Estate Planning: Your Last Act of Love

estate-planningPeople think Estate Planning is complicated and too expensive. Estate planning takes courage because it requires thinking about what is going to happen after you die which many of us are afraid to do. It requires putting the best interests and peace of mind of those you love over the fear and denial of death. It requires being proactive now, spending some money to make sure it is done right and then just forcing yourself to think about it, do it, protect everyone and forget about it for the rest of your life.

What is Estate Planning? Your Estate is the real and personal property (including money things like savings, stocks and bonds) and any other asset of  any kind that you own at the time of your death. Estate planning mechanisms are different “tools” that lawyers use to “fix” specific potential problems that may arise with a decedent’s estate. Estate Planning is also used to protect and maintain a person’s independence and finances if they become legally incompetent or otherwise unable to to make informed decisions concerning their medical or day to day care.

Estate planning is also a mechanism by which you give your assets to specific people or organizations after you die. It is the way you make sure your property goes to the people you want it to go to after your death. It is also a way that you can control how those assets are utilized and at what age they are distributed to your heirs (especially, if they are currently children or very young, or irresponsible, or have substance abuse or other issues which could rapidly deplete your estate). You cannot do this with just a will. All you can do with a will is give things to people after your death and they can do whatever they want with the assets. A will is not a tool that you can attach any conditions as to how it should be spent or at what age it should be distributed. A will is also a matter of public record, whereas a trust is not.

A will is still an important estate planning mechanism but it’s use should be limited only to assets which, for whatever reason, were not put into the trust. Hiring an attorney who is a good and detailed will drafter is essential. The sixty dollar will you get off the internet could wind up costing your beneficiaries sixty thousand dollars in legal or accounting fees to straighten up the details that were not covered. These documents, contrary to the public perception, require skill, experience and professional expertise to avoid potentially serious problems to your loved ones after your death. A person needs to be able to call someone who can answer questions and offer guidance through the process.  When you purchase legal documents you are really paying for an ongoing professional relationship with an attorney.

There are many contingencies that need to be thought about and included in your estate plan that need to be specifically drafted  based upon one individual client’s specific needs. Designing an effective estate plan, contrary to the public perception, is a specific skill set which grows with the drafting and professional experience of the practitioner. I do not say this for the sake of getting business but because I have seen my share of costly, stressful disasters that were caused by nothing more than poorly detailed, over drafted generalized “form” language. It is always very disheartening for me to see this because the client did the right thing but was let down by the legal system either through negligence or bad forms. Estate planning is a detailed discipline. The reason you need a good estate planning attorney is to develop an overall effective estate plan based upon your individual estate, family situation, business situation and specific goals.

There are many things which can and should be passed on through means other than a will (Real Estate is a prime example). The reason is that property passed through a will has to go through probate. Probate is the process by which the court ensures that your estate is distributed according to your will or distributed according to state laws if you die without a will. Probate also makes sure your debts are resolved. The problem with probate is that it is costly (pretty high attorney fees), takes a long time and is a matter of public record. The biggest problem is that in probate there are no checks and balances on how fast your heirs go through your money or how it is being spent. It is not unusual for heirs to spend large inheritances in very short period of times with nothing to show for it.

Our firm uses a combination of  wills, trusts, transfer on death deeds, payable on death designations and specific powers of attorney (to name the most common) to design  estate plans to save money, simplify the legal process and promote peace of mind for both the client and her or his heirs. Further, the estate plans we create maintain secrecy while expediting the quick and inexpensive transfer of assets.

It is also important to put planning mechanisms in place that will ensure that someone you love can care for you, and will be your guardian while you are still alive in the event of sickness, disability or coma. Without this, the court may appoint it’s own guardian. Durable General Power of Attorney’s and Health Care Power of Attorneys are Estate Planning instruments which are different types of powers of attorney that give a loved one legal authority to manage your health, business and financial affairs if you are unable to do so yourself. Finally, you should make sure that your wishes concerning whether your life should be prolonged through artificial means in the event of irreversible coma or other physical debilitation are spelled out and medical providers are given the instructions and authority they need to carry those wishes out. You do not want to put this burden on your loved ones.

