aren’t done, and the other kids have homework, and you’re just back from work and the 5 little magic words are: “What Can I DO To Help?”

Pitfall 3: Re-evaluate Your House Situation Carefully Before You File

Before you file the case, you should reevaluate the house situation carefully. Chapter 13s are designed to put you on a seriously Draconian budget. So, unless you’re making great money, a budget that is too tight will ruin your marriage or your relationship to your significant other in a big fat hurry.  Don’t lose your spouse over a house.

If you DO qualify for a Chapter 7 but want to file a Chapter 13 to try to save the house, then your budget will be under a huge strain, there won’t be any money for fun, recreation or vacations and I’ve seen that lead to divorces and split ups over and over again and then neither of you will end up with the house.

Pitfall 3: Make Your Chapter 13 Plan Payment On Time Every Time

Get behind, you’re toast.  Nuff said.

Pitfall 4: Get Health Insurance If You Don’t Have It Yet

If you’re not properly insured, with health, life, auto and disability, you’re an accident waiting to happen. If you get sick or injured, you’re outta there.  If you cannot pay the plan, then you will lose that house. 

Pitfall 5: Not Filing a Chapter 13 When You Should

If you make great money, and if you could just get all of your credit cards to agree to zero interest (0%), then you’d be able to pay everyone no problem, then do it.  That’s exactly what a Chapter 13 can do for you.  If you pay the regular payments it will take forever and you’ll pay almost 3 times what you owe before you’re through.  If you go to a Debt Consolidation, they’ll be able to reduce your interest rates, but not to zero percent (0%).  Paying at zero percent interest (0%) for 5 years usually will cut your payments by a little under half.  Take the deal.

Pitfall 6: Including Your Car 

If you can file a Chapter 13 without having to include your car, then avoid putting it in the Chapter 13 payment plan like the plague. If your bankruptcy gets dismissed, you’ll find that you’re now perhaps months or years behind on your payments on your car.  You’ll also find that you’ve got mega late fees now attached to the car note.  Also the repo guys will be on their way soon after your Chapter 13 gets dismissed for non-payment. I had clients who wanted save a house, but to do that they had to lower the car payment by including it in the 13.  I suggested that they move out from the beginning.  When the case finally got dismissed the balance on the car was approximately twice what it was before filing.

Pitfall 7: Technical Tricks and Traps

Most of these are things your attorney is going to have to be familiar with and help you avoid them.  However, my favorite is one that you can help avoid: In the Central District of California, in Riverside, you are required to pay your plan payments directly to the Chapter 13 Trustee at the hearings until the judge approves your payment plan. This approval is called a Confirmation Order. Your Chapter 13 plan payments are due 30 days after your case is filed and then ever month on the anniversary of your filing date. However, your hearing date will be approximately 45 days after you file.  If for some reason your judge continues your confirmation hearing, it will most likely be for another 45 days.  When you show up to that hearing, you must bring two (2) payments with you to the 2nd hearing, not just 1.  Because 45 + 45 = 90, your plan requires that you pay 3 plan payments by that 2nd hearing date, not 2.  If you don’t bring the 3rd with you, your case will be dismissed.

Pitfall 8:  Mal-Adjusting Your Tax Withholdings on Your Pay Checks

Whenever you pay less than 100% of your credit cards and medical bills and so on through your Chapter 13 payment plan, the bankruptcy trustee will want to intercept your tax refunds as you get them from the IRS every year until your case is over. Phew!

Many people try to adjust the withholdings so that they end up zeroing out their tax refunds. However, if you reduce it too much, you end up creating a new creditor for yourself, and it’s the biggest most powerful collection agency in the world, the IRS. But at least it’s not the meanest, that distinction goes to the Franchise Tax Board of the State of California.

What pitfalls did you encounter?  Pin, Tweet, Plus and Share This Article.


Call to set an Appointment, 951-200-3613

Image credit: dundanim / 123RF Stock Photo

Temecula Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

In Murrieta and Temecula a chapter 13 bankruptcy is a fantastic financial tool for restructuring your debt and making life easier and finances manageable. You could potentially reduce your monthly payments by several hundred or more than a thousand dollars.  Particularly when your debts are for the types of obligations that are revolving or renewing.

If you’re considering a debt consolidation loan, a chapter 13 bankruptcy may be just what you need. A chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to consolidate your debts and separate them into classes. You can reduce a car payment, both by cutting the interest rates and extending the term of the loan and paying it off ahead of the credit cards. You can include child support and income taxes and give them a higher priority in the payment plan so that they get paid off completely and ahead of the credit cards too. Your credit cards and medical bills and gambling markers get paid whatever is left over.

Example: if you owed $15000 on a car, $15000 in back child support and $30,000 to credit cards, and if your budget only allowed a payment of $700. You’d setup a 60 month plan for $700/mo. Normally you’d have to pay probably $1500 to $2000 per month on that debt depending on interest rates and terms. Of the $700/mo that you would pay for the 60 month plan, your credit cards would get approximately only $200/mo. Less in fact because the bankruptcy trustee would take his fees out of that $200 and also the car would have a small interest rate applied but not compounded.

