Robert S. Simonian

WHAT BILL COLLECTORS CAN AND CANNOT DO

Bill collectors can be very persistent while trying to collect money, as many may know. However, people may not know that The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act extends substantial protection to people from collectors by making certain practices illegal in Massachusetts and the rest of the United States.

Many people do not know their rights under the law, but having an understanding of your rights can protect you from harassment and intimidation. Below is a list of many things that bill collectors cannot do while trying to get money for a bill, and what you can do if you believe that your rights have been violated. Also listed below is what bill collectors cannot do while trying to collect money.

What Collectors Cannot Do

  • Collectors cannot call after 9 p.m. or before 8 a.m.
  • Collectors cannot call many times a day about the same bill.
  • Collectors cannot contact a person if the person sends the collectors a letter that says the person does not want to be contacted again regarding the bill.
  • Collectors cannot call the person’s job if the person asks the collectors to stop.
  • Collectors cannot show up at a person’s job.
  • Collectors cannot harass people who owe money.
  • Collectors cannot threaten the people who owe money. This includes: using inappropriate language, threatening violence, threatening to take property away illegally, or threatening to have someone arrested.
  • Collectors cannot threaten to sue without meaning it.
  • Collectors cannot lie about which company the collector works for. Collectors cannot pretend to be attorneys, the government, or to work for a credit bureau.
  • Collectors cannot lie about the amount of money that is owed.
  • Collectors cannot say a form that was sent was a legal document if it wasn’t.
  • Collectors cannot publicize the fact someone owes money. Collectors cannot tell anyone besides the person who owes the money, the person’s spouse, and the person’s attorney about the money owed.
  • Collectors cannot publish the bill’s existence somewhere that someone else may see it, including on a post card.

If a collector does anything which violates the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, the person may contact the state’s attorney general, the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or an attorney for help.

However, there are many things that a collector can do to try to get the money owed.

What Collectors Can Do

  • Collectors can call daily, in between the hours of 8 am and 9 pm.
  • Collectors can send frequent letters.
  • Collectors can try to find out a person’s current contact information by calling family and friends.
  • Collectors can sue for the money.
  • Collectors can call a person’s workplace until the person asks the collector to stop.
  • Collectors can try to get the money owed even if too much time has passed for the collector to sue the person.
  • Collectors can sell the money owed, and another collection company may take over.

Being pressured by collectors can be extremely stressful and you may want to consider filing for bankruptcy. Even if the collectors are acting lawfully, their contact can still be annoying and disruptive. It can also be hard to tell when a collector crosses the line from legal to illegal territory. Contacting a bankruptcy attorney can take care of a lot of the stress from the collector, and the person who owes the money can be certain that their rights are being protected and advocated for. If you are being contacted by a collection agency and looking to erase your bills by filing for personal bankruptcy, please contact the Law Office of Bucacci and Simonian at 508-673-9500 for your free and confidential bankruptcy attorney consultation.

The Facts About Filing Bankruptcy

Based on CBP data, we find that people are living longer in the financial stress sweatbox before filing bankruptcy than they have in the past.

Two-thirds of people who file bankruptcy reported struggling with their debts for two or more years before filing for bankruptcy.

One-third of people reported struggling for more than five years, double the frequency from the CBP’s survey of people who filed bankruptcy in 2007.

For those people who struggle for more than two years before filing — the “long strugglers” — we find that their time in the sweatbox is marked by persistent debt collection calls, the loss of homes and other property, and going without healthcare, food, and utilities just to make minimum payments on only some of their bills.

There is no need to live like this. The longer you wait means the longer your road to recovery. Although long strugglers do not file bankruptcy until long after the benefits outweigh the costs, they still report being ashamed of needing to file.

It is often much better to end the stress and anxiety and not delay repairing your life. The longer you wait the longer your relationships with others suffer and the more unhealthy stress and anxiety builds up.

