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Our Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Has Been a Nightmare. – Holly

“Dear Steve,

My husband and I are in the middle of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy that has been a disaster from the very beginning. We were told we could only file 13 because of an appraisal on our house, a piece of property we were left from an inheritance along with several other family members (that we don’t want but are unable to sell,) and because we were beginning to become behind on our mortgage payments.

Our lawyer proposed a 3 year plan with payments I was already skeptical we would be able to handle as we approached our meeting with our trustee. The trustee turned our 3 year plan to 6 years, increased our repayment amount, and stipulated he would take half our income tax returns every year.

We agreed because we did not no what other options we had at that point even though I new we were going to be in for a hard hard road ahead. Basically I feel we are in worse shape now than before the bankruptcy with creditors threatening us. We can barely afford our utilities and food bills and we do not qualify for an assistance because all the agencies do not look at our income after bankruptcy has been deducted – only net income.

I have tried every agency I could find. We lost our second car to repo. We have not been able to pay the trustee their portion of our taxes because we need the money to live and eat. I have eliminated every kind of “fluff” and then some — we never go anywhere, we cant even afford gas!

I have three children who I feel are suffering because we can barely afford the basics let alone any extracurricular activities for them. We have been able to qualify for a few credit cards after filing with very small credit limits — have maxed them and been unable to make payments and now have creditors calling us again.

My husbands job is such that he is frequently laid off for a week or two a month and the trustee still takes payments out of his reduced checks leaving us with virtually nothing those weeks. The trustee also takes payments out of any bonuses he gets throughout the year making it virtually impossible to get ahead – our lawyer has no solutions for us.

I have a close relative who agreed to try to help us pay off our bankruptcy but our lawyer advised against it stating the trustee would only significantly increase the repayment amount.

I have thought about selling our home and buying a much lower priced home to lower our house payment which is automatically taking out of my husbands paychecks as per the trustee, and pray that we could get enough equity out of the house to possibly discharge – but our lawyer again thought that the trustee would just increase our repayment amount and warned us of the rigorous process in which selling a home in the middle of a Chapter 13 would intale.

And then what would we do to be able to get a new home loan? We are alone here, a job transfer from Michigan to Ohio and no family to take us in. Our lawyer did warn us that our county trustee is very difficult to work with and very harsh – he was certainly correct in this matter.

I cried throughout our initial trustee meeting like an idiot and this man didn’t seem fazed one bit. I feel trapped and helpless. My question is . . . what can we do now? I would NEVER ever advise bankruptcy for anyone after what we have been through.

We looked into credit consolidation services before filing bankruptcy and were quoted what we thought were high monthly repayments amounts, but looking back now we would have struggled for a much shorter amount of time, been done now and obviously credit score would have been dinged but not smashed.

This is a total nightmare! No fresh start here! There has got to be something I can do to fix this – we are not going to make it another 3 years like this!

Since we have filed we have been with out electricity at times, without water at times – with out phone at times – without cable – if it were not for local foodbanks who do not ask income questions we would have not had food – we have been without heat because our house uses very expensive prop ane – we have gone without without without – - sorry for the sounds of desperation – just really hoping someone can offer some words of encouragement!

Holly”

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The Answer

Dear Holly,

Our Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Has Been a Nightmare.   HollySome trustees are not the greatest in customer service, that’s for sure. But this issue seems to have been created less by the trustee than by the goal and solution.

Would it not have made more sense to sell the house and land, pay down your debt, and then file a chapter 7 bankruptcy to discharge the rest of your debt in about 90 days?

I’m not sure the limitations or instructions you gave your attorney when you started this process but if you told your attorney you would absolutely not sell the house or property then the attorneys hands are tied as to what to do.

But the trustee has their hands tied a bit as well. If you don’t want to lose the house to foreclosure, even in a chapter 13 you will need to make the regular mortgage payment plus some to get caught up.

I can’t see how this self imposed journey of punishment is helping things in any way. If you don’t like your bankruptcy attorney, talk to another one. Find one you “connect” with.

You can click here to find a local bankruptcy attorney and talk to them for free about your specific situation.

But just from what you’ve shared it seems that terminating your chapter 13 bankruptcy now, selling the property and then refiling a chapter 7 would make your lives much more manageable? Heck, the trustee might even be willing to sell the property in a chapter 7.

It seems you might have been asset rich but cash poor to support those assets, even in a chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Let’s find the right solution for you that lets you move forward with your life and start over. I think you’ll just have to let go to get ahead to do better.

Please post your responses and follow-up messages to me on this in the comments section below.

Big Hug!

