Archive for: ‘May 2018’

10 Things Debt Settlement Companies Won’t Tell You

May 17, 2018 Posted by kingcade

When facing overwhelming debt, it can seem like there is no way out, the thought of a third-party debt settlement company coming in and negotiating down the debt can seem like a dream come true. While it can be tempting to jump at this offer, there are several important facts that debt settlement companies will not tell you.

It is important to first understand what makes a debt settlement company different from the normal credit counseling service. A debt settlement company assists in negotiating down the individual’s debt. To qualify, the individual must stop making payments on any debts. All of the late fees, interests and penalties will continue to grow during this time, and the debtor will make payments to an escrow account held by the debt settlement company. When a specified amount has been saved, the company contacts your creditors and tries to get them to accept a lower amount to settle the debt.

  1. If it seems too good to be true…

The consumer facing mounds of debt is able to settle the case for less than what he or she owed. In return, the debt-settlement company collects fees from the consumer for having to negotiate the debt. However, like many things that sound too good to be true, it is not always that easy. In fact, the consumer can end up in a much worse financial situation than they were in before. The debt settlement company, on the other hand, comes out earning fees on the payments made by the consumer. Many times, the consumer will never end up seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and will end up filing for bankruptcy anyway. In the meantime, he or she has been making payments in an escrow account, while accruing fees and costs accumulate.

  1. Debt settlement is not an easy process.

The individual has to basically stop paying his or her bills and let all debt go into delinquency or default. The money that would be going towards the debt goes towards the debt-settlement firm and into an escrow account. By stopping payments on current debts, the creditors are supposed to be fooled into believing they will never receive payment, which will make them desperate to take a lower settlement. However, until that happens, it does not mean the collections efforts will stop. The creditors will want to receive payment and will continue doing anything they can to receive it. The debt settlement firm cannot stop the calls from coming, and they cannot stop the collection efforts during all of this.

  1. Debt-Settlement Companies Cannot Ask for Upfront Fees

In 2010, the Federal Trade Commission made it illegal for for-profit debt-settlement companies to charge upfront fees. Firms are not allowed to collect fees from the consumer before they have settled the debts. If the company is settling debts one debt at a time, fees can be collected on that settled amount, but they are not allowed to ‘front-load’ fees.

  1. There are other alternatives to debt relief.

Other debt-relief options are out there. Credit counseling is available, and many non-profits offer education for consumers on how to get rid of debts. Debt management programs offered through non-profit credit counseling services are also available. Additionally, if all else fails, bankruptcy is an available option. It helps to sit down with a bankruptcy attorney to discuss the possible options, as well as the best ones for the specific debtor.

  1. Debt-Settlement Will Not Save Your Credit Score.

The fact that the consumer simply stops paying his or her credit cards, letting them go delinquent means that the individual’s credit is going to take a hit. Even missing a payment for 30 days means that the consumer’s credit score is going to get hit. Once that happens, it can be hard to get it back.

  1. The Consumer May Still End Up Filing for Bankruptcy.

When all is said and done, the debtor may end up back at the point where he or she would have ended up had he or she not sought debt-settlement.  The bankruptcy process provides some protections for debtors that debt-settlement does not. All collection efforts stop with the automatic stay, including the fees from accruing. Also, the Chapter 13 bankruptcy process allows a more structured way for the individual to pay back the debt.

  1. Not All Debt Will Be Settled.

It is possible that the debt-settlement company may not end up settling all of the debt. They normally deal with liabilities that are unsecured, like credit cards, medical bills and unsecured loans. Debts that have collateral attached to them, such as mortgages or car loans, can be a little more difficult. Creditors are not under an obligation to work with debt-settlement companies, which is why many debts end up not being successfully settled.

  1. Debt Settlement Lawyers Do Not Represent You.

Many debt-settlement firms will tell consumers that their attorney represents them in negotiations with the creditors. However, half the time that means the attorney is basically letting the debt-settlement company utilize their letterhead. Most of the time, the attorney on the letterhead will never truly represent the consumer, and consumers should never assume or rely on false promises that they are legally protected by representation.

  1. You don’t need them.

One big issue debt-settlement companies do not want you to know is that you can do this alone. Nothing prevents a consumer from negotiating a settlement directly with the creditor. Many consumers are actually successful in working with creditors on a mutually-beneficial solution, independent from third-party intervention.