Estate planning is one of the greatest acts of love that one extends to their family and heirs. It is the way by which you relieve your family, children, friends, and loved ones from having to resolve your business and financial affairs and all the mess and expense that comes with it. It also relieves them of the burden and pain of having to guess (or fight over) your intent as to how you wanted your property distributed, and, in some cases, even decide your wishes and make decisions concerning your life and death.

A comprehensive estate plan for most people is not that expensive and can be prepared and completed pretty fast. Our total cost for a Simple Will, General Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, Living Will, Consultation and ongoing attorney phone support is $500. The cost of a detailed, professionally drafted trust with ongoing professional support averages between $1000- $1500. However, the value in peace of mind and security you will have in knowing that this is done for your family is priceless.  Moreover, all of our estate planning work is done on a fixed rate fee basis so the client does not have to worry about hourly fees.

A trust is the only way to totally avoid probate, and control how your money is used after death. There is nothing more powerful than a trust for exercising control from the grave. It is a wonderful tool to make sure your intent is carried out. It is one of the most inexpensive ways to promote peace of mind.  Preparing these documents now will save your loved ones much confusion, difficulty, time and, potentially, many thousands of dollars after your death. This simple, cost efficient estate planning is all that most people will need and it will provide peace of mind, and avoid family disputes over your assets. Planning your estate will, ultimately, be your last act of love toward your family and other loved ones..

Robert C. Biales

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The Miracle of Bankruptcy

filing-bankruptcy-illinois-790x300Unfortunately, we are in times of high unemployment. Unemployment or under employment almost always plays a role in causing people to file for bankruptcy protection. And it is no wonder. Bankruptcy is the most affordable, fastest working, constitutionally backed legal mechanism available for Americans in financial trouble. Most importantly, bankruptcy offers powerful protections to people that cannot be had in any other way. Some of those protections are as follows:

1.) Protection of Assets: Once a bankruptcy is filed the Court protects many assets from being taken. It also prevents garnishment of wages. In almost all cases we are able to keep a person in their home, keep their cars, and all of their personal belongings to name just a few of the benefits.

2.) Protection from Creditors: Once your bankruptcy is filed, you receive a legal protection called an Automatic Stay. This “stay” prevents creditors and debt collectors from making contact with or trying to collect money from you. The automatic stay will stop foreclosure, lawsuits, wage garnishments, vehicle repossession, utility shut off, license suspensions for uninsured accident damage to another motor vehicle and more.

3.) Discharge of Debt: Upon completion of the bankruptcy your debt is eliminated and does not ever have to be paid back.

4.) Time to catch up on Payment: In many cases bankruptcy filers get a chance to catch up on payments that are overdue on your home, car, or other assets.

5.) Re-build Your Credit: Bankruptcy clears up and resolves your debt, judgments, delinquencies, foreclosure and other bad marks on your credit rating and gives you a “fresh slate” upon which to re-build your credit. It also prevents creditors from coming after you years down the line for debts that are labeled “write offs” or “charge offs” by the bank on your credit report but that, unknown to most, are still collectible.

6.) It Works Fast: We are able to stop creditor harassment, lawsuits, foreclosures, garnishments, repossessions and a whole lot of other problems FAST with bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is not like applying for a bank loan. It moves fast. The protections discussed can be used the same day we file. Some of these protections like stopping harassing phone calls are available immediately upon giving us money down for representation.

Bankruptcy is about having peace of mind and relief now but it is also about financial planning for the future. It is about re-establishing credit, keeping the lion’s share of your property and resolving all of your current debt and bad marks on your record so that you will be in good financial standing in a few years. It is about a fresh start. Everyone deserves a fresh start.

