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Monthly Archives: March 2011

What Happens if My Expenses or Income Change During My Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

Posted by Ryan Blay on March 25th, 2011 in Bankruptcy, Bankruptcy Information, Chapter 13

             Lakelaw is familiar with Chapter 13 Bankruptcy plans.  During the three to five year plan, your finances can change, for the better - and for the worse.  If anything big happens – a job loss, a big raise, the birth of a new child, emergency expenses – the most important thing you can do is give your attorney a call immediately.If we know about changes set to happen, we can contact the Chapter 13 Trustee and the  Bankruptcy Court and explain the situation.  We can ask for an increase or decrease in plan payments, a temporary (one month) suspension of the payments, or, in extreme situations, we can convert your case to a Chapter 7 or try to get an early discharge due to a hardship.

            Suppose, for instance, your governor and legislature decide that as a state employee, you should have to contribute more to your insurance and retirement plans.  Your net income on every paycheck will go down.  Before missing your mortgage payment or Chapter 13 plan payment, call your attorney and see what we can do to show your changes on your budget schedules (Schedules I and J) and propose a different plan. 

            Chapter 13 can be complicated and stressful, but it does not have to be torture or a debtor’s prison.  You are paying for the services of an attorney for the full life of the plan, and you should make use of that attorney before it becomes too late to save your plan.  If you are in Chapter 13 and you have experienced a major change in income or expenses, call us at 866-LAKELAW or 262-694-7300 in Wisconsin.

When It’s Time to Let the House Go – Three Good Reasons to Walk Away

Posted by Ryan Blay on March 24th, 2011 in Foreclosure - Saving Your Home, Real Estate

1.     Lakelaw believes homeowners should be treated with kindness, courtesy and respect – and that core belief does not end when it’s time to get on the phone with your mortgage company.  The rudeness and lousy customer service that mortgage companies across the country use would put any small company out of business.  But it’s typical of our nation’s biggest servicers, and there’s very little ability to say goodbye and take your mortgage to a business with better customer service.  That means lies and misleading statements about ongoing litigation, modification attempts, and questionable accounting practices. 

2.     Property taxes are the hidden culprit in many foreclosures.  Counties are bleeding money, so they have no choice but to raise property tax rates.  Because property values are plummeting, the tax revenues fall, and next year’s rates are even higher.  This vicious cycle won’t end until the foreclosures stop and property values can go back up on their own.  Why are you paying the same for your $100,000 house as you were 3 years ago when your house was worth $150,000?  A very good question to ask as you plan your budget.

3.     On top of property taxes, the true cost of home ownership is the principal, interest, and homeowner’s insurance.  If this amount in total is too large, the rest of your budget will fall apart and you’ll be forced to borrow money through a retirement plan early withdrawal, credit card advances, payday loans, and title loans.  There is a reason that the government’s Making Home Affordable program set a target of 31% of gross income to cover principal, interest, taxes & insurance (PITI).  If your payment is hovering around 50% of your gross income, it is eating up too much of your budget and you won’t be able to save or set money aside.  Maybe it was affordable before the pay cut, or before a loss in hours.  But your home is supposed to be a place to feel secure and enjoy ownership, not to worry every minute about borrowing from family and friends to keep above water.

I Just Spent A Large Tax Refund – Can I Still File for Bankruptcy?

Posted by Ryan Blay on March 21st, 2011 in Bankruptcy, Bankruptcy and Taxes

  This year’s April 18th deadline for filing taxes is almost here, and that means many of us have already filed our state and federal taxes and – hopefully – received a refund.  Sometimes we will meet someone who had the good luck to get back $4,000, $6,000 or even $8,000 back from the IRS.  But that money isn’t always enough to balance their finances, and they still need to file for bankruptcy.  What to do about that spent refund when the trustee asks about it?

 Our first piece of advice is always to keep track of where the money went.  Usually there is a very simple answer for why that $6,000 refund is down to $500.  $3,000 went to property taxes.  $500 went to badly needed car repair.  $1,000 was spent on fixing the leaky roof.  And $1,000 went to catching up with the gas and electric bills.  That sounds more reasonable than “It’s all gone”, because every dollar is accounted for.  The second thing to remember is to hold off on paying back close friends and family members for loans.  It sounds unfair to wait when the money is finally in front of you, but repaying family in large amounts (especially $500 or more) is considering making a “preference” to one creditor over all others.  That money can be recovered from a trustee, so that $2,000 repayment goes back to your creditors instead of your parents. 

 Finally, waiting can be the best answer.  Sometimes, waiting a few months is a good way of showing that your tax refund wasn’t enough to take care of all the medical bills, credit card debts and other bills.  If you are expecting a large refund, or have already received one, call the attorneys at Lakelaw to discuss your financial options.

Legal Helpers Debt Settlement Sued by Lisa Madigan

Posted by David Leibowitz on March 3rd, 2011 in Uncategorized

Legal Helpers is a law firm.  It helps people file bankruptcy.

Legal Helpers Debt Settlement LLC is a law firm.  It says it helps people settle debts.  Is it the same as Legal Helpers, the firm that helps people file bankruptcy?  No.  It’s a limited liability company organized in Nevada with its principal place of business at the Willis Tower in Chicago.

Lisa Madigan, the Illinois Attorney General says no.  She says that Legal Helpers Debt Settlement takes illegal advance fees to settle debts for consumers without filing bankruptcy.  Then, it says that they violate the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Debt Settlement Consumer Protection Act. They allegedly contract out virtually all debt relief services to a third party staffed by non-lawyers, charging advance fees which are unfair and in violation of the advance fee ban in the Debt Settlement Consumer Protection Act.

I’ve seen just such a victim in my role as chapter 7 trustee.  This debtor paid close to $10,000 to Legal Helpers Debt Settlement LLC. He got no relief.  He ended up in bankruptcy anyway.

Check out a copy of the complaint here:

If you or someone you know is a victim of Legal Helpers Debt Settlement LLC, call us at Lakelaw and we will advocate for you.


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