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December 2011 Archives

Proposed Wrongful Foreclosure Settlement

As a Waco bankruptcy attorney, I see people who are going to lose their homes to foreclosure all the time. In McLennan County alone, approximately 60-80 homes are set to be foreclosed on every month. I frequently hear clients in my office saying that they are attempting to modify their home loans and the mortgage company is working with them, so why should they be worried about the foreclosure? Wow, that is a loaded question. Mortgage companies are not supposed to foreclose on a home while they are considering a modification, so, as long you are attempting a modification, you are safe from foreclosure, right? Wrong. Across the nation, mortgage companies are wrongfully foreclosing on homes with little consequence.Currently a coalition of attorney generals are in settlement negotiations with five mortgage companies: Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank, and Ally Financial (formerly known as GMAC). The allegation is bad mortgage servicing and fraudulent foreclosure paperwork. Yesterday a proposed settlement was announced. It appears that homeowners who were wrongfully foreclosed on could receive approximately $1,500.00 to $2,000.00. Notice they are not getting their homes back. They are not receiving enough money to truly compensate them for losing their homes. Basically, the mortgage company will have to say “So sorry, we took your home unlawfully. Here is a check.” For the full article, go to http://news.firedoglake.com/2011/12/26/proposed-foreclosure-fraud-settlement-still-looks-woefully-inadequate/.So, when clients ask me if they should be worried about their mortgage companies wrongfully foreclosing on them, my answer is “Yes, you should be worried.” Even if you can prove it was a wrongful foreclosure, history is showing that you probably won't get your house back and the money you receive is woefully inadequate. Filing for bankruptcy before the foreclosure is one of the only ways to stop a foreclosure sale. You need an experienced bankruptcy attorney to discuss your options regarding your home. Don't rely on the bank's promises. Protect yourself. Call 254-633-2876 or email us at info@thekehllawfirm.com today for a free consultation to explore your options.

Debtors' Attorneys Beware

It amazes me sometimes the amount of trust clients place in their attorneys. They trust their attorney to lead them in the right direction and give them sound advice. I tell staff and clients on a regular basis that if the amount of trust clients place in you doesn't keep you up at night sometimes (even if you are doing a good job) then you have failed as an attorney. People come in my office scared and misinformed and they trust that I will explain the law to them so they understand and let them know their options so they may make the best financial decision possible. It is not possible to serve clients well if you are sitting at both ends of the table in a negotiation which is what happened in an Oregon case called In re: Smith-Canfield.A woman went to her attorney for bankruptcy advise. Her attorney advised her that she would have an easier bankruptcy if she purchased a home prior to filing bankruptcy so she could claim a homestead exemption. He happened to know of a home that she could buy since he was also a real estate agent. The home was owned by another client of the attorney who desperately needed to sell the home quickly. The attorney/real estate agent then sold her the home. He made a commission off the sale of the home as a real estate agent. As her real estate agent, he advised the woman to not get a home inspection. Of course the home had problems that probably would have been visible in a home inspection. Once the problems were found, the city started fining the woman until she fixed the problems.The issue is that the attorney/real estate agent thought he had three roles: 1) woman/buyer's bankruptcy attorney, 2) woman/buyer's real estate agent, and 3) seller's real estate attorney. He failed to acknowledge the possible conflicts of interest between his three roles. The court found that the attorney/real estate agent committed malpractice as the woman's real estate agent and breached his fiduciary duty as her attorney. He failed to act in his client's best interest because he had multiple clients and stood to benefit financially from the sale of the property and the bankruptcy.You, as a client, are placing trust in your attorney. You need to make sure that you feel comfortable with your attorney and the attorney's staff. If you do not feel comfortable with your attorney and your attorney's staff, then you should continue to look around until you find an attorney you trust. At The Kehl Law Firm, P.C. we are a family and we treat you like family. Call 254-633-2876 or email us at info@thekehllawfirm.com today for a free consultation to help you find a solution to your debt problems. Let my family help yours!

If you are behind on your mortgage payments, what are your best options?

