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living-willI’ve noticed a great deal of anxiety about people who have put off getting essential documents in place:  Durable powers of attorney, medical surrogate, living wills, regular wills and trusts.  This includes not only POAs and medical care decision making, but also planning ahead for advice to protect hard-earned assets and inheritances.

Most of our friends, colleagues and clients think of us as student loan and bankruptcy/debt relief attorneys.  Ironically, we were in the process of opening a new practice area for Elder Care.  Before this crisis, we’d hired a new elder care attorney with 27 years legal experience.  Ha Dao just started with us on Monday.  The timing of this is both good and bad.  Bad in that I’m guessing our student loan work will significantly drop off unless people are now sitting around home growing more concerned about this debt and how to get rid of it.  Good in that we now have the ability to do estate planning and elder care.

The first things we were going to do is get our website re-vamped to include tons of elder care resources, but now I’m thinking with this urgent need, to offer the following for our friends, colleagues and clients starting immediately:

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https://www.tampabankruptcylawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/07/christie_d._arkovich_p.a_1_small.jpgWe’ve gathered some information below for folks with student related questions if their job/business/income has been impacted by the CoronaVirus/COVID-19:

Here some info below on servicers and US Dept of ED current updates:

  • Nelnet; currently open “attempting to keep call centers staffed, however use online options”  Offers: Deferment, forbearance
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Ugly-truth-about-debt-relief-companiesI just found an eye opening video by Gary Fraley, a certified bankruptcy attorney in California, on why debt relief companies should be avoided!

Watch the video – it’s short, to the point, and there’s a cool saddle in the back ground — looks like a former Texas transplant to California.  I kept looking for a cowboy hat, but that’s probably in his Ford truck hung on the rifle rack.  Okay, I may have been watching too many Ranches on Netflix lately!

www.youtube.com/watch?v=DP1BVHdsexc

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https://www.tampabankruptcylawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/07/christie_d._arkovich_p.a_1_small.jpgLawyers often spend too much time focused on whether a debtor meets the Brunner test for undue hardship that they miss major opportunities to reduce and eliminate federal and private student loan debt.  Many people are in forbearance for years while their loan balances continue to grow.  Taking advantage of Income Driven Plans in bankruptcy by using the Buchanan language and the new Student Loan Management Program in the Middle District of Florida can save tens of thousands of dollars.

How else can a student loan attorney help?  By ensuring borrowers are placed in the correct IDR plans which can often save hundreds per month and allow for full forgiveness.  Helping borrowers to understand and minimize the tax consequences.  Curing defaults to stop wage garnishment, social security offset and tax intercepts.  Helping borrowers ensure they are properly enrolled in Public Service Loan Forgiveness – to avoid being one of the 99.5% who are being denied this relief.

Private non-qualified, non-school certified, loans are subject to discharge.  Recent case law permits the discharge of private loans to attend ineligible schools, Bar Study or Tuition Answer loans or for debt incurred beyond the cost of the education.  Cases such as In re Kashikar, In re Campbell, In re Dufrane, In re Wiley, In re Essangui and In re Decena are paving the way to creating Florida precedent for discharge such as in In re Lysiuk and In re Lytkina a/k/a Mulligan.  We help consumers to take control of their student loans and create a plan for a reduced amount of debt, and an affordable payment with an end in sight.  Settlements outside of bankruptcy are also possible, although this will cause a taxable event for the forgiveness (which does not occur in a bankruptcy).

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Some of you probably already realize this, but all the old Roadrunner accounts (tampabay.rr.com) are being discontinued by Spectrum.  It’s odd because some emails are coming through, but replies back and other emails are not.  However, bounce backs are not being sent either.  Our main email used to be cdalaw@tampabay.rr.com.  We’ve switched to christie@christiearkovich several years ago, but the old one is still out there.  If you are trying to reach us, please use the new email.  Our intake email for potential clients is on our website:  sandra@christiearkovich.com.

You may also have friends with the old roadunner address who aren’t responding to you — reach out to them by phone, they may not know of the problem yet!

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consumer-debtCourts are divided on this issue.  The answer may matter as to whether a debtor in bankruptcy must pass the means test.

The federal Bankruptcy Code defines consumer debt as debt incurred by an individual “primarily for a personal, family, or household purpose.” … The court may classify student loans as either consumer debt or non-consumer debt.

Some courts, like the court in In re Gentri, 185 B.R. 368, 373 (Bankr. M.D. Fla. 1995), assume that student loans are consumer debts, but do not analyze, whether student loans are “consumer debts.” See In re Dickerson, 193 B.R. 67, 70 (Bankr. M.D. Fla. 1996); In re Chapman, 146 B.R. 411, 416 (Bankr. N.D. Ill. 1992).

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https://www.tampabankruptcylawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/07/christie_d._arkovich_p.a_1_small.jpgOur record now for obtaining forgiveness of federal student loans for one client is over a million dollars.  So there is no cap — and this took less than three months.  Client consulted with us on 11/11/19 and the Total and Permanent Disability forgiveness of over one million dollars was obtained on 2/4/20.  Of course, much of that debt was interest accumulated over a looonnnnggg period of time.  Something we often see!

The client’s income will be monitored for the next three years.  He can make a little, up to the poverty level for a family of two, from employment income, but no more, otherwise the forgiveness could be reversed.  Income from a spouse or from sources other than employment does not count.

What are you waiting for?  Do you know a family member or friend who can no longer work, who is stressed about their student loans?  If so, do them a favor and share this.

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credit-report-wrongThe FCRA requires that “[w]henever a consumer reporting agency prepares a consumer report it shall follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information concerning the individual about whom the report relates.” 15 U.S.C. Section 1681e(b).

That’s a high burden “maximum possible accuracy”!  And it is not being met.  In one over the top case of ours, despite a client providing proof of life, she was reported as deceased by her student loan servicer over and over again wrecking havoc on her credit report.

More typically we run into instances where student loans are incorrectly reported as being in default when in fact they are no longer owed due to a settlement or discharge in bankruptcy.  This in fact is becoming our bread and butter raising these types of claims.

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https://www.tampabankruptcylawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/07/christie_d._arkovich_p.a_1_small.jpgPresident Trump’s proposal to eliminate public service is not nearly as bad as the headlines make it appear.  Basically, 99.5% of folks are being denied for PSLF right now because they do not know how to qualify.  Their federal student loan servicers are doing a poor job of communicating to the borrowers what is necessary for forgiveness.  It’s not hard, we do this type of work for our clients all the time, but then again, we know what to do.

President Trump proposes to simplify the process and have one income driven plan for all.  Won’t matter where you work etc.  The payment would consist of 12.5% of discretionary income for 15 years.  Right now those seeking public service forgiveness pay between 10-20% discretionary income over 10 years.  So it adds five years for those in public service.  But it drops ten years for those employed in the private market who are often on a 25 year IBR plan.  That’s huge — who wouldn’t want ten years shaved off!  And if you were to ask someone in public service if they would rather pay for 15 yrs and have the certainty of forgiveness tax free, as opposed to 10 years, with only ½ of one percent getting approved, I’d say the vast majority would select the new plan.  The current program is a nightmare.

Current borrowers could stay in the 10 year plan if they wished as well.  I know, I know, that’s what they said when President Obama was pushing Obamacare, but that’s what the proposal states.

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bk-and-small-busFiling bankruptcy for small businesses just got a whole lot easier!  The Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019 takes effect on February 19, 2020.  Some of the new features are that it adds a new subchapter V to Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code which is good for small business bankruptcies because:

  • There are no quarterly trustee fees;
  • There is no absolute priority rule;
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