Even though a bankruptcy is technically public record, the fact that you are filing bankruptcy will only be known by a few people who you probably will never even come in contact with- let alone know. It is not published in the local newspapers. The truth is that no one really cares whether you file bankruptcy any way. They are too concerned with their own problems.

I have often stated that bankruptcy is an act of love to yourself and your family. You do not need to live in fear of debt collectors, lawsuits, losing your home or any of the other dreaded consequences of financial problems. We cannot cure your cancer but we can cure your debt problems. We can help you regain your peace of mind. It is important to remind yourself that financial problems are temporary. They come and they go. Your health is permanent. Do not allow yourself to lose your permanent health over your temporary financial problems.

Biales Delchin offers to start bankruptcy protection and stop bill collector harassment for only three hundred dollars down. If you think Bankruptcy might be able to help you, please call us for a free, no obligation consultation.

Robert C. Biales

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Shared Parenting – An Act of Love

parenting-agreement-istockA contested custody proceeding begins with the filing of a Motion for Temporary Custody with a Complaint for Divorce. “Temporary custody” is legal custody granted to one parent during the pendency of the divorce case. These papers will be delivered by the Sheriff and/or certified mail. Attached to the Temporary Custody Motion will be an affidavit. An affidavit is sworn testimony that is supposed to be based on personal knowledge. The testimony states all of the reasons why the “moving” party (i.e. the one who wants the temporary custody) should be designated as “the temporary legal custodian.” Usually, in custody cases, the personal knowledge requirement is distorted. The affidavit that is attached to the motion that states why the movant should be granted temporary custody, in effect, becomes a document that recites every conceivable form of slander that the “affiant” (the one asking for temporary custody) can think of. The lion share of it will be grossly exaggerated, infinitely inaccurate, or just patently untrue. If you get one of these do not take it too personally (even though you will) because you will get to slander your spouse back in the same fashion when you retain an attorney and file a counter motion for temporary custody. Fortunately, the court prudently places very little or no probative value on this document, especially provisions that are just blatantly lacking in credibility.

At this point the wisest, most loving act is for parents to cooperate for the sake of the children and agree to some form of shared parenting. “Shared Parenting” in a nutshell is a legal mechanism that provides a comprehensive parenting plan that allocates possession and all other parental rights and responsibilities between the parents. Contrary, to what is generally thought; shared parenting often, but not always allocates possession 50/50 between the parents. A shared parenting plan can be designed to address the specifics of any situation. For example, mom works first shift, dad works third- kids spend days with dad and afternoons and nights with mom and split the weekend. This is just one over simplified example; the list of what can be done with shared parenting is endless. A wise child custody attorney will always attempt to lead the client in the Shared Parenting direction. This direction- aside from the extreme exceptions noted below- will ALWAYS be in the minor child’s best interest.

You do not- I repeat- you do not want to force the court to decide who gets temporary custody. The court will be the first to tell this to the parents. Unless one of the parents has been convicted of a child related crime, is in prison, or confined to a psychiatric hospital (along with a few other extreme circumstances- such as leaving a spouse and taking the children to a foreign jurisdiction), the parent awarded temporary custody will, largely, be an educated guess (i.e. coin toss). Most likely, it will be whoever appears to be the primary care taker. The problem is the temporary custody hearing- which is held usually within a few weeks from the filing of the motion- is a very limited hearing. Usually, the only relevant witnesses are the mother and father. There is no guardian ad litem (GAL), which is a neutral person designated by the court to investigate circumstances, the child rearing environment, and other factors and make recommendations for the court to take into consideration in determining the best interest of the children. There are no home studies or psychological or custody evaluations upon which the court can base its decision. The court is basically flying blind and could be wrong.

