Be guided in bankruptcy law when you trust the experienced legal practitioners at Iwama Law Firm located in Kent, WA. We handle bankruptcy cases including Bankruptcy Chapter 7, 11, 13, and bankruptcy litigation. You can stop creditor harassment. You can stop the foreclosure of your home. Just take immediate action and turn to our legal practitioners. We will help you every step of the way.
Get Out of Your Financial Hardships
We all deserve a chance to recover from our financial struggles. If you need legal assistance in bankruptcy and other related legal issues, know that the Iwama Law Firm is here to help you. Call our law firm today and get one step closer to a better and brighter tomorrow.
Washington Bankruptcy and Consumer Law Attorneys Protecting Your Rights
At Iwama Law Firm, our practice of bankruptcy goes beyond filing and meeting with creditors.
The reason why a consumer would file bankruptcy is to obtain debt relief. Such relief might take a variety of forms. It might result in total relief from all debts, or it might provide relief from a portion of the consumer’s debts with a period of years to pay the remainder. It might result in the payment of one hundred percent of the consumer’s debts, but provide a period of years to do so while stopping the accrual of punitive interest. It can also provide the consumer with the choice of either retaining or rejecting a secured loan such as a home mortgage or car loan. Thus, filing bankruptcy does not mean you have to give up your home or your minivan, if you are current and can remain current. If you are behind in your mortgage or car loan, Chapter 13 and Chapter 11 provide a method of bringing your loan current over a period of years so you can retain the asset or real estate, provided that you make the current payment in addition to making payments on the amount you are behind. Bankruptcy provides immediate relief from foreclosure, garnishment or repossession due to the “Automatic Stay” which is essentially a temporary cease and desist order requiring creditors to stop all collection actions.
Bankruptcy is intended to give consumers an opportunity to get out from under debt once it becomes so oppressive that they have no hope of ever catching up. Loss of job, medical expenses, and bad luck should not result in being crushed with debt forever. We got rid of debtors’ prisons in this country in the early 1800’s. Bankruptcy gives the consumer the opportunity to get out from under burdensome debt, and rather than facing a hopeless future, to have a fresh start in life going forward. This is good not only for the consumer but society in general, so that the consumer can go back to earning a living and contributing to the economy.
Filing bankruptcy does not mean turning over every asset to the Bankruptcy Trustee. In most instances, consumers can retain most or all of their assets. Each individual can retain the equity in their car up to $3675 (as of 2015, under Federal exemptions) unlimited interest in qualified-IRS retirement plans such as IRA’s and 401K’s, virtually all household goods and furnishings (except those of high value such as a piano, artwork, or antiques), and equity in their home up to $125,000 (under Washington law). If the consumer does not have equity in a home to protect, each individual can protect (as of 2015) about $12,500 in any asset, including cash; a married couple can protect double that amount. Also, there are other specific exemptions available as to certain assets. Thus, in most instances, a consumer can get out from under debt while retaining much or all of their property.
A. Chapter 7 Chapter 7 is what people often think of as “straight bankruptcy.” A Chapter 7 results in the discharge by the Bankruptcy Court of all unsecured debt, while giving the consumer the option to retain, or “reaffirm” secured debt. Secured debt is any debt where the lender has a security interest in an asset that the lender can repossess or foreclose. A mortgage or a car loan would be secured debt. Sometimes a secured loan involves other security, such as jewelry, tools, or stock. If the lender has the right to repossess something, it’s a secured loan.
The first requirement of Chapter 7 is an income ceiling known as the “Means Test.” To file Chapter 7, a consumer has to be below the income requirement of the Means Test. As of 2015, the Means Test in Washington is $53,234 for an individual, $66,869 for a married couple, with an adjustment for each dependent. Thus the income limit for a family of four is presently $86,161. The income requirement is adjusted every couple of years, so these numbers change. In addition, certain expenses can affect the Means Test, such as mortgage payments and significant medical expenses. Your attorney can advise you on the Means Test calculation.
For qualifying consumers, Chapter 7 can provide relief from most unsecured debts. Certain debts are non-dischargeable: taxes, student loans, child support, alimony, and criminal penalties. Credit card debt, medical debt, and most unsecured debt can be discharged. Secured debt can also be discharged, provided that the collateral (home, car, jewelry, etc.) is surrendered to the lender. Filing under any chapter provides instant protection from creditors, who can take no legal action against a consumer who has filed due to the Automatic Stay. Garnishments, lawsuits, foreclosures, repossessions, telephone calls, and legal action of any kind are immediately halted due to the Automatic Stay that protects the debtor. To proceed with further action after the bankruptcy filing, the lender has to obtain a court order from the Bankruptcy Court.