Central Texas Families may fall behind on their mortgage payments for many reasons from job loss to medical bills, from retirement to paying payday lenders and credit cards instead of the house payment. But the end result is the same--if you are behind on your mortgage payments, you are at risk of losing your home to foreclosure. A recent study looked at Chapter 13 bankruptcy as a means to save homes for families at risk of foreclosure. (See http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1223262) The study focused primarily on families who filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy to avoid foreclosure in Delaware for the majority of the last decade and compared them to families who did not file bankruptcy to avoid foreclosure. The study found a number of important points. First, it is important to act quickly if you are behind on your house payments. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy will stop a foreclosure and force a mortgage company into a repayment plan over the course of 3 to 5 years. Unfortunately, some families were unable to make their repayments plans and still loss their homes in spite of the bankruptcy. While I believe that new programs that have developed since this study ended are helping families be more likely to be successful in Chapter 13 bankruptcies, sometimes families will still lose their homes if job loss continues or they cannot afford their regular monthly house payment plus the bankruptcy payment. (See http://thekehllawfirm.com/hope-for-homeowners-who-struggling-make-their-house-payments/). However, families who were less than 12 months behind on their house payments when they filed bankruptcy were more likely to succeed in keeping their homes in a successful bankruptcy. The take home message, don't delay. If you are behind on your house payments, talk to an experienced bankruptcy attorney today about your options. The sooner you start fixing your problems the more likely you will be successful in saving your home in the long run. Second, this study also confirmed something that I strongly believe--Chapter 13 bankruptcy is not for everyone. There may be other options to save your home where you can be successful like attempting to modify your home loan as a party of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Finally, one option is simply to let the home go back. I know that is not an appealing option to many of my clients, but if you are unable to afford your home, it might be the best option for your family. (See http://thekehllawfirm.com/cant-afford-your-home-foreclosure-right-for-your-family/). If you are behind on your mortgage payments, don't delay! Seek out help today from experienced staff who can work with you to make a plan. Call 254-633-2876 or email me at info@TheKehlLawFirm.com for a FREE, no-obligation consultation before you lose your home.    

What is a reaffirmation agreement?

A reaffirmation agreement is an agreement between you and a creditor where you agree that you personally will pay all or a portion of a debt owed, regardless of the bankruptcy. They only apply in a Chapter 7 bankruptcies and are voluntary. They typically come into play with car creditors in your bankruptcy.Before the bankruptcy, if you did not make your car payment, the car creditor could repossess the car and sell it at an auction. You are liable for any balance owed, or deficiency, after the auction. For example, if you owe $10,000.00 on a car note and the car creditor repossesses the car due to lack of payments, the car creditor may sell it at auction for $2,000.00. In that example, you are still personally liable for the remaining $8,000.00. The car creditor may sue you for the deficiency and must report that deficiency to the IRS on a 1099-C which could cause you to receive a small refund or owe the IRS money when you file your yearly income taxes.When you file bankruptcy, you must include that car creditor in your bankruptcy. However, the Chapter 7 bankruptcy eliminates your personal liability on the car note. The car itself remains liable on the note but you are not. That means that if you make your car payments, you will keep the car. However, if you are unable to make your car payments, the car creditor will repossess the car, BUT the car creditor may never attempt to collect any deficiency from you. So, in my example above, the car creditor may not pursue you personally for the $8,000.00.Signing a reaffirmation agreement causes you to remain personally liable for the car. You become liable for the $8,000.00 deficiency in my example above again. It is basically saying I really want this car. I want it so badly that if I don't make the payments, the car creditor may come after me personally for the balance of the loan.There are advantages and disadvantages to signing a reaffirmation agreement. One advantage is that if you sign, then the car creditor may report your payments to your credit report which can help you reestablish credit after the bankruptcy. Another advantage is that some car creditors may lower the interest rate or balance of the loan as an incentive for you to sign the reaffirmation agreement. However, signing a reaffirmation agreement is serious and has one major disadvantage—you remain liable to the entire car note. If you owe more than the car is worth or have an extremely high interest rate, it may not be in your best interest to sign a reaffirmation agreement.Your bankruptcy attorney should discuss any reaffirmation agreements with you during your Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Reaffirmation agreements require your bankruptcy attorney's signature in addition to your signature. I have handled numerous bankruptcy cases for my clients from Waco, Temple, Killeen, and the surrounding areas. I can inform you of your rights and obligations with regard to reaffirmation agreements so you can make sound decisions about your financial future.Every case is different, so it is important to discuss your situation with an experienced bankruptcy attorney who can work with you to help you make your decision. Call 254-633-2876 or email us at info@thekehllawfirm.com today to discuss your options.

