Welcome Back to Students! Leave Your Wallets at the Door!

It is once again that wonderful time of year, back to school time. Many people are now beginning classes at public and private universities with the hope of bettering themselves and their families. Education is extremely important, but unfortunately the cost of it may now be outweighing the benefits. I found this video from John Oliver online this morning, and I think it pretty well outlines the problems with our current student loan system. I highly recommend watching it if for no other reason than it is funny. I am hard on student lenders, but that doesn’t mean I think people shouldn’t go to school, they just need to be aware of the future they will be facing and right now the schools don’t do a very good job of preparing people for that reality. Do yourself a favor and watch the video.

To anyone going back to school this fall, have fun, study hard, and don’t take the financial aid office’s advice as gospel.

Juggalo Bankruptcy Special!

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First, a warning: This article references Juggalos and the Insane Clown Posse. If you do not know what either of those things are, do not ready any further. Learning about Juggalos will shake your faith in humanity and will most likely plunge you into a deep despair from which you can never emerge. If you are unaware, stay that way, some things you cannot un-see.

So, Juggalos, how’s it going? I see that the Gathering of the Juggalos is happening this week, that looks like Cholera The World’s Largest Port-a-potty fun. I hope you enjoy your time at the concert while you are there, though it can be rather pricey. I am sure you were financially responsible and have been saving up for months for your sojourn. So if you have, please get a vasectomy enjoy yourself, wear your face paint with pride, and enjoy the melodic sounds of the Insane Clown Posse. I even went to instagram and found some of your photos and it looks like you are in the kind of movie that even the mere possession of would get you arrested in all fifty states  having a wonderful time! I particularly think these photos are the best:

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Now, I hate to be a buzzkill but once you get back you will have to deal with your finances. I’m going to guess as a Juggalo, you are not employed and your job prospects are about as good as those of a convicted murderer. You’ve had some bad luck and made several some bad decisions and now you need help. You may have considered filing bankruptcy in the past but thought it was just to expensive. Well today is your lucky day Juggalo, I’ve got a deal for you. 

Because I cannot fathom how or why someone would become a Juggalo, I will give you 20% off the filing of your next bankruptcy. Hey, I’ll even sweeten the deal, if you promise to wear full Juggalo face paint to your meeting of creditors, and at the end of the meeting douse the trustee in faygo while screaming “Juggalo 4 Life” I will do your bankruptcy for FREE!

It takes a lot of drugs gumption to dress like a moron Juggalo and listen to music so bad it makes me envy the deaf the Insane Clown Posse, and I salute you. You have eschewed social mores about personal hygiene, dental hygiene, pretty much any kind of hygiene,  music and clothing and for that I pray you don’t reproduce salute you.

You need a bankruptcy attorney who understands Juggalo life, you need a bankruptcy attorney who doesn’t judge you, you need a bankruptcy attorney who pretends to not notice that you are a grown man wearing face paint out in public — You need us.

So enjoy the rest of your festival Juggalos, I’ll be here to talk when you get back.

 

A Fond Farewell to a Wonderful Bankruptcy Attorney

Attorney Elizabeth Lamphier, J.D.

It is with mixed emotions that Mapes Law Offices says farewell to Elizabeth Lamphier, our staff attorney. Elizabeth has been handpicked by the new bankruptcy judge John Gregg to be his law clerk. This is quite a prestigious position and is a wonderful opportunity for her and we wish her nothing but the best. In her time as a consumer bankruptcy attorney Elizabeth has represented hundreds of debtors in both chapters seven and thirteen, and has done a phenomenal job protecting their interests. It is rare to find an attorney with as much skill, intelligence, compassion, and friendliness and our office was lucky to have her for the time we did.

It is rare that a Judge selects someone who has represented consumer debtors to be on their staff, normally clerks come from large corporate law firms and have never actually represented a debtor. In Elizabeth, Judge Gregg will have the input of someone who has gotten their hands dirty in bankruptcy, someone who knows how painful it can be for the debtors, and how scared people can be going through a strange and unfamiliar process. All Bankruptcy Attorneys in West Michigan, from Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids, all the way to Marquette, should be happy to know that they will have a friend in the courtroom.

On a personal note, I have to say that Elizabeth was a wonderful employee but an even better person. From the first time I interviewed her, Elizabeth impressed me as an unusually smart and nice woman. I am sad to see her leave our office, but absolutely thrilled at the adventure that she will be starting. I am going to be the first one to cal it, I guarantee that within the next twenty years, Elizabeth will become United States Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Lamphier. She has the temperament, compassion, and intelligence for the job and being a clerk will be wonderful training.

So please, feel free to share your favorite memories of Elizabeth in the Comment section below, or leave her well wishes.