Chapter 7 thus provides instant relief from harassing calls, and more importantly, permanent discharge from debt. There is no limit on the amount of debt that may be discharged in Chapter 7: it can be $25,000 or $25,000,000. If a consumer qualifies under the Means Test and certain other criteria, all debt can be wiped out, and all or a substantial portion of the consumer’s assets will be protected.
B. Chapter 13 If a consumer does not qualify under the Means Test for Chapter 7, they are nevertheless able to file Chapter 13. Chapter 13 provides for a payment plan, ranging from three to five years, during which time the consumer is obligated to dedicate all disposable income (calculated by subtracting reasonable living expenses from the consumer’s net income) for the period of the plan. The amount of disposable income is what determines the payment, not the amount of debt. Thus, if a consumer’s disposable income leaves $750 per month available to pay creditors, that becomes the monthly payment the consumer has to make, whether the consumer’s total debt is $10,000 or $3000,000.
In some instances, it makes sense to file Chapter 13 even if the consumer could otherwise qualify for Chapter 7. Assume that the consumers have fallen six months behind on their mortgage. The only way they could keep their home in Chapter 7 would be to find a way to bring the loan current. Otherwise, they can’t keep the home. Bringing the mortgage current at filing is often not possible. In Chapter 13, however, they could include the six months of past-due payments in their payment plan and pay that amount over a period of up to five years, provided they make the current mortgage payment during that time. Thus Chapter 13 gives the consumer the opportunity to bring their mortgage current, which is not possible in Chapter 7. Moreover, if the consumer qualifies for Chapter 7 but decides to file Chapter 13, they are not obligated to pay unsecured creditors, so they can effectively get relief from a credit card or medical debt while retaining their home.
Importantly, Chapter 13 also provides consumers with the option to avoid a second mortgage. In order to strip a second mortgage, the consumer must establish that the value of their first mortgage exceeds the value of the home. If the first mortgage is in excess of the value of the home, there is no equity to secure the second mortgage; hence, it is unsecured and can be treated as unsecured debt in the Chapter 13 Plan. If a second (or third) mortgage is avoided and becomes an unsecured debt, it is paid the same as other unsecured debt. Because unsecured creditors often receive nothing in a Chapter 13, stripping the second mortgage can effectively result in discharging that debt.
Chapter 13 thus provides not only a method for consumers to pay some portion of their debts if they don’t qualify for Chapter 7, but it also provides an opportunity for homeowners who have fallen behind to save their home from foreclosure. The further advantage of stripping a second mortgage can be a lifesaver for debtors struggling to pay their debts and can permit them to keep their home.
In some instances, Chapter 13 is unavailable to consumers because their debt is too high. As of 2015, the upper limit is $1,149,525 in secured debt or about $383,175 in unsecured debt. Since secured debt includes all mortgages on all real property as well as all car loans, this limit is not all that high in this day of million dollar mortgages. If a consumer’s debts exceed these limits and he/she does not qualify for Chapter 7, their only remedy is probably Chapter 11.
C. Chapter 11 Chapter 11 is generally used by corporations for debt restructuring. General Motors filed Chapter 11 in 2009; other companies who seek protection of the bankruptcy court while restructuring also resorts to Chapter 11. Chapter 11 is also available to individuals. It is the only available avenue for individuals who have income too high to qualify for Chapter 7 under the Means Test and whose secured or unsecured debt exceeds the Chapter 13 limits. It is not necessary to have that level of debt, however, to file Chapter 11.
An advantage of Chapter 11 for individuals is that it can offer greater flexibility than Chapter 13. In Chapter 13 a trustee closely supervises the plan, its terms, and its confirmation. Under Chapter 11, however, the consumer stands in the position of the trustee, as “Debtor in Possession.” Unless one or more creditors file a motion to have a trustee appointed, the Debtor in Possession acts in the same capacity as a trustee.
Under Chapter 11 the Debtor in Possession proposes a plan of repayment, and if one class of creditors who are adversely affected by the bankruptcy votes to approve it, the plan can be confirmed by the court. We have had significant success in obtaining confirmation. After all, creditors want to be paid. Although the initial costs of a Chapter 11 can be well above the cost of a Chapter 13, very often there is a significant saving in the monthly payment. In addition, there is no limit on how long the plan can extend, whereas under Chapter 13 no plan can exceed five years.
D. Planning Whether your specific circumstances make filing Chapter 7, 13, or 11 most beneficial, proper planning can help maximize the protection of your assets and minimize the amount that you end up paying to creditors. Even if you ultimately pay your creditors one hundred percent of what they are owed, it can frequently be beneficial to file under some chapter to give yourself breathing room and establish a systematic payment plan for paying your debt without having your wages garnished, your car repossessed, or your home foreclosed. A discussion and assessment of your situation will aid in determining the best approach.