The court is very limited in its discretionary power regarding temporary child custody. It has to make a decision which designates the “short term” legal custodian of the children until parenting issues are permanently resolved which, by definition, will be by the end of the divorce case (or, sometimes, sooner). The other parent gets visitation. Period. That is the only option if the parents decide to have the court determine the next year or so of their children’s future. Beyond this, a temporary custody hearing is very expensive in attorney time and preparation. A temporary custody hearing could easily cost $5000.00 or more. The outcome means very little in the long run because who gets temporary custody is not a factor the court can legally consider when determining permanent custody. Engaging in a contested temporary custody battle, absent extreme child endangering circumstances, is usually a poor allocation of financial and emotional resources. Contesting (fighting over) permanent custody is even significantly more problematic and debilitating. Preparation for and engaging in a permanent child custody trial is the most expensive legal proceeding that can be undertook by a private individual in a domestic case. Not only will the attorneys cost several thousands of dollars, but there will usually be, to a varying degree, a very high cost for the types of expert evaluations which were mentioned above. A contested permanent custody case can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars.

By far, though, the largest cost will be the emotional and psychological turmoil inflicted upon the lives of the children, as well as that suffered by the parents. I believe the only types of child custody cases that should be contested involve situations so extreme that they will be relatively one sided and easy to determine by the court; Such as situations involving documented child abuse, child endangerment type convictions, diagnosed destructively psychotic behavior or documented severe chemical or alcohol dependency which pose a threat to the safety, health or welfare of the children. Everything else should be resolved between the parents. The children are their children. Nobody- and, especially, not the government (i.e. the court) – is in a better informational position to determine what is in the best interests of their children. It is absolutely critical for both parents to overcome their feelings of anger, resentment and negativity toward one another and negotiate a shared parenting agreement.

The shared parenting agreement can be 50/50 or any other type of possession schedule that works for both parents and the children. The options are wide ranging. A workable solution can be effectuated by wise and compassionate child custody attorneys so long as both parents are truly dedicated to the healthy emotional and psychological development and stability of their children. Divorce is an adult issue, caused by the actions, thoughts and decisions of adults. The children did nothing to cause it but, are always the most affected. It is well established that for optimum psychological and emotional health and development young children should be with each parent to the greatest extent possible. It is selfish, thoughtless and cruel for parents to subject children to a drawn out custody battle without the existence of a clear cut, verifiable, safety or health hazard.

Robert C. Biales

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Overcoming The Fear of Filing Bankruptcy


Filing bankruptcy is scary on many fronts. I know because I’m a bankruptcy lawyer and I talk to bankruptcy clients every day. I also have had financial problems like most everyone else and I was pretty scared at the time. I thought about filing bankruptcy. I have to admit it was a very frightening thought. I really believed that my life for all practical purposes would end in humiliation and despair. I believed that everyone would look at me and talk and snicker. That it would be in the newspapers and my parents would disown me and that I would die lonely because no one would ever speak to me again. Forget about ever getting another date. They probably wouldn’t even let me adopt a cat.

At that time, I couldn’t put my finger on why the thought of filing Bankruptcy was so HORRIFYING. I wasn’t doing this job so I did not have the same feedback. But now I know why the idea of bankruptcy is so scary. I also know now why it is such an irony that the solution to so many really scary things causes us such apprehension. The reason is simple. It is an assault on our pride. A blow to our ego. There is no other reason to fear such a remarkably effective solution to real tragedy (like, say, having your wages garnished, being sued, losing your home, not having money to eat, dying from stress, going insane, etc.) Pride is one of the seven deadly sins because it causes us to do things that we should not. It also causes us NOT TO DO THINGS THAT WE SHOULD.

Based on my conversations with some of the all time most wonderful people I know- our bankruptcy clients (way cooler-and fun- than any of my lawyer friends) I have concluded that bankruptcy is looked at in the negative. I know people are reading this last line and thinking “duh-yeah!” But in my world I don’t think it is so straight forward. Because I see fearful, distressed, sad, stressed out, suicidal, miserable, guilt ridden, angry people made better by bankruptcy. Not just a little better, either. A lot better. The “I can’t believe it but I actually have peace of mind!” kind of better. I run into people at the grocery store who tell me life has never been so good. I wouldn’t normally believe them because I knew them. They were our client. They were people who came into our office eight months earlier and seriously made us think we should call the suicide hot line. But their faces, their demeanor and their attitude scream (no lie, their energy “screams”) that they are well. They are fixed. That the life they had that was spiraling downward out of the sky did not crash and burn. That something took the controls and managed to pull it back up seconds before the fiery fateful collision- moments before they came to that dark place that is not known but dreaded. That something was the law of Bankruptcy!