Filing for Bankruptcy Got More Expensive

Over the past few years bankruptcy filings have declined nationwide, and that is good news for consumers, but bad news for bankruptcy courts (and bankruptcy attorneys). The way bankruptcy courts get most of their revenue to operate is through the filing fees charged in cases. Obviously as there are less cases, that means less money, so starting today the filing fees have increased. Now if you plan on filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Grand Rapids, your fee is $335 instead of the $306 it previously was. If you want to file Chapter 13 in Kalamazoo now you pay $310 instead of $281, and if you want to file  Chapter 12 in Lansing you pay $275 instead of $246.

Congress to Shuffle Deck Chairs on the Titanic!

Student Loans

News came out recently that Senator Elizabeth Warren has proposed new legislation called the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act. Under this legislation students who borrowed prior to 2013 to fund an undergraduate degree to refinance both public and private student loans into a new loan bearing a 3.86 percent rate. Loans taken out for graduate school could be refinanced at a 5.41 percent rate, while parent loans could be refinanced at 6.41 percent.

The good part of this program is that it would apply not only to federal student loans, but to private loans as well. However, the devil is in the details. In order for private student loans to be included, the borrower must be in good standing with the lender and must meet certain debt to income ratios that have yet to be determined by the Department of Education. The problem is really two-fold.

First, private student loan borrowers who are in default need this the most but will be unable to get it. Those in default on private student loans often face interest rates of 29%, and they won’t be able to do a thing about it. Second, the debt to income ratio will probably keep most people out of this. It is very common for a borrower with private student loans to have over $100,000 in student loans and due to the economy they only have a job that pays $45,000 or less. Ironically, it seems that the people with the most student loan debt often have the least amount of income.

So what is the real solution? Simple. Restore Bankruptcy Protection to Student Loans. Lowering interest rates is great, but that still leaves us in a situation where students have exorbitant amounts of debt that they will never be able to pay off. This debt keeps them from fully participating in the economy by doing things such as buying houses and cars. While allowing bankruptcy protection on student loans may mean less student loans are granted, that may end up being the best thing. It used to be that someone could get a decent job without a college degree, but now that everyone has bought into the idea that they need a degree, it is almost impossible to get a decent job without one.

Ultimately, I tend to think this won’t pass anyways. Why not? Well, it would be harmful to the banks that lent the money, and the banks have a much better lobbyists than borrowers. Secondly, the government makes too much money off of student loan interest. the government will make $66 billion off of federal student loans disbursed between 2007 and 2012. Yes, Billion, with a B. If loan rates are reduced, so is the amount the government will take in. While i try not to be too cynical, I have yet to see the government do things that reduce revenues.

So, this is a step in the right direction, and it could help a lot of people, but let’s not pretend it is actually going to solve anything.

Mr. Monopoly has Fallen on Hard Times

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The economic collapse of the last few years has hit this country rather hard, and no one has been spared. Even poor old Mr. Monopoly, once riding high in a hotel on Boardwalk, now he is living on Baltic Ave. I found this video today and found it amusing. Warning, it does have a poop joke in it, so if you are offended by such things, you might want to skip this post, otherwise you can check out the link here: Mr. Monopoly Goes Broke

I know some people wonder why I try and post funny things when the topic of my blog is bankruptcy, and there is a very good reason for that: When things are going poorly, sometimes laughter is the thing you need. Money problems are very serious, and I am by no means making light of people in such a situation, but as I tell my clients, it is only money, we can fix this so you can get back to living your life.

If you think you might need to talk to a bankruptcy attorney give us a call, getting information is always valuable, and with bankruptcy attorneys in Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Kalamazoo, we are always nearby.

MARCH MADNESS BANKRUPTCY TOURNAMENT!

Who's in your Bankrupt Final Four?

Who’s in your Bankrupt Final Four?

Okay, I am totally ripping off this idea from another Bankruptcy Attorney, but it was too funny not to share. Well, I think it is funny, maybe just because I am a bankruptcy attorney.

I think it is a good illustration of famous people who have filed bankruptcy. Most people think bankruptcy means failure, and that you will never bounce back from it, but when you see that people like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Walt Disney, Tom Petty and Willie Nelson have all filed bankruptcy, well maybe it doesn’t mean failure. Bankruptcy is a fresh start and allows people to get rid of past mistakes and fulfill their potential without their creditors holding them back.

So who ya got in your Bankrupt Final Four?

I have no idea who these people are, and I am very proud of that.