At the Iwama Law Firm, we understand that you may need help beyond the filing of bankruptcy in legal matters that require litigation, including:
Creditors not only prey on your financial stress, but they also prey on your ignorance of the FDCPA and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Our job is to educate you on the consumer laws that govern collection agencies and pursue action when rules are violated.
Many bankruptcy law firms promote their ability to file Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies, to provide you fast debt relief. However, there are times when fast is not always best. Many cases we handle at the Washington-based Iwama Law Firm involve complex bankruptcy litigation that involves:
Aggressive collection actions by creditors often take the form of liens and judgments on your property. The completion of a Chapter 11 or 13 bankruptcy plan over certain years may provide an avoidance of second mortgages and judgment liens.
Most of the clients who come to the Iwama Law Firm are seeking protection not only from creditors, but their mortgage lenders. Being served with a notice of foreclosure does not mean you will lose your home or other property. Contact founder Matt Iwama, an experienced Seattle foreclosure defense litigation attorney, for an effective and aggressive foreclosure defense.
A bankruptcy filing is meant to stop collection actions. Agencies that violate that automatic stay must be held accountable. Debt buyers also engage in illegal activity in violating discharge injunctions by continuing collection actions.
At the Iwama Law Firm, we provide aggressive representation in the filing of Chapter 7, 11 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. However, our dedication to protecting the rights of our clients does not end there. Many cases we handle result in complex courtroom litigation that involves liens and judgments on second mortgages.
While bankruptcy filing is an important first step in removing a lien, judgment, or a second mortgage of an "underwater" home or property, litigation may be a necessary tactic in ensuring that your rights are completely protected. For help from an experienced attorney and litigator, contact founder Matt Iwama at (253) 520-7671.
Technically, a second mortgage is a loan secured by your house. However, with the significant decline in property values, you may come to see us while "under water." The money that you owe on your first mortgage far exceeds the value of your home. Serious financial problems make matters worse with late and delinquent credit card payments, resulting in a judgment lien on your home.
You need an attorney who will go beyond filing and pursue litigation.
At Iwama Law Firm, we are ready and willing to litigate cases involving liens on a second mortgage that is no longer supported by your home’s reduced value. The decline of a home's value turns it into unsecured debt that can be discharged in a bankruptcy filing. Once a Chapter 13 payment plan is completed, the second mortgage is stripped, along with the judgments and other liens against the home.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with an experienced lawyer regarding second mortgages and any related liens or judgments, please contact us.
While more common in a struggling real estate market, an aggressive foreclosure defense beyond a bankruptcy filing is vital. Cases are complex and often require an attorney who is willing to litigate.
At the Iwama Law Firm, founder Matt Iwama is a seasoned bankruptcy attorney who does not shy away from courtroom litigation if it provides the best outcome to save your home.
A notice of foreclosure does not mean the automatic loss of your financial move. Do not make plans to move. Make plans to contact our Kent law firm immediately at (253) 520-7671. Time is of the essence.
Once you are ready and willing to file for bankruptcy, your mortgage lender will likely respond with a motion to exempt them from the automatic stay in bankruptcy. Essentially, they are asking the courts for permission to move forward on a foreclosure. The job of our attorneys is to respond with an aggressive defense and protect your home.
Lenders will file documents to show evidence of the debt. We take those documents and conduct a thorough review. In many cases, we find fraudulent information on promissory notes. While banks once got away with this practice during bankruptcy proceedings, we now hold them accountable by aggressively litigating to save your home from foreclosure.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with an experienced lawyer regarding an aggressive foreclosure defense in court, please contact us.
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) governs creditors and collection agencies. The act protects debtors from harassing collectors, calling them and their family and neighbors at all hours of the day and night. While federal and state laws are in place, the FDCPA is often violated.
If you are a victim of a creditor who continually violates the FDCPA, Matt Iwama, founder of the Iwama law firm, will fight to hold them accountable. Bullying collectors ignoring the rules and regulations only increases the stress of your financial struggles. Contact us at (253) 520-7671.
Taking a proactive approach can go a long way toward resolving your financial problems, but pursuing litigation against creditors violating the FDCPA can result in damage awards even if you never file bankruptcy. Federal and state laws are constantly violated and ignored by collection agencies, preying upon the ignorance of debtors.The phone continues to ring, even after a bankruptcy filing that puts a stay in place to stop the aggressive and often illegal actions.
Following your free initial consultation, we will coach you on gathering evidence against harassing creditors. That evidence often takes the form of recorded conversations and written correspondence. From there, we schedule prepetition FDCPA claims and sue creditors for damages in the form of financial compensation for you.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer regarding a creditor violating the FDCPA, please contact us.
