In a recent episode of the Legal Insights podcast, top bankruptcy attorney Joan Warren, partner at Lavery & Sirkis, revealed what everyone needs to know about eliminating debt in Hackettstown, NJ. —
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When asked for a comment, she said, "Many people who are in debt are ashamed by the thought of bankruptcy and put it on the backburner. However, there's absolutely no reason to feel shame or put off declaring bankruptcy as owing debt is one problem that's fixable."
According to Warren, many of her clients ask her how much debt they should accrue before filing for bankruptcy.
"It's not the amount of debt that matters. It boils down to how it's affecting your life. So if it's affecting your health, relationships, marriage, and sleep habits, then it's time to file for bankruptcy. Owing debt is something that is fixable, but those other parts of life might not be fixable. Some people can carry an enormous amount of stress, and they're ok with that. That's not the case for most of us," she said.
One reason the American public delays in pursuing bankruptcy is because they think that their credit score will be ruined after filing for bankruptcy - or that they won’t have credit for years after filing.
"The truth of the matter is that that is not at all how it works. There is a decline in your credit score when you file any form of bankruptcy, but typically people who are carrying a lot of debt are going to have a lower credit score. As soon as you get rid of all the debt, your credit is going to rebound. Every single month you continue to pay things on time after filing, your score is going to increase. And, many times, people are beyond where they started with their credit score within a year.”
Another fear that drives many people away from bankruptcy is that they will lose all their possessions after filing.
"A lot of people think that if you file for bankruptcy, you're going to lose everything that you own. People are particularly concerned about their homes or vehicles. In most cases, this is absolutely not what happens. By the same token, the government doesn't want people out on the streets. They don't want people not to have a vehicle to go to work. They want you to be able to start again," she said.
Further to this point, Warren pointed out that the American legal system was built to allow for second chances.
When asked to elaborate, she commented, “America is built on capitalism. Our country wants people to try. They want people to try different things and try businesses. In fact, most of the businesses in America are composed of small businesses. So the laws are there as a safety net. If you try and don’t succeed and something happens, there’s a safety net there.”
One aspect of bankruptcy - the automatic stay - serves as a great example of this legal protection in action.
"An automatic stay is a big blanket of protection. This means that no one can write you, call you, sue you, take your money - nothing. You're protected instantly when you file, which is a big relief for a lot of people. The second that we file - and we're required to file electronically, so it's instantaneous - you get this big blanket of protection."
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