Call now to get started today or to see if a chapter 13 bankruptcy is right for you. Call 951-200-3613.

Debt Consolidation

Non-Profit Debt Consolidation

There are tons of non-profit debt consolidators in the Murrieta and Temecula areas. In general what they do is, set you up with a debt consolidation plan. One place put it this way, “You will be able to combine most, if not all of your unsecured debt and make one single monthly payment.” Your accounts don’t vanish, you haven’t done a consolidation loan, but instead the debt consolidators pay your various accounts monthly as you pay the debt consolidation company. They claim that you will become more organized and eventually learn to understand your finances better through participation in the program. Finally they stated that debt consolidation “may reduce” your payments.

You may have heard that “those who can’t, teach.” Well, if someone wants to teach you about your debts, ask yourself how much they can do about it? (As an aside, most of the teachers I know are quite able and deserve more than they’re getting right now, but these debt consolidators are often not even college grads.)

Hmmm, “May Reduce”? Wait a minute, isn’t that why you are thinking about contacting these people in the first place, because you don’t have the income currently to meet all the financial obligations that you have right now? I doubt that’s the deal your looking for. I expect you’re looking for a will-reduce-your-payments type of plan. Certainly there are a few of you who can afford all of your debts and are just looking for a way to get organized and if that’s the case, maybe a debt consolidation company is right for you. But if you’re like most people who are looking into this you’re probably looking to make a bit more progress than that.

What most of these companies will tell you that they do is that they contact your credit card companies and medical bills and what not, and they negotiate a payment for you. Either they are going to try to reduce the principal, interest, extend the term of the contract or a combination of them.

But what they do not tell you is that, if they’ve been doing this for a while, they already know which of your credit cards are going to play ball with them and which will not. How could they not know? Think about it. However, they will never tell you that you have a card or account that won’t want to participate.

So, they set you up with a debt consolidation payment plan and never tell you that one of your accounts didn’t like the terms and decided not to participate. Instead, after getting a reduced payment or even no payment at all, 6 months or 10 months later, that card sues you. You call up and exclaim, Wells The Fargo! Why am I being sued? And the debt consolidators tell you, “oh goodness, it appears that they’ve decided not to participate.” At that point you’re going to have to file bankruptcy before you have your wages garnished or a bank levy hits your checking and savings accounts.

And why does that sweet little old non-profit debt consolidation company do that to you? For the money! Yes, fans that’s right, for the money. Just because they’re not for profit does not mean that the officers of the company don’t take a huge salary. It just means that they cannot declare a dividend to share holders. So, what difference does it make? Answer: You’re paying bankruptcy prices to non-lawyers for a non-legal service without the great results you’d get if you simply filed a bankruptcy instead.

So wait a minute, you’re only paying them $20/mo and about $300 down to set it up, right? (low end some charge you thousands) That’s a lot of months that they’ve set up your payment plan for. How much did they tell you? 48 months? 36 months? 36 x 20 = $720 and if they have 500 of you making payments through this type of plan that’s $10,000/mo plus $150,000 in set up fees. And as one debt consolidator put it, “I keep the float.” Meaning every month he’s got tens of thousands in his accounts collecting interest from his bank and he absorbs that interest for himself. And for all that they “may reduce” your payments which means that one of the credit cards may not participate and will sue you. Maybe not but good luck getting a guarantee out of them.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Do you know what one is? It’s a debt consolidation plan with the Federal Bankruptcy Code behind it backing you up and forcing your creditors to listen up and back down. Creditors must take the plan. I love it, we reduce interest rates on creditors to 0% and often reduce principals down to 5% or 10% of the total balances.

Try as you might, you could pay off all your debts if only you didn’t have those pesky 20% to 29% interest rates.  With interest rates like that it will take decades to pay off your debt if you paid only the minimum payments.  They will just never let you pay down the principal. And it will be literally decades.

What if you owed say $60,000 in credit cards, medical bills, a repossessed car, and a student loan? That would cost you $1000/mo . . . if you didn’t have to pay all that interest. But with all the interest, late fees and penalties, you’re looking at monthly payments of $1500 to $2000/mo. Maybe more. Without the interest, penalties and late fees aren’t things tough enough already in Murrieta or Temecula?

A Chapter 13 bankruptcy gives you leverage that the debt consolidators only wish for. You can force the credit cards, student loans and medical bills to take 0%. If that’s all you can afford, then 0% interest. If you can afford only $500/mo, guess what, then they get only about 50% of the principal.

And none of them can sue you either, and if they want to opt out and not participate, they can, but what they’ll get is 1) they can’t sue you and 2) they get paid nothing at all. Call me for more information on how to you might qualify for this type of bankruptcy debt consolidation.

Oh, and let’s keep it real, yes I do it for the money, but I’m also an attorney with years of experience offering a real solution to a very real problem. Not a way to “learn about” or “understand” your debts. Let’s do something about it. Call now 951-200-3613.