I have seen and heard lots of advertising by companies saying they can settle my debts for very little and help me avoid filing bankruptcy. Does this work?Read Now
Unfortunately, debt settlement falls under the “if it sounds too good to be true, it is” category. While I am sure there may be a few success stories from people using these companies, I have yet to personally hear of one. Instead I have heard many complaints from clients who have wasted thousands of dollars on these “settlement” plans before having to turn to bankruptcy because of lawsuits and garnishments. Read the Federal Trade Commision's report on the subject here.
The problem is most people cannot afford to pay enough monthly to settle each credit card debt before at least one of the credit card companies file suit, obtains a judgment, and attempts garnishment. Also, if you can afford to save enough to do this, you could settle your credit card debt on your own without paying the high fees these debt settlement companies charge.
Speaking of the fees, remember that even though these companies may call themselves “non-profit” and a few may technically qualify under the tax laws (this is apparently being questioned by the IRS), it does not mean they are a charity. These companies are clearly making lots of money. Why else would they be multiplying like rabbits and how else could they be buying all of that advertising?
Many people think they are saving their credit by using these debt settlement companies. If your credit score has not already been significantly lowered before you use one of these companies, it will be by time you finish (which I have yet to see) or drop out. Settling for less than the amount owed is a negative on your credit report in itself. Add to that charge offs and judgments from the card companies that are not settled early and your credit score will show tremendous damage. A bankruptcy’s effect on your credit would be very similar and allow a quicker recovery.
A bankruptcy may or may not be the answer for you, but do not buy the hype of these debt settlement companies and fall for their anti-bankruptcy propaganda. Do your research on these companies by checking with the Better Business Bureau and educate yourself about bankruptcy by getting your free copy of my The Alabama Bankruptcy Book by clicking here.
Why can’t I just put my house, car or other property in someone else’s name before I file for bankruptcy?Read Now
Because it would be a huge mistake. The bankruptcy court trustee has the power to avoid such transfers he or she feels were made with the intent to hinder, delay, or defraud creditors. Under the amended bankruptcy laws the trustee can “look back” at least two years, but may “look back” even longer in some circumstances. The trustees for the Northern District of Alabama routinely ask about real property transfers in the past ten years. Do not worry if you have legitimately (that is transferred to a third party and receipt of fair market value) sold a house or vehicle; however, be prepared to present the paperwork for the transaction.
The consequences of getting caught attempting a “fraudulent transfer” can be severe. The trustee’s avoidance of the transfer itself may cause a debtor many new legal problems; including, but not limited to, issues with the person(s) or entity to which the property was transferred and/or possible criminal charges. In addition such a transfer may result in a debtor not receiving a discharge in his or her bankruptcy which means no protection from creditors.
So, what do you do if you have too much equity in your real or personal property? You probably will be able to file a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. In a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Alabama you may pay some or all of this equity into the bankruptcy court in affordable monthly payments over a period of time. While you may have to pay some money into the court, you will still avoid lawsuits, garnishments, repossessions, foreclosures, and have the other protections provided by the bankruptcy laws.
If you have any questions regarding this or Alabama Chapter 13 Bankruptcy filings or other bankruptcy or debt related issues please email me.
I am continuously amazed at the depths some debt collectors will go to in order to scare unwary debtors into making payments they cannot afford at the time. The statement “We will garnish your next paycheck” is probably a lie.
In Alabama in order for a creditor to obtain a writ of garnishment against your employer to withhold money from your paycheck, that creditor must have a judgment against you. In order to have a judgment against you, that creditor must have filed a lawsuit against you and won either after a trial or by default, that is, because you did not file a response.
Normally when this threat is being made, a lawsuit has yet to be filed. How do you know if you have been sued? First, if suit has been filed against you, you should have been served with a Summons and Complaint by either the sheriff’s department of your county or by certified mail. However, if you cannot be found by the creditor, the creditor may have you served by publication, that is, by running a notice in the newspaper in the county of your last known address. If you are still unsure, you may call the clerk of court of your county.
What if I have been sued? See a lawyer immediately. Depending on which court, Small Claims/District or Circuit, you have either 14 or 30 days respectively from the day you were served to file an answer. Filing an answer generally denying the allegations in the lawsuit will prevent the creditor from obtaining a default judgment against you and will lead to your case being set for court after a few months. This will give you time to save money and/or get your bankruptcy filed.
What if I already have a judgment and/or garnishment against me? If you already have a judgment and/or garnishment against you, I would again suggest you see an attorney immediately. You may be able to have the judgment set aside or appealed, but only if you act very quickly. This may also be a good time to take a strong and hard look at bankruptcy. With a bankruptcy you should be able to discharge the judgment prior to garnishment and stop any garnishment that is already in place. Upon filing a bankruptcy, you may even be able to have a portion of any money garnished from your check returned to you.
The bottom line is do not let harassing calls from creditors or debt collectors scare you into giving them money you cannot afford to give them. Many will say anything they think will frighten you. If a debt collector says anything that worries you, make an appointment with an attorney and see what your rights are. It’s probably a good time to take a look at your financial situation anyway.
Please email me with any questions regarding the topic of garnisments or any other bankruptcy or debt related topic.
I am an attorney located in Cullman, AL. I practice extensively in the area of consumer bankruptcy law, that is, I file Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies for individuals. I handle cases all over North Alabama and have helped hundreds of clients through the bankruptcy process., I receive many referrals from former clients and their families and other attorneys. Why? Unlike other firms, I have a local office. If you are from out of town, we have the technology available to keep your traveling to a minimum. Also, unlike many firms, you will meet personally with an attorney, not a paralegal. An attorney will handle your case from start to finish. ,