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Can Bankruptcy Wipe Out My Traffic Tickets? Can it Reinstate My Driver’s License?

People often ask us if they can discharge (“wipe out”) traffic tickets, parking tickets, or toll charges in bankruptcy. A related question is whether bankruptcy can help reinstate a suspended driver’s license. As with everything in bankruptcy, the answer starts off being “it depends.” It depends on what kind of bankruptcy you are filing, what kind of tickets you have, and the reason for your license suspension. We’ll tackle these questions one by one. Look to Chapter 13 For Relief…

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Can Bankruptcy Help Rebuild My Credit?

“How much will bankruptcy hurt my credit?” This is one of the first questions people ask in a bankruptcy consultation. But, far from being the “credit killer” people perceive it to be, bankruptcy can actually be a powerful tool for quickly rebuilding your credit. Here’s how. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . HOW UNSECURED DEBT AND HIGH UTILIZATION TANKS YOUR FICO CREDIT SCORE The average potential bankruptcy filer has a lot of unsecured…

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Divorce and Bankruptcy: Which Should You File First?

We often hear from people who are having financial problems and also considering divorce. The first question is usually, “Which should happen first? The divorce or the bankruptcy?” The best answer will depend on many factors. The most common of these are discussed below. Note, however:  the intersection of divorce and bankruptcy law is complex. In any case, there will almost always be additional issues not discussed below. Be sure you discuss the issues with both your bankruptcy lawyer and your divorce…

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California 704 Bankruptcy Exemptions

There are two sets of bankruptcy exemptions available to California residents (if you have been domiciled in California for the required length of time). These are commonly referred to as the “703 exemptions” and the “704 exemptions.” You must choose one exemption “menu” or the other- you can’t choose one exemption from the 703 menu and another exemption from the 704 menu. Bankruptcy filers in California are not permitted to use the Federal bankruptcy exemptions. This post discusses the “704 exemptions.” . . .…

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California 703 Bankruptcy Exemptions

There are two sets of bankruptcy exemptions available to California residents (if you have been domiciled in California for the required length of time). These are commonly referred to as the “703 exemptions” and the “704 exemptions.” This post discusses the “703 exemptions.” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 703 Exemptions:  General Information Bankruptcy exemptions are used to protect property when a person files bankruptcy. They make…

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I Paid a Debt Settlement Company Before I Filed Bankruptcy. Can I Get that Money Back?

Many people call us after using debt settlement companies. These companies promise to negotiate and reduce debts, but often do no work on the client’s file, and leave him or her in worse financial shape than before. Understandably, people often feel they did not get their money’s worth from these companies.  They want to know if they can use the bankruptcy process to get their money back. The answer is…maybe, if all of the following apply: Payments you made to the debt settlement company…

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Bankruptcy Exemptions in California- Overview

While bankruptcy relief is a function of federal law, your state of residence will determine the exemptions you are able to use in your Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Each state has its own exemption system and rules. Below is an overview of the bankruptcy exemption system in California. . . . . . . . . . Exemptions: What Are They? Exemptions protect your assets when you file bankruptcy. In other words, you get to keep a certain…

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Can Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Reduce or Eliminate My Student Loan Payments?

The short answer to this question is….yes.  Keep in mind the reduced or eliminated payment only applies during the time period you are “in bankruptcy.” But,  for most Chapter 13 filers, this is three to five years– a pretty good chunk of time to catch your breath on student loan payments. This post assumes you don’t have grounds to discharge your student loans in bankruptcy. Discharging student loans is beyond the scope of this post, but we will be adding information on this topic…

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What Can Bankruptcy (and the Automatic Stay) Do For Me?

