Ways to Be Financially Responsible During the Holidays

Let’s face it – the holiday season is spending season. This time of year can be rough on a person’s finances, especially for those who are considering filing for bankruptcy or who are in the process of recovering from bankruptcy. Fortunately, our firm has compiled a list of several things that a person can do to limit their expenses during the holiday season.

1. Host a “Secret Santa” gift exchange: Instead of purchasing gifts for everyone in your life this holiday, holding a “Secret Santa” gift exchange can be a great alternative. Everyone will still receive a gift, and you will save yourself a lot of money in the process.

2. Give homemade gifts: A hand-crafted gift can bring just as much holiday cheer as a store-bought item. If you are artistic, try making things for your loved ones such as paintings, crafts, poems, sketches, or even preparing them a meal.

3. Establish a budget: If you are purchasing gifts, make sure you determine your budget ahead of time and strictly stay within its limits. If you need to spend more on a gift for one person, make sure you spend an equal amount less on another. This takes tremendous discipline, but your finances will thank you for it once January rolls around.

4. Make a list, check it twice: Exchanging gifts with fewer people is one of the easiest ways to reduce your holiday expenses. Once you have established a small list of who you wish to exchange gifts with, adhere to this list and refrain from adding any more people. Limit your purchases to one gift per person.

5. Find the best price: Before you make a purchase, make sure you have shopped around and looked for the lowest price possible. Most retailers have “price match” policies where they will lower their price to a competitor’s offering in order to keep your business. Additionally, opting for lower-cost substitutes to name-brand goods can help cut costs.

6. Pay cash: Whenever possible, pay cash or use your debit card for holiday expenses. Charging items on credit cards can rack up your holiday debt extremely quickly. Store credit cards are notorious for their high interest rates and can make your holiday purchases end up costing way more than their initial purchase price. Paying with cash can eliminate this risk.

Contact The Pritchard Law Firm

Are you struggling to make ends meet this holiday season? At The Pritchard Law Firm, our award-winning Fort Worth bankruptcy lawyers can use their vast legal expertise to help you find a solution to your debt and guide through the process of filing for bankruptcy. With 45+ years of legal knowledge and several positive client testimonials, our firm has the skills and dedication you need to help you pursue a desirable outcome for your situation.

Contact our office online or call us today at (817) 285-8017.

How Does a Creditor Combat Fraudulent Evasion of payment?

If you are owed an outstanding debt and have been unsuccessful in your attempts at collection, there are several tools available to protect you against possible fraudulent evasion of payment. By filing and winning a lawsuit in court against your debtor, you can be awarded a judgement, which allows you to pursue additional methods of debt collection. A judgement is a court order which outlines the legal recognition of the debt and its associated terms. Obtaining this document designates the holder to be a “judgement creditor.” Typically, judgements can last for ten years and can, in some cases, be renewed if not paid by the debtor.

Collection methods available to a judgement creditor include:

  1. Abstract of judgement: An abstract is a document that outlines the details of the judgement against the debtor and creates a lien against non-exempt real property. This lien will be attached to affected property and generally restricts any sale until the lien has been cleared. An abstract can be filed and remain active in any county which the debtor may have a claim to property.
  2. Investigation and deposition: Debtors can be investigated and deposed to discover information to the extent of assets and income. A debtor must answer questions under oath, disclosing the exact contents of their financial estate. This can include information such as bank statements, real estate holdings, and tax information. It is illegal for a debtor to dishonestly answer questions or attempt to hide assets. These methods can give a creditor a more accurate picture of a debtor’s ability to pay.
  3. Bank account garnishment: Issued by a court, a writ of garnishment can freeze funds in a debtor’s bank account, allowing a creditor to be paid from the available funds. This is not to be confused with wage garnishment. Texas forbids most creditors from garnishing wages directly from an employer, however, this protection does not extend to funds currently deposited in a bank account.
  4. Levies: If a debtor does not turn over property to a legal representative to satisfy a debt, the creditor can push for a levy on non-exempt property. A legal representative will arrange for the sale of property under a writ of execution with the funds going to pay debts. Once property is acquired in this manner, the debtor no longer exercises control of it and cannot sell it on their own. This can include all real property outside of the main household and generally excludes personal possessions.

Maximize Your Chances of Collection – Call (817) 285-8017

At Pritchard Law Firm, we represent clients on both sides of consumer collections and have helped numerous people in your situation collect what is owed. Our Fort Worth consumer collections lawyers have more than 45 years of collective experience and can provide straightforward legal advice concerning the most cost-effective solution for your situation.

