Gold & Hammes, Certified Bankruptcy Law Specialists

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How bankruptcy could help.
Why it’s important to file your bankruptcy with an attorney.
And filing with a Certified Bankruptcy Law Specialist is even better!
Does a Certified Bankruptcy Law Specialist charge more than a regular attorney?
Why Gold & Hammes?

If you have debt problems, you may be worrying about what to do next. If you are like most of our clients, you may have already borrowed against your retirement plan, maybe you have found a second job, maybe you have borrowed from friends and relatives, maybe you have taken out a payday loan.

The last thing people in financial trouble want to do is think about filing bankruptcy. We have grown up expecting that we would never be in this bad situation. We have been told that we should always be honorable and pay our bills. So, we feel ashamed that we just can’t keep up with our bills. We have heard that people who file bankruptcy are deadbeats and crooks — and we know that we are not like that — so, we don’t want to find out about how bankruptcy could help.

In reality, however, almost all of our clients have had very distressing events in their lives. They have lost a job and remained unemployed for months or even years before finding a job that does not pay nearly as much as the prior job. They have had injuries and illnesses that kept them from working for a long time. Maybe they had no medical insurance and incurred high medical and hospital debt, along with having little or no income. Maybe they had children who suffered from illnesses and disabilities that devastated the family.

Bad things really do happen to good people. We see this every day in our office, and we are glad that we are able to help so many good people get through their bad times.

How bankruptcy could help.

When people think of “bankruptcy” they are usually thinking of the protections provided in Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy often works well for people who do not have car loans, home mortgages, income taxes owed, or higher than average income. On the other hand, for people who do have some of those situations, Chapter 13 bankruptcy offers much broader protections than a Chapter 7.  

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy (sometimes called a “liquidation” bankruptcy), a trustee is appointed by the government to review the bankruptcy papers to see if any of the person’s assets are not protected by an exemption claim and should be sold to pay the creditors. In addition, the trustee reviews the person’s budget and “means test” calculations to see if the person should be able to afford to pay the debts or should have filed a Chapter 13 case. Our office only files a case as a Chapter 7 if the person’s income and assets are completely protected. A successful Chapter 7 case usually is over within about four months from the filing of the case.

In a Chapter 13 case, there is a three to five-year plan (depending on the person’s income) and some payments are made through the trustee. Most people think that you have to pay back all your debts in a Chapter 13 and they can’t understand why anyone would want to file one. Some attorneys even believe this, but it is not true. The reality is that any debt that can be completely wiped out (“discharged” is the legal term) in a Chapter 7, can also be completely wiped out in a Chapter 13 case. Some types of debt will probably need to be paid in full through a Chapter 13 case (recent income taxes, past-due mortgage payments, past-due homeowners association dues, past-due child support payments, recent car loans). But, these same debts would not be wiped out in a Chapter 7 case either.

By filing a Chapter 13, a person can stop a car from being repossessed, stop a foreclosure on a house, stop wage garnishments (even by the IRS or California Franchise Tax Board) and lower the payments on most of those debts by stretching out them over up to five years. Other debts (such as medical debt, credit cards, payday loans, etc.) that are unsecured debts often are completely wiped out. If a person does not pass the means test, then the unsecured debts may be paid to some degree — often not in full. The calculations are fairly complicated and many bankruptcy attorneys do not know how to figure this out correctly.

Why it’s important to file your bankruptcy with an attorney.

One of the saddest things we see in our office is when a person has already filed their own bankruptcy case and has run into problems. Sometimes they hired a person who is not an attorney to prepare the bankruptcy papers — or they hired an attorney who really does not understand bankruptcy law.  In either case, the person filed the bankruptcy case to save their home from foreclosure or their car from repossession and now they have a big problem because the papers were not done right.

