Mid Week Bankruptcy Case Review – Issue 6

Issue 06 – December 11, 2010


We had a couple who originally wanted to file a Chapter 13 so they could keep their home. However, they were unable to pass the Means Test.

Is this a problem? You bet it is.  Many attorneys who are practicing consumer bankruptcy today did not obtain proper training before starting their practice. Many of them opened up a Chapter 7 and 13 practice because they wanted to make extra money without realizing the consequences of that decision.

Besides, the majority of attorneys believed that preparing the bankruptcy petition was nothing more than filling out a set of forms.  I know this because there are many virtual bankruptcy assistants today who are working for attorneys and charging them $300 for preparing the petition based upon the assumption the forms are easy to prepare. They do this because the majority of them provide poor quality work and have little or no law firm experience.  Any experienced, reliable virtual bankruptcy assistant who provides paralegal level quality is going to charge double or triple that rate.

Unfortunately, if you combine an attorney with no prior bankruptcy training with a virtual bankruptcy assistant who provides poor quality work, you end up with a big mess.  So, I decided to write this article, based around a very important topic and help you to avoid this situation.

Using the Means Test as the Qualifier

The Means Test was developed to provide a way for the legal system to determine if a client is eligible to file a Chapter 7 or 13.  However, when the debtors qualify for a Chapter 7 on the Means Test but want to keep their home, attorneys will do a wide variety of manipulation to either lower expenses or raise the income, just to satisfy the debtor.

This  is FRAUD and the attorney and possible the virtual bankruptcy assistant can get in a lot of trouble. Here are some things that could happen if the debtors qualify for a Chapter 7 and the attorney places them in a Chapter 13 just to save their home:

1.  The Trustee and/or the creditors may object to the Chapter 13 Plan simply because the debtors are below the median on the Means Test. If this happens and the trustee demands the case be converted, the attorney and staff have wasted a lot of time and money. It would have been less costly to do the Chapter 7 in the first place that the debtors qualified for.

2.  The debtors will be unable to make the Plan payment and everyone loses; the court, the attorney and the debtor.

3.  Once Schedule I and J of the bankruptcy petition is filed, if adjustments are later made to the Chapter 13 in order to qualify the debtors for a Chapter 7, the attorney will need to provide the court with detailed reasons as to why and precisely how the income and expenses changed from the original that was filed.  If not, the attorney could be sanctioned for filing a fraudulent bankruptcy petition.

4.  The debtors will be locked into the Chapter 13 Plan for a period of 3 to 5 years.  This could mean that they will be unable to earn more money without paying it to the court. This also means that if their income should drop, they may be forced by the court to convert to a Chapter 7.  And upon conversion, the assets and liabilities the debtor was paying back in the Chapter 13 could cause devastating financial results.

Back to our debtors

An attorney I worked for encountered the problem that many attorneys across America encounter. He had debtors who qualified as a Chapter 7 but they wanted to file a Chapter 13. I was hired to act as the paralegal and convince them why it was to their advantage to file a Chapter 7 and let their house go.  Unfortunately, these are skills that need to be trained and attorneys with no bankruptcy experience and $300 per petition virtual bankruptcy assistants will often never question or catch this error; which is causing catastrophes in the lives of debtors nationwide. In fact, it is becoming an epidemic that my heart is hurting to solve.

It took two meetings before the couple were finally convinced to surrender their home, walk away and start over fresh again.  But once they made the decision, they knew it was right for them.  In fact, they were so overjoyed and happy it made all our efforts worthwhile.  In fact, here is an email the debtors recently sent me:

Dear Victoria:

My husband and I cannot thank you enough for taking time to work with us. We have heard many horror stories of attorneys who never care about their clients. It is rare to find someone like you and the attorney to actually take time to sit down and talk with us.  You both answered all our questions and made it so easy to get in touch with you by email or phone. We cannot thank you enough.  Without you taking the time to care about us, we would have mistakingly filed a Chapter 13 and be in the same situation we are in today in 5 years. By filing a Chapter 7, which we really qualified for and could afford, we are able to walk away from the past and begin all over again. We should be back on our feet this time next year and we owe it all to the honesty and concern you and your attorney showed to me and my husband.  We have already recommended two new clients to the law firm. These are friends who were scammed by bankruptcy attorneys and left in bad shape. We know you can help them because you helped us.  May God bless you.

Summary of This Article

The email above was published to help you understand that the old tried and true method of providing high quality customer service to your clients is still the method that will work to build your law firm. Besides, good customer service will never cost you anything. It will do nothing except help you and your law firm grow by leaps and bounds.


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