More About Our Practice Areas
Andrew and the staff at the Law Office of Andrew S. Trexler, P.C. have a passion for helping people through their legal struggles, whether they are drowning in overwhelming debt, being unlawfully harassed by their creditors, or need help understanding and making their way through the complexities of the U.S. immigration system.
Before explaining what bankruptcy is, it’s important to say these three things:
First, bankruptcy is NOT a bad thing, or a bad word. If you need to file bankruptcy, it’s almost always an incredible relief that comes after you’ve been through a lot of terrible things.
Second, “deadbeats” or “losers” don’t file for bankruptcy relief. Normal people who can’t pay their debts file – usually because they’ve lost a job, or lost hours at work, or suffered through a family death, or divorce, or a medical emergency, or had some other hardship which kept them from being able to pay their bills. We’ve filed petitions for our friends; for our family; for other lawyers – none of them were losers, but all of them needed bankruptcy relief.
Third, once you know bankruptcy’s the right thing for you, the next step is to choose the right attorney. You will want someone who will make the process as smooth as possible, and plan, prepare and time the best bankruptcy filing they can, whether it’s a “straight” chapter 7 or chapter 13 repayment plan.
So what IS Bankruptcy? It’s best explained by looking at the two main chapters, which make up about 99% of all bankruptcy filings.
Chapter 7 in a Nutshell
This is the more common, and more well-known form of bankruptcy relief. In a chapter 7 bankruptcy, you don’t pay anything on the debts you owe while in bankruptcy, and most types of debts – credit cards, medical bills, bank or payday loans, past-due cell-phone bills, some older taxes, etc. – are “discharged”, or legally wiped out forever. After your bankruptcy is over, you’ll only need to pay “non-dischargeable debts” – student loans (in most cases), recent tax debts, child support, tickets and fines, and a few other types of debt.
In order to have these debts wiped out, you have to tell the Bankruptcy Court quite a bit about your income and finances the last few years. You have to tell the court (as best you can) everyone you do or may owe money to – your “creditors.” You have to tell the court and the trustee (who is looking out for your creditors) about everything you own, including anyone who might owe you money. Finally, you usually have to show that you can’t afford to pay much on your debts after setting aside money for rent or a mortgage, groceries, auto expenses, and other reasonable living expenses.
As soon as you file your chapter 7 petition, your creditors must immediately stop any attempts to collect a debt. If a creditor continues harassing you, they could be sued in your bankruptcy case for ignoring a court order, which may entitle you to damages. In other words, bankruptcy means protection and freedom from harassment – starting the minute you file. I think that’s a beautiful thing.
About one month after you file, you’ll meet with your trustee, who has reviewed everything in your filing, and who will have several questions for you about your eligibility for bankruptcy, finances and the creditors to whom you owed money when you filed your bankruptcy petition. Most importantly, the trustee wants to know if you own anything she might be able to get for your creditors, or to see if any of your creditors received or took money from you that the trustee might be able to get back. This is where having an attorney carefully review and plan your filing can pay off in a big way, or where a poorly-planned, or “bargain-basement” bankruptcy can really come back to bite you.
Assuming you’ve met the requirements for chapter 7 relief, in most cases, you’ll receive an order from the judge discharging all the debts the law allows about three months after you meet with the trustee. In some cases, this is essentially the end of your bankruptcy case, but the case can stay open longer if the trustee thinks he can get some small payment for your creditors.
Chapter 13 in a Nutshell
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is similar to chapter 7 in a lot of ways, and very different in others. You still have to tell the court a lot about yourself. You still get immediate protection from your creditors. You still meet with a trustee. In chapter 13 though, you set up a 3 – 5 year repayment plan, which you’ll then try to get “confirmed”, or approved by the Bankruptcy Court.
In chapter 13, the general idea is that you pay your creditors what you can afford to pay them after budgeting for your reasonable living expenses – this is called your “projected disposable income.” I have to take this chance to say that for most of my clients in chapter 13, this usually isn’t a lot, and they’re almost always very happy about their confirmed payment plans.
In fact, the majority of my clients in chapter 13 actually could’ve filed a chapter 7, and still chose chapter 13. WHY? Because chapter 13 is about a lot more than just making a monthly payment. It can also be about:
- saving thousands on your tax debt
- saving thousands on a high-interest or older vehicle loan, or saving a car from repossession
- getting rid of a 2nd mortgage on your home
- Catching up your mortgage payments, or saving your home from foreclosure
- Keeping property you’d have to give up in chapter 7, whether it’s something small like a gun, or something big like a rental home
Chapter 13 even wipes out a few types of debts which don’t go away in chapter 7. And in most cases, your creditors can’t bother you on any of your debts for the whole 3 – 5 year repayment plan. There are other chapters of bankruptcy – 9 for cities, 11 for businesses and individuals with more complex financial affairs, 12 for family farmers and fishermen – but for most people who have fallen on hard times and need relief from the pain of crushing debt, chapter 7 or 13 will be a better choice.
About Our Consumer Protection Practice
After you take the enormous step of filing for bankruptcy relief, you get immediate protection from any collection attempts by most or all of your creditors. This protection is known as the Automatic Stay. When you are relieved of your debts near the end of the process, you receive a different form of protection known as the Discharge Injunction. This injunction means no one whose debt was discharged can ever contact you again in any way to seek payment.
At the Law Office of Andrew S. Trexler, P.C., we take both these protections very seriously, and from the beginning of his practice, Andrew has been passionate about protecting the rights of Debtors in bankruptcy. If you have been harassed to pay a debt during or after your bankruptcy case, we would be happy to discuss the details further, and to determine whether you may be entitled to damages, punitive damages or your attorneys fees incurred as a result of the illegal conduct.
About Our Immigration Practice
The U.S. Immigration system can be extremely confusing to a prospective immigrant, their employers and their family members. There’s an ‘alphabet soup’ of nonimmigrant visas, the need to deal with several different government agencies, and hundreds of laws, regulations and policy memorandum regarding who can come to the U.S. and who can stay. In short, it’s rarely something the prospective immigrant or their petitioner wants to deal with on their own.
At the Law Office of Andrew S. Trexler, P.C., we are devoted to helping a diverse array of clients through the immigration process, focusing on family-based immigration benefits such as Permanent Residency (the “green card”) via Adjustment of Status or consular processing, renewals of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications, citizenship and naturalization matters, and other immigration benefits. We offer experienced and compassionate service at affordable rates, and will be there for you to clearly explain the process and requirements for your immigration matter. Please note we do not represent individuals in employment-based immigration matters or deportation/removal proceedings.