Schedule a free case evaluation and speak to a lawyer about your case.

How a Lawyer Can Protect You from Creditor Harassment

Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), consumers are provided certain protections from creditors who engage in harassment as a collections tactic. Despite the legal protections put in place, harassment is an unfortunately common practice and if it is something you are going through, you are not alone. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reported receiving more than 85,000 complaints relating to debt collection in 2015 alone. Ending creditor harassment is within your power and below are several ways an attorney may be able to help.

Benefits of hiring an attorney Include:

  1. Creditors must communicate through your attorney: If your independent measures to end collector harassment have met with little success, a lawyer can step in to communicate in your place. Once you have hired an attorney to represent you, it can be a violation of the FDCPA for creditors to contact you directly. Instead, all communications must go through your attorney, who can advise you on the optimal course of action.
  2. Filing a Lawsuit: Creditors are prohibited from actions including (but not limited to) using emotionally or physically threatening language, failing to identify themselves in correspondence, placing repetitive phone calls with the intent to harass, or misrepresenting the debt owed. Performing any of these actions can constitute a violation of the FDCPA and an attorney can bring your claims to court.
  3. Considering bankruptcy: The decision to file for any chapter of bankruptcy should not be taken lightly and may not be appropriate for every situation. When there are deeper issues underlying creditor harassment, it may be time to discuss this option with an attorney. Bankruptcy will cancel most types of debt against you however it will stay on your credit report for several years.

It is vital to keep consistent and accurate records of all correspondence with creditors and their representatives. It is recommended to create a file containing, but not limited to, letters, emails, documents you send the creditor, documents sent to you, and phone records. Write down and record the time and date of all phone calls and also a description of what was discussed. Accurate records can greatly help you in future discussions and negotiations with creditors as well as in situations where your dispute goes to court.

More Than 45 Years of Combined Experience:

At the Pritchard Law Firm, we have an in-depth knowledge of consumer law, allowing us to make your consumer collections and bankruptcy processes as stress-free and straight forward as possible. It is our goal to help our clients solve their financial matters in the most cost-effective manner possible. Let our Fort Worth bankruptcy lawyers help you get back on the path of financial freedom.

Call us at (817) 285-8017 and request a no-cost case evaluation to discuss your case with our attorneys today.

How Do Bank Levies Work?

Openness and honesty can go a long way when dealing with debt, either as the debtor or the creditor. Inversely, dishonesty can cause some significant issues.

Consumer collections agencies and creditors have a right to know about the finances and estate of their debtors, to a certain extent; they do not have to simply accept a debt for what it appears to be at face value and go from there. Some debtors may attempt to reduce how much they pay back to creditors by falsifying the amount of finances in their private accounts. If a private creditor gets word of this deceitful tactic, they can impose a bank levy against them.

A bank levy will freeze an entire account and take as much from it as needed to pay off a debt. If there is not enough in the account to pay off the debt, any money that is later put into the account will be syphoned straight to the creditor that created the bank levy, up until the debt is completely paid off.

When Private Lenders Use Levies

Levies are pretty powerful tools, needless to say. Due to their strength and effectiveness, they are usually only used by government entities. A private lender who wants to use a bank levy on a debtor that has intentionally tried to avoid there debt must first receive an official court order to do so.

This court order can actually be used to the advantage of a debtor. Before the account can be frozen, the debtor must be notified by the court. This actually gives them a brief window of time to extract money from the account and put it elsewhere, perhaps in one untouchable by the creditor. If done using certain legal loopholes or under certain circumstances, this circumvention of payment can actually be legal.

If you are a creditor or consumer collection agency who needs to collect from a dishonest debtor, talk to The Pritchard Law Firm and our Fort Worth consumer collection attorneys today. We can put more than 45 years of combined legal experience in your corner and help you legally impose a bank levy against a customer’s account. Call today for more information.

What Does an Automatic Stay Do?

When a person files for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the courts enact a court injunction known as an “automatic stay” which protects them against creditor communication and collection efforts. An automatic stay can provide much-needed breathing room for debtors to collect themselves and reorganize their finances.

An automatic stay can protect debtors against the following:

1. Loss of utilities: If a person is behind on their water, gas, electric, or phone bill, an automatic stay can postpone their utility disconnection for at least 20 days.

2. Evictions: An automatic stay can put a hold on eviction proceedings unless the landlord already has a judgment of possession against the property. An automatic stay can also be overridden in the event that the landlord alleges the tenant has been endangering the property or has been using the premises to use illicit drugs.