Bankruptcy is for the most part a confidential process and your friends, family and neighbors will not know unless you tell them that you filed for bankruptcy. You should not feel ashamed to file for bankruptcy and it is not a sign of failure or defeat.

Most people need a fresh start in life at least once in their life. From start to finish, no one you encounter in the bankruptcy process will make you feel guilty or ashamed.

At Bucacci and Simonian we are not judgmental of your situation. We are here to help you.

Every year we have to meet with and file bankruptcies for our friends, family members of friends, colleagues, business associates and people we have know for many years. The best way to look at your situation is that it is no different than going to the doctor when you are too sick to recover on your own and you need professional help.

Call us today for a free confidential bankruptcy consultation.

We are Massachusetts bankruptcy attorneys who have been helping people with their financial problems for well over 25 years. Call Bucacci & Simonian at 508-673-9500 for a free and confidential consultation today.

Debt is Threatening Retirement Dreams

Many Americans are bringing more than just their bucket lists with them into retirement. According to a recent analysis by MagnifyMoney, a growing number of Americans are carrying burdensome debt into their 50s and beyond.

The biennial MRRC study surveys more than 20,000 Americans 50 and older on a range of financial topics. MagnifyMoney found the latest results revealed a number of debt trends that threaten to undermine the retirement goals of many older Americans.

Debt On the Rise

Both the percentage of older Americans carrying debt and the amount of debt they’re carrying are on the rise. As recently as 1998, roughly 37 percent of Americans age 56 to 61 carried debt, with an average debt load of $3,634 in 2012 dollars, according to MRRC research. By comparison, today, 42 percent of Americans that age carry debt and with an average debt load of $17, 623.00.

The trend isn’t explained away by higher mortgage costs, either.

According to MagnifyMoney’s analysis, almost one-third (32 percent) of older Americans carry non-mortgage debt on a month-to-month basis, with an average of $12,490. Of that, $4,786.00, on average, is credit card debt, represents its own significant challenge for Americans as they near retirement.

Credit Card Debt Weighs Heavily

Some 40 percent of older Americans have at least $5,000 in credit card debt,; 22 percent owe more than $10,000 — an amount exceeding what most of them have in their checking accounts.

Saving For Retirement

When you are caught in the trap of using your paycheck to pay credit card or debt minimum payment and they find yourself using the available credit to buy essentials like food, gas and medicine you start to get on an endless treadmill and accumulate no saving for your retirement. Many American stop contributing to their 401(K) plans and retirement plans so they can have extra money in their pay check and make minimum payments on debts that never seem to go down.

Consider Filing for Bankruptcy

If you are approaching retirement within 15 to 20 years and find yourself on the endless treadmill of paying minimum payments and not saving for your retirement you may want to consider filing bankruptcy. You can get a fresh financial start in life, get you feet on the ground and your head above water. Call us today for a free, confidential, no obligation bankruptcy consultation today.

Your Bankruptcy Discharge

Your bankruptcy discharge is more than a document from the bankruptcy court.  It is a federal court order prohibiting creditors from collecting the discharged debt from you. The important part here is discharged debt. Although you receive a discharge that does not mean all debt was discharged for example student loans and some taxes.

When creditors ignore a federal court order, it can have serious consequences for them.

Discharge applies to most creditors

All creditors who got notice of your bankruptcy are subject to the discharge injunction, with a few exceptions. That’s why it is very important to list everyone who thinks you owe them money in your bankruptcy schedules. It is better to be safe by listing anyone you may owe money to and anyone who may think you owe them money. If the creditor was properly listed and properly notified of the bankruptcy filing they will have little or no excuse as to why they attempted to collect on a discharged debt. You may have a good cause of action against the creditor if they harass you or attempt to collect on a debt after receiving the discharge.

