In Bankruptcy, What Property Can I Keep?

Bankruptcy CourtIn a bankruptcy case, you can keep all property which the law says is “exempt” from the claims of creditors. You can choose between state law exemptions or federal law exemptions.

Federal exemptions include:

  • $15,000 equity in your home;
  • $2,400 in equity in your car;
  • $400 per item in any household goods up to a total of $8000;
  • $1,000.00 in jewelry;
  • $1,500 in things you need for your job (tools, books, etc,);
  • $800 in any property, plus part of the unused exemption in your home, up to $7,500;
  • Your right to receive certain benefits such as social security, unemployment compensation, veteran’s benefits, public assistance, and pensions regardless of the amount.

You must have lived in New Hampshire for the last two years to use the New Hampshire exemption laws. New Hampshire exemptions include:

  • $100,000 in equity in your home
  • $4,000 equity in you car
  • Up to $3,500 in household furnishings
  • $5,000 in things you need for your job (i.e. tools, books, etc.)
  • $1,000 in any property plus up to $7,000 of unused other exemptions
  • $500 in jewelry
  • Most retirement plans, social security, unemployment and other public assistance benefits
  • New Hampshire law also protects up to 6 sheep, one hog, one pig, and either a horse a cow or a yoke of oxen.

The exemption amounts are doubled when a married couple files together.

In determining whether property is exempt, you must keep a few things in mind. First, property value is not the amount you paid for it, but what it is worth today. Especially for furniture and cars, this may be a lot less than what you paid or what it would cost to buy a replacement.

Further, you only need to look at the equity in your property. This means that you count your exemptions against the full value minus any money that you owe on mortgages or liens. For example, if you own a $50,000 house with a $40,000 mortgage, you have $10,000 of equity in your property. Under New Hampshire exemptions, if the equity is under $100,000, the property is fully protected. In this case, the property if fully protected.

For more information regarding bankruptcy, read the entire pamphlet entitled “Bankruptcy” from the New Hampshire Bar Association.

Remember, the law often changes and each case is different.  This information was meant to give general information and should not be considered a substitute for legal advice.

A decision to file bankruptcy should be made only after determining that bankruptcy is the best way to deal with your financial situation.  A consultation with an experience bankruptcy attorney can help.  Call the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association today for a referral at 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

 

Campus Debit Cards May Carry Hidden Fees

According to a report by the United States Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG)  many banks are taking advantage of students who need campus debit cards to access their financial aid.  They may appear to be an easy low-cost solution to handling finances while in school, but many of these cards carry excessive hidden fees.

“Campus debit cards are wolves in sheep’s clothing,” Rich Williams, one of the co-authors of the USPIRG report, said in a recent press release,  “Students think they can access their dollars freely, but instead their aid is being eaten up in fees.”

Although campus debit cards are not required to access a student’s financial aid, many banks market their product directly on colleges’ financial aid websites, often creating the perception of being the only option.

Debit cards have received less federal oversight. And, according to a study, by the United States Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, an advocacy organization, nearly 900 colleges and universities have card relationships with banks or other financial institutions, some of which manage student aid disbursements by turning student IDs into debit cards. Some schools save money by outsourcing administrative costs. Others receive payments from the banks.

Read the entire article by Jeff Ousley at Veteransunited.com

 

 

Few Borrowers in Foreclosure Apply for Free Review

Only a tiny percentage of the 4.3 million homeowners facing foreclosure have applied for a free foreclosure  review to check for errors, despite the fact that they could be eligible for up to $100,000 if errors are found.

The review process was put into effect as a result of the “robo-signing” scandal, where several banks admitted to mishandling some foreclosure documents, resulting in some homeowners wrongfully losing their homes.

In the wake of the scandal, federal bank regulators required 14 mortgage companies to establish the Independent Foreclosure Review process.

The review costs homeowners nothing, but at last count, only 165,000 people — fewer than 4 percent of those eligible — have applied.

The original April 30 deadline has since been extended to July 31.

Read the entire story by Yuki Noguchi at NPR.

Find out if you are eligible for an independent foreclosure review.

If you are facing foreclosure and would like assistance with reviewing your options, contact a home ownership and loss mitigation counseling agency for free counseling on the options available to you to prevent or mitigate the foreclosure.

If it is determined that you will need the assistance of an attorney, the Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can help with a referral to a competent attorney who specifically handles foreclosure matters.  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.