“What can bankruptcy do for me?” It’s an important question to ask. You want to be sure bankruptcy can help you achieve your particular financial goals, and you may need a kind of relief that is only available in a certain bankruptcy chapter. Below are some of the most common questions people ask us about the kinds of relief available in bankruptcy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .…

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Bankruptcy Consultation Questions

When you call us for a free initial bankruptcy consultation, we will ask you to tell us about your situation and your financial goals in your own words. Then, we will ask some additional questions to find out if bankruptcy can help you with your goals.  Below is a list of some of these questions. It’s ok if you don’t know all the answers during our first conversation– we are here to help you, and that is what bankruptcy planning is for. But,…

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Steps in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies are based on similar concepts, so they include many of the same steps. A basic Chapter 13 will include all the same steps as a Chapter 7, PLUS a few more steps. Please review the steps in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.   The additional steps for Chapter 13 are listed below. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .…

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Should I File Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

Which Kind of Bankruptcy is Better for Me: Chapter 7 or Chapter 13? Most consumer bankruptcies in the Unites States are either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 cases. Consumers can also file Chapter 11, but Chapter 11 is “overkill” for the average consumer. So, the question of which chapter to file under usually boils down to Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .…

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Can I Keep My Home if I File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

When you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can generally keep your home if:  (1) it is your “homestead,” (2) you are current on payments, and (3) any equity in the home can be protected using your bankruptcy exemptions. If you are behind on your mortgage payments and you need to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may need to get caught up on your payments before filing.  Keep this in mind when planning your filing timeline. Your Home is Property of your Bankruptcy Estate When you file bankruptcy,…

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Law Offices of Karen Ware, PC Receives 2014 Best Businesses of Ventura Award (Bankruptcy Lawyer Category)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Law Offices of Karen Ware, PC Receives 2014 Best Businesses of Ventura Award  February 23, 2015 — Law Offices of Karen Ware, PC has been selected for the 2014 Best Businesses of Ventura Award in the Bankruptcy Law category. Each year, the Best Businesses of Ventura Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through…

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How should I dispute inaccurate information on my credit report?

I found  incorrect information on my credit report. How do I correct it?  Do I notify the creditor? Do I notify the credit reporting bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, Experian)? Answer:  Protections under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)  are triggered when you notify the credit reporting bureaus of a disputed credit reporting item. This means you might need to notify a specific creditor that you dispute their reporting.* (But SEE BELOW for caveat.) But, you also need to notify the credit bureaus. This is because it is the…

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I’ve been sued by a debt buyer. What should I expect?

There are a few debt buyers in California who are responsible for thousands of suits each month. With this volume of cases, the “life cycle” of a typical collection lawsuit can be predicted to some extent.   Here is what you should expect. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I.  SERVICE You will be served personally with some…

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Can I keep my car if I file bankruptcy? What is “reaffirmation”?

Most of our clients have car loans, and most want to keep their cars when they file bankruptcy. There are a few ways to do this. This post discusses REAFFIRMATION.  Later posts will discuss other ways of dealing with car loans in bankruptcy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Why Am I Being Asked to Reaffirm My Car Loan? The bankruptcy code requires filers to choose one…

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Considering Bankruptcy? Pitfalls to Avoid (Part Two)

This post is the second of a two-part series.  You can read Part One here: Considering Bankruptcy?  Mistakes to Avoid Part One. Part One discussed mistakes people make when trying to avoid bankruptcy or postponing the decision of whether or not to file. Once you have decided to file, there are additional issues to carefully consider. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .…

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I have a judgment against me. Can my spouse’s bank account or wages be garnished to pay my judgment (in California)?

The short answer is…YES, if the wages or bank account funds are considered “community property.” In California, the law presumes that any property acquired or wages earned during the marriage belong to both spouses, regardless of which spouse did the acquiring or the earning. Property subject to this presumption is called “California community property.” This means Spouse # 1  is  generally considered to  have a “community property interest” in the wages of Spouse # 2. California law allows a judgment…

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Considering Bankruptcy? Pitfalls to Avoid (Part One)

Filing bankruptcy is a difficult decision. Understandably, most people take a while to decide whether or not to file. If you think you might need bankruptcy relief but you are still unsure about filing, there are some pitfalls you should avoid. Certain transactions can make your bankruptcy less effective at best, and can make you ineligible for bankruptcy relief at worst. Avoiding these mistakes will help keep your options open if you later decide to file bankruptcy. This is a…

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Do I “Qualify” for Bankruptcy Relief?