When collector calls after bankruptcy

Whether it’s a debt buyer or the original creditor occasionally you will encounter a collector after your bankruptcy case is over. If that happens, make sure you tell the collector about your bankruptcy discharge, give them your case number and your attorney’s name and phone number.  To have a legal remedy for the violation of the discharge, you will need to prove that the collector knows about the discharge. You should keep notes about who called, the date, time, the person you spoke to, etc. If they call more than once after you informed them of the discharge, case number and attorney’s name it is important to call your bankruptcy lawyer immediately

Suing creditors to enforce the discharge

If a creditor is ignoring the bankruptcy discharge you may be able to sue them in bankruptcy court and recover damages and attorney’s fees. The amount of your recovery will depend on many factors including: the amount of stress and anxiety they caused you, if you were denied credit because of their actions, if you need to seek medical treatment due to the stress, if your credit score drops because of their actions and any other damages you can prove and demonstrate.

You can enforce the discharge against your creditors

If creditors who were discharged in your bankruptcy case continue to harass you, call your bankruptcy lawyer immediately.  Save all the evidence about how the creditor harassed you. You should not ignore attempts to collect a discharged debt. Take careful notes or all contact they have made with you including all phone calls and save all letters, emails and texts that you receive. If you suffer damages it is important to document all damages. This will help your bankruptcy attorney if the matter goes to court.

How to Handle Bankruptcy and Divorce at the Same Time

Divorce and bankruptcy are among the most stressful and emotionally fraught experiences anyone can endure, and dealing with both at the same time can seem overwhelming.

If you’re facing that prospect, it may be hard to take comfort in assurances about new beginnings (however true they are), but maybe it will help to know others have made it through the ordeal, and to learn some proven strategies for making the processes go as smoothly as possible.

Is It Wise to File for Bankruptcy Before Getting Divorced?

Before putting divorce and bankruptcy into motion, you should understand that it’s unlikely the two proceedings can truly take place simultaneously. You can file legal motions at the same time, but in most jurisdictions one case will take precedence over the other. If both cases are pending simultaneously, bankruptcy is typically suspended until the divorce court apportions marital debts and assets to each party.

Juggling the two legal actions will only complicate your situation, so for simplicity’s sake, you may want to consider filing for divorce before tackling bankruptcy. Certain circumstances, however, can make it more desirable to file bankruptcy first, and then address divorce.

Deciding the best order in which to handle divorce and bankruptcy will depend on your financial situation and the laws that apply in the jurisdiction where you live. You should consult legal counsel before starting either process to determine which makes the most sense for you. In a nutshell, here are the advantages to handling divorce before bankruptcy, and vice-versa.

When Does It Make Sense to File for Bankruptcy Before Divorce?

A main advantage to filing bankruptcy before divorce is the potential for cancelling joint marital debts that would otherwise have to be divided up as part of divorce proceedings, and then tackled separately in each spouse’s bankruptcy. A joint bankruptcy filing requires cooperation between the spouses, but it can significantly streamline the divorce process, reducing legal fees and time commitment for both parties.

In many states, a couple filing for bankruptcy can keep a larger portion of their assets than they would when filing for bankruptcy individually, after a divorce.
When Does It Make Sense to File for Divorce Before Bankruptcy?

The main case for filing for divorce before bankruptcy has to do with meeting the qualifications in your state for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In contrast with Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which cancels certain types of debt but requires negotiating with creditors to structure a yearslong repayment plan, Chapter 7 cancels qualifying debts altogether. To meet the qualifications for Chapter 7, your income must fall below than that of the median for your state. In households where one spouse earns most or all of the income, completing a divorce before filing for bankruptcy can enable both parties to qualify for individual Chapter 7 bankruptcies.

What Happens to Your Credit After Divorce?

Whether you pursue divorce or bankruptcy first, it’s important to know going in that it may not be possible for either process to completely disentangle your finances from your soon-to-be ex-spouse’s.

