The day before Thanksgiving I received an email from a client whose Chapter 13 we wrapped up in 2011. He had thanked me profusely at the time back in 2011, but he was still remembering me this year and he wanted me to know it. He thanked me again, saying he just couldn’t forget how helpful
I had been. The reason he is still thanking me is that he credits me with having saved the life of one of his best friends, a Basset Hound named Jellybean.
While it is commonly said that bankruptcy is a lifesaver, it is rare to be able to point to a specific situation and say here’s where I saved a life. The story in this case goes like this. When a Chapter 13 debtor has bonuses on a regular basis, the trustee usually requires a provision in the Plan providing that all or part of each bonus be paid into the plan as an additional payment. When I have a case where there are such bonuses, the provision I usually put into the Chapter 13 Plan says that when a bonus is received, that has to be reported to the trustee. Then the trustee is to determine what portion of the bonus is to be paid into the plan. This leaves a bit of wiggle room to argue about letting the debtor keep part of the bonus should a special need arise.
So when this particular client reported to me that he had received an unusually large bonus, my first question was whether anything was going on for which he really needed to use part of the money. He said yes but he didn’t suppose there was much that could be done about it. It turned out that his Basset Hound, known as Jellybean, was very ill. Jellybean had a form of cancer that resulted in tumors all over the inside of his mouth. They could be removed surgically and the chances of recovery were very good, but the surgery was expensive – a couple thousand dollars. Without the surgery Jellybean didn’t have long to live, and my client was already resigned to seeing his good friend die. With all available funds being paid into the Chapter 13 Plan, he definitely could not afford the surgery. It was very sad because Jellybean was nowhere near the end of what would have been his normal life span.
Well, I said I couldn’t promise anything but let me see what I could do. This bonus was huge, more than anything we had been expecting, and the funds needed for the surgery would be a relatively small portion. I contacted a staff attorney at the trustee’s office and made my pitch. I’ll never forget that conversation. I went into it without a lot of confidence. I was just thinking “well it never hurts to ask.” Somewhat to my surprise the staff attorney remarked that he had a warm spot in his heart for dogs. He noted that payments into this Plan were becoming much more than we had expected at the beginning. If I recall correctly, the trustee’s office may also have grabbed a tax refund from my client. There was now a good chance that 100% of the claims in the case would be paid. I was instructed to never expect that anything like this would ever be granted again, but this time and THIS TIME ONLY they would let my client keep enough for the surgery. When the surgery was done, we were to provide the trustee’s office with a receipt from the veterinarian proving that was where the money had gone.
I love it when I have some good news for my client, because so very often I’m the guy with the bad news. When I told my client about this he was delighted and very thankful. He scheduled the surgery right away, and Jellybean come through with flying colors. Now this holiday season my former client is debt free and still has the company of Jellybean, the Basset Hound and his good friend.
I hope this story warms your heart as it does for me. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year, and may all your holidays this year be joyous.