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John Gerth Merna
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John Merna’s Answers

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  • I'm thinking about filing bankruptcy ;do i need to have a homestead deed if i own my car. I live in the state of Virginia.

    I don't own any property other than my car.

    John’s Answer

    Mr. Harrell is correct. In the Hampton Roads area the trustee's keep a keen eye on how your homestead deed exemption is used, whether the deed is properly executed and complies with all legal requirements, and whether prior deed have reduced the available protection. One of the more common problems we encounter is self-filer problems with the homestead exemption. Mr. Harrell is also correct in advising you to get help from a local attorney. While the cost of an attorney may seem daunting when you are struggling financially, the cost of an incorrectly handled case can be higher and the cost of not properly shutting down credit reporting can undermine your ability to successfully recover your credit. A few attorneys, including our firm, offer payment plans in your area to make the costs affordable. It is highly recommended you use an attorney that also offers a credit recovery program to stimulate your recovery after bankruptcy and short the time to qualify for a home purchase or other credit after bankruptcy. Please be advised that your homestead deed must be filed within 5-days of the conclusion of the 341 Meeting of Creditors. This deadline applies to any amendments to the deed to add new assets requiring protection. After this cutoff the trustee is able to seize any assets that have not been successfully added to the Homestead Deed.

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  • I need an attorney for filing bankruptcy; I was curious how much it would cost me.

    I was quoted around $1000.00 USD from one lawyer, however I was wondering if there was a cheaper way to file bankruptcy being that I am kind of short on money. Please help if possible. Thank you.

    John’s Answer

    The unfortunate thing about using price as a deciding factor in choosing an attorney is the client often does is focusing on their initial goal which is get rid of debt. The reality is their ultimate goal is actually to recover their credit. Hiring a cheap attorney seems like a frugal response to an out-of-control credit situation that has landed one in the lap of a bankruptcy. However, how well a bankruptcy is done and the guidance an attorney can give on rebuilding and post-bankruptcy secrets to faster recovery can be invaluable. It is far more expensive to languish with credit problems and a slow recovery. Choose an attorney that does more than filing bankruptcy because what you are trying to do is more than just get rid of the debt. If not, then file it yourself. It is the cheapest way to go but you may lose property and have a lot of difficulty. My point is price should not be the sole determining factor. For more on this I am doing a live streaming event online this coming Monday at 6:30 p.m. For more details visit www.mernalaw.com. I hope this insight helps.

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  • My husband filed for a divorce after we agreed to wait until the end of the year. Now he wants to delay the divorce for 90 days?

    Husband decides he wants divorce while we were living overseas. I had to sign separation agreement in order for me and my daughter to return to the states. He was suppose to return to the states in 6 months after we left and has been extended twic...

    John’s Answer

    I agree you need to meet with an attorney immediately. If you would like you can give us a call.

    John G. Merna, Esq.
    The Merna Law Group
    3623 Virginia Beach Blvd.
    Virginia Beach, VA 23452
    757-340-4070
    jmerna@mernalaw.com

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  • Virginia: When filing personal bankruptcy, will property owned by a corporation in which I am the sole officer be exempt?

    the property is in Virginia, I am a resident of Virginia, property is primary residence or can be turned into a rental.

    John’s Answer

    Assets of a corporation are not owed by individuals, they are owned by the corporation. Shareholders own their interest in a corporation through share ownership. You stated you were the sole officer. I am going to assume you also meant sole shareholder.

    You also stated that the corporation owned real property. If the real property has any equity then the equity value would to some degree be reflected in your share value. To put it more simply, corporation aside, you will have to be able to protect the equity value of any property in a closely-held corporation.

    In Virginia, such protection comes under the homestead exemption (VA Code Ann Section 34-4), which allows for $5000 per individual under 65 and $10,000 if you are 65 or over. You get an additional $500 per dependent.

    In general, the homestead exemption is not alot of protection. To correctly protect the corporate shares you need to contact an experienced bankruptcy attorney. Do not rely on internet self-help for your answers when faced with bankruptcy. An experience attorney can save your $1,000's of dollars and a lot of headaches. Good luck.

    John G. Merna, Esq.
    The Merna Law Group
    3623 Virginia Beach Blvd.
    Virginia Beach, VA 23452
    757-340-4070
    jmerna@mernalaw.com

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  • Can I surrender my car if I can afford the payments after a chapter 7.

    I really would rather surrender my car when I file for chapter 7.

    John’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    During a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy you are required to state your "intentions" with regards to secured creditors such as vehicle loans. In general, you only have three options: reaffirm, surrender or redeem. Reaffirm means to reobligate yourself once again on the vehicle loan making it a debt that survives the bankruptcy. If you miss payment or the vehicle is repossessed after the bankruptcy you will owe any balance due.

    Surrendering a vehicle is quite clear but you have a fixed time to honor this commitment. Speak with your bankruptcy attorney about this timeline.

    Redeem is to pay the fair market value of the vehicle, generally based on the Kelley Blue Book or NADA guide, and wipe out any balance owed above this fair market value. Most people going through bankruptcy unfortunately do not have this kind of cash laying around.