Making timely payments on a loan is an important step to avoid late fees and other penalties. However, that on-time payment may not be applied on the date it was received, resulting in additional monies being owed.
At the Iwama Law Firm, we have a thorough knowledge of the Truth in Lending Act (TILA). In many cases, we find violations of the TILA and pursue litigation against the violators.
If a lender violating the TILA is already making a bad financial situation even worse, you must take action. Contact us at 253-520-7871.
The Truth in Lending Act was enacted in 1968 to protect consumers by requiring lenders to provide clear key terms and disclose all costs in lending arrangements. It prohibits certain practices involving credit secured by your home. In addition to the "same day" rule for timely payments, the TILA provides you many rights that include the following:
Cancellation of certain credit transactions that involve a lien on a home
Regulating credit card practices
Providing a means for fair and timely resolution of billing disputes
Lenders are not always forthcoming with information involving the note holder. If you ask, they are required to disclose facts, not merely give bogus answers. The decision to file bankruptcy often comes after you have endured harassment and illegal actions by creditors.
Our job is to hold them accountable beyond bankruptcy filings. Unlike many of our peers, we will litigate TILA violations if that provides the best outcome for you.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with an experienced lawyer regarding TILA violations, please contact us.
Do not assume that the account history and payoff information a mortgage lender provides you is accurate. While mistakes can happen, we often discover violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA).
Matt Iwama, the founder of the Iwama Law Firm, is experienced in filing Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies on behalf of Washington area residents. However, his legal services do not stop there. Many cases involve bankruptcy litigation in holding creditors accountable for violating the laws that govern their industry, including RESPA.
If in the course of your bankruptcy proceedings, we discover your lender violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, we will take immediate action in court to hold them responsible. Contact us at (253) 520-7671.
At the Iwama Law Firm, we submit a qualified written request to have the lender show the note, deed of trust and transaction history of a loan on your behalf. If we discover a discrepancy or simply do not agree with the amount owed, we will take the legal steps necessary to protect your rights under RESPA.
In reviewing the account history of many of our clients, we often find violations of the "same day" rule. Simply put, the day they receive a payment is the day it should be applied to the account. Not following that rule results in late fees and other penalties that inflate the payoff amount. Those discoveries often result in our filing suit against the lender for violating RESPA.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with an experienced lawyer regarding possible RESPA violations, please contact us.
Kent Bankruptcy Attorneys Enforcing and Litigating Violations of Automatic Stay
One of the immediate benefits you will have following the filing of a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy is the automatic stay. Harassing creditors that have called you constantly and filled up your mailbox with past due and final notices must stop. Any contact should come through us or via the court system.
Creditors and collectors are well aware of automatic stays, yet they often fail to abide by those mandates. At the Iwama Law Firm, we respond to those violations with aggressive bankruptcy litigation.
If your phone is continuing to ring with harassing creditors calling, you need immediate help to stop their illegal activity and enforce the automatic stay that bankruptcy provides. Contact us at (253) 520-7671.
A Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing provides more than relief from your debts. The stress you have experienced over serious financial problems and the possible loss of your home should be at an end. Yet, creditors continue to harass you on the telephone and send you letters demanding payment of your debts.
Matt Iwama, the founder of our law firm, responds with an equal level of aggression in holding them accountable. A court-ordered automatic stay is not something that should be ignored. The consequences are serious, particularly when we file a lawsuit to wipe out the debt and secure punitive damages.
If you need more information or if you want to schedule an appointment with an experienced lawyer regarding a creditor in violation of an automatic stay, please contact us.
A successful bankruptcy filing should provide you peace of mind and a chance for a fresh start. Debts have been discharged and you can move on with less stress in your life, free from the fear of losing your home or the harassment of creditors.
However, creditors often find their way around formal discharge of your debt, engaging in illegal activity and violating discharge injunctions. At the Iwama Law Firm, we hold them accountable by pursuing litigation against the creditor.
Creditors may not accept that your debt with them was discharged by your prior bankruptcy. In response, they may find creative ways that keep the amount you once owed them on your credit report. If you discover that a creditor is violating a discharge injunction, contact us at (253) 520-7671.
That fresh start can come to a screeching halt when you are denied a loan to buy a house or car. Pulling your credit report shows unsettled debt, but under a new name. Debt buyers often purchase debt discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy for pennies on the dollar. Creditors would rather take something, as opposed to nothing.
If we uncover a violation of a discharge injunction, we will file suit against the parties responsible and fight to secure damages. The illegal actions of debt buyers and creditors underscore our need to stay in contact with clients and conduct an annual review of their credit report.