It was probably something greater that took them to the acceptance that bankruptcy was the only thing that could right their lives at this point. But that is beyond this discussion. Everybody’s bottom is at a different level. The only question is how much suffering does a person endure and make their family endure until they embrace the solution. I am a simple man. I think financial problems have a simple solution. That solution is bankruptcy.

So, no, you are not a loser if you need bankruptcy and use it. You will be a winner. Trust me, I know. We are not dealing with kids or irresponsible adults who went crazy at the mall and want to skate out of debt. Not in this world. Not now. In these times, people are struggling to eat; to drive to work; to live. And, no, you are not the only one who is in this much financial trouble. You only think you are because they don’t make television sitcoms about the pretty people living in California hanging out at the beach filling out their bankruptcy petition. YOUR FINANCIAL PROBLEM IS TEMPORARY. YOU WILL GET BACK ON YOUR FEET. You just need a little breathing room. If you let it cause you health problems- those may be permanent. General Motors is a prime example. They went bankrupt in 2009. In 2011 they made record profits.

So what’s my point? Don’t listen to other people’s opinions because they are only parading their ignorance. Don’t be proud because pride is the mask of a fool. Don’t be afraid because there is a solution to financial distress. Don’t think you’re the only one because that’s just other people lying to you. Don’t be idle because if you are you’ll never be free from the financial craziness, harassment, emotional turmoil and debt collector head games. And do be positive because winning is a state of mind not a state of financial wealth. Get your peace!

Robert C. Biales

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Divorce v. Dissolution: What Is the Difference?


This article simplistically identifies the main issues in the termination of the marital contract and explains the difference between a divorce and dissolution. The issues in the termination of the marital contract are as follows: (1.) Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities if there are children. The main issues regarding the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities would include who pays child support and how much, companionship time (formerly “visitation”), who has custody or how is shared parenting (formerly “joint custody”) to be allocated, who is responsible for health care/ insurance and how will the tax exemption be divided. (2.) Spousal support. Will one party pay the other spousal support and how much and for how long. (3.) Property distribution. How will the marital real and personal property and all other marital assets be divided. (4.) Pension and retirement division if in existence. And, finally, (5.) Allocation of marital debt. These are the main issues in every divorce/dissolution.

The most fundamental difference between divorce and dissolution is that a divorce is a lawsuit and a dissolution is an agreement. Dissolutions are very cost effective and can be finalized in as little as six weeks. The cost of the dissolution will vary on the number of issues in the case. However, the financial and emotional cost will be dramatically less than a divorce. An action for divorce- if the parties cannot come to a voluntary agreement- can easily take a year or longer to finalize. The information gathering process referred to as “discovery” can become a costly nightmare. The emotional price of continuous daily resentment, depression, fear and worry can become overbearing and destructive to one’s health. Obviously, I am a big fan of dissolution. That being said: It is very difficult to get two people who are usually not the best of friends to agree to all issues. All issues must be agreed to for a successful dissolution to occur. This requires compromise. The cardinal rule is that nobody walks away happy. Each party usually feels wronged in some way by the other. Each party usually feels that they could have obtained a better result if they would have just held out longer or been more aggressive. A belief that is usually wrong.

If the parties are unable to come to an agreement regarding all the issues, as is often the case, a divorce must be initiated. I try to resolve as many issues as possible before hand and communicate with the other party or his/her attorney to coordinate the process. It is always best to work together and focus upon resolution of the issues on which the parties agree. The purpose of the attorney is to make the process as minimally painful and least expensive as possible. Open and honest communication is key. Unfortunately, in many cases, the parties have so much resentment toward each other that they are simply unable to cooperate. This is never in anybody’s best interest and can be very damaging to children.