Our Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Has Been a Nightmare.   Holly
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About Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode
Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
  • Holly

    Hello Steve thank for responding to my post – to add some more explanation to a few things … we were not willing to give up our home when began the bankruptcy process because we had just moved here 3 years prior after living in an apartment for 2 years to pay down enough of our revolving debt to purchase our home in the first place – we figured this was the only chance we would have to own a home, with 3 children living in an apartment was difficult and our rental payment was more that our mortgage payment now. Our home was a forclosure when we purchased it, and we thought we were getting a very good deal at the time – looking back now we should have purchased a home half the price; this is by far the biggest mistake we have made thus far. The property and cottage we own a part of was left to us as an inheritance, along with his brothers and sisters who would not here of selling the property or buying us out. We obviously could have taken legal action to force them to do so but choose not to because of the family rifts it would have caused. In this market our share of the value of this property would be less than $10,000. Cash poor and asset rich to be sure. At this point I am willing to do whatever I is necessary to help my family, including losing our home… which is all we have left. But what will happen then? Will we be able to get another mortgage while in a Chapter 13 or 7 or even after? It will cost us more to rent than what we are currently paying now. If I seek the advice of a new attorney, where will we come up with the money to do so? Before bankruptcy we were at least able to keep up with our utilities and medical bills but now we are behind on everything and can’t even afford our flimsy copays for Doctor’s visits or emergency room visits and are now in collections for many of this debts. I totally want to let go of all this – the stress has had a huge impact on me and my family. We have been living here in Ohio for approx. 5 years due to a forced out of state job transfer which began this perpetual land slide of debt issues due to the huge loss we incurred selling our home to move out of state. I don’t want to make anymore bad decisions, but all my options seem bad?? – Holly

    • http://GetOutOfDebt.org Steve Rhode

      Holly, actually I don’t think your options are bad. First off the situation just is what it is. You can’t force a square peg in a round hole without doing a lot of damage.

      The reality is the quicker you get to a final discharge the quicker you can begin to rebuild your financial life. You will be able to get credit again, you’ll be able to buy a house again in two or three years, and you’ll have a better financial future. And the credit is stupid easy to rebuild.

      All of these issues are covered in http://getoutofdebt.org/52401/everything-you-always-wanted-and-needed-to-know-about-bankruptcy

      The reality is you don’t have much choice but to take proactive action. Otherwise this unsustainable mess is going to roll right over you.

      As Frank and Cathy said, you should meet with another bankruptcy attorney and get a second opinion.

      Where would you get the money to file a chapter 7? Well you’d stop paying your mortgage since you’d include the property in your bankruptcy. And you wouldn’t have the chapter 13 payment any more.

      The key to moving forward here is going to be to meet with a new attorney, get a second opinion, and if you like them and feel confident with them then come up with a game plan on what to do next.

      What you are doing now is not working.

      • Holly

        Thank you again for responding – I will began looking for a new attourney. I guess my biggest fear is that we are going to end up homeless after this as once we get the ball rolling again it seems that there is no return. Afterall, I would rather be penniless than indigent!

      • http://GetOutOfDebt.org Steve Rhode

        If you don’t do something to alter the current path you stand a good chance of having your chapter 13 dismissed because you can’t meet it and you have simply wasted years of struggle and living on the edge.

        Take action today. Let me know what the new attorney says and whatever you do, don’t tie their hands with limitations or restrictions. Be willing to let it all go to get a real fresh start and second chance.

  • Cathy Moran

    Before you do anything else, consult another bankruptcy attorney with lots of Chapter 13 experience.
    Perhaps you can modify your plan to sell whichever of the assets you no longer want to support. I suspect that your Chapter 13 payments are keyed to what your non exempt real estate equity is.

    You don’t HAVE to keep any asset secured by debt through the bankruptcy. It is your choice.

    I suggest that you get another lawyer’s input before dismissing the present case. Get a handle on what your options are and whether you can alter the Chapter 13 or convert now to 7 if you are willing to part with the property.

    Once you know the range of choices, you can make a plan in the larger sense.

    Good luck.

  • http://fpbankruptcylaw.com/ Frank Pipitone

    Holly, it sounds like you may want to consult with a new attorney to see if you can get this chapter 13 on track. It also sounds like there have been multiple “automatic stay” violations if creditors are still contacting you and vehicles have been repossessed.

    You need to understand that chapter 13 bankruptcy is quite burdensome, but there is a huge benefit to be realized. I wrote a post about it here and maybe it can help just a little bit to ease your mind:

    http://fpbankruptcylaw.com/chapter-13-benefit-through-burden/

    Of course, Steve’s advice is sound. If possible, you may want to consider surrendering your portion of this property and converting to a chapter 7 if it works for you.

    • Holly

      Thank you for your response, I read your article and completely agree – “burdensome” indeed. We , were not expecting a quick fix to the mountain of financial mess it took us years to incur, but I was not expecting to be in a worse mess now then before we filed. Absolutely we did not factor in car repairs, medical copays, nor did we think we would be returning cans for gas or going to foodbanks to eat. If we do make it for another 3 years in this 13, will we even be able to be discharged if we have unpaid credit cards, (which were opened after we filed – to put food on the table and gas in the car), and in collections from various doctor’s offices and hospitals from unpaid copays? We have leans on the house because we haven’t been able to pay for septic inspections that the county requires every year – and haven’t been able to pay our trustee the half of our income tax returns for the last three years that was part of our settlement . . .

      • http://GetOutOfDebt.org Steve Rhode

        Yes, the unpaid credit cards after the 13 are going to be a problem.

        As I said, it just looks like this was the approach used to meet your original goals but those goals might never have been possible and certainly not with your current situation.

        Over the years I’ve certainly seen my share of people who set restrictions on what they wanted to do or give up to move forward. In every case I can remember, the person ended up worse off because they selected the path they wanted instead of what they needed.

        Go meet with a new bankruptcy attorney, get a second opinion, and report back.

        At this point we don;t need regret and remorse, we need a new way forward. Starting devoting your energy to fixing the future, not the past.

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