Mapes Law Offices is Proud to Announce the opening of a Holland location!

Holland

 

I am very proud to announce that Mapes Law Offices is opening a fourth location in Holland Michigan! Beginning April 1, we will be accepting new appointments to meet with potential clients in our Holland location located at 311 S. River, directly across form the public library in the Greenridge Realty building.

For quite some time now I have wanted to open a location in Holland because quite frankly, I think the citizens deserve a higher quality of Bankruptcy Attorney than is currently available to them. We are now the only Board Certified Consumer Bankruptcy Office in Holland and are looking forward to providing you with the experience and skill that a legal specialist can bring.

If you or someone you know on the lakeshore is having financial hardships, contact us today at (616) 719-3847 so you can meet with the best Bankruptcy Attorneys that Holland has to offer.

Bill Collectors want to steal your Grandma…

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I have had a great deal of experience with bill collectors in my career as a bankruptcy attorney. I have had them threaten to kill a client’s dog, repossess a baby for an unpaid medical bill, and have people arrested. Those are all outrageous statements, but for the most part they are idle threats and just said for shock value. Bill collectors cannot throw you in jail, cannot beat you up, cannot just take your things without going to court and suing you first.

When a friend of mine posted a link to this New York Times story about nursing homes methods to collect on bills, I was shocked. Apparently it is quite common in the world of nursing homes for them to seek legal guardianship over a patient and all of their money when they cannot pay their bills. This would then give them the authority to pay themselves out of the patient’s assets, sell homes, liquidate retirement accounts etc… in order to recoup their money.

I really really hope that this isn’t the case for anyone out there, but if it is, a bankruptcy could help to stop the process. Pass this story along to anyone you know who may need help.

Free Income Tax Return Preparation!

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Tax time is once again upon us, which means that once again you have to struggle through navigating the Tax Code to figure out how to fill out your tax return, or pay someone an exorbitant amount of money to do it for you. Well, this tax year, Mapes Law Offices is here to help you.

Not only am I an attorney, but I am also a licensed tax preparer with the IRS. Tax time is one of the busiest times for bankruptcy attorneys because people who could not afford to file earlier in the year now have their tax refunds. The problem is coming up with the money to file your return so that you can file bankruptcy. So we now have a special offer for our potential clients. If you sign up with our office to file your bankruptcy petition, we will professionally prepare your personal income tax returns absolutely free of charge!

Why go to H&R Block and pay them $300 just tile your return, and then pay bankruptcy attorney fees? Sign up with us and not only will you save money, but you will have a licensed attorney preparing your tax returns instead of a fast food worker who prepares taxes for three months of the year. This offer is for a limited time only, so contact us today and set up an appointment so that we can sit down, discuss your finances, and offer you the best financial advice you can get.  — Jeff Mapes

Despite Court Ruling, We will worry about your chapter 13 case so you don’t have to.

Yesterday the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Michigan in Grand Rapids issued a ruling which struck a blow to bankruptcy attorneys who regularly monitor and maintain their Chapter 13 cases. While I strongly disagree with the Court’s ruling, I will respect and abide by the decision. For those interested, you can read the decision here: http://www.miwb.uscourts.gov/sites/miwb/files/opinions/098016816035.pdf

At Mapes Law Offices one of the things that makes us different than other bankruptcy attorneys in Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Kalamazoo is that we regularly monitor the status of our chapter 13 bankruptcy cases to make sure that they are progressing properly and everything is going smoothly. We make sure that payments are properly made, that the trustee is properly administering payments, and that creditors are not trying to pull a fast one and get paid when they should not. Quite a bit happens on a monthly basis, that in itself is a rather small event, but could become a large problem if not caught early.

Yesterday the Court ruled that we cannot charge to monitor cases on a regular basis unless there are problems in the case that warrant it. I believe that monitoring in all cases is necessary to ensure that the cases do not become problem cases. The monthly charge for monitoring the cases would be roughly $35 per month to make sure things go smoothly. This does not mean that clients would have to pay extra, one of the great things about chapter 13 cases is that your attorney fees can come out of what the unsecured creditors would otherwise get. Basically, if your creditors were getting ten cents on the dollar, and your bankruptcy attorney submitted a petition to be paid more, your creditors would get eight cents on the dollar, but you would not have to pay any more than you were beforehand.

As a bankruptcy attorney, I believe it is my duty to make sure my client doesn’t need to worry about their case. When you choose our office to be your bankruptcy attorney I want your problems to become our problems, so you can stop worrying about money and get back to living your life. So despite the Court’s ruling, we will continue to monitor your cases though we will not be paid for it. Ultimately, your success is the most important thing, and as your bankruptcy attorney we will do everything in our power to make sure that you get a fresh start, that you can stop worrying about creditors, and that you can get your life back on track.

I didn’t choose to become a bankruptcy attorney for the money, I chose to become a bankruptcy attorney because I wanted to help the people in Grand Rapids where I grew up, I wanted to help the families I met in Kalamazoo when I was in college, and pay back the people in Lansing that helped me make my way through law school. You deserve the absolute best representation from your bankruptcy attorney, and that is exactly what you will get from our office, even if we don’t get paid for it.

— Jeffrey D. Mapes

Introducing George J. George, the Attorney so nice they had to name him twice.

 

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I am pleased to announce the hiring of a new associate attorney at Mapes Law Offices. Attorney George J. George has begun working for us and I am certain that you he will be a wonderful asset to our team. In order to introduce George I wanted to write a blog post telling you all a little bit about him. So, naturally I did what any responsible attorney does — I delegated that task to someone else. I had George write a brief introduction of himself and have added it below. While it is certainly informative, it lacks panache, so I have taken the liberty of spicing it up a bit. I hope you all read it and stop by to meet George.

Mapes Law Offices is pleased to welcome its new face meltingly awesome staff attorney, George J. George, or for our Spanish speaking clients Jorge J. Jorge.  George graduated from Michigan State University College of Law in June 2012 and was admitted to practice in December 2012.  He has spent the last two years working as a bankruptcy specialist and highly trained asassin in Detroit, where he successfully represented more than one thousand debtors in bankruptcy court and single handedly rid the city of drug dealers — a feat not even RoboCop could accomplish.  His experience spans from simple, straightforward cases to the largest and most complex personal Chapter 7 cases.  Much of his two years in practice has been spent interacting directly with his clients and ensuring that they understand what is happening in their cases.

George also has experience representing clients in bankruptcy-related matters such as creditor abuses, dischargeability actions, and settlement negotiations.  In cases where a creditor has violated the Automatic Stay in Bankruptcy, George aggressively pursued sanctions against the offending creditor, and has put money back in the pockets of his clients for their trouble. has gone to their home, pummeled them into submission, kicked them out of their house, burned their house to the ground, waited until the flaming wreckage cooled, sowed salt in the ground, and made them thank him for it.

In his free time, George rescues orphans, prosecutes war criminals, is a master chef, and is an avid reader. Yes, his legal name is George J. George, no his parents did not hate him, when you’re as awesome as George, one first name just isn’t enough.

George’s work in Detroit put him in constant contact with city residents most in need of bankruptcy relief.  In each case, George treated his clients with compassion, understanding and patience.  He brings the same enthusiasm kindness, and general awesomeness with him as he looks forward to new challenges at Mapes Law Office.

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.