Real Housewives: Bankruptcy Court Edition

I have no idea who the two people are in the photo above, but my lovely wife tells me they are on the show Real Housewives of New Jersey. So why are these degenerates on my blog? Bankruptcy Fraud! It seems these housewives filed bankruptcy back in 2012 and lied on their bankruptcy petition, omitted assets, and were otherwise untruthful. That was a really bad idea.

Why was it such a bad idea? Well, when you sign a bankruptcy petition you are certifying under oath, and subject to the penalties of perjury, that all of the information in your bankruptcy petition is truthful and correct, that all assets and liabilities have been disclosed, and that the petition is being filed in good faith. Most people don’t realize that when they are in my office signing the petition, it is just as serious as if they were in a courtroom on a witness stand. Those penalties of perjury I mentioned earlier, they include up to five years in a federal penitentiary and/or $500,000 dollars in fines. I should also mention that if you lie you can either have your bankruptcy discharge denied, or if it has already been given, it can be revoked and all of those debts will become non-dischargeable.

It looks like Mr. & Mrs. Giudice will each have quite a bit of time in federal prison to consider the error of their ways, and when they get out all of those debts they tried to get rid of will be there waiting for them. I also pretty sure that federal prisons do not have tanning beds or hair styling products, so it looks like these two might have a rough go of it. The moral of this story is don’t screw with the bankruptcy court. The best way to prevent these sorts of things from happening is to be honest with your lawyer. You are paying them for their advice and counsel, if you disclose these things to us ahead of time we can prevent bad things from happening, but hiding it helps no one. You will get caught, and it will be worse than if you had just been up front.

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National Collegiate Student Loan Trust & The Looming Student Loan Crisis

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You may remember a few years ago when there were several news stories about mortgage companies and robo-signing. It was discovered that many mortgage lenders had been incredibly sloppy in completing their paperwork, and when mortgages were bundled and sold, there was never the appropriate documentation. So the end result was that while you may have taken out the loan with Bank of America, it was another entity trying to foreclose on the home. When borrowers started asking questions, it turns out that nobody really knew who owned the mortgage. Well, it is deja vu all over again with student loans.

National Collegiate Student Loan trust is a Delaware trust that has purchased many private student loans from the original lenders. The is called an assignment of a contract, and is usually completely legal. However, in order for the assignment to be valid it must state what loans are being sold and give all relevant information on the loans so that a chain of ownership can be traced. This way a borrower can in fact verify that the person trying to collect the money from them is in fact the rightful person. National Collegiate has filed a large number of lawsuits against consumers in West Michigan. Most people never bother to respond since they don’t think anything can be done, and they end up getting a judgment against them. The problem is that most of these lawsuits can be defeated because National Collegiate does not have the right to sue.

A client of mine is a good example of this, she took out a private student loan with fifth third bank back in 2006, and subsequently was unable to pay on it. Fifth Third allegedly sold the loan to National Collegiate, and National Collegiate then filed suit to collect. I was able to review the lawsuit documentation it was apparent that National Collegiate did not have a valid assignment, meaning they had no right to sue my client. Because of this we were able to have the lawsuit thrown out and now my client does not owe the loan anymore.

The fact that law firms are filing these lawsuits without proper documentation is despicable and just plan wrong. They are trying to pull a fast one on our Court system to cover up their mistakes, and we can’t let that happen. If you have been sued by National Collegiate or another private loan company there may be options, the worst thing you could do is nothing. Even if National Collegiate already has a judgment against you, there is still hope. Please, call us today and let us help you to defend your rights.

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Same Sex Marriage & Bankruptcy

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Recently the United States Attorney General announced that the United States Government expanded the recognition of same-sex marriages in federal legal matters including bankruptcies, prison visits, and survivor benefits. For same-sex couples needing to file bankruptcy this cold end up resulting in significant savings as they can now file a joint bankruptcy petition.

When filing bankruptcy, married couples are allowed to file one bankruptcy petition. This often ends up in a more efficient administration of the bankruptcy case as the assets and finances of a married couple are so intertwined that it makes sense to have them dealt with in one proceeding instead of two. Also, it represents real financial savings for a financially distressed couple. Prior to this ruling, if a same-sex couple wanted to file bankruptcy they would each have to file a separate petition and that means two filing fees, two sets of attorney fees, and have two separate court hearings.

However, this ruling does not mean that all same-sex couples can file a joint bankruptcy petition. In order to file a joint petition, the couple must have a legally valid marriage from a state that recognizes same-sex marriage. So, if a couple had been married in New York which recognizes same-sex marriage, they could file a joint bankruptcy petition in Michigan. However, a marriage performed in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage would not entitle that couple to file their own joint bankruptcy petition.

If you have questions about how this new policy of the Federal Government may affect you, please don’t hesitate to contact us and ask for help.