For example, Chapter 13 plans on marital debt may leave both parties legally responsible for repayments. There are also categories of debt that bankruptcy cannot discharge (student loans, for example), and if you or your spouse cosigned on such a loan, you may be equally responsible for seeing to it that those debts are paid, even after divorce and bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy has severe, long-lasting negative consequences for individuals’ credit scores and eligibility for loans or credit cards. While divorce doesn’t directly affect individuals’ credit, the aftermath of divorce can lead to circumstances that bring down credit scores as well. Those situations—and the long road to recovery from the credit impact of bankruptcy—will only be complicated if either party withholds payments or otherwise uses joint debt to spite the other party.

Getting through bankruptcy and divorce is never easy, but with a sound strategy and some good faith on the part of both spouses, it’s possible to move on from them and start regaining a solid financial footing within a few years.

Things to consider about Bankruptcy and Divorce

Should you file before or after divorce? 

This is a question many divorcing couples ask and the answer depends upon what joint assets and debts you have and what assets you intend to keep after the divorce. For most couples, this question is answered by whether or not you own a home, have equity in it, and one of you intends to keep it and who is residing in the home. In most cases, it is advisable to file bankruptcy jointly before the divorce. You should always consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney when you first consider divorcing. Most often it is better to jointly resolve your debt issues before the divorce as it is one major component of divorce that can be quickly resolved and leave one less issue to argue over.

It is always best if both spouses can work together before the divorce is filed. It is important to rationally discuss the financial issues and come to a joint decision when possible. When communication breaks down and the parties cannot discuss matters together it often hurts both parties. An experienced bankruptcy lawyer should be able to discuss this with both spouses and make a recommendation that is in both parties interests.

Bankruptcy, child support and alimony.

Generally speaking, as a matter of public policy, both child support and alimony are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. However, by filing Chapter 13, a spouse obligated to pay support can pay the past due support in their chapter 13 bankruptcy plan and pay them over three or five years. Also, having the other debts discharged in bankruptcy and having one lower monthly payment can often make support payments more manageable.

Should you file bankruptcy jointly or individually?

The answer to this question depends mostly upon the nature of your relationship. For most divorcing couples, it is best to file jointly if at all possible; however, not every couple going through a divorce has the ability to work together on a joint filing.

Filing bankruptcy jointly means doubling your bankruptcy exemptions, increasing the amount of property and assets that can be protected in bankruptcy and from your creditors. If you own a home and one of you intends to retain it after the divorce, you can apply for the homestead exemption and protect the equity from your creditors.

If one of you files bankruptcy prior to divorcing and the other does not, the non-filer will be responsible for all joint debt that is discharged as far as their creditors are concerned. This often causes a problem for the spouse who did not file for bankruptcy and can become an issue in the divorce. The spouse who did not file will be responsible for the formerly joint debt.

Again, there are some instances where filing individually can be beneficial and you should always consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney in the early stages of the divorce. Your divorce attorneys should work together with your bankruptcy attorney to achieve the best result.

The division of assets in a divorce and the effects on bankruptcy.

If you file bankruptcy after your divorce, the division of assets in your divorce property settlement agreement will control what assets you must exempt from your bankruptcy estate. Assets that you are to receive in the future may or may not be exempt. All of your assets provided for in the property settlement agreement must be disclosed in your bankruptcy petition. Also alimony and child support will count as income for the person receiving it and will count as an expense for the person paying it.

12 Reasons For Filing a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Reasons For Filing a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy1. There is a lot more flexibility when you file a chapter 13 bankruptcy. You can dismiss the case voluntarily at any time or convert it to chapter 7 bankruptcy at any time. You can modify your plan if your income changes if income changes or you decide to give up a house or a car. You can refinance or sell a house during the plan.

2. A chapter 13 bankruptcy can stop or prevent a foreclosure when you are behind on mortgage payments. You will have to pay the past due payments and continue paying the regular monthly payments going forward.

3. You can strip off and remove a second mortgage, reduce the mortgage balance of an investment or multifamily home and you can reduce the loan balance of an automobile loan.

