Good news and bad news for potential bankruptcy filers

Within the past month there has been good news and bad news for folks thinking of filing a bankruptcy. The good news is that the federal exemptions have gone up as of April 1, 2010. The bad news is that the median income thresholds – which have a lot to do with who qualifies to file a Chapter 7 – have gone down slightly as of March 15th.

I just finished updating my exemptions page and my Chapter 7 page by posting the new numbers if you want to check them out.

The theory of Chapter 7 is that the court appoints a trustee who is given ownership of all your assets, right down to your socks. To get the assets back, you have to be able to claim them as exempt. This means that the list of things you can claim as exempt is very important. Here in Minnesota we get to choose between two very different lists – a list provided by federal law and another list provided by state law. The two lists are quite different, so it can make a big difference which one you choose. In general, the federal list is better unless you have substantial equity in your home. If there’s quite a bit of equity, then you better use the state list.

Trouble is that except for the fact that it is good for protecting one’s home, the state list has lots of gaps. Lots of things fall through the cracks and will go to the trustee. For this reason I pretty much hate the state list, but sometimes I have to use it anyway.

Since October of 2005 anybody who wants to file a Chapter 7 – except for a person who’s debts are “primarily business” – has to either be under the median income or pass a difficult means test. Thus, what those median income numbers are also becomes very important.

I’m relaxed. Really RELAXED.

Or not.

Nothing drives me close to being stark raving mad like a computer problem. It seems as if when that happens, everything else has to stop until the problem is resolved; and really let me tell you, I definitely have other things to do.

Last week my trusty laptop, upon which I have relied several years for a great many things, started giving me the following message when I booted it up: “Disk failure imminent. Back up all data.”

Maybe it was that new defrag program I had tried. Or maybe the laptop is just old. It has served me well four years, maybe almost five. The techno geeks in my life, and I call them that with due respect, all tell me that this is about the useful life of most laptops.

So late last week I went to my friendly local office supply store. The previous Sunday in the Star Tribune I noticed they were having a laptop sale. Yes, from time to time I have been known to still read a newspaper that’s actually printed on paper. Anyhow, at the store I found a wonderful whiz bang HP laptop with a 17 inch screen, Windows 7 and all the trimmings.

I brought it home and went to work configuring it for my personal use. That means I installed Eudora for my email, Word Perfect for my word processing, and an old version of WS-FTP so I can update my web sites when I finally get around to it. There’s a lot of different stuff about Windows 7 that takes a while to figure out, but I really was doing OK.

I enjoyed that laptop for about all of 72 hours until yesterday afternoon, when it seems to have electrocuted itself. First it started turning itself off for no reason. I took that as a warning sign, plugged in my portable hard drive and managed to back up most of my stuff before it breathed it’s final breath. After shutting itself off abruptly several times, it finally refused to boot up at all.

So this morning I tried to return the dead laptop. Fried hard drive was the diagnosis. All they would let me do is trade it for another one. So now I’ve spent my whole morning trying to get another one up and running to my own personal specs. I’m trying to be gentle with it, but I want it the way I want it.

My apologies for not responding to my email for the past day or so. I hope to have that up and running again shortly.

The shoe is on the other foot today

I hate this. Amost more than anything.

I am about to leave the office for my annual trip to seem my accountant to do my taxes.

This means that I have to provide detailed financial info about myself to a third party. I try to be as accurate as possible, but I’m always concerned that I might not get it right.

I ask my clients for info like this all the time. Today I have a better idea of how that feels.

Call to cancel your appointment. Help someone else stop the nasty bill collectors!

People are literally lining up to see me. In 2008 anybody could get in to see me within a week, but now it’s about twice that long.

This is, however, the second morning in a row where I have had a no-show appointment. I noticed not long ago that the Veteran’s Administration – when notifying someone of an appointment at one of their medical facilities – includes a few words about how they would appreciate it if those unable to show up would call in and either cancel or reschedule. They make a point that those who don’t call to cancel or reschedule are denying a fellow veteran of the opportunity to use that time for their appointment. The saying goes something like this: Help your fellow veteran – cancel or reschedule if you can’t get here.

I doubt that the person who failed to show up this morning has thought this through. He is not only messing up my schedule, but also denying an opportunity to the person I could have scheduled in this time slot. I have people begging to get in to see me. If I knew that the person scheduled for this morning wasn’t coming, I’d be meeting with someone else right now. At least two callers yesterday wanted to meet with me this morning. Best I could do was set up appointments for week after next.

Spam on my blog – so now it’s "moderated"

Talk about nasty stuff! I’ve started getting spam comments all over my blog. I’ve been trying to delete them, but I may have missed a few. My apology for any that I may have missed.

I have enough to do without trying to edit the spam out of my blog. For Pete’s sake, I’m still having trouble getting my calls returned. I guess I’m used to it in my email, but this abuse of my blog challenges my faith in humanity. Who are these people? Don’t they have any self respect? If you ask me, it’s a pretty low thing to do.

So I’ve been fiddling with the blogger.com settings, and I think I’ve figured out how to make this a “moderated” blog. That means that no comments go up on the blog until I approve them. I’d rather not have to bother with that. I sure don’t have time for it. I just want to be left alone so I can practice law.

I would not have known that setting this up as a moderated blog was an option, except that another kind blogger emailed me and suggested it. He was a good man, and I thank him. Guess there’s hope for humanity yet.

