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?

Two days behind in my email; please be patient with me.

Well, that trip to Tucson was wonderful. Whatever tan I may have acquired is just about gone already, sad to say. And if the economy is getting any better, there’s sure no sign of it in my office. I am crazy busy. It took me until the end of the day on Thursday to return my calls up to what I had received by Tuesday; and right now – end of the day on Friday – I am still going through emails from Wednesday.

I am returning my calls and I am responding to my emails, but please be patient with me. I am doing my best to actually respond to everyone – eventually.

Tucson till Tuesday

I’ll be out of town between Thursday November 5th and Monday November 9th, and will be back in the office on Tuesday morning, November 10th. I’ll be attending a weekend seminar in Tucson, AZ put on by the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys. They provide information that I can’t get anywhere else, and every once and a while I have to take a few days to soak it up as best I can. This time I will be doing a fairly intensive course that will be mostly about Chapter 13.

I have a pretty bad cold and I hope to get over it once I get to the desert climate. The high temperature in Tucson on Thursday is supposed to be 92.

DWI Arrests Apparently Down?

I just had an opportunity to visit on the phone with one of the prosecuting attorneys for the City of Minnetonka. Somewhat to my surprise this person made a remark to the effect that over the past few weeks the number of DWI arrests is down. There was some speculation about what the reason might be, but the real answer is that nobody really knows why.

I can guess that the economy might have something to do with it. Even if people might be still drinking, doing it at home is certainly cheaper. Another issue of course is that DWI arrests have become more difficult from the point of view of the police officers, since there has been a great deal of concern lately about the accuracy of the breath test. If the officer wants a blood test, a trip to a hospital might be required. That takes a lot of extra time.

Businesses and Personal Bankruptcy

I keep saying bankruptcy is like pregnancy. You can’t be a little bankrupt. When you file a bankruptcy, you are in it 100%. It is all-encompassing.

I just got off the phone – again – from a conversation with someone who wants to do a personal bankruptcy but who is the owner or part owner of a small business. Over and over again I hear from people who seem to think that because their bankruptcy is personal, it will have absolutely nothing to do with their business. They want their business to stay in a separate compartment and be unaffected and untouched.

First thing I usually mention is that the business is an asset and has to be listed along with all the other assets that the debtor has. A value has to be placed on the business, and then we have to figure out if it can be claimed as exempt. If it can’t be claimed as exempt, and if we are talking a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, then the business will become property of the bankruptcy trustee – or it will have to be bought back from the trustee if the debtor wants to keep it. As a practical matter, most of the small businesses I hear about are virtually worthless, so that claiming them as exempt is not much of a problem – but it is a question that has to be dealt with.

Second thing I bring up is that we will probably be required to list the business name among the names used by the debtor; and once that is done, it is very likely that the bankruptcy filing will be picked up by the Star Tribune and published in their Monday business section. Typical question at this point: “What if I just transfer the business to my boyfriend?” My answer is that then we would have to disclose the transfer, which could possibly be reversed as fraudulent; and the “doing business as” would be changed to “formerly doing business as” and it still gets published in the Star Tribune.

And if you have a business partner, the “doing business as” business name can get listed in the Star Tribune even though your partner is not filing any bankruptcy. Partners in that position tend to be irate to say the least.

This is not the only circumstance, but one of many, where the bankruptcy process does involve a some pain. Those considering bankruptcy should not expect that there will be absolutely no inconvenience.