David* and Maria*, a couple in San Jose, California found out first hand just what a powerful and positive solution filing bankruptcy can be.
David and Maria have been married for over 20 years and have three teenage daughters. They have a small business, offering gardening and landscaping services. When the economy was better, they did well financially. They worked long hours, had a good client base and made good money. They saved funds for a house down payment and bought a modest, but lovely home, which they made even better through renovations and repairs, and by planting and nourishing a small garden all of their own. They did not have any significant savings left after the purchase of the home and these repairs, but they believed they the home would rise in value, the business would grow and they would be able to build up their savings.
However, as the economy slowly spiraled into recession, David and Maria started losing clients. Their profits dropped to half of what they used to be. Their home lost value, and they were not able to refinance the loan to lower their mortgage expenses. Believing that the business was slowing down temporarily, they relied more and more on credit cards to pay even the most basic living expenses, and expected to be able to repay their debt once the business picked up. They always made the credit card payments on time, but eventually they found themselves having to pay more than a thousand dollars a month just in interest. Although they cancelled health insurance, cable and tried to live very frugally, the payments that they were making for the credit cards were barely making a dent in the total amount of debt they owed.
David and Maria turned to a debt settlement and debt consolidation company in an effort to take control of their debt. The company set up a schedule of monthly payments for them and directed David and Maria to start making payments to this company instead of making payments to the creditors directly. David and Maria believed that all of their creditors agreed to work with the debt settlement company, and that all debt was covered by the debt settlement plan. They realized this was not true when one of their creditors, American Express, filed a lawsuit against them, seeking a judgment for the amount David and Maria owed them, plus attorney’s fees and accumulated interest.
This is when David and Maria came to see me to find out if filing bankruptcy could help them. They were extremely distraught. David said he could barely sleep at night, fearing that the family would lose their house and the business, and would not be able to provide for their daughters. Maria was very nervous, shaking as we spoke. After analyzing their situation, I saw that they qualified to file bankruptcy which would clear all of their credit card debts and allow them to get a fresh financial start. They owed a fairly significant amount of personal income taxes, since in an effort to have more available cash they were underpaying their taxes in the last few years. Although their tax liability would not be discharged through bankruptcy, David and Maria were eligible to repay it through a court-approved Chapter 13 plan without penalties and without new interest over five years, and this is what they opted to do.
Their bankruptcy plan was approved by the bankruptcy judge within a couple of months after the case was filed, and David and Maria are now about a year into their payment plan. I talk to them periodically. Their business is starting to improve, although slowly. They are grateful that they were able to file bankruptcy to reorganize financially, and to resolve their debts. When I first met them, they had no hope that they could ever find a way out of their financial problems. Now they are much more relaxed and confident, and I am truly glad I was able to help them.
* Names and some other identifying information have been changed to protect clients’ confidentiality. Each case is different, and David and Maria’s story is not a guarantee or representation of outcome in your particular situation.