Trouble over what to bring to the bankruptcy hearing.

I call it a “hearing.” The official name for the event which takes place about a month after filing a bankruptcy is “First Meeting of Creditors.” Since creditors hardly ever come, I have always thought this was a misleading name. It usually takes place at a federal courthouse in a room which looks very much like a courtroom. My clients are sworn in and questioned. If that isn’t a “hearing,” I don’t know what is.

There are certain things that a debtor is required to bring to this event. They include a picture ID, social security card, most recent pay check and bank statements covering the date the case was filed. It any of these items is missing, there is a big problem. Until the items are produced and given to the bankruptcy trustee, the whole process is held up.

Although I explain this as clearly as I can, both in direct conversation and in email, I seem to be having an increase in the percentage of clients who show up at the hearing without everything they need. One common problem is that my clients will assume that if a bank account has a negative balance, a low balance, or no activity for a long time, the trustee won’t want a statement for that account. I have recently started adding to what I used to tell my clients a whole extra spiel about these bank statements.

The trustee doesn’t care if the account has been there five years with only five dollars in it and no deposits or withdrawals. The trustee doesn’t care if the bank has quit sending statements and cut off on line access – which they sometimes do after a bankruptcy is filed when it’s a case where that bank is one of the creditors. If it’s any kind of bank account at all, and it was open on the day the case was filed, you have to have a statement for that account at the hearing, and that statement has to include the date of filing.

I am starting to tell my clients that if there is no other way to get a statement, please actually go to the bank in question and have them print you one. Even the banks that won’t send a statement, and who have cut off on line access, will still give you a statement if you go to the bank in person.

So that’s my rant for today.

Nothing Like a Little Excitement

The Vogager Bank is next door to the building where I office. Looks as if it was just robbed this afternoon.

My client scheduled for 4 pm seems to not have gotten here yet. That could be the traffic; or it could be that the neighborhood is surrounded with police who may be obstructing traffic. I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some road blocks in place. I just was visited by a very polite police officer and his quite pleasant but very focused and very large police dog. No, there wasn’t anyone else in the office with me just now.

Apparently they are looking for two guys, one of whom may be loose in my building.

More on this later.

Best endorsement I could get!

A few days ago I and close family made our annual pilgrimage to the Macy’s Santa land display. I admit that to me it’s still the Dayton’s Christmas display. A sign of the times I guess was that for the first time ever as far as I can remember, they had the same theme for the second year in a row – Day in the Life of an Elf.

As we entered the display area in the 12th floor auditorium, I did see something – well someone actually – that I had never seen there before. It was Mrs. Santa Claus greeting everyone as they entered. Several in my group seemed embarrassed and ignored her, but I had to stop and chat a minute.

“What’s your name?” asked Mrs. Santa.

“Davy” I said. I figured I better use the name I went by when I was a little kid or she wouldn’t know who I was.

“Davy,” she said. “You’re on the NICE list. Such great accomplishments!”

Well, that was good to know.

So now that I know that I’m officially NICE, let me wish you-all a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Hanukkah – and happy Whateverelseyoumaycelebrate!

Driving another person’s car – with a DWI on your record

Please!

If you have had a DWI in the last ten years, don’t be driving someone else’s car. All you have to do is get stopped again for another DWI and have a reading of .20 or more, and the city is going to seize that vehicle. Having a child in the car who is under 18 would also do the trick. They call that an aggravating factor.

I got another call this Saturday – yesterday – from a guy who wanted to know how to get his friend’s car back from the police. He had been arrested the night before and scored .20. Since it was his second offense in ten years, they took the car.

Here’s the deal. If you have had a DWI in the past ten years and you get stopped again with an aggravating factor, they take the car. Being over .20 is an aggravating factor, and so is having a child in the car who is under 18. Also, should you have two DWIs on your record within the past ten years, and then you get stopped for a third in ten years, they take the car. They don’t care who’s car it is – they just take it.

So I get these calls asking how do I get the car back. It was my mother’s car, my wife’s car, my bosses car, my brother’s car or my boyfriend’s car. The answer is that the car is probably gone for good. If there’s a loan against the car, the lender can get it and sell it at auction as if they had repo’d it for non-payment. In addition, if the police made a big mistake or if the car, owned by someone else, was being driven without their permission, you may be able to get it back by filing a petition with the district court.

That petition is in effect a lawsuit against the state and against the agency which seized the car. It’s not cheap, it’s not easy, and it’s very hard to prevail. I usually refer these to a friend of mine, because I don’t like to take money from people and then lose.

I guess this is a rant. I just can’t believe how surprised people are when this happens. Can’t figure out where they’ve been. None of this is new.

Better ignore the map on my directions page for now.

It’s been brought to my attention that the embedded Google map on my directions page at my web site shows my office as being on the north side of I-394, when in fact it is on the south side. I swear when I set that up a few months back it was working correctly.

So now I have to find time to fix that. It may yet be a few days. I do my web sites with the 2007 edition of Microsoft Expression Web. So far when I have tired to embed a Mapquest map to replace the Google one, the program goes berserk. I’ll fix that soon, even if it means buying a newer version of the program.

Meanwhile I notice that some one’s been posting spam comments after some of my entries here. I’m going to delete every one of them that I’m aware of right now. Another despicable practice. Doesn’t anybody have any self-respect anymore?