Which Bankruptcy Option Allows Me To Keep My Property?

When filing for bankruptcy, many people want to be sure that they will be able to keep their home. Because what’s worse than filing for bankruptcy, having to find a new place to live and moving? That might be a little too much for one person to handle. So, what can you do? Well, there are many different options when it comes to bankruptcy and many times it’s very valuable to meet with a bankruptcy attorney to discuss what is best for your situation. However, we’ll review a few options, so you can know what to expect.

How To Keep Your Property When Filing For Bankruptcy

  1. In every bankruptcy case, you are allowed to keep a certain dollar value in property. For example, you can keep up to $20,000 in home furnishings, $5,000 in value for a motor vehicle and $22,000 in home equity. And usually most people that file for bankruptcy have property that is well within their exemptions and will not lose any of their property regardless of what chapter they file.
  2. However, if you do have a property that is non-exempt, filing for a chapter 13 might be the best decision. For example, if you have a home with $30,000 in equity and you file a chapter 7, you might have to sell your house. You would be paid the first $22,000 from the proceeds representing your objection, the trustee would take their fee, let’s say $2,000, and the remaining money, $6,000, would be used to repay your creditors. In a situation like this, it might be better to file a chapter 13. As long as you promise to repay your creditors at least $6,000 over the span of up to 5 years, you can keep your property because your creditors end up getting the same amount in a chapter 13 as they would in a chapter 7.
  3. Your decision will also depend on what state you live in. Certain states have exemption laws that may allow you to keep your property. For example, in Michigan a debtor can choose between two sets of exemption laws, federal exemptions and state exemptions. In other states, you may not have the choice and will only have one or the other. Determining what set of exemptions to use is best left to your attorney. In Michigan, if you have $56,000 of home equity, you may be able to protect all of it under the Michigan state exemptions, but not federal.

Deciding what route to take when filing for bankruptcy can be very overwhelming. Determining what chapter to file and what exemptions to use might make your head explode. And that’s why it’s always best to work with an experienced bankruptcy attorney. You want someone knowledgable on your side to explain your best options. Check out our post 5 Questions You Should Ask Your Bankruptcy Attorney to help you find the attorney that’s right for you.

At Mapes Law Offices, we help our clients determine the best course of action for their unique situation. Since 2008, we have been walking our clients through bankruptcy and onto financial success. All of our attorneys attend an average of 30 hours of continuing education every year. We know how important this is, as the laws are always changing. However, continuing education is not required by law, so many other firms don’t require their attorneys to do it. We want to be on top of our game to give our clients the best service possible.

If you are in the West Michigan area, and are looking for a bankruptcy attorney, give Mapes Law Offices a call at (616) 719-3847 or request your free consultation today. We work hard for you, because we know how difficult filing for bankruptcy can be.

What Are the Steps for Filing for Bankruptcy?

If you’re thinking of filing for bankruptcy, the process can seem really overwhelming. You may not know what to expect, how long the process will take or how it will affect your life moving forward. Knowing the answers to these questions will help you make your decision and will relieve some stress in the days to come.

Understand that most people who file for bankruptcy have simply found themselves in a bad situation. The first step is to find a bankruptcy attorney who understands your situation and is willing to help you for the long haul. Filing for bankruptcy doesn’t have to just be about your current situation. It’s a step toward financial security and the right lawyer will help you get there. That being said, here are some steps that you can expect to go through when filing for bankruptcy.

  1. Find the right bankruptcy attorney for you. Read 5 Questions You Should Ask Your Bankruptcy Attorney to help you find exactly who’s right for you.
  2. You will meet with your bankruptcy attorney and they will help you decide what is the best chapter to file.
  3. You will return to your attorney with documentation of your debts and assets. This will help your attorney prepare your bankruptcy petition. This is also when your attorney will ask more in depth questions about your case.
  4. You will then meet with your attorney again to review the petition, sign it and file it with the court.
  5. Four to six weeks after filing, you will attend a meeting of creditors. This is not a court hearing and there is no judge. You meet with a trustee, who is another lawyer that asks the same sort of questions your attorney did. This meeting will take maybe 5 minutes and, if your attorney does their job properly, it is really boring. Technically any creditor can show up and ask you questions, but that only happens around 1% of the time.
  6. After the meeting of creditors, you will receive a discharge within 3 to 4 months. That’s usually 2 to 3 months after that the case is closed and everything is finished.

Filing for bankruptcy can be scary, but the right bankruptcy attorney will make all the difference in the world. At Mapes Law Offices, we work hard for you. We see filing for bankruptcy as a step toward financial freedom. We not only help you in your current situation, we also help you plan for your future. We want to see all of our clients succeed and that means working with them to create a plan for their future.

