The Coronavirus crisis has made many things difficult if not downright impossible. But fortunately — at least for now through early October 2020 — it’s still possible to file bankruptcy in Rhode Island. Here’s a quick list of some of the “essential” details:
court hearings are being conducted by telephone or video (using Zoom.gov) and can even be viewed via YouTube
What hasn’t changed is that there are still Rhode Island attorneys experienced with personal bankruptcy (e.g., Chapter 7 or Chapter 13) who can help guide you through the details of filing bankruptcy. Feel free to give us a call 401-738-3030 or email to set up a free RI bankruptcy consultation.
Announcing our new office, which is hardly a stone-throw away from our old location. Our beautiful, new handicap-accessible office is located at 469 Centerville Road, Suite 203, Warwick, RI 02886. We’re conveniently located right off I-95 exit 10. And we now share a large parking lot with the AAA Warwick.
Our phone number has not changed: 401-738-3030. Call today to schedule an appointment — or refer a friend — for the same down-to-earth and affordable service people all over Rhode Island have come to expect from the law office of David B. Hathaway, Attorney-at-Law.
We now share a parking lot with AAA Warwick (right off I-95 exit 10)
It’s been estimated that over 60% of bankruptcies are filed due to hospital visits, cancer treatments and other health expenditures. Fortunately, by filing for bankruptcy in Rhode Island, you can usually eliminate debt owed to:
hospitals & medical clinics
laboratories & medical imaging/radiography
doctors, physician assistants & nurses
dentists & orthodontists
physical therapists & chiropractors
So yes, typically any unsecured medical debt can be eliminated in a RI Chapter 7 Bankruptcy filing, regardless of whether it’s $10 or $1 million you owe. You’ll want to consult with a RI attorney experienced with bankruptcy to guide you through the process, especially if you’ll need to keep receiving health care services following your bankruptcy filing for a chronic medical condition.
Recently I met a young woman – a recent immigrant to this country – who had met with another attorney before meeting with me. Her case was relatively simple, so I was surprised to learn her first attorney had proposed a fee of $5,000. When I told her my flat fee, she was absolutely shocked.
I’m unaware of any Rhode Island attorney who charges less than me to file a personal bankruptcy. The typical going attorney rate is probably $1,200 to $1,500 (not counting the $306 filing fee going to the court). I personally think that an attorney’s fee of $1,200 is reasonable and fair – given the amount of work that is involved in handling a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing correctly. And for particularly complex cases, fees of $1,500 or higher may be appropriate. (Consumers beware: the RI Bankruptcy Court actually restricts attorneys from charging more than $1,500 for a Chapter 7 filing without prior court approval.) Also, some attorneys (including myself) offer discounts to seniors and others with extremely simple cases.
If you owe federal or state income taxes from past years, you may be able to get rid of them by filing a RI bankruptcy. Generally speaking, you must wait three (3) years from the date the IRS / RI Division of Taxation processed your income tax return. (Note: this will likely be after the date you filed your tax return.) A Rhode Island attorney experienced with bankruptcy will be able to help you figure out when exactly you’re eligible to eliminate your past-due income taxes in a bankruptcy.
Rhode Island’s bankruptcy laws are generous as to what belongings you’re allowed to keep (exempt) after filing bankruptcy. In fact, it’s rare for anyone to lose a house, car or anything else in a RI bankruptcy filing (assuming they’ve hired an experienced RI bankruptcy attorney).
Generally speaking, you can file bankruptcy in Rhode Island if you’ve live here for the last 6 months. So for example if you’ve lived in Warwick, RI for the last 180 days, you can file in the District of Rhode Island.
There is a catch, however, if you’ve recently moved here from out-of-state. Even if you’ve lived here for over 180 days, you may still be under your old state’s laws in terms of what things you’re allowed to keep after the bankruptcy.
