Is There Such a Thing as an Easy Chapter 13?

— by Victoria Ring, Certified Paralegal and Bankruptcy Specialist

I consider it a pleasure and an honor to work with many new bankruptcy attorneys. On Friday I received an email from a new attorney in New York who was in a desperate bind.  In the initial interview, he had told the clients that their Chapter 13 Plan payment would be about $400 per month.  Unfortunately, when all the math was done and the petition completed, the debtors had $1,500 of disposable income left on Schedule J.

The attorney was correct in questioning how he could propose a Chapter 13 Plan payment of only $400 to the court when the debtor’s had $1,500 in disposable income.  He called me and then sent the petition for a review.

This is not the first attorney to face this same problem.  I encounter new attorneys who make this mistake all the time.  But an attorney taught me this one time:  She said that the one word attorneys should also use in communication with clients is the word POSSIBLY.  In other words, never make statements that are written in stone; leave yourself an out in case the scenario changes (which is often the case.)

After reviewing Schedule J of this particular petition, I immediately noticed large monthly payments being allocated to private school fees, charitable contributions and college tuition for a daughter that was over 18.  I am not an attorney, but I have worked on thousands of bankruptcy petitions over the course of my 3o+ year career.  I have found that creditors often object to these types of allowances on Schedule J and redistribute the money to paying them instead of the private school, or whatever.

I worked on one case in Atlanta, Georgia where the house the children lived in was in a bad, drug-infested neighborhood.  The parents had sent their children to private school their entire lives. The kids were sheltered from the world they actually lived in.  A creditor won his argument and those children were forced to attend the bad school. The money allocated to the private school tuition was denied and that money was paid to the creditor instead.  It is sad to me when the innocent suffer and I often wonder that happened to those little children. I am sure they had to learn how to grow up quick.  What a shame.

Anyway, I related this information to the new attorney and we talked about it.  The attorney pointed out that in the case of his debtors, they were proposing to pay everything.  The only items placed inside the Chapter 13 Plan to be paid by the Trustee were: (1) Arrearages on home; (2) Unsecured debts; and (3) Attorney and Trustee fees.  This means that there will be no objections from the secure creditors since they are being paid in full.  The only creditors to object to the private school expenses, etc. would be the unsecured creditors.

Using this logic, the attorney made the decision to file the proposed Chapter 13 Plan with a payment of $1,500 (matching the disposable income on Schedule J).  Arrearages would be paid the standard interest rate and unsecured debts were paid at 50%.  This is what made this Chapter 13 Plan so easy and extremely easy to comprehend or argue at the 341 Meeting.

I hope this information helps you in your bankruptcy law practice.

Do you need help with your Chapter 7 or 13 practice?

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