Skip to main content

Author: Paul Schofield

Do I Have Too Little Debt to File for Bankruptcy?

Every once in a while, I have a potential client ask me if they are eligible for bankruptcy since they may only have a mortgage or a car loan. Or they might be facing a lawsuit on their only major debt.  Is there a minimum amount of debt needed to file for bankruptcy?  The answer is no, there is no minimum.

A chapter 13 bankruptcy can stop a foreclosure of a home or a repossession of a vehicle.  You can catch up the amount that is past due over the course of a three- to five-year chapter 13 plan.  Sometimes with vehicles that you have been making payments on for two-and-a-half years, you are able to pay only the value of the vehicle rather than the full amount of the loan, with reduced interest to boot!  This can be a great way to save money on a vehicle that might seem to be hopelessly underwater (worth less than what is owed).

Don’t hesitate to get some advice – call us today at 912-275-7018 to set up a free initial consultation.

November 20, 2021

What are bankruptcy exemptions? What can I protect in bankruptcy?

A lot of times new clients will ask me, “Will I lose everything if I file for bankruptcy?”  The short answer is no.  That is because in bankruptcy you will be allowed to keep certain property. In fact, oftentimes will not have to give up anything that you own.  This is where bankruptcy exemptions come in.

Bankruptcy Exemptions Explained

What are bankruptcy exemptions?  An exemption is a dollar amount that you are able to keep in certain categories of property, which is then applied to the equity you have in property to prevent it from being sold by a trustee or paid to your creditors.  In Georgia, the legislature has enacted a statute that tells how much you can keep in each category.  Below are some of the major categories, and the amounts of each exemption (as of October 5, 2021).

Type of ExemptionValue of Exemption
(applies to your primary residence, if owned)
Household Goods$5,000
(increasing up to $11,200 if you do not use your homestead exemption)

Bankruptcy Exemption Examples

What does this mean?  As an example, say you own a house that is worth $100,000, which has a mortgage (called a deed to secure debt in Georgia) of $80,000.  You can apply your homestead exemption (of up to $21,500) to protect the $20,000 in equity you have.

What if you have a vehicle worth $6,000 that is paid off?  You can apply $5,000 of your vehicle exemption and $1,000 of your wildcard exemption to fully protect it.

Solutions if You Do No Have Enough Bankruptcy Exemptions

Even if you have property or a vehicle that cannot be fully protected, you have the option of filing a chapter 13 bankruptcy case where you can pay the value of the unprotected equity over the course of your three- to five-year plan.

Want to learn more?

Have more questions?  Call us today at 912-275-7018 to set up a free initial consultation.

October 5, 2021

Can I File for Bankruptcy Again if I Have Already Filed Before?

Unfortunately, a prior bankruptcy might not have solved all of your financial issues, and you may find yourself again needing bankruptcy relief. Can you file for bankruptcy again?  The answer to that questions is almost always yes, but when you can file depends on what case you filed last time and what case you want to file this time.  If your last case was filed more than 8 years ago, then you can file any type of case.  Below is a chart that shows you what type of case you are eligible to file based upon what type of case you previously filed.

Your prior case was…You want to file…You must wait (from the filing date of your last case)…
Chapter 7Chapter 78 Years
Chapter 7Chapter 134 Years
Chapter 13Chapter 76 Years*
Chapter 13Chapter 132 Years

You may file again immediately if you paid at least 70% to your unsecured creditors.

There is an exception to these refiling time limits if you file a chapter 13 case.  But even if it has not been 4 years since you filed your last chapter 7 case, or more than 2 years since you filed your last chapter 13 case, you can still file a new case, but you will not be eligible to receive a discharge (elimination) of your debts.  So why would you want to file if you cannot receive a discharge?  Because you can file to stop a foreclosure, vehicle repossession, or wage garnishment and make payments on those and other debts over time.  You will, however, typically have to pay 100% to your unsecured creditors when you are not eligible for a discharge.

Need more information? We can help!

Call The Schofield Law Firm today at 912-275-7018 if you need to know whether you can file for bankruptcy again and discuss your options.

July 1, 2021

What to Expect at the Free Initial Bankruptcy Consultation

So you’ve made the call and set up a free initial bankruptcy consultation.  Now what?  When you first contact us, I will send you a bankruptcy worksheet and checklist of documents prior to your consultation.  The worksheet goes over all of the information that you will need to provide if you decide to file for bankruptcy.  I know, it’s a lot.  But don’t worry if you can’t finish it or don’t understand parts, that’s perfectly fine; I will take the time to go over it with you.  As for the checklist of documents, it lists the documents would be needed if you eventually decide to file, so no need to gather all of them for the initial consultation unless you are specifically asked to bring a certain document when you set up your appointment.