4. More debts can be discharged in a chapter 13 bankruptcy as opposed to a chapter 7 bankruptcy such as alimony and divorce payments and money owed for malicious and willful acts.

5. Attorney’s fees can be incorporated into the bankruptcy plan. You will not have to come up with a lot of money at first and usually the attorney’s fees only reduce what the creditors receive and do not increase your payment.

6. You do not have to reaffirm an automobile loan in order to keep a car.

7. You can solve a tax problem in a chapter 13 bankruptcy and pay back at a rate that you can afford and stop tax levies.

8. You can solve a child support arrears problem in a chapter 13 bankruptcy and pay the past due amount over time, usually 36 to 60 months.

9. You can protect property that is not exempt in a chapter 7 bankruptcy and keep everything you own.

10. If an automobile loan payment is too high, you can stretch out your loan balance over 36 to 60 months and lower your monthly payment.

11. If you have filed a chapter 7 bankruptcy within the last 8 years and are not eligible to file another one until 8 years have passed you can file a chapter 13 bankruptcy and make a small monthly payment and still receive a discharge from you new debts.

12. You can protect a co-debtor from collection activity while the chapter 13 bankruptcy is pending.

This is not an exhaustive list of reasons where a chapter 13 bankruptcy may be a better choice over a chapter 7 bankruptcy. You should consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney for a full evaluation of your case.

Income Tax Debt & Bankruptcy

When you file for bankruptcy, you may be able to wipe out and discharge income tax debts depending on how old the tax debt is. Bankruptcy law has specific rules for how old an income tax debt must be in order for it to be discharged along with a few additional requirements.

Timing: Tax Return Was Due At Least Three Years Ago

The federal income tax debt that you are seeking to discharge must have become due, including all extensions, at least three years before the day you file for bankruptcy.

Example: You owe taxes on your 2015 and 2016 tax returns. Your 2015 tax return was due on April 15, 2016. To meet the three-year requirement for your 2015 taxes you must file for bankruptcy on or after April 15, 2019. Your 2016 tax return was due on April 15, 2017, but you requested an extension that expired on October 15, 2017. To meet the three year requirement for your 2016 taxes you must file for bankruptcy on or after October 15, 2020. Generally speaking it is always 3 years from when the tax became DUE not 3 years from the tax year filed.

Timing: Tax Return Was Filed At Least Two Years Ago

In order to discharge your federal income tax debt, you must have actually filed the tax return in which the debt was related to at least two years prior to the filing of bankruptcy. Tax debts related to unfiled tax returns are not dischargeable. You must file the return and although it satisfies the 3 year rule it has to have been filed for at least 2 years.

Timing: Tax Assessment Occurred At Least 240 Days Ago

The IRS must have recorded your liability and assessed it to you for the tax debt at least 240 days prior to the filing of your bankruptcy. This is known as a “tax assessment.” Often, the date you file your tax return is when your related tax debt is assessed. However, on occasion, the IRS can assess additional taxes later based on an audit. When this happens, you must wait 240 days from the assessment to discharge the additional taxes in bankruptcy. It is very important to know when the tax was actually assessed to you by the IRS and wait at least 240 days to file for bankruptcy.

No Fraud or Willful Evasion Requirement

If you committed fraud when filing your income tax returns you can not discharge the debt in bankruptcy. If you willfully evaded paying taxes, your tax debt will not be eligible for discharge in bankruptcy. You would have options to repayment in a chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Penalties, Interest and Tax Liens

If an income tax debt meets the rules and requirements discussed above, interest charges and penalties on that underlying tax debt will be discharged as well. If the IRS has recorded a tax lien against your property before you file for bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court cannot set aside your tax lien. After the bankruptcy, if the tax lien has not been paid off, the IRS lien will remain. Chapter 13 bankruptcy does offer you options with tax liens. You should consult a qualified and experienced bankruptcy attorney for legal advice.

