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John Griffin Watts
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John Watts’s Answers

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  • If I receive Ssi and Medicaid also 20 hours of home health care assistance can I spend down a settlement amount of money

    No details

    John’s Answer

    I'm not sure of what your exact question is -- tell me if this is what your situation is now....

    1. You received a settlement from a lawsuit
    2. But you are worried that the amount of the settlement (over $2,000) may kick you off of SSI and/or Medicaid?

    If that is what you are facing, then I suggest you get with an elder law or special needs attorney ASAP. There are usually options to still keep settlement money AND your SSI/Medicaid but normally you need to put the settlement money in a "special needs trust" sometimes called a "supplemental needs trust".

    Basically the government says, "OK, you can stay on your benefits, and you can use this money to SUPPLEMENT your current care, but when you die, if there is any money left over, we want to be paid back for the benefits we have given you."

    Very strict requirements on making this happen -- who sets up the trust, the timing of setting up the trust, who can be the trustee (the person who runs the trust), etc.

    Either find a lawyer or have your lawsuit lawyer recommend someone who knows what they are doing -- we see a lot of mistakes made and that can be costly to you.

    Best wishes!

    John Watts

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  • I am in the starting to to get my wages garnish for a car Iet go back 15 years ago What can I do to stop it

    In 1998 I bought a new car. Two years later I got layoff and had to let it go back In 2003 they got a judgement against me now 12 years years later they want to garnish my wages.

    John’s Answer

    If you were served with the lawsuit, then the judgment is valid. 12 years is a bunch of interest -- the judgment is around 4 times the judgment amount with the interest that has been accumulating.

    Here are the options someone in your position typically has:

    1. File bankruptcy (chapter 7) to wipe out the judgment.
    2. File bankruptcy (chapter 13) to pay the judgment off over 3-5 years.
    3. Get a lump sum of money (usually around 50%) to settle the judgment.
    4. Work out a smaller repayment plan than the 25% of your take home pay -- sometimes creditors will do this if you show them the hardship you are under and if they don't see a stable work history.

    I wish I had better options for you but once a valid judgment (that is you were served) is entered, your defenses against the lawsuit go away.

    Best wishes....

    John Watts

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  • Can a creditor garnish you for a car that you voluntarily turned over 11 years ago? How can I stop it?

    I received a letter stating that the creditor had filed a judgment against me back in 2007 in Birmingham, AL which I had no Idea about until this year when I received the letter. The car was turned in because it was a " lemon" and they did not wis...

    John’s Answer

    To garnish you, there must be a judgment. To have a judgment (even a default judgment), you must lose your case. To lose your case, you have to be served.

    That's the key -- were you properly served?

    If so, then you have to live with the judgment and either pay it off or file bankruptcy, etc.

    BUT.

    If you were NOT served, then you can get rid of the judgment. We have done this on judgments over 15 years old -- time doesn't matter, if you can show you were never served.

    When you are not served, that raises constitutional issues as there can be no judgment when no service.

    Get with a lawyer ASAP and find out your options...

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • If someone holds poa on me and it lists bank accounts on it. Can they take my money?

    The poa has a list of items that power is given to and one of those is finances and bank accounts. It has already been filed with the bank. If he takes my my money out can I do anything or am I stuck since I signed the poa?

    John’s Answer

    Very good question and one more need to think about.

    A Power of Attorney (POA) is a powerful tool but it can also be an incredibly dangerous weapon in the hands of the wrong person.

    In essence, a power of attorney gives the other person -- your "agent" -- the right to sign your name.

    So yes your agent could drain your bank account.

    Now as David has pointed out your agent is to act in your best interest so this should not be done unless it would help you.

    Since you have concern about this then I agree the best approach is to revoke the POA and let your agent and the bank know about you revoking this power of attorney.

    Also if you have any other financial accounts -- investment, etc. -- let them know also.

    It is helpful to have the right person have the right type of POA (many are not effective if you face elder law issues -- long term care) but if the wrong person has the POA, this can be very costly for you.

    Best wishes and feel free to get in touch with a lawyer in Alabama if you have more questions.

    John Watts
    Birmingham and Madison offices

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  • Could I possibly win from a debt collection?

    Hospital vs me to collect debt for emergency room visit.they did absolutely nothing. Insurance paid there part.they want 400 out of pocket.i went to doctor first. Ended up being misdiagnosed.

    John’s Answer

    Great question -- it has a couple of different parts.

    First, the simple answer is if the hospital sues you, it will be somewhat difficult to win as you did go to the ER. You would need to show that the hospital did a poor job of treating you and normally to do this you need expert testimony. Not practical in a $400 case.

    Second, you can try to work this out with the hospital. Be very specific about what happened and your concerns. This may cause the hospital to either drop the bill or reduce it.