There are certainly ways to minimize the pain and cost of a divorce but it will never be as efficient and emotionally healthy as two parties coming to a voluntary agreement. I believe that a dissolution really should be possible in most cases if two factors are present (1.) the parties are mature, sensitive and intelligent and (2.) the matter is approached with a cost v. benefit business analysis, an open mind and sound professional guidance. I know this is easier said than done. But- if accomplished- the financial and emotional rewards (including healing time) reaped are enormous for the parties and children and will be enjoyed for the span of one’s entire life.

Robert C. Biales

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What To Look For When Hiring A Divorce Lawyer


This article outlines the main characteristics to look for in an attorney when seeking representation for divorce or child custody issues. The first rule to internalize is that all lawyers are not created equal. Who you hire will determine the result achieved. Lawyers are like professional athletes in that some are more talented, experienced, skilled, trained and mentally and emotionally fit than others. In short, some punch harder than others. Lawyers are also like professional athletes in that it is not unusual to not get what you paid for. You cannot determine how good an attorney is by how loud they are, how tough they talk, how high they flail their arms or the hourly rate. You have to feel what is right based on your interaction with the attorney. This article is about what to look for in developing that “feeling.” This article is about ensuring you get what you paid for when hiring a divorce/custody attorney.

A lawyer wears many hats. He or she is a mercenary, diplomat, negotiator and legal drafter. He or she is someone who is passionate about your cause and will fight for you. The mental fitness, experience, intelligence, charisma, passion for the case and overall compassion of the attorney, in general, are what you want to look at when making the decision to retain a specific individual. A divorce/custody lawyer must be mentally fit. He or she must be charismatic and persuasive without being obnoxious or overbearing. He or she must be passionate about the work. Divorce/ custody practice is often combat litigation and can get very adversarial. It is not for the faint of heart or the guy or gal that wants to please everybody, not make waves or just go with the flow. Experience in strategic litigation is essential. Not just experience but thinking experience combined with practical common sense and courage that is not reckless or cavalier. Intelligence without laziness is also an integral consideration in choosing your representative.

It is a common misconception that most attorneys are highly intelligent. I do not mean to defame our profession but, factually speaking, that has not been my perception. Book smart is not street smart. A good attorney is both. Attorneys are the same as everyone else. There are all levels of intelligence. And intelligence without motivation and compassion is like faith without works. It’s dead. A good result is based upon paying attention to detail and being willing to go farther, persist longer and do more than the other guy or girl. Good results are achieved by a combination of good luck, smarts and hard work.

The truth is that being a lawyer is not just a job. It is a way of life. There are many easier, less stressful, less time consuming ways to make a living. In Divorce/Custody practice the lawyer needs to be available to the client 24/7 365 days a year. Emergencies surrounding custody disputes happen often, usually during holidays, after hours or weekends and people need to be able to pick up the phone and talk to their lawyer immediately, not on Monday, or tomorrow or even within a few hours.

The Divorce/Custody attorney should be a sensitive and detailed listener. He or she must have great patience, humility and a zest for life and helping others. Divorce clients are in a tremendous amount of pain. For many, it is the worst experience of their entire life. The clients are often angry, afraid, bitter and resentful. A good attorney will have a thick skin. Clients can be notoriously cruel. They periodically will take their frustration (over the process) out on the attorney. This is normal and to be expected and the client should not be made to feel uncomfortable over it. If the attorney is the type that is defensive it will cause dissonance in the attorney client relationship. This is not something that someone who is already in emotional turmoil should have to deal with.

