Common Filing Concerns & Bankruptcy Exemptions

November 24, 2014 Posted by kingcade

One of the most common concerns people have when filing for bankruptcy is that they will lose everything. At Kingcade & Garcia, we understand these concerns and want to put your mind at ease. Since 1996, we have helped more than 15,000 Miami-Dade County clients handle their Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies.

Bankruptcy laws were created to give hard-working people a fresh financial start. Whether you have fallen on hard times as a result of a sudden illness, divorce and / or unemployment, federal bankruptcy laws were created to help consumers and families get back on their feet and provide relief from burdensome debt.

A common question people have about bankruptcy is: What assets will I be able to keep? Many people are mislead to believe that bankruptcy can only make problems worse by causing them to lose their home, vehicles or their ability to ever qualify for credit, again. This could not be further from the truth.

In fact, those filing under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 can keep almost everything.  Depending on your specific case, exemptions include:

• Homes
• Cars
• Retirement accounts
• Pensions
• Wages
• Personal property
• Savings
• Veterans or workers’ compensation benefits

If you have any questions on the topic of bankruptcy exemptions or are in a financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade & Garcia, P.A. has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade & Garcia website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

Ocwen Financial Corp. Accused of Illegal Foreclosure Practices

November 19, 2014 Posted by kingcade

There were 700,000 foreclosures nationwide last year and some of those didn’t need to happen.  Even six years after the housing market crash, mortgage companies are still making mistakes and foreclosing on homes when they should not be.  Ocwen Financial Corp., one of the nation’s largest mortgage servicers, is under investigation in a new lawsuit over its treatment of homeowners facing foreclosure.  The class action lawsuit alleges Ocwen has been charging mark-ups, illegal fees and unfairly pushing homeowners into foreclosure.

This is ironic; because for years Ocwen has claimed to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.  They even trademarked the slogan, “Helping homeowners is what we do!”

The case has been filed in a federal court in Florida and is seeking class-action status.   The lawsuit alleges that Ocwen is charging illegal fees.  Ocwen, oftentimes follows a pattern, usually beginning with a small problem, a mix-up with an escrow account or a homeowner simply misses a few payments.

Ocwen has charged plaintiffs late fees that it was not permitted to charge under the terms of the mortgage agreement.  The suit claims Ocwen also forced upon borrowers a second insurance policy through one of its own affiliates, and alleges that the company has been improperly steering profits to itself through this affiliate company.

One exhibit in the lawsuit is a plaintiff’s monthly statement asking for a payment of $73,000. Documents show that regulators are looking into thousands of loan-modification letters that likely caused homeowners “significant harm” because Ocwen back-dated them. Back-dating the letters made it look like the homeowners had missed their opportunity to avoid foreclosure.

Choosing the right attorney can make the difference between whether or not you can keep your home. A well-qualified Miami foreclosure defense attorney will not only help you keep your home, but they will be able to negotiate a loan that has payments you can afford. Miami foreclosure defense attorney Timothy Kingcade has helped many facing foreclosure alleviate their stress by letting them stay in their homes for at least another year, allowing them to re-organize their lives. If you have any questions on the topic of foreclosure please feel free to contact me at (305) 285-9100. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade & Garcia website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

Related Resources:

http://www.npr.org/2014/11/18/364131391/firm-accused-of-illegal-practices-that-push-families-into-foreclosure

Consumer Protections: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act & Florida’s Wage Garnishment Exemptions

November 17, 2014 Posted by kingcade

When you are struggling to make ends meet financially, it can be frustrating to have debt collectors calling you or even worse, having your wages garnished. A strong federal law, called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, protects consumers against certain unfair collection practices, which include:

• Calling you repeatedly to annoy or harass you.
• Trying to collect more than you owe.
• Fail to send a written notice of the debt.
• Threatening violence.
• Threatening dire consequences (i.e. – lawsuits, criminal prosecution, wage garnishment, jail time, permanently ruining your credit).
• Using profanity and abusive language.
• Calling before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
• Revealing debt to third parties (i.e. – family, neighbors, friends, co-workers, etc.).
• Contacting you at your work, after you have requested them to stop.
• Failing to verify disputed debts.
• Ignoring cease communication requests.