 

Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight Created

For immediate release:  April 5, 2012
Contact:  Laura Brewer – 919-508-7821

Mortgage Settlement Monitor Begins Work
Joseph Smith appointed to oversee 49-state, five-bank pact; opens office in Raleigh
RALEIGH, N.C. – Joseph A. Smith, Jr. today officially assumed his position as the monitor of the mortgage servicing settlement among 49 states, the federal government and five major banks. In this role, Smith will work to ensure that the banks follow the requirements outlined in the settlement agreement. Today also marks the formal creation of the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight (OMSO), the body Smith has set up to facilitate his work.

Participants in the settlement unofficially named Smith as their choice in early February when news of the agreement became public, but both the settlement and Smith’s appointment became official when the United States District Court for the District of Columbia made final consent judgments affecting each of the banks.

In response to the agreement, Smith said, “Today, in keeping with the charge I’ve received from the Court and the parties to the settlement, I have opened the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight and begun to carry out my duties as Monitor.

“The mortgage settlement is a bipartisan achievement that holds promise for millions of people. Our nation depends on its home financing system not only to function properly, but also to inspire confidence in the people who use it. By itself, this settlement will not remedy every problem that system faces. But trust in our mortgage system can move forward if we use this opportunity to show fairness, transparency and accountability. This is a responsibility I take seriously.”

Smith will receive periodic reports from the settlement participants and oversee bank compliance with the agreement. The Monitor will then report his findings, determinations and actions to the Court and a Monitoring Committee of state and federal government representatives. The Monitor is empowered to work with noncompliant institutions to establish corrective plans, or, if necessary, to recommend penalties or to seek injunctive relief to enforce the settlement.

“Since the settlement was announced last month, people have understandably paid a great deal of attention to the specifics of the consent judgment – who will pay, who will receive, and how much,” Smith said. “Those are important matters to determine. But this settlement also serves those who do not participate in the transfer of money: the neighbors of distressed borrowers whose property values stand at risk because of foreclosed properties in their midst, the communities in which they live, the people saving now toward the goal of home ownership, and everyone whose living depends on a robust housing and home finance industry.”

More information about the mortgage settlement.

More information about the Office of Mortgage Settlement.

If you believe your home was illegally foreclosed on and you have not been contacted by a settlement administrator, the Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association may be able to help with a referral to an attorney who can review your situation.  A consultation with a competent attorney can make all the difference!  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.

File Your Taxes Before Identity Thieves Do

Elisabeth Leamy, ABC NEWS Consumer Correspondent reports:

Tax day is a week away and I hope you’ve already filed, because if you haven’t, it’s quite possible con artists have filed FOR you, using your Social Security number to claim refunds for themselves. Tax-related identity theft has doubled over the past two years and now makes up the single largest category of the crime. In 2009, only 12 percent of identity theft was related to taxes. Now tax identity theft makes up 24 percent of all ID theft crimes reported to the Federal Trade Commission. Crooks have found that Uncle Sam is a pretty easy target and they can scoop up tax refunds using YOUR good name.

Here’s the ugly part: if a crook files a tax return using your name and SSN before you file your own return, you’ll be stuck having to prove YOU really are yourself and THEY really are the criminals. There’s also another twist in which criminals use other people’s SSNs when they get jobs. The income from that job then shows up as yours, and when you don’t account for it on your tax return, the IRS may come after you. The third twist is when crooks steal the SSN of a child or elderly dependent of yours, and then you have to prove that person really belongs on your tax return. Not only will your refund be delayed, it’s possible you may end up spending money to clear your name.

Read the entire story.

If your identity is ever stolen, hiring an experienced attorney may be the quickest route to recovering your good name.   The Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can help with a referral to an attorney who specifically handles identity theft issues.  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.

Debt Collectors Profiting From Student Loan Crisis

John Hechinger, writer for Bloomberg Businessweek reported on March 26, 2012:

With $67 billion of student loans in default, the Education Department is turning to an army of private debt-collection companies to put the squeeze on borrowers. Working on commissions that totaled about $1 billion last year, these government contractors face growing complaints that they are violating federal laws by insisting on stiff payments, even when borrowers’ incomes make them eligible for leniency.

Education Department contracts — featuring commissions of as much as 20 percent of recoveries — encourage collectors to insist on high payments. Former debt collectors said they worked in a “boiler-room” environment, where they could earn bonuses of thousands of dollars a month, restaurant gift cards and even trips to foreign resorts if they collected enough from borrowers.

The article goes on to describe the specific federal laws that debt collectors must abide by.