What I have listed above are all important considerations in choosing the right attorney for you. However, the most important consideration is your comfort level with the attorney and what your feelings are telling you. Please feel free to call or email me with any questions about this article or any other legal question. My email is

Robert C. Biales

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Bankruptcy Made Simple


The two types of bankruptcy that most people hear about are chapter 7 and chapter 13. The word chapter refers to the chapter (like in a book) in the bankruptcy code. Chapter 7 is a liquidating bankruptcy and chapter 13 is a non-liquidating bankruptcy. Liquidating means they (the government) can take your stuff. Non-liquidating means they can’t. However, there are exceptions to this. I will try to lay this out in a simple fashion:

In a chapter 7 you will be able to discharge all of your debts without paying anything back. However, if you have any equity in anything (your home, your car, your bank account, your boat- anything) you must surrender it to the bankruptcy trustee (the person who looks out for the creditors) so that it can be sold (liquidated) to pay back the creditors to the largest extent possible. Equity is what determines which chapter of bankruptcy you can file under. Fair Market Value minus Amount Owed equals Your Equity in anything.

A chapter 13 is a non-liquidating bankruptcy. This means you get to keep everything but you have to pay back a percentage of your debt. It is also used for people who are in foreclosure or behind on their mortgage and in fear of foreclosure. A chapter 13 requires a payback plan from between three to five years. The payment is monthly. The amount is determined, again, by the amount of non-exempt equity you have accumulated in your life. This is referred to as your bankruptcy estate. Obviously, everyone wants to do a chapter 7 because it is no pay back. However, since 2005 it has become much harder to file chapter 7. In 2005, legislation was passed which tightened up the income restrictions on people with regard to the Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The intended result was that more people must file under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy code and pay back, at least, what the government thinks they can afford.

It is the bankruptcy attorney’s job to advise you which is the best chapter to file under. It is also the attorney’s job to make sure you keep your home, your car, and everything else you have accumulated throughout your life. At Biales Delchin we concentrate in the area of bankruptcy. Our practice is dedicated to helping people resolve their financial problems in an honorable and dignified manner. We understand how hard it is for people to take this step. We are sensitive to the pain, despair, sense of failure and humiliation many feel for being in this situation. We are dedicated to educate our clients in a compassionate, caring and sensitive manner as to why it is an act of love to yourself and your family to file bankruptcy; that it is a constitutional right to file bankruptcy and that you are not only helping yourself and your loved ones but that you are actually helping the economy and your country by doing so in most cases (that is why it was created by the Constitution as a power granted to Congress). Some of the most honorable people in U.S. history have had to file bankruptcy. Abraham Lincoln filed bankruptcy; so did Thomas Jefferson and Ulysses S. Grant. It did not affect their contributions to society or malign their names. Bankruptcy- if needed- is good. Anybody who thinks or says otherwise has never been in life and sanity threatening financial distress; they have never suffered unending merciless harassment, letters and phone calls by bill collectors. Like all finger pointers and naysayers, they are ignorant.

If you are in this situation, I would encourage you to come in for a free completely confidential initial consultation for a detailed and compassionate evaluation of what can be done to help you. There is absolutely no obligation or pressure to hire us. You will not be asked to give us money or sign anything and no one will ever know that you came. We are legally bound to the highest level of confidentiality in these cases. If you decide bankruptcy is right for you we’ll put you on an affordable payment plan. We will get the bill collectors off your back immediately. We will protect you from lawsuits, garnishments and other collection activity. We will see to it that, if possible, you keep your car, home and all of your other property. Bankruptcy is a tool that can give you peace of mind and give you a fresh start in life.

Robert C. Biales

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What Happens When You File Bankruptcy

hgghhhhYou are in financial distress. You are going insane. You NEED some peace of mind. You are thinking about filing bankruptcy but the whole idea makes you uncomfortable and you don’t know where to start. No worries. This is what you do and what happens when you file bankruptcy. First, you interview an attorney. This is probably the most important part of the whole process. The interview is called an initial consultation and you should not have to pay for it. Do not hire anyone who wants you to pay for the initial consultation. The initial consultation is the meeting in which you determine your comfort level with the attorney and vice versa. First and foremost, you need to be comfortable with your attorney. He or she will be the pilot of a big part of your life and you do not want a slacker or someone who thinks they are doing you a favor to listen to you.