Bottom line: the longer you’ve lived here, the better. You’ll want to consult with a Rhode Island attorney experienced with bankruptcy to ensure you’re eligible to keep your house, car, and other belongings through a RI bankruptcy.
Generally speaking, yes — Rhode Islanders who are unemployed can file for bankruptcy, even if they’re still getting unemployment payments. Of course, you’ll want to make sure that you’re eligible to file a wipe-it-all-clean Chapter 7 bankruptcy (versus a Chapter 13 payment plan bankruptcy). Also, if you have a worker’s compensation claim or are suing your former employer for wrongful discharge, this may complicate things a bit. But a Rhode Island attorney experienced with bankruptcy should be able to sort out these details for you.
Most people do NOT need to appear before a judge in order to complete their bankruptcy in Rhode Island. But they do need to attend a Section 341 Meeting of Creditors, which is run by a bankruptcy trustee (not a judge) who has been appointed to administer their case. Typically, the trustee will ask for ID (so remember to bring your drivers license and social security card). Then the trustee will spend several minutes asking you questions about what you own, your debts, income, etc.
If you’ve retained a good attorney, however, you won’t be alone. I attend this meeting with every one of my clients, and it’s rare for there to be any issues. In fact, most creditors don’t even bother coming. This Meeting of Creditors is held on weekday afternoons at the Federal Center, 380 Westminster Street, 6th Floor, in downtown Providence, and usually lasts for only a few minutes.
People who are considering filing bankruptcy with me often ask what to bring for our first meeting. (If you’re interested in scheduling a free initial consultation to see if bankruptcy is a good option for you, call my office at 401.738.3030 today.) The purpose of this first meeting is to ensure that we’re both comfortable that going forward with a bankruptcy filing makes sense in your specific situation. So it’s generally helpful if you can bring in your recent bills, collection notices, and any lawsuit-related papers, as well as any other documents that you’d like me to take a look at. At the end of the meeting, I can give you a checklist so you’ll know exactly what information my office will need from you in order to get your case prepared and filed.
Many clients who come to me to discuss their bankruptcy options have previously tried other means of resolving their overwhelming debt issues. Most often these clients have attempted to work with a debt settlement company. Debt settlement is a process which attempts to get the credit card companies to accept less than 100% of what they are owed on a credit card debt. Ordinarily, the credit card companies are only willing to offer a discount if the credit card payments are seriously (many months) delinquent. They generally insist on receiving the full amount of the settlement within one to three months. This makes it very difficult for people to settle credit cards on their own, because they have to accumulate a fairly large amount of money to have available as a settlement funds. The debt settlement companies deal with this by insisting as part of your contract with them that you pay them a hefty amount each month to eventually build a settlement fund. Typically, however, the first $3,500 they receive from you is applied to their fee. Only then does your “settlement fund” start to build. Problems with the debt settlement alternative include the following:
some of the outfits in debt settlement business are disreputable fly-by-nights
the fees are often quite steep
assuming that they are able arrange some settlements, by the time these settlements start coming through, you will likely have dealt with many months of creditor harassment, and may be facing lawsuits, wage attachments, and liens on your home
there will likely be a very material negative impact on your credit score
generally speaking, unlike the situation with bankruptcy, when debt is discharged in the context of a debt settlement, the amount that the creditor agrees to write off will be reported as income to you to the tax authorities so you will be paying taxes on the amount that is forgiven
if you become dissatisfied with the way things are going with your debt settlement program (for example if lawsuits start being filed against you) and you want out, it may be difficult to get a meaningful refund.
I should caution that because of the nature of my practice, I rarely see success stories with debt settlement alternatives. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist and the purpose of this post is not to dissuade you from checking into the debt settlement alternative. However, just like everything else, you should proceed cautiously – ask a lot of questions, insist on getting everything in writing, read the fine print, and be comfortable with the refund policy if things get ugly. Most importantly be sure that you are dealing with a reputable company – remember – just because they advertise on the radio or television does not guarantee that they are legitimate.