3. Foreclosures: An automatic stay can temporarily stop bank foreclosures. Foreclosures may still proceed if the debtor filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, as their non-exempt liquid assets will need to be sold to satisfy their debts. Chapter 13 bankruptcy will oftentimes be the best remedy to help a person keep their home.

4. Collecting overpaid benefits: If an individual is overpaid public benefits, an automatic stay can protect them from the agency collecting this overpayment out of their future benefit checks. The agency may still terminate or deny a person’s benefits if they should become ineligible.

What Is Not Covered By an Automatic Stay?

An automatic stay is not absolute, as there are still certain collection efforts that cannot be prevented. Audits or contact from the IRS over unpaid debts may not be stopped through an automatic stay, though wage garnishments and tax liens will be halted. Unpaid support obligations are also unaffected. Individuals who face criminal prosecution related to their debts, such as those accused of fraud, will not be spared from criminal proceedings through automatic stay.

Creditors can sometimes get around an automatic stay by petitioning with the bankruptcy court to lift the injunction if it is jeopardizing the creditor’s interest in certain property or it is not serving its intended purpose. For example, if a person were to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy the day before their house was scheduled to be sold in foreclosure and they have no feasible means of paying their debts, the courts may exempt the bank from the automatic stay.

Overwhelmed with Debt? Call (817) 285-8017 Today

If you are struggling under the weight of outstanding debt, the Fort Worth bankruptcy lawyers at The Pritchard Law Firm can walk you through the process of filing for bankruptcy and get you on the road towards a debt-free future. Having earned a 2016 Avo Clients’ Choice Award and numerous positive testimonials from past clients, we can provide the unshakable support you need to help you get through this difficult time as smoothly as possible.

Schedule a free case review today to get started towards a clean financial slate.


5 Things to Consider Before Getting a Loan

Whether you are looking to start a business, put your kids through college, or purchase your first home, if you are like most Americans, chances are you probably do not have all the cash you will need to cover your costs. In situations like this, you will need to take out a loan to help you accomplish your goals. Taking on large amounts debt can be a major responsibility, as you are promising to pay back the principal amount plus interest over a certain period of time. Before you sign your name on a loan agreement, it is important you consider the following.

1. Check your credit score: Before you even apply for a loan, consider your credit history. Your credit score will have an impact on your ability to get credit and how much it will cost you. If your credit score is low, try to raise it before applying for a loan by paying off debts, correcting inaccurate information on your credit report, and making payments on time.

2. Secured or unsecured: There are two major categories of loans: secured and unsecured. Secured loans are backed by some form of collateral that the lender may seize in the event of the borrower’s default, such as a person’s home or vehicle. This added security usually makes secured loans cheaper in the long run, though borrowers stand to lose whatever they put up as collateral. Conversely, unsecured loans are not backed by any sort of collateral, meaning that the lender does not have any guarantee of repayment. Because of this risk, unsecured loans generally have higher interest rates. If you have good credit and you are sure you can pay off the loan in time, a secured loan may be the more attractive option.

3. Consider a credit card: A loan may not be your best option if you have good credit. If your credit score is excellent, you may be able to apply for a credit card with zero percent interest for the first year or even longer. Likewise, interest rates on personal loans may be higher than that of some credit cards. It is important you consider all options before deciding which form of credit you will choose.

4. Read the fine print: It is important you check to see if the prospective loan has any limitations or caveats, such as how the money can be spent, whether or not the loan can be repaid quicker than the stated time period without penalty, and how long it will take for you to gain access to the funds. Likewise, make sure you know what could happen in the event that you should pay late or default on your loan.

5. Avoid applying for too many loans: Whenever you apply for a loan, the prospective lender will check your credit history. This inquiry can lower your credit score by a few points. The more places you apply for loans, the more times your credit score will take a hit, thereby affecting your ability to qualify for the best interest rates. To avoid this problem, ask lenders about their rates before submitting an application and only apply for the best ones.

Bankruptcy Lawyer Serving Fort Worth

If you are struggling with debt, the knowledgeable Fort Worth bankruptcy lawyers at The Pritchard Law Firm can help you reorganize your finances and get you on the path towards financial freedom. Having helped countless clients overcome their debt throughout more than 45 years of combined legal experience, we have what it takes to help you get the results you need.

Call (817) 285-8017 or schedule a free consultation today to discuss your situation.