Following the 2008 recession, Florida legislatures have made changes in the laws to help individuals and families struggling to keep their homes and stay out of debt. Under Florida Statutes Section 222.11, there are specific exemptions laid out for those who are having their wages garnished by creditors, the IRS and hospitals.

Section 222.11 provides exemptions from wage garnishments if:

• You are the head of the household and earn more than $750 a week in disposable income (unless the person agrees to this in writing).
• If you are exempt from wage garnishments, your accumulated income deposited in a financial institution is also exempt for six months after the deposit.
• Any persons not considered “head of the household” are also exempt from having 75 percent of their earning garnished (over six-month period).
• If the head of the household does earn more than $750 a week in disposable income, creditors cannot garnish wages unless they receive written permission specified under the statute.

If you have any questions on the topic of wage garnishment or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade & Garcia, P.A. has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade & Garcia website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

Related Resources:
http://blog.credit.com/2011/04/eleven-ways-a-debt-collector-may-be-breaking-the-law-18624/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5o-ci9nVEgA

Medical Debt Responsible for the Majority of Bankruptcy Claims in the U.S.

November 12, 2014 Posted by kingcade

Consumers may be surprised to find out that it is not credit card debt that is the leading cause of bankruptcy, but medical debt. According to a recent study, Americans pay three times more in third-party collections from medical debt each year than they pay for bank and credit card debt combined. This year alone, approximately 51 million Americans will be contacted by a debt collection agency about a medical bill- that’s roughly one in five! This means more than $1 out of every $3 paid to third-party collectors is for medical debt.

The study conducted by NerdWallet Health also indicated that many of the people who are facing medical debt are being mistakenly overcharged. In fact, the study found hospital billing errors with overages of up to 26%. These billing errors were even more prominent with Medicare patients.

The study highlighted that Medicare Compliance reviews conducted by the Office of the Inspector General found that none of the hospitals they audited fully complied with Medicare billing requirements, with nearly half (49%) of the Medicare claims containing billing errors.

Considering that American households have lost $2,300 in median income, while health care expenses have increased $1,814, it would be wise for American consumers to take more initiative in understanding their health insurance packages. Out-of-pocket spending on healthcare is expected to accelerate to a 5.5% annual growth rate by 2023. That is double the growth of GDP.

While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a step in helping consumers avoid medical bankruptcies, by eliminating the underwriting process and subsidizing healthcare health care for those who would otherwise be uninsured- it can cause problems for individuals and families who choose the wrong plan.

According to health care experts, the average deductible for a silver plan can be upwards of $3,000 for an individual or $6,000 for a family — and that is just for in-network care. While 2015 out-of-pocket expenses are capped at $6,600 for an individual and $13,200 for a family, plans may impose separate out-of-pocket maxes — or have no max at all for out of network doctors and hospitals. Given the narrow network of approved providers within these plans, it becomes a likely scenario that an individual will at one point accidentally visit an out-of-network doctor or clinic and then be stuck with a large bill.

It is important consumers know that the ACA offers an external appeals process for health plan decisions, which provides recourse to individuals who face large medical bills after undergoing medical care that was not covered by their health insurance plan. A recent study in California even found that nearly half of such insurance denials were overturned in favor of the patient after review by an external board.

Those who have experienced illness or injury and found themselves overwhelmed with medical debt should contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney. In bankruptcy, medical bills are considered general unsecured debts just like credit cards. This means that medical bills do not receive priority treatment and can easily be discharged in bankruptcy. Bankruptcy laws were created to help people resolve overwhelming debt and gain a fresh financial start. Bankruptcy attorney Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade & Garcia, P.A. has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade & Garcia website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

Related Resources:
http://www.mainstreet.com/article/medical-debt-is-responsible-for-the-majority-of-bankruptcy-claims-in-the-us

http://www.alllaw.com/articles/nolo/bankruptcy/can-file-bankruptcy-eliminate-medical-bills.html

Relaxed Mortgage-Lending Rules APPROVED!

October 27, 2014 Posted by kingcade

Three U.S. agencies signed off this week on relaxed mortgage-lending rules. These new standards represent an effort to ensure more mortgage loans are available for borrowers. The Federal Reserve, Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Housing and Urban Development approved the new rules for the mortgage-backed securities market, a day after three other agencies approved the standards.