Samantha Kehl is now a member of The College of the State Bar of Texas

Samantha Kehl has been accepted as a member of The College of the State Bar of Texas.  The College of the State Bar of Texas is an honor society chartered in 1981 by the Supreme Court of Texas. They recognize and represent lawyers who make an extraordinary commitment to professional education.   This is an achievement attained by fewer than 10 percent of the lawyers in Texas.Requirements for membership include being a member in good standing of the State Bar of Texas and either 45 hours of continuing legal education classes in one year or 80 hours of continuing legal education classes in 3 years.  Samantha surpassed the minimum requirements with 80 hours of continuing legal education classes in one year and 92 hours of continuing legal education classes in 2 years.Samantha is dedicated to continuing her education so she remains current on changes in the law and technology.  By continuing to learn, Samantha is ensuring that her clients receive the best care she can provide.  Let her experience and dedication to learning work for you.

Smart shopping in tough economic times

As a Waco Bankruptcy Attorney, I have noticed more and more of my clients are shopping at discount and dollar stores. They are trying to cut their food budgets and the budget for household items such as laundry supplies. The truth is they may not be getting the bargain they are looking for. I also shop at discount and dollar stores, here are some of the things I have learned.Discount and dollar stores tend to round up to the nearest dollar or half dollar. For example, I was shopping at a local dollar store and notice a box of 5 microwave popcorn bags for $1.00. That may not seem expensive, but I had seen the exact same box of 5 microwave popcorn bags for $0.78 at Walmart. That is a 12 cent difference. When you purchase several items, the difference adds up. When shopping you should look at the cost per individual item or cost per ounce.Another thing to watch for is store brands. I was shopping at a local HEB. I was looking a tuna fish in pouch. The store brand was a few cents less than StarKist. I looked a little closer and noticed that the store brand had an ounce less tuna. Doing the math, that made the store brand actually cost more per ounce than the name brand. This is a favorite trick of manufacturers to make more profit. Just look at the coffee isle. Very few packages of coffee are a pound anymore. They are instead 12 oz. or 14 oz., but they are selling for the same price. I have heard it referred to as being “hit by the grocery shrink ray”. Again you need to look at the cost per ounce when comparing brands so you are comparing apples to apples.Another trick stores use is selling smaller count packages and discontinuing the larger count packages. You have to buy more of the smaller count packages which have a higher cost per item. You are getting less of the item and the store is making more profit. I have seen this first hand, I had been purchasing a 100 count bottle of an allergy tablet at a local store. The store stopped carrying the 100 count bottle. The largest they carried now was a 30 count box. Two of the 30 count boxes (60 tablets) was selling for what the 100 count bottle sold for. It is very important to keep an eye on the cost per item. If the price goes up look somewhere else. I now get the 100 count bottle at Sam's club for half of the price I was initially paying.Sam's club is a great way to save money, but you have to pay $40.00 a year to be a member. You have to ask yourself will you save more than $40.00 a year to pay for the membership? Purchases from Sam's club tend to be in larger quantities than in the grocery store. The cost per ounce or per item is usually a lot lower, but you still need to keep your eye on them. I have found some things cheaper at Walmart. Another thing to consider is you will need to be able to store what ever you buy. If it is perishable you need to be able to use it or freeze it before it goes bad. It helps to have an extra freezer. To effectively save money at Sam's club you must stick to your shopping list. They have so many neat things for sell it is easy to spend any money you would have saved.Finally as a closing bit of advise, I have seen it recommended that you don't grocery shop at just one store. Every store seems to have items that they sell for less than the competition and items that are more expensive. It is best to buy the items where they are the cheapest. This may take shopping at 2 or 3 stores. I have even noticed that the Walmarts in town don't sell the same items at the same price.