What is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

Have you seen a movie where a person files for bankruptcy and after a brief montage, they have nothing left to their name? In a situation like this, the person has no doubt filed for (an exaggerated form of) Chapter 7 bankruptcy, where the bank and creditors can take much of your personal, nonexempt property in exchange for discharging most or all of your unsecured debts. But is this the only option? Or is there another way to address debts without sacrificing all you have worked so hard for?

Yes, there is, actually, and it is called Chapter 13 bankruptcy. In a proper Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing, a person declares bankruptcy but also that they wish to repay what they can in order to keep what they can. Where Chapter 7 can feel like you have little say in what happens, Chapter 13 is more of a negotiation between you and your creditors.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy has two unique components:

  1. Reduction: Rather than wiping debts out completely, you will probably only reduce the majority of them to something much more manageable. The idea is that creditors will benefit more from getting some of what you owe instead of nothing at all. During a meeting of creditors, or individual conferences, you and your bankruptcy attorney will discuss how each of your unsecured debts can be reduced to help you out of this financial pitfall.
  2. Repayment: Once all possible reductions have been established, it is time for you to create a repayment plan. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is based on making a new, manageable debt repayment plan that lasts anywhere from 3 to 5 years. With honest effort and steady employment, you should feasibly be able to both complete the repayment plan and keep important pieces of your property, such as your vehicle and home. Once all debts are repaid or 5 years has passed, the debt is discharged.

Chapter 13 also includes the welcome benefit of an automatic stay. Even though some of your debts still exist, creditors and banks are not permitted to contact you for collections. An automatic stay can give you some breathing room during the 3 to 5 years you repay your reduced debts.

Due to the unique qualities of Chapter 13 bankruptcy, qualifying for it and making a repayment plan that actually works can be complicated. If you live in Texas and need help with this important financial process, do not hesitate to contact our Fort Worth bankruptcy attorneys at The Pritchard Law Firm for a free initial consultation. We would be happy to sit down with you and discuss which bankruptcy chapter is right for you and explore alternatives to bankruptcy.

How Does Divorce Impact Filing for Bankruptcy?

If you know anyone who has gone through a divorce, they are sure to have a story or two about the troubles they faced from the point of filing to finalization. If you know anyone who has gone through a bankruptcy, they, too, will have tales of hardship. But what about going through a divorce while you are going through a bankruptcy? How complicated can that be? And can one filing impact the other?

The general consensus from family law attorneys, bankruptcy lawyers, economists, and the like is that you should do all you can to avoid simultaneous filings. Not only will this be unexpectedly complicated, it might not even be allowed by your local divorce court since the judge won’t know what is going to remain your property, marital or otherwise. Whichever can be postponed with the least consequences, your divorce or your bankruptcy, should be pushed back while the other one finishes.

Consider how divorce impacts bankruptcy and vice versa to make your decision:

  • Costs: One person filing for bankruptcy owes the court the same fees as a family of 20. If you file for bankruptcy before divorcing, it will theoretically be cheaper for you if your spouse is willing to pay for half of the fees.
  • Speed: Chapter 7 bankruptcy can sometimes resolve in a matter of months but Chapter 13 bankruptcy relies on a 3 to 5 year plan by definition. If your divorce cannot be postponed for several years, you should either divorce first and then file for bankruptcy or rely on Chapter 7.
  • Exemptions: A proper bankruptcy filing will let you keep some of your property, known as exemptions. You need to determine the total value of your marital and separate property early on. If you can jointly file for bankruptcy to get more exemptions, file before divorcing. If you are not permitted to double exemptions through joint filing, you might want to divorce first, split your property accordingly, and then each file individually.
  • Debts: If you and your spouse have collected considerable debts together, keep in mind that they will remain each of your responsibilities after divorce, unless stated otherwise specifically. Most divorcing couples with significant debts try to simplify the matter by filing for bankruptcy first, wiping out as much as they can together, and then finalizing their divorce.
  • Incomes: Not just anyone can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You will first need to take a means test to show that you make less than the average household in your state. Divorcing before filing for bankruptcy can cut your income in half, increasing the chances of you qualifying for Chapter 7.

In the end, it really is a give-and-take situation. Postponing bankruptcy to complete your divorce has just as many benefits and disadvantages as the inverse. To get to the bottom of the matter and find the right solution for you and your spouse, contact The Pritchard Law Firm. Our Fort Worth bankruptcy attorney can provide a free case evaluation to steer you in the right direction. All you need to do is dial today.