Most people who call our office have a few preliminary questions about whether they are good candidates for bankruptcy. Below are a few of these questions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Q: What are the criteria to qualify for bankruptcy relief? A: Most people are eligible to file bankruptcy. The question is really whether bankruptcy will help you accomplish your financial goals. To…

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What Questions Will the Trustee Ask at My 341 Meeting of Creditors?

Most people filing bankruptcy want to know what the bankruptcy trustee will ask them at their 341 Meeting of Creditors. While the trustee’s questions will depend somewhat on your specific file, many of the questions are standard. Knowing some of these questions ahead of time can put you at ease.  Reviewing these questions will also help your Meeting of Creditors go quickly and smoothly. Below is a list of trustee questions. Questions 1-15 are commonly asked.  The remaining questions are asked…

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What Happens During a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

During your first meeting with our office, we will give you an overview of the entire Chapter 7 bankruptcy process. Most people are pleasantly surprised to hear that an average Chapter 7 case is fairly quick. An average Chapter 7 bankruptcy takes 3-4 months from filing date to discharge date.  The events in an average case are listed below.  If your case is very complex, there might be a few more events on your timeline. [fancy_header] At least 3 Days…

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What is the Bankruptcy Means Test? How Does it Work? What if I “Failed”?

The bankruptcy means test is a calculation used to determine your hypothetical “monthly disposable income.” The amount of monthly disposable income will in turn help decide whether you file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. This disposable income helps determine (1) whether you are eligible to file Chapter 7, and (2) how much you pay your creditors if you file Chapter 13. Below are the basic steps in the Means Test Analysis. [warning_box]Note: You can skip the means test analysis if…

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Your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Payment Plan: What is it? What does it include?

[pullquote1]Chapter 13 bankruptcy generally lets you keep many (or all) of your assets and requires you to repay some of your debts over a 3-5 year period. At the end of your repayment period, most remaining debt is wiped out. But, how do you determine how much you have to pay and for how long?[/pullquote1] Chapter 13 repayment plan: what is it? Your Chapter 13 repayment plan is a document that describes in detail (1) how you plan to repay…

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What is the Bankruptcy Meeting of Creditors (341 Meeting)? What Happens at the Meeting?

Approximately 35 – 40 days after you file your Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, you will have what’s called a Meeting of Creditors or 341 Meeting.  This post describes what happens at the meeting. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Who Will Attend the Meeting of Creditors? At this meeting, you and your…

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Debt Lawsuits in California Small Claims Court: Collecting Judgments

Many debt collection cases are heard in small claims courts, where individual defendants are not permitted to have an attorney represent them. However, an individual is entitled to have an attorney represent them in small claims court after a judgment has been entered and the creditor starts trying to enforce that judgment. California CCP 116.530(a)(4). The “enforcement” procedure is the subject of this post. After a creditor sues and gets a judgment in the California small claims courts, he or she…

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What are Secured Debts? How are they Treated in Bankruptcy?

You may have heard that not all debts are wiped out (“discharged”) in bankruptcy. This is true. If you are considering bankruptcy, one of the first questions to consider is which debts can be wiped out in your particular case. To answer this question, you will need to consider what kind of debts you have. Some debts are “secured debts,” some are “unsecured debts,” and some are “priority debts” in bankruptcy. This post briefly discusses how secured debts are treated…

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Bankruptcy Lawyer Karen Ware offers bankruptcy services in the following areas: Santa Maria, Lompoc, Solvang, Santa Ynez, Los Olivos, Buellton, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Oxnard, Camarillo, Santa Paula, Fillmore, Thousand Oaks, Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, and Pasadena, California.
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11 U.S.C. 528(A)(4)

"We are a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code." This statement is required by 11 U.S.C. Section 528(a)(4). But, it does not state the full range of services our firm offers.