If your in the West Michigan area and thinking of filing for bankruptcy, give Mapes Law Offices a call today. We will discuss every step of the process with you and help you decide what is your best course of action. Sign up for your free initial consultation now or give us a call at (616) 719-3847. Take your first step toward financial freedom, you’ll be glad you did.

How To File Bankruptcy Yourself, A Cautionary Tale

In our day and age of DIY everything, it may seem like filing for bankruptcy yourself is the way to go. You may think, “My case isn’t that complicated. I could probably do it on my own. I have a buddy down that street that can help me.” Tread wisely! Filing for bankruptcy means huge changes in your life. And if it’s not done correctly, it could really cost you, and not just financially.

Of course, being a bankruptcy law firm, we always recommend working with a professional when filing for bankruptcy. You may think we’re biased, but here are some very important reasons why it is best to avoid DIY bankruptcy.

  1. It is very risky. You wouldn’t do your own dentistry, don’t do your own legal work. Some things in life just require an expert.
  2. It could hurt your family. If you don’t know what to look for, you could end up getting family members sued by a trustee to recover money you repaid to those family members.
  3. You could loose everything. The most confusing part for debtors who file on their own are claiming exemptions. This is a very nuanced area of law, and if it’s not done properly you could lose everything you own.
  4. It could cost you. It usually costs twice as much to fix a bankruptcy someone else filed as it does to file it right the first time.

We usually tell this old lawyer joke to unconvinced clients to help convey the benefits of using a bankruptcy lawyer:

“The huge printing presses of a major Chicago newspaper began malfunctioning on the Saturday before Christmas, putting all the revenue for advertising that was to appear in the Sunday paper in jeopardy. None of the technicians could track down the problem. Finally, a frantic call was made to the retired printer who had worked with these presses for over 40 years. ‘We’ll pay anything; just come in and fix them,’ he was told. When he arrived, he walked around for a few minutes, surveying the presses; then he approached one of the control panels and opened it. He removed a dime from his pocket, turned a screw 1/4 of a turn, and said, ‘The presses will now work correctly.’ After being profusely thanked, he was told to submit a bill for his work. The bill arrived a few days later, for $10,000.00! Not wanting to pay such a huge amount for so little work, the printer was told to please itemize his charges, with the hope that he would reduce the amount once he had to identify his services. The revised bill arrived: $1.00 for turning the screw; $9,999.00 for knowing which screw to turn.”

When you hire a bankruptcy attorney, you’re not just hiring someone to type up forms, you’re hiring them for their knowledge. There are many things that could come up during your bankruptcy that you just won’t know how to handle, but an experienced professional will.

That’s why, if you’re in the West Michigan area, you should call us at Mapes Law Offices. We help hundreds of clients file for bankruptcy every year. But what really sets us apart? Attorneys in Michigan are not required to do continuing education, but at Mapes Law Offices we require our attorneys to complete 30 hours of continuing education every year. And with laws changing all of this time, we think this is an important step that we take to ensure our clients get the best representation possible.

If you’re facing a bankruptcy, give us a call today at (616) 719-3847 or request your free consultation. This could be the step you take that leads you toward financial freedom.

What’s The Difference Between A Chapter 7, 11 and 13 Bankruptcy?

Many people might not know that they have options when it comes to filing for bankruptcy

A chapter 7 bankruptcy is the most common, but it might not be the right option for you. This is why it’s important to meet with a bankruptcy attorney. They will be able to assess your case and advise you on the best course of action, be it a chapter 7, 11 or 13 bankruptcy.

So, what are the differences between these bankruptcies?

Chapter 7:

  1. It is usually over within 6 to 8 months.
  2. It will discharge most of your debts.
  3. You can keep your home or your car, but you have to pay at the same interest rate and terms as before the bankruptcy.
  4. Income limits exclude people who can afford to repay their debts.
  5. You could lose non-exempt property, but most people never do.

Chapter 13:

  1. You will repay a portion of your debts over the next 3 to 5 years.
  2. You pay what you can afford. If, for example, after living expenses you have $200 left over every month, that is what you pay. Your creditors get cents on the dollar for what is owed, and any remaining unpaid debt is discharged.
  3. Debts owed to a former spouse can be discharged in a chapter 13, but not 7 or 11.
  4. You can modify the terms of secured loans. For example, if you have a car that is worth $10,000, but you owe $20,000 on it and pay 18% interest, you can keep it in a chapter 7 but you would owe the full $20,000 and pay at 18% interest. In a chapter 13, we could modify the loan terms so you only pay $10,000 at 4.5% interest.
  5. If you have a home that is underwater, a 13 can eliminate the second mortgage. For example, if your house is worth $150,000, with a first mortgage of $160,000 and a second mortgage of $50,000, we could discharge the second mortgage entirely, so you would only owe the first mortgage.
  6. If you are behind on house payments, we can cure the arrearages over a span of up to 5 years and prevent foreclosure.
  7. You can keep property that you may otherwise lose by filing a chapter 7.