These are some examples of the problems people who have filed a bankruptcy case on their own bring in to our office:

  • the Chapter 7 trustee is trying to sell their home out from under them

  • the mortgage lender is asking the court for permission to continue with foreclosure in a Chapter 7 case

  • the Chapter 7 trustee is demanding that they turn over a tax refund, car or other assets

  • the United States Trustee is challenging their bankruptcy papers which seem to show that the person does not pass the means test

  • the trustee (Chapter 7 or 13) is trying to get the bankruptcy case dismissed by the court because papers were not completed correctly or at all

  • the person filed a Chapter 13 case and is paying much more than is necessary

Many times, after we analyze the true situation and review the papers already filed in the person’s case, the problem can be resolved by filing corrected papers with the court. Sometimes, though, the person’s case was so improperly filed that, while the situation may be improved by correcting the papers, much damage has already been done to the person because he or she did not locate expert legal advice before filing the case.

The vast majority of bankruptcy cases that are not filed with attorney representation (pro se cases) have major problems and most are thrown out of court (dismissed). A failed case often leaves the people in much worse condition than before the bad case was filed. This is a serious problem nationwide, including in our area.  The Bankruptcy Court in Los Angeles was so concerned about it that it studied the problem for several years.

Filing a bankruptcy is similar to playing a card game with your creditors, only you have to play your hand face up and they don’t. What counts in a bankruptcy case is not whether you can pull a hidden ace out of your hand, but how you lay out all of the cards in your hand on the table in your bankruptcy paperwork.  What an experienced attorney can do is to lay out your hand, making the best patterns of the cards to protect your assets and your income as much as possible, and not just dump your cards on the table and letting your creditors or the trustee arrange them in the worst possible way for you.

And filing with a Certified Bankruptcy Law Specialist is even better!

The designation of Certified Specialist is granted by the California Bar Association’s Board of Legal Specialization.  In order to become a certified specialist within a field, an attorney needs to:

  • Have practiced bankruptcy law for at least the last five years.

  • Have taken a minimum of 45 hours of California Board of Legal Specialization approved bankruptcy legal education.

  • Have passed a special bankruptcy competency test given by the California Board of Legal Specialization.

  • The California Board of Legal Specialization reviews his or her reputation within the bankruptcy community, which may include evaluations by other bankruptcy attorneys, judges, and trustees.

Does a Certified Bankruptcy Law Specialist charge more than a regular attorney?

Jim Gold and Norma Hammes are two of only nine Bankruptcy Law Specialists certified by the California Bar’s Legal Board of Specialization in Santa Clara County. We do not charge more than a regular attorney. For example, we follow the Bankruptcy Court’s schedule of attorneys fees in Chapter 13 cases. On the other hand, attorneys who have no expertise at all often charge much more money than prescribed by the Bankruptcy Court.

Why Gold & Hammes?

At Gold & Hammes, we only represent consumers and small businesses in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases. We never represent creditors, trustees, or multi-million (or billion) dollar corporations. Our priority is helping you protect your property and get a second chance at life.

As noted above, Jim Gold and Norma Hammes are two of only nine certified bankruptcy law specialists in Santa Clara County. Gold & Hammes has been helping consumers and small businesses file Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases for over 35 years. Jim and Norma are co-founders of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, the only organization of consumer bankruptcy attorneys in the U.S.  Norma and Jim are leaders in the consumer bankruptcy community, both locally and nationally.

We offer free initial consultations with an experienced bankruptcy attorney — in most cases, Norma.

We want to help you build a brighter future. If you have any questions you can message us through this website or you can call to schedule a free consultation.

Learn more About Gold & Hammes.

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Learn more about Car & Vehicle Debt     Learn more about Credit Card Debt     Learn more about Medical DebtLearn More about Mortgage Debt     Learn more about Student Loans     Learn more about Preventing ForeclosureLearn more about Tax Debt     Learn more about Stopping Creditor Harassment     Learn more about Stopping Wage GarnishmentsLearn more about removing second mortgages from underwater homes