The rules are intended to improve the quality of loans by giving banks a financial incentive to ensure mortgages can be repaid. The initial rules required that banks hold 5% of the risk of mortgages packaged and sold to investors or require a 20% borrower down payment. But regulators, concerned that overly stringent rules would harm the housing market’s recovery, recanted on the 20% down payment.

Instead, banks will be able to avoid the 5% risk-retention requirement if they verify a borrower’s ability to pay back the loan and comply with other requirements, such as ensuring borrowers’ debt payments do not exceed 43% of their income.

Officials say these standards are still sufficiently strong enough to prevent a repeat of some of the worst abuses from the housing market crisis, including loans in which the lender does nothing to verify a borrower’s income. The new rules, which go into effect in fall 2015, will be reviewed for its impact on the economy four years later, and every five years after that.

Click here to read more on this story.
http://online.wsj.com/articles/divided-sec-signs-off-on-relaxed-mortgage-lending-rules-1414009530

Choosing the right attorney can make the difference between whether or not you can keep your home. A well-qualified Miami foreclosure defense attorney will not only help you keep your home, but they will be able to negotiate a loan that has payments you can afford. Miami foreclosure defense attorney Timothy Kingcade has helped many facing foreclosure alleviate their stress by letting them stay in their homes for at least another year, allowing them to re-organize their lives. If you have any questions on the topic of foreclosure please feel free to contact me at (305) 285-9100. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade & Garcia website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

 

‘Condo Takeover Schemes’ – The New Foreclosure Threat?

October 20, 2014 Posted by kingcade

In the wake of the foreclosure crisis, condo takeover tactics have emerged. Here’s how it works- Real estate investors buy up foreclosed condo units in a building, then take control of the building’s condo association, which allows them to set condo fees at whatever level they choose. By inflating these fees beyond what the occupants can afford many longtime condo owners are at risk of being priced out of their homes.

Condo owners in a Reading, Pennsylvania, subdivision were pushed out of their homes after a real estate development company bought up foreclosed units in the complex and then took control of the association. Using a Pennsylvania law, the investor then dissolved the condo association, allowing it to place the nearly 100 units in the complex for sale. The attorney who represented many of these condo owners told NBC that the developer offered the remaining owners buyouts valued at just one third of their mortgages. Finding that they are suddenly underwater, many of the owners lost their homes.

Housing experts say the practice fits with a broader trend of investors buying foreclosed properties, then hiking up rents and other fees, sometimes evicting longtime residents, usually renters, out of their homes.

Click here to read more on this story.
http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/in-plain-sight/condo-takeover-schemes-can-pose-new-foreclosure-threat-n215316

Choosing the right attorney can make the difference between whether or not you can keep your home. A well-qualified Miami foreclosure defense attorney will not only help you keep your home, but they will be able to negotiate a loan that has payments you can afford. Miami foreclosure defense attorney Timothy Kingcade has helped many facing foreclosure alleviate their stress by letting them stay in their homes for at least another year, allowing them to re-organize their lives. If you have any questions on the topic of foreclosure please feel free to contact me at (305) 285-9100. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade & Garcia website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

Related Resources:
http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/in-plain-sight/condo-takeover-schemes-can-pose-new-foreclosure-threat-n215316

Financial Planners warn about “prepaying” Student Loan Debt over Retirement Savings

October 14, 2014 Posted by kingcade

National student loan debt has been increasing at a rapid pace over the past two decades. The total now tops $1.2 trillion, surpassing auto and credit card debt. It’s hampered many young people’s ability to purchase a home and even keep current on monthly bills.

However, financial planners are warning borrowers to not be in such a hurry to pay off this debt. In fact, young borrowers could wind up being poorer if they accelerate student loan debt repayment over saving for retirement.

Here’s why: Retirement contributions typically offer tax breaks, company matches and future compounding that are worth far more than the interest saved by accelerated loan repayment. Many young borrowers focus on the now, putting retirement savings on the back burner, which can be a costly mistake.

A $1,000 contribution made at age 25 would typically be worth $20,000 or more at retirement age, while the same contribution would be worth about $10,000 when made at age 35, assuming 8 percent average annual returns. Even if participants do not achieve 8 percent, which is the historical stock market average for periods over 30 years, the math still holds: contributions made earlier return dramatically more.

Thanks to compounding, contributions made when workers are in their 20s can be worth twice as contributions made later. That’s because the money has longer to grow.