Great Holiday Presents that are Affordable

'Tis the Season. Most of us are trying to find presents for our loved ones this time of year. However, sometimes money is tight and we have to find nice gifts that won't break our budget. Today I wanted to share some of my experiences with great Christmas presents that are affordable.I have found that the best presents are personal ones and they don't have to cost a bunch. My best friend makes a basket for everyone each year filled with homemade candies, great hot chocolate, old photos, candles, and various other items. It is clear that she thought about each person when she made their basket because they are filled with inside jokes. The baskets don't cost much and mean the world.I am not that arty, so I buy my presents for people. There are great websites online that allow you to use pictures to create presents. And if you shop at the right time, you might get free shipping or discounts on purchases. I tend to give newlyweds and new parents Christmas ornaments with wedding and baby pictures on them. My mom has an ornament with her and her siblings from when they were young. Now, my mom is hard to shop for, but I see that ornament on her tree every year. Last year I gave all of my family members personalized coffee mugs with random pictures I found from their facebook pages. At least once a month, I see a different someone using one of those mugs. The family loved them which is the best part of the gift. But the second best part of the gift is a secret I will share with you--they only cost me $20.00 a piece with free shipping. Keep that under your hat. The mugs were the hit last year because each picture means something to person receiving the mug. As I stated, there are tons of websites you can buy gifts from, but my favorite is snapfish.com. I have loved everything I buy there and have never had a problem. They have tons of lovely presents for any budget. Plus they have tons of sales. During Thanksgiving, I purchased this year's Christmas cards with our family photos for 20% off and free shipping.Well, that takes care of the adults but what about the children. The best gift you can give a child is the gift of imagination. My husband and I recently moved and my nephews helped. They adored the bubble wrap I was packing with. When there wasn't any left over, I told them they could have some for Christmas. They were so excited. So, I am including bubble wrap in their presents this year. Now, just so you don't think I am too cheap, they will get some toys as well. But they enthusiasm with bubble wrap started my brain a buzzing about other inexpensive gifts. A good friend of mine who works with children shared this article with me. See http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2011/01/the-5-best-toys-of-all-time/all/1. It just goes to show that the best toys are sometimes free or inexpensive. I give my older nephew copies of my favorite childhood books each year because he loves to read.So, think outside the box and find a gift that will mean something to the person you are giving it to. That is the most important idea when giving gifts. They don't have to be expensive as long as they mean something. Feel free to share some of your favorite (inexpensive) gifts.If you are struggling to pay your bills, there is help. Call us at 254-633-2876 or email us at info@thekehllawfirm.com today for a FREE, no-obligation consultation. Merry Christmas!

Christmas on a Budget: Ways to Save Money this Holiday Season

One of the hardest things for anyone to do is deny their family anything they want especially around the holidays. Children are supposed to make lists for Santa and he is supposed to check them twice. But what do you do when Santa doesn't have any money? As a Waco bankruptcy attorney, I see people every year with money problems. So many people feel like failures this time of year due to money problems and it doesn't appear that it is getting any better. So, what can you do? Here are a few ideas.1) Make Time for Each Other. When I look back on my childhood, I don't remember the toys. I remember the things my family did together as a family. One of my most cherished memories involves my church. Like most churches, my childhood church donated toys and food to needy families. One night in December, we would go to the church and all the donated items would be spread out of large tables. Everyone would grab a shopping chart and a list of details about a needy family and you would fill up your shopping chart with items for that family's holiday. I loved spending the evening with my family helping another and it didn't cost my parents a dime. Yet I remember that time more than what toys were under the tree. My husband and paralegal, Stephen Kehl, remembers looking at Christmas lights with his brother, parents and grandparents. The bottom line, it doesn't matter what you do, just do it together. 2) Bake your presents. I can't cook. But every year, my best friend and her daughter make homemade chocolates in baskets for Christmas presents for everyone on her list. She gets to spend time with her daughter bonding and makes a delicious treat for everyone as well. Why not make it a baking party with friends and family? Get together, bake up a storm, and share the fruits of your labor and the memories. 3) Plan an activity rather than exchange presents. Have a family paintball competition or dinner rather than exchanging presents. You can have fun and not worry about when you need to wear the new sweater Aunt Carol knitted for you this year. 4) Gift exchange. Have the extended family do a gift exchange this year to help. They can be serious presents or not so serious. Every year during my family's gift exchange, everyone fights over a painting of our family tree which is a tree covered in acorns that says "Our Nutty Family". Everyone laughs so hard when it comes out. 5) Buy Gift Cards. If you don't know what to get someone, why not give a gift card and let them buy what they want. My mother-in-law is saving for something special and collecting gift cards as presents until she has enough to go buy her something special she wants. The bottom line is have fun and remember what is really important this holiday season, family and friends. And money can't buy them. Drowning in debt? The Kehl Law Firm, P.C. Helping People Find Debt Relief. Let my family help yours. Call today at 254-633-2876 for a free consultation with experienced staff to explore your options.a

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