  1. Prepare for Tax Consequences.

The Internal Revenue Service considers debts that are forgiven, cancelled or discharged to be taxable income. If a consumer is successful in reducing or paying off their debts through settlement, they may still owe taxes for the amount that has been written off. In fact, consumers will receive a 1099-C form for any debt that applies as income, and this will need to be reported as gross income for taxes. The only exception to this rule is for taxpayers who are insolvent, meaning they owe more than they own.

If you have questions on this topic 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 McMaken 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 McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

Related Resources: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/10-things-debt-settlement-companies-wont-tell-you-2016-07-19

 

Changes on the Horizon for Bankruptcy and Student Loan Debt

May 16, 2018 Posted by kingcade

In the past it has been nearly impossible to discharge student loans in bankruptcy. This issue has kept many individuals from filing for bankruptcy as they have seen it as not helping relieve them of the biggest debt they carry: student loan debt. That all could change after the U.S. Department of Education announced this year that it will be reviewing its policies and potentially changing the way student loan debt is treated in bankruptcy.

It is estimated that student loan borrowers in the U.S. owe a total of $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. According to the Brookings Institute, around 40 percent of these individuals will end up defaulting on their loans by the year 2023.

The current test for showing that student loan debt should be discharged bankruptcy is the undue hardship test. However, this standard is very subjective, and does not leave a definitive standard across the board of what amounts to undue hardship. Even Florida bankruptcy courts vary in their determination on what defines undue hardship.

The most commonly-used test is the “Brunner Test,” which requires the borrower to show that he or she cannot maintain a basic standard of living while making student loan payments. The borrower has to show that this undue hardship would last throughout the entire repayment period in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and he or she will need to show that efforts have been made to try to repay federal loans.

The Department of Education is looking for ways to clearly define the undue hardship standard. According to Clare McCann, a deputy director of higher education policy at New America, it is likely the Department will broaden the definition.

The Chair of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, recently testified before Congress that the student debt crisis has the possibility of seriously hurting the economy if changes are not made.

A date has not been given for when the determination will happen, but it is one step closer to a change that will make a difference in the current student loan debt crisis in the country.

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. There are ways to file for bankruptcy with student loan debt.  It is important you contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all 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 McMaken 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 McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

 

Yahoo Users Can Sue Over Data Breach

May 15, 2018 Posted by kingcade

A federal court has recently ruled that a lawsuit regarding Yahoo’s recent data breach, exposing the personal information of its nearly 3 billion users can go forward. The decision was announced on May 11, after U.S. District Judge, Lucy Kohl, rejected a request from Verizon Communications to dismiss many of the claims made against the company for negligence and breach of contract. Verizon Communications purchased Yahoo’s Internet business in June 2017.

The case stems from three different data breaches that occurred between 2013 and 2016. Yahoo has been criticized with how slowly it reacted to the breaches and informed their users. The breaches were not discovered and revealed until after Verizon agreed to buy Yahoo’s business. Upon discovering this news, Verizon demanded a $4.5 billion cut in the purchase price for the company.

Customers were later informed about the release of confidential information, which increased users’ risks of identity theft. Users were then required to pay for credit freezes and continued monitoring on their credit reports.

Kohl stated that, had customers been informed about the breach sooner, they would have taken measures against identity theft and fraud. By the time the company had informed users of the breaches, many of them had already had their identities stole by hackers who used their personal data to file fraudulent tax returns and make illegal credit card charges.

Initially, the company had said that one billion users were a part of the hack, but it later came out that three billion of the users were affected by the breaches. In fact, the complaint filed by plaintiffs had to be amended in October 2017 after it was revealed that the breach ended up affecting three billion users.

Kohl said the fact the complaint had to be amended to include these additional users highlighted just how serious the issue of security was in the plaintiff’s decision to use Yahoo as an Internet service.

In March 2017, two Russian intelligence agents and two hackers were charged by U.S. prosecutors for crimes connected with the Yahoo breaches. One of the accused hackers, Karim Baratov, pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft and conspiracy charges.