A recent TransUnion study of “credit active” consumers — people with at least one credit account or loan — found that 51 percent of those aged 20 to 29 have student loan debt, compared to 31 percent in 2005. Balances have soared as well, the study found. The average balance for a 20-something borrower in 2014 was $25,525, compared to $15,853 in 2007. That’s a 60 percent increase.

An Experian study found an even greater rise in student loan debt when the rest of the population was counted in. The study found that student loan debt had risen 84 percent between 2008 and 2014 and that the average balance for borrowers of all ages was $29,000.

Some good advice… Student loan borrowers should always make the required payments on their federal education loans, since the penalties for default are severe. But do not postpone saving for retirement.  Make sure your employer is matching you on your retirement contributions, since that money is essentially free, before using any extra money to pay down student loan debt.

Click here to read more on this story.

For borrowers who are struggling with student loan debt, relief options are available. Many student loan borrowers are unaware that they have rights and repayment options available to them, such as postponement of loan payments, reduction of payments or even a complete discharge of the debt. It is important you contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade & Garcia, P.A. has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade & Garcia website at http://www.miamibankruptcy.com.

Related Resources: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/13/us-column-weston-retirement-idUSKCN0I21CQ20141013

‘Zombie’ homes a growing problem in Florida neighborhoods

October 10, 2014 Posted by kingcade

A bank forecloses on a home, the residents pack up and leave and the city is left to clean up the mess. These abandoned homes in foreclosure limbo, referred to as zombie homes are haunting a number of Florida neighborhoods. These properties are often uninhabitable because they have fallen into such disrepair, and the owners are unwilling to fix them up because with the outstanding mortgage payments, the bank can still come back and foreclose on the property.

By hand-picking which foreclosures they complete and which they ignore, banks are strapping individual borrowers with a permanent, inescapable debt while creating slums in already struggling communities. These vacant homes often attract drug dealers and squatters and bring down the value of surrounding properties.

The financial crisis resulted in many homeowners walking away from their properties when they got their initial foreclosure notice, seeking to avoid being evicted, not realizing that the process could take years.

Zombie foreclosures have become more widespread in recent years throughout the country, but are especially prevalent in Florida, where as of June 2, 48,630 homes in some stage of foreclosure sat vacant, according to RealtyTrac. That accounts for a third of the 141,406 vacant foreclosed properties nationwide!

According to real estate experts, zombie foreclosures come in two forms:

1.) The unintentional “byproduct” of Florida’s judicial foreclosure process, which can take months and result in “properties sitting in limbo;”

2.) Intentional delay by lenders, who file a foreclosure case so they do not lose the option to do so when the statute of limitations runs out. However, these lenders do not move forward because completing the foreclosure would not be financially viable.

Zombie homes can haunt homeowners- and neighborhoods for years, having a negative impact on cities. When homeowners and banks walk away from a property, the city is left with the responsibility of the home.

The Justice Department has taken some responsibility. Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase & Co. each agreed to forgive loans when they decide not to pursue foreclosure and have helped cities pay to demolish the abandoned homes. The agreements, however, contain no specific monetary obligation and instead fall under broad consumer relief payments.

Florida cities like Jacksonville and St. Petersburg have borne the burden. Jacksonville demolished 113 homes that were vacant and unsafe in 2013. In 2014, the city bulldozed another 60 properties. It is estimated that St. Petersburg will demolish 100 houses this year.  Officials have said the city simply does not have the resources to deal with all of the vacant homes.

Click here to read more on this story…
http://www.publicintegrity.org/2014/09/15/15519/zombie-homes-haunt-florida-neighborhoods

Choosing the right attorney can make the difference between whether or not you can keep your home. A well-qualified Miami foreclosure defense attorney will not only help you keep your home, but they will be able to negotiate a loan that has payments you can afford. Miami foreclosure defense attorney Timothy Kingcade has helped many facing foreclosure alleviate their stress by letting them stay in their homes for at least another year, allowing them to re-organize their lives. If you have any questions on the topic of foreclosure please feel free to contact me at (305) 285-9100. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade & Garcia website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

Related Resources:
http://www.publicintegrity.org/2014/09/15/15519/zombie-homes-haunt-florida-neighborhoods

Raise your Credit Score… FAST

October 7, 2014 Posted by kingcade

Your credit score can range anywhere from between 300 to 850. And we all know, the higher the number, the better. Your credit score, also referred to as your FICO number is what lenders use to determine how much to lend you and what your interest rate will be when applying for a mortgage, car loan, credit card or student loan. A recent survey from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling revealed that people are more embarrassed to admit their credit score (30%) than their weight (12%).