Chapter 11:

  1. This is usually for businesses, but it can be filed for individuals. However, it is rare.
  2. It is basically a chapter 13 on steroids. There are slight differences, but they are very nuanced and complex. If you think a chapter 11 is right for you, it is best to discuss this matter with a skilled bankruptcy attorney.
  3. It is usually only used for high income debtors, as it costs a minimum of $10,000 in attorney fees to file.
  4. It could be your best choice, if you have substantial income or assets.

If you are facing filing for bankruptcy, we always recommend speaking with a professional. As you can see, there are many options and it is important that you get the best representation available to help you choose what will be right for you.

If you are in Western Michigan and are looking to speak with someone about bankruptcy, give us a call at Mapes Law Offices. We have been servicing the area since 2008 and have helped hundreds of clients out of their debt and onto financial stability. With Mapes Law Offices, you not only get a highly skilled bankruptcy attorney, you also receive help and guidance to step toward a brighter financial future. We take pride in our work of helping good people go through bad times. We understand that life can take a turn and we’re here to help. Give us a call today at (616) 719-3847 or schedule your free consultation now.

5 Questions You Should Ask Your Bankruptcy Attorney

When you’re in the market for a bankruptcy attorney, you might not be quite sure what to look for. After all, this may be the first time you have ever had to face filing for bankruptcy. And with the already overwhelming and sometimes frustrating situation ahead of you, you want to know that you have the best bankruptcy attorney on your side to represent you.

Luckily, there are some straightforward questions that you can ask any bankruptcy attorney to be sure that they are the right lawyer for you. Here are a few important questions to ask to pick the most qualified and informed professional.

5 Questions That You Should Ask Your Bankruptcy Attorney

  1. Do you practice any other areas of law? Bankruptcy is highly specialized and not something an attorney should dabble in. The bankruptcy laws frequently change and you need someone who knows the ins and outs.
  2. How many cases have you filed? You don’t want an attorney to gain experience at your expense. I have filed almost 2,000 bankruptcies and have seen almost every situation imaginable. An experienced attorney will better assert your rights and will not back down in the face of opposition from an unfriendly creditor or trustee.
  3. Do you file cases under chapters 7, 11 and 13? Some attorneys only file chapter 7 cases because it is easier. They don’t want to put the time or effort into becoming proficient at other types. This is like having a dentist who refuses to work on molars. A good attorney should be able to tell you why you may want to file for chapter 11 or 13, even if you qualify for chapter 7.
  4. Are you board certified? Most people can’t tell if one attorney is better than another, and just go on whatever feels best. Luckily, bankruptcy is one of the few areas where lawyers can be certified as specialists. A board certified bankruptcy attorney must meet the following criteria:
    1. Their practice must be at least 60% bankruptcy.
    2. They must have been practicing primarily bankruptcy law for the past 5 years.
    3. They must have 15 other attorneys submit peer reviews.
    4. They must attend a minimum of 20 hours of continuing legal education every year.
    5. They must pass an 8 hour long written examination.

    As you can see, the requirements are very strict. I am one of only 10 board certified bankruptcy attorneys in the western district of Michigan.

  5. How many adversary proceedings have you prosecuted or defended against? Adversary proceedings are like a trial within the bankruptcy case. They generally occur either when something goes wrong or when your rights have been violated. Hopefully you will not be involved in one, but if you are, you don’t want it to be the first time your attorney is handling one.

We recommend taking these questions with you when you meet with your bankruptcy attorney. We also recommend meeting with more than one attorney, so you can truly pick the one that is best for you. It’s important to make sure you are comfortable with who you are working with and are confident that they will work hard on your behalf.

At Mapes Law Offices, we work hard for our clients in the Western Michigan area to ensure that they are getting the best representation possible. Not only do we help you out of a financial crisis, we also work with you to improve your financial decisions, so you can avoid ever having to file bankruptcy again. We understand that bad things happen to good people and we’ve dedicated ourselves to helping those people get out of rough waters. If you are in the Western Michigan area and would like help with your bankruptcy case, give Mapes Law Offices a call at (616) 719-3847 or request your free consultation today. It only takes one small step to get yourself onto a better financial path.

You Get What You Pay For

If you’re looking to hire the least expensive attorney to file your bankruptcy, I’m not your guy. You will find other attorneys who cost less, but as it is with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Our office spends $10,000 a year on continuing education because I believe it is an attorney’s duty to know the law, and never stop increasing their knowledge. I could sit here and rattle off reasons why you don’t want to hire the cheapest attorney, but I thought a few examples might better illustrate my point:

 Ferrari Car

DoctorDr. Nick

 BabysitterManson

 BozoIdiots

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Hopefully that answers your questions. If nothing else, remember, if you hire the cheapest attorney you are probably hiring a juggalo, meth cook, or serial killer. Have a Great Weekend!

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.