When you get to our office, you will be introduced to me, and I will sit down with you and discuss with you the issues you are facing and any concerns you might have.  I will explain the different types of bankruptcy that are available and explain to you what your options are. You will have as much time as you need to ask questions and get information directly from me, and I will never pressure you into filing for bankruptcy.  My job at your attorney is to give you the facts and options and to let you make the final decision.

The initial consultation usually lasts between half an hour and an hour and a half, depending on how simple or complex your situation is.  I also offer phone consultations and after-hours appointments upon request.  Just call 912-275-7018 today to set up your free initial bankruptcy consultation.

June 24, 2021

How to Choose a Bankruptcy Attorney

So you think you might need to file for bankruptcy, but you’re unsure about how to go about doing so?  The most important step is getting an appointment with and talking to an attorney.  But how do you find the right attorney?  That’s an important question that this article will hopefully answer.  The bankruptcy attorney you choose can have a great impact on your future financial situation, so selecting the right one is very important.  Choosing a bankruptcy attorney is nothing like filling up your car with gas, where you can find any gas station and receive the same product.  Bankruptcy attorneys vary widely, in their skills and competency, the number of cases they handle, and their approach to individual cases.  To find an attorney that is right for you, here are some sample questions you might want to ask when you go for an initial consultation.

Will you be involved in the preparation of my bankruptcy documents, or will a staff member handle that?”

Most bankruptcy lawyers rely on staff to help gather information and prepare documents, but overreliance on staff should be a red flag.  If at your first consultation you only briefly meet with your lawyer and are then shuffled off to meet with staff, you may not have that much interaction with that attorney going forward.  And if a lawyer does not take the time to become familiar with your particular situation, you may not end up getting the best result.

“How long will it take before my case can be filed?”

If you are facing something urgent, like a foreclosure, vehicle repossession, or wage garnishment, let the attorney know right away.  If you are up against a deadline, an emergency filing may be needed to stop a creditor’s action.  Make sure the attorney has time to immediately devote to your case so that you can meet whatever deadline you are facing.  If you aren’t in need of an emergency filing, I have found that it typically takes around three business days to get a case prepared for filing (once you have provided all of the information and documents needed to prepare the bankruptcy paperwork).  Note that some cases are more complicated than others, and can take more time to prepare.  If your attorney is telling you it could be weeks before the paperwork is complete and your case is ready to file, then that attorney might be overworked or have accepted too many cases to adequately handle.

“How many cases do you typically handle per month?”

Some bankruptcy lawyers file more cases than others.  But just because a lawyer files more cases than another, that is not an indication of the lawyer’s quality.  In fact, firms filing a large amount of cases each month can be what’s often called a “bankruptcy mill.”  Often those firms heavily advertise, file a case or more per day, and rely primarily on paralegals and secretaries to do the work that a lawyer should be doing.  Often you have little interaction with the lawyer or the ability to talk to them in depth, and you may show up to a meeting or hearing with little idea who your lawyer is (see the next question below).  Your choice of a bankruptcy attorney should be about quality, not quantity, because you are relying on that person to set you on the right financial path for years to come.

 “Will you be appearing for me at all required trustee meetings and court hearings?”

“Appearance counsel” is becoming more common nowadays.  That means that someone other than the lawyer you hired appears on your behalf at a trustee meeting or court hearing.  When this is going to happen, you should be told about it beforehand by the lawyer you hired so that you have the option of agreeing to it and being comfortable that appearance counsel will be actually be familiar with your case.  Sometimes we see appearance counsel who know little about the people they are there to represent, which is never a good thing.

At the Schofield Law Firm, you will have personal interaction with Paul Schofield throughout the process, and he will be there to answer your questions and give you advice whenever you need it.  Paul will never take on more cases than he can handle because he firmly believes that direct communication with his clients is essential to making sure your financial interests are protected, and part of his duty as a bankruptcy attorney.  He will always be there for you at meetings and hearings.  You will never be treated as a number, but as a person with unique desires who deserves the best possible representation. Call 912-275-7018 today to set up a free initial consultation.

June 17, 2021