Below are some immediate steps you can take to raise your score FAST:

1.) Dispute Errors. Mistakes happen. Order a copy of your credit report for free by going to www.annualcreditreport.com. Analyze the report for accuracy and dispute any errors immediately.

2.) Negotiate. You cannot deny that you stopped paying a credit card bill because you lost your job last year, but you can request that the creditor “erase” that debt or any other credit account that went into collections. Write a letter that offers to pay the remaining balance if the creditor will report the account as, “paid as agreed.” They may even remove it all together. You will never know unless you try.

3.) Check your limits. Make sure your reported credit limits are current. You do not want it to look as if you are maxing out plastic each month. If your card issuer forgot to mention an increased credit limit you are entitled to, request it.

4.) Get a credit card. If you use a credit card wisely (i.e. not charging too much, making payments on time, etc.) this will do good things for your score.

5.) Under-use your cards. Keep in mind, the “credit utilization ratio” is no more than 30% and ideally even less. Credit experts advise that a 10% credit utilization ratio will “maximize your FICO score.”

6.) Raise your credit limit. Request that your creditors increase your limit. However, this only works if you can trust yourself not to increase your spending limit.

7.) DO NOT close any cards. Canceling a credit card will cause your available credit to drop, which will not look good to the bureaus. One way to keep a card active is to use it for a recurring charge, such as an electric or phone bill.

8.) Mix it up. Using a different kind of credit can boost your score. For example, you can take out a small personal loan from a credit union to buy a piece of furniture or appliance. However, ONLY do this if you are 100% sure you can meet the payment schedule.

9.) Pay your bills on time. Your payment history makes up a whopping 35% of your FICO score. If you have a problem paying your bills on time, whether you are a busy working parent or simply absent-minded at times, automate your payments. This is an easy solution to this problem and a much needed time saver.

10.) Pay your bills twice a month. Using too much of your credit limit at any time does not look good. Make one payment just before the statement closing date and the second one right before the due date. The first payment will help you decrease the balance that the credit bureaus will see, the second ensures you will not pay interest or a late fee.

If you are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade & Garcia, P.A. has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade & Garcia website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

Related Resources:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/moneybuilder/2014/05/02/11-ways-to-raise-your-credit-score-fast/

Judge Slams “Real Housewives of New Jersey” Couple for Not Disclosing all Assets in Bankruptcy

October 2, 2014 Posted by kingcade

Teresa and Giuseppe “Joe” Giudice arrived for sentencing this week at a federal courthouse in Newark facing conspiracy and bankruptcy fraud charges. U.S. District Judge Esther Salas reprimanded the couple for not disclosing all of their assets, including recreational vehicles they own.

The couple pleaded guilty in March and admitted hiding assets from bankruptcy creditors and submitting phony loan applications to receive $5 million in mortgages and construction loans.  Because of the fraud, the couple’s bankruptcy of several years ago was cancelled by the court last month and the Giudices once again owe more than $13 million to creditors.

Joe Giudice was sentenced to 41 months in prison, 2 years of supervised probation and was ordered to pay $414,588 in restitution from District Court Judge Esther Salas.  Lawyers for Teresa remain hopeful that she will be spared a prison sentence and instead be put on probation, noting the couple’s need to care for their four young daughters.

The couple pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and three types of bankruptcy fraud. Joe Giudice, 43, also plead guilty to failing to file a tax return for 2004, though he acknowledged he did not file taxes on income of approximately $1 million from 2004 to 2008.

Regardless of your occupation or status in life, if you attempt to cheat on your taxes or attempt to hide assets from your creditors during bankruptcy, you face real consequences, criminal prosecution and even jail time.

If you are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade & Garcia, P.A. has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade & Garcia website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

Related Resources:

http://pagesix.com/2014/10/02/judge-slams-teresa-and-joe-giudice-for-not-disclosing-all-assets/

http://deadline.com/2014/10/real-housewives-of-nj-stars-sentenced-prison-joe-teresa-giudice-844551/