    If you have already filed your bankruptcy then whether you are able to surrender the car depends on whether you signed a reaffirmation. You need to move quickly and check on this. You can rescind a reaffirmation prior to the discharge.
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    If you have not already, seek the advice of an experienced bankruptcy attorney. I wish you luck.

    John G. Merna, Esq.
    The Merna Law Group, PC
    3623 Virginia Beach Blvd.
    Virginia Beach, VA 23452
    757-340-4070
    jmerna@mernalaw.com

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  • Can i get garnished for a car that was a repo an the co signer filled bankruptcy on the car

    i had helped my aunt purchase a vehicle an the car was repoed she filled bankruptcy on the car an i was wondering if the auto dealer will garnishment my wages for the car

    John’s Answer

    The answer is "yes". If, as you say, you co-signed on the auto loan you are equally responsible for the debt. Your aunt's filing of a bankruptcy will adjust or eliminate her responsibility depending on whether she filed Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Anything not paid by one co-signer becomes the full responsibility of the other co-signer. Another way of putting that is that co-signers are each 100 percent responsible for full payment of the debt.

    To garnish you the company must first sue you. You can be sure that they are currently reporting on your credit that you are not paying on the loan. You may want to consult a bankruptcy attorney about protecting yourself from the garnishment.

    I wish you luck.

    John G. Merna, Esq.
    The Merna Law Group
    739 Thimble Shoals Blvd., Suite 704
    Newport News, VA 23606
    757-599-9099
    jmerna@mernalaw.com

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  • Can I sue second party in garnishment after I fill chapter 7?

    I brought furniture with an ex. He kept the furniture and never paid the bill. I am being garnished and he is not. I have to file bankruptcy because I bring home too little money with this garnishment. The garnishment will stop further payments. ...

    John’s Answer

    You must protect the claim against your ex by listing it in Schedule B of your bankruptcy petition and protecting it in Schedule C. The only exemption in Virginia to protect such a claim is the Homestead Exemption (VA Code Ann. Section 34-4). To use the homestead exemption you must also produce a homestead deed with the claim and the amount to be protect it and file it in your city of residence. Unless these steps are taken the claim will remain in the hands of the bankruptcy Trustee and your ex will have a defense against your post-bankruptcy lawsuit.

    Additionally, it is possible to recover the garnished funds if you file before the "return date" on the garnishment summons and listed the garnished wages in your petition and homestead deed. Your bankruptcy attorney can explain more about this.

    I wish you luck.

    John G. Merna, Esq.
    The Merna Law Group
    739 Thimble Shoals Blvd., Suite 704
    Newport News, VA 23606
    757-599-9099
    jmerna@mernalaw.com

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  • Does the Cash For Keys Program work with those who had a VA Home Loan (VHDA)?

    We went through bankruptcy, house has been foreclosed on waiting for sale date. We bought the home through the VA Loan. I retire from the military in July...

    John’s Answer

    Participation in a program like the "Cash For Keys" Program is voluntary. You need to check with the lender immediately after the sale. While your bankruptcy protects you from owing on the mortgage, this is not true of any post-bankruptcy HOA fees, if applicable.

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  • If I have a mortgage with HFC an dthey keep giving the run around with modification, who can I turn to for help. I need help

    Hardship for 3 years and now payment is higher than origonal mortgage. 1st and 2nd . Tried HUD and Lawyer for Bankruptcy, no help there. HUD couldn't get anywhere.

    John’s Answer

    Mortgage modifications can be a complicated and frustrating process. Household Finance is among the list of mortgage companies that are know to make the process more complicated and drawn out, often repeatedly requesting for documents already provided and delaying excessively in providing a decision even though all requirements have been met.

    The assistance of an reputable attobrney with mortgage modification experience can be invaluable in assisting you you get the results you seek.

    For more information on this subject visit www..mernalaw.com.

    John G. Merna, Esq.
    The Merna Law Group, PC
    3623 Virginia Beach Blvd., Virginia Beach, VA 23452
    757-340-4070
    jmerna@mernalaw.com

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  • Can my ex-wife be held accountable for letting house go to foreclosure after I quit claimed it in the decree?

    In the divorce decree I gave the ex the house. She was to be responsible for all payments having to do with it. She let it get behind($14K) and I caught it up, with money I owed her. She made two payments & let it go again, for two yrs. Now it's e...

    John’s Answer

    Unfortunately, the terms of a divorce decree are enforceable only between yourself and your former spouse. A divorce decree does not take the obligated parties off a debt. Additionally, transfer of the title of the property through a quit claim deed does not remove you as an obligated party from the mortgage. If you have signed on the mortgage then you may be responsible for a deficiency balance on the mortgage after the foreclosure. Your ex-wife's bankruptcy only protects her, not you.

    While you may have some recourse for your ex-wife's non-performance under your divorce decree, this is better explored with your divorce attorney. With regards to you owing on the mortgage as a result of her non-payment, I would suggest you speak with a bankruptcy attorney to better understand you vulnerability and your options.

    For more information on this subject visit www.mernalaw.com.

    John G. Merna, Esq.
    The Merna Law Group, PC
    3623 Virginia Beach Blvd., Virginia Beach, VA 23452
    757-340-4070
    jmerna@mernalaw.com

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