Federal-aid law requires collectors to offer “reasonable and affordable” payments, so debtors can “rehabilitate” their loans, repairing their credit and making good on what they owe taxpayers.

The law mandates no minimum payment for a borrower to enter a rehabilitation program, and collection companies may take borrowers’ finances into account. The fair debt act forbids collectors from making “any false, deceptive or misleading representation.”

Insisting that cash-strapped borrowers make minimum payments and then failing to disclose lower-cost options violates both federal-aid and fair debt-collection laws, according to Deanne Loonin, an attorney with the Boston-based National Consumer Law Center.

Read the entire story.

If you are struggling with your student loan debt, check out the National Consumer Law Center’s  Student Loan Borrower Assistance website.

Some student loan issues may need legal intervention.  The Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can refer you to an attorney who handles student loan and/or debt collection issues.  Call 603-229-0002 or request and online referral.

How Will the Mortgage Settlement Affect Distressed Homeowners?

49 state attorney’s general have reached a landmark agreement with 5 of the nation’s top loan servicers (Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, and Ally/GMAC).  The settlement will provide up to 25 billion dollars in relief to distressed borrowers and direct payments to states and the federal government.

The agreement settles state and federal investigations finding that the loan servicers routinely signed foreclosure related documents outside the presence of a notary public and without really knowing whether the facts they contained were correct.  Both of these practices violate the law.

The settlement provides benefits to borrowers in the signing states whose loans are owned by the settling banks as well as to many of the borrowers whose loans they service.

Homeowners whose primary residence was part of a foreclosure action between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010, and whose home loan was serviced by a participating servicer, may be eligible for an Independent Foreclosure Review.  

To find out more information regarding how this settlement may affect borrowers or how to find out if you qualify for assistance, check out the new National Mortgage Settlement website, and/or read the press release from the NH Attorney General’s office.

If your home is in foreclosure, an attorney may be able to assist you.  Call the Lawyer Referral Service today at 603-229-0002 for a referral to a competent lawyer who specifically handles foreclosure matters in New Hampshire, or request an online referral.   A consultation with an attorney could make all the difference!

 

NH to Join Settlement Over Foreclosure Abuses

New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney and Commissioner Ronald A. Wilbur of the New Hampshire Banking Department will be holding a press briefing this afternoon at 1:00 p.m.,  regarding the recently announced $25 billion state/federal mortgage servicing settlement.  The briefing will include a detailed explanation of the proposed terms of the settlement and New Hampshire’s decision to join.

The nationwide settlement stems from abuses that occurred after the housing bubble burst. Many companies that process foreclosures failed to verify documents. Some employees signed papers they hadn’t read or used fake signatures to speed foreclosures — an action known as robo-signing.

The deal would be the biggest involving a single industry since a 1998 multistate tobacco deal. It would force the five largest mortgage lenders to reduce loans for about 1 million households.

Read the entire story by Julie Smidt, in USA Today

If you believe your home was illegally foreclosed on, the Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can help by referring you to a competent attorney who specifically handles this type of legal matter.  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.

Foster Children Often Targeted For Identity Theft

As reported by Gerry Smith, in the Huffington Post series Burdened Beginnings:

“experts say foster children are particularly vulnerable to identity theft because their personal information passes through many hands, increasing the chances their Social Security numbers will be used to commit fraud.”

“Now, lawmakers and child welfare advocates are looking at ways to protect the financial reputations of foster children amid growing concern over child identity theft. With increased frequency, thieves are hijacking children’s unblemished Social Security numbers to take out credit cards, car loans and mortgages, thereby destroying the credit histories of young adults.”

Read the full story

If you are a victim of identity theft, the Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can refer you to competent attorneys who specifically handle identity theft issues.  Call LRS today at 603-229-0002 or request a referral online at https://www.newhampshirelawyerreferral.com/contact-us.

LawLine: Free Legal Advice – 800-868-1212

Do you have a BRIEF LEGAL QUESTION? LawLine, the NH Bar Association’s free legal hotline is held on the second Wednesday of each month, from 6 – 8 pm.

Volunteer New Hampshire attorneys will take calls from the public and will give brief legal information and advice. This is a FREE public service. Call 1-800-868-1212.

Do you have more than a brief legal question and suspect you may need an attorney to represent you?  The NH Lawyer Referral Service can refer you to a competent local  attorney who handles your type of legal matter.  Call (603) 229-0002 today or fill out the Lawyer Referral Service request form at:  https://www.newhampshirelawyerreferral.com/contact-us.