If you have questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorneywho 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 McMaken 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 McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

Related Resources:

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/yahoo-users-can-sue-over-data-breaches-031318.html

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-verizon-yahoo-breach/data-breach-victims-can-sue-yahoo-in-the-united-states-judge-idUSKCN1GO1TL

How Student Loan Debt Can Affect Your 401K

May 14, 2018 Posted by kingcade

Student loans and retirement planning may not seem like two things that would affect each other. Usually, the first thought after graduating is to get a job to start paying back student loan debt. However, student loan debt has become an increasing problem when it comes to saving and planning for retirement.

More and more students are graduating with student loan debt today.  And for those starting their careers fresh out of college, many are finding it hard to save for retirement along with meeting their monthly obligations, the biggest of these being student loan payments.

New research shows that families age 45 to 54 with zero student loan debt have an average 401(k) balance of $80,000. Take that same age demographic and add the issue of student loans, and the median balance for their 401(k) drops to $46,000. Families who have heads of household younger than 35 with student loans carry a median 401(k) balance of $8,000.

Some companies are helping their employees with student loan debt. In January 2016, Fidelity launched a program to help their own customer service associates pay up to $2,000 of student loan debt annually, with a lifetime maximum of $10,000. Fidelity employees responded well to the program with 8,400 employees taking advantage of it, the majority of them being in the younger demographic.

Another company, Gradfi, a fintech company, started a student loan repayment program, offering this service to 100 employers in 2016. Gradfi is now working with 350 companies across the United States, including Peloton and Pricewaterhouse Coopers. Employers can use these programs to draw in key hires, but also work on retaining employees once they are hired.

One downside to these student loan repayment programs, however, is the fact that these employer payments must be considered as taxable income to employees.

For the time being, it is advisable to factor in both payments on student loan debt and contributions to retirement savings. Every bit helps and making those smaller contributions today will build up to larger contributions over time as student loan debt decreases. Take advantage of employer-matched money when making these contributions, and speak with your financial advisor to see how much you can contribute comfortably.

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. There are ways to file for bankruptcy with student loan debt.  It is important you contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all 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 McMaken 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 McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

 

 

Second Landlord This Month Held in Contempt of Court for Willful Violation of the Bankruptcy Automatic Stay

May 11, 2018 Posted by kingcade

Miami bankruptcy attorney Timothy S. Kingcade’s Motion Granted by Judge, Creditor Required to Cease and Desist all Eviction Proceedings and Pay Attorney’s Fees and Other Sanctions

MIAMI – (May 11, 2018) This is the second time this month Bankruptcy Attorney Timothy S. Kingcade, founding partner of Miami-based Kingcade Garcia McMaken and Attorney Kristina Gonzalez, have successfully obtained an Order for a client in a Chapter 7 case, requiring the creditor to  cease and desist all eviction proceedings and pay attorney’s fees.  The creditor in the case (In re Danny Looney Case No. 17-25332-LMI), Massmar Investments, LLC, was listed in the bankruptcy petition and was advised multiple times that the client was in bankruptcy.

“This is a victory today for our client. The landlord in this case chose to completely disregard the automatic stay put in place that protects bankruptcy clients from harassment and repossession of property. Despite having notice of the bankruptcy, the landlord continued with eviction proceedings, disregarded the law and harassed my client to no end,” Kingcade said. “Unfortunately, this is something we are seeing more of in my practice.”

The Order directs creditor, Massmar Investments, LLC to cease and desist any further eviction proceedings and dismiss the wrongfully filed eviction case, abide by the automatic stay, and pay attorney’s fees to Kingcade Garcia McMaken for having to bring forth the action.

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Miami-based Kingcade Garcia McMaken was established by managing partner and bankruptcy attorney, Timothy S. Kingcade in 1996. The firm represents clients throughout the State of Florida in Chapter 7 bankruptcy and foreclosure defense cases. The firm is committed to providing personalized service to each and every client, clearly explaining the options according to the unique circumstances of his or her life. The office environment and the service provided are centered on a culture of superior client care for the financially disenfranchised. All partners and associates at Kingcade Garcia McMaken specialize in consumer bankruptcy and foreclosure and have dedicated their practices to this area of the law. Additionally, all attorneys and staff members at the firm are bilingual speaking Spanish.

For more information visit, https://www.miamibankruptcy.com/.