You as a potential paying client are (or should be thought of) as a valuable commodity. You should be treated with the utmost respect and handled with sensitivity because you are going through a very tough period. It is natural for a potential bankruptcy client to be afraid, vulnerable and questioning their decision to file bankruptcy. A good lawyer is a good listener and sensitive to the needs and feelings of their clients. So pay a great deal of attention to the attorney’s and the office staff’s attitude toward you.

A good attorney welcomes questions. Question their experience and how many bankruptcies they do a year. If the attorney does not do at least one per month I would be concerned. The practice of bankruptcy has become highly specialized. It’s not really something you can do once in awhile and maintain a competent skill level. Fees and costs should be quoted up front in an understandable fashion. You should understand exactly what is covered in the fee and what, if any, added charges might arise.

You should meet with an attorney for the initial consultation. You should not meet with a paralegal or legal assistant for the initial consultation. The information gathering process at the first meeting is profound and needs to be gathered by the professional so that any potential problem is identified early. Most importantly, go with your gut. If you are not comfortable with the attorney, the office staff or the office environment you should not hire that firm.

When you come to the initial consultation bring a month of current pay stubs. If you do not have a month of pay stubs bring your most recent pay stub. If you are not employed or self employed bring account statements or the records you keep of the income you are receiving. Have an idea who you owe money too. Bring any lawsuit, garnishment, repossession, utility shut off, license suspension or foreclosure court papers. If you do not have anything- do not worry. Just bring yourself and the attorney will help you get what is needed.

In our office, we give the client a worksheet to take home and fill in his/her creditors and other relevant information. Then the client comes back and we go over it with them to help them complete it. If the client decides to hire us she/he puts a portion of the fee down and is put on an affordable payment plan. Once they put the initial payment down (as little as $300.00 for our firm) we start taking all of their creditor calls. We stop the creditors from calling them. It usually takes about a week until all of the calls stop. The creditors are not allowed to call the client anymore once a bankruptcy attorney has been retained. We do not wait until we are paid in full to stop the creditor calls. The client needs peace of mind which cannot be obtained until all the creditors are backed off from calling. We focus on taking all of the financially related stress out of the client’s life so they can focus on getting back on their feet.

Once the case is paid in full, we will have a final meeting to go over the client’s worksheets. We then enter it into our computer and create what is called a petition and schedules. The client is called in to review and sign it and then we file it electronically from our office. In about a week the attorney and the client will receive a notice of a meeting of creditors which usually is held approximately four to six weeks from the filing date. The meeting of creditors will be in Cleveland, Akron, Jefferson or Youngstown depending upon where the client resides.

The client will have to attend the meeting of creditors with the attorney. It takes between ten and thirty minutes depending upon the issues in the case. The client will be asked questions by a person called a bankruptcy trustee. The questions are basically about what the client owns and how much money she/he makes. We meet with our clients early and thoroughly prepare them for this hearing so that everything goes smooth. It is rare for creditors to attend even though it is called a “meeting of creditors.” Any problems or issues will be disclosed at the meeting of creditors. Clients usually are required to attend only one meeting of creditors.

After the meeting of creditors, for all practical purposes, the process is over for the client. A creditor has sixty days from the meeting of creditors to object to the client’s discharge. Unanticipated objections seldom occur and if they do we resolve them so the client can receive their discharge. The “discharge” is the court order that forgives all of the client’s debt. This is called “a fresh start.” The client receives the discharge which is a piece of paper in the mail. She/he needs to keep the discharge paper in a safe place because that is the paper they will send a creditor if that creditor claims the debt is still owed.

Then the client uses their fresh start to rebuild his or her life and credit rating and lives happily ever after (hopefully). That is what happens when you file a basic chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Robert C. Biales

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