Chapter 13 and Non-Dischargeable Income Tax Debt

If your tax debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy, filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy may still help you as it can make the process of paying back your debt easier. In a Chapter 13 plan you will need to pay your non-dischargeable tax debt over a 3 to 5 year period. The plan might offer better terms than an IRS installment plan and is usually an amount that is more comfortable than what the IRS proposes. It is important to remember that the automatic stay imposed by the bankruptcy court will prevent collection activity while you are in bankruptcy and provide you a lot of relief.

Facing Foreclosure ???

Facing Foreclosure and Bankruptcy

If you are facing foreclosure and the loss of your property you may want to consider your options in bankruptcy. There are many options available to you. If you are losing your home and the house has not gone to foreclosure sale yet, you can file a chapter 13 bankruptcy. This would allow you to pay the past due mortgage payments over time and save the home.

If you do not want to save the home but are afraid of losing your equity, you can file a chapter 13 bankruptcy with a sales plan. If you home is foreclosed your will most likely lose a lot or all of your equity. Generally, banks do not care if you make a profit from the home sale and are only interested in getting their money back. If you file a chapter 13 bankruptcy with a sales plan you can stop the foreclosure and sell the home for full market value. This way the bank gets their money back and you can keep the equity or use the equity to pay off other debts.

In some situations it can be advantageous to file a chapter 7 bankruptcy and allow the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee to sell the property for you. By doing this you can get full market value and preserve or save your equity and pay off other debts. The Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee, and not you, has the power to stop the sale and get the most reasonable price for the home. The property would temporarily belong to the trustee who, generally speaking, has a lot more authority and power over bankruptcy assets. Otherwise, if the house went to foreclosure, you may end up with a deficiency balance and now owe more money or you could end up with little or nothing at all. If there is equity in your home and there is a threat of you losing it bankruptcy may be in your best interest.

Whether you file a chapter 7 bankruptcy or a chapter 13 bankruptcy the Bankruptcy Court will immediately impose the automatic stay which is like a restraining order against all of your creditors. This will allow you time to make a rational decision and sell your property for the full value instead of losing the property to foreclosure sale or having to sell it fast at a greatly reduced price.

Medical Bills Can Stack Up Quickly – Is Bankruptcy the Answer

Medical Bills Can Stack Up Quickly - Is Bankruptcy the AnswerWith everything that is going on, many people are concerned about their health and on going prescriptions. One’s medical bills can cause great concern and keeping up with them can be a real challenge and finical concern. The question many have is “what can I do?”

Filing Bankruptcy is one possible option and many people are not sure what will happen to their assets and property if they decide to choose that course of action. If you decide to pursue the options, both pro and con, of filing Bankruptcy you may be surprised.

Will I be able to keep my house if I file Bankruptcy because of overdue Medical Bills ?

Will I be able to keep my car if I file Bankruptcy because of overdue Medical Bills ?

How will this impact my credit score?

People have many questions about Bankruptcy and really have no solid clue about the process and options on doing so. We are here to go over all the options you have regarding filing your Bankruptcy.

When filing Bankruptcy it is best to work with someone that can explain what option you have and what may be best in your particular situation. This is what we do when preparing to file your claim.

Medical bills are, sadly, often unforeseen and can add up quickly and filing Bankruptcy may just be the answer.

Speaking with a Bankruptcy Attorney and going over your situation to find out what options you may have is always a good idea. After all, you will what to know what options you have to eliminate the stress and concern you have regarding any outstanding debt you may have.

Meeting with a Bankruptcy Lawyer is not an admission of guilt or fault. After all, we are hear to help in every way we can to get you back on track with a fresh start.

The process of filing Bankruptcy is not the same for every person, each situation is unique.

If you find yourself in an uncomfortable position and are over whelmed with outstanding medical bills? You should seek professional advise.

We are here to help and get you back on track, give us a call today.