    Third, if the hospital sends you to collection, you can deal with the collector. Often collectors will violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and this gives you an opportunity to sue the collector for money damages. Two major areas of violations:

    **Lying to you -- inflating the bill, telling you that you will be garnished before a lawsuit is even filed, etc.

    **Doing something unfair to you -- calling your neighbors, calling your co-workers, etc.

    My suggestion is start with trying to work it out with the hospital and then if that doesn't work get with a consumer protection lawyer.

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham and Madison Offices

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  • If my mother died in Jan.2008, & a judgement was placed on her property (life est.) in 12/2009, how can it be removed?

    My Mom deeded her property to kids, holding a life estate in 1997. She died in Jan. 2008. Her granddaughter (same name - first & last, using same address) let a car be repossessed. The lawyer for the bank filed a judgement against my Mom's p...

    John’s Answer

    To make sure I understand your situation:

    Mom kept a life estate.
    Kids had the remainder interest.
    Grand daughter had NO interest in the property.

    Granddaughter takes out a car loan and gets sued for a deficiency and the collection lawyer put the lien on the property that the granddaughter had no interest in.

    Is this correct?

    If so, then I think the judgment/lien against the property is invalid. You need to get it removed in court. There are several ways you can do this:

    1. Get the company that has the judgment to recognize the error and agree to release the lien.
    2. Sue to "quiet title" -- that is to show there is no lien on this property.
    3. Pay to satisfy the judgment.

    My suggestion is the first option is the best.

    You can do this on your own or you can hire a lawyer.

    If you have questions feel free to reply to this comment or contact my office directly.

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Watts & Herring, LLC
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Missed my court day, stop garnishment, family member sick and hospitalized in another state and I had to be there, what do I do?

    tried to talk to someone at the court house but they said nothing can be done

    John’s Answer

    I think you had a court date but you missed it because you had to be with a family member and so now you have lost your court case resulting in a garnishment. Is this correct?

    If so, there is a very limited time to ask the court to "vacate" or "undo" the judgment based upon what has happened to you with the family sickness, etc.

    Get with a lawyer ASAP on this as the time period can be as short as 14 days.

    You are welcome to contact my firm if you like and we can see what the court file says and what your options are -- you can call us at 205-879-2447.

    Sorry you are dealing with this -- take action quickly to preserve your options....

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Is there a better way to pay on a judgment that will not just cover the interest each month?

    I am paying on a judgment, $100/mth, with a balance of $6582. I requested a payment history from the collection agency and was shocked to see that I now owe more than what the beginning balance was. Apparently my $100/mth has just been paying ...

    John’s Answer

    Most judgments in Alabama make 12% which means you face an uphill battle only paying $100 a month but you should be making progress. Get a detailed breakdown of the interest and payments from the collection lawyer or whoever has this account now.

    As others rightly mentioned, you can look at filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy and get rid of the debt or settle the debt. Nothing "talks" like a lump sum of money.

    Best wishes

    John G. Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Question about Statute of Limitations on debt...

    If I pay for six years upon a debt, does the debt become barred after six years? I told the creditor this, however, they came back and said that the SOL does not apply because I have been paying it for six years? Can someone explain the SOL ...

    John’s Answer

    As mentioned, it depends on the type of debt but normally the statute of limitations is 3-6 years in Alabama.

    The question is, "When does it start to run?"

    So have you ever been late on this debt?

    Did you stop paying for a period of time and then started back paying?

    Are you being sued?

    Is the creditor threatening to sue you?

    Lots of factors. I suggest you get with a consumer lawyer in Alabama to get specific answers to your situation.

    As one of the other lawyers mentioned, bankruptcy can be an option. I think it is an extreme option but when needed it is extremely effective.

    You may have the ability to sue a debt collector (if it is a collector you are dealing with) under the FDCPA -- Fair Debt Collection Practices Act -- it simply depends on what the collector is saying and threatening.

    Best wishes and congratulations for starting the process of discovering your legal rights -- you need to know your rights in order to take the right action.

    John G. Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • I have old telephone bills from 2006 on my my credit report when I lived in Michigan. What's the statue of limitations?

    I opened a cell phone account in 2006. I switched to a different company in 2008. In 2011 a collection agency bought the debt. I currently live in Alabama. Im not sure what I should do

    John’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    Figuring out which state law applies on statute of limitations can be tricky as sometimes the contract itself will tell us but in your case you have moved between states. Not sure where you were when stopped paying on the cell phone.

    Alabama is generally 6 years on a written contract which it sounds like Michigan is as well.

    Probably the time limit has passed or will pass shortly on suing you. If it has not, there is no minimum to sue in Alabama. I've seen debt buyers (collectors who buy old debt) sue over 600 dollars. Silly, but they do it.

    If you allegedly defaulted in 2008, it should come off your credit report around next year.

    You can choose to ignore it for now or, if it is causing a problem you can, you can always send a simple dispute letter to the debt collector.

    Hope this helps and if you need additional information you can contact a lawyer to answer any more specific questions.

    Thanks!

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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