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Clayton Woodrow Cook-Mowery

Clayton Cook-Mowery’s Answers

31 total

  • My wages are being garnished (25 percent). Can they also take bank money?

    I am due to begin a pension from my previous employer. Half of the money is going into an IRA while the other half (after taxes) is going into my savings account. They are already garnishing my wages each paycheck, but I'm worried they'll go after...

    Clayton’s Answer

    There are a couple factors with your case, but I'll try to give you some general information. With garnishments, they go for about 60 days before they end, and must be restarted. A creditor can also levy bank accounts - but that is for a specific date, not an ongoing period, although you don't know the date ahead of time.

    I would recommend putting the pension income into a separate bank account that has no other type of income in it, and keep records showing you don't mix that money with other money. If the creditor were to attempt to levy your accounts, you want to be able to argue that the money is exempt, and you'll have a stronger argument if your pension money has been kept separate from your wages.

    On a side note, it might be worth speaking with a bankruptcy attorney, unless you will be paying off this debt shortly. Each time the garnishment starts up again, new attorney fees are added in, so you don't make a lot of progress. I'd recommend meeting with an experienced attorney who can go over your case in much more detail.

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  • Existing credit account post-bankruptcy?

    I filed for protection from my creditors under Chapter 7 of Title 11 of the U.S. Code during 2011; I had about $30,000 in debt that I could not afford to pay back, was unemployed, and about to have my car repossessed. My financial situation has im...

    Clayton’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    Hello, you ask a good question. Paying these debts off now probably won't help your credit much, if at all, and would obviously be pretty expensive. With a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, it can show up on your credit report for up to 10 years - but that doesn't mean that you can't repair your credit score much, much sooner than that.

    I'm not sure if you have obtained other credit since filing, but you will want to do that if you haven't. This may mean low-limit credit cards, or even secured credit cards - the amount doesn't matter, because you just want to rebuild a history of consistent payments. Your credit score is based heavily (up to 30%) on your payment history, and having old accounts helps that. When you filed, all your old accounts were presumably closed, so that's a big hit - but with a year of timely payments, you'll see a jump.

    If you've done all that, and your credit score has been climbing - that's a great start, but keep in mind that some places won't loan money if they see a bankruptcy on your credit report, within whatever period they look at. For instance, even with excellent credit, you probably won't get a home loan within 2 years of a bankruptcy. It could be possible that the brokerage company fits into that category, That being said, there is credit out there - the interest rates won't be great, but you can use it to rebuild your credit score, if nothing else.

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  • In chapter 7 bankruptcy exemption determination can an asset be spread amongst multiple categories?

    For example, can a piano (used by a pianist for their trade) valued at $10k have $3k of its value applied toward the $3 wild card exemption and $7k to tools of the trade? Or could it be split three ways toward wild card, tools of the trade and the...

    Clayton’s Answer

    Hello, I do practice in Washington, and it is common practice to use multiple exemptions on one asset. For instance, a vehicle may be worth $7,000, of which the motor vehicle exemption may cover $3,450, and the balance will be covered by the wildcard exemption.

    What often can't be done is spreading out an exemption over more than one specified property - motor vehicles are the main item here. You can protect one car for $3,450, but not three cars each worth $1,000 - to do that, you'd have to use wildcard on two of them.

    In your example, you could split the wildcard/tools of the trade exemption - and you could potentially try the household goods, but the Trustee in your case might challenge that. In general, the King County Trustees are pretty fair, and are often willing to come to some sort of settlement - if you have a portion of the piano that is not exempt, you may be able to offer the Trustee a fraction of that amount in cash, because it will save the Trustee time and effort in marketing and selling a piano.

    I would recommend working with an attorney on your case, and perhaps meeting with a couple (most offer free consultations in this area).

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  • Challenging question: Married the same year as filing bankruptcy, nondebtor who gets the Tax Refund in community property state?

    My husband & I married April 2011. He (his debts before the marriage, none mine) filed BK August 2011, hearing was in November 2011. I earned 83% of the income and had several tax credits and deductions. Not understanding correctly, I sent 1/2 ...

    Clayton’s Answer

    This might be a situation where you will end up making a settlement with the Trustee - depending on the amount of the refund, it may not be worth arguing in front of a judge. That being said, you may not be looking for a "winning" case, but a "persuasive" one that would lead the Trustee to agree to a portion of the refund.

    I'm assuming you filed jointly, which does potentially hurt your argument. I'm also assuming you don't have an attorney, which also doesn't help.

    What you want to argue first is that the case was filed in August of 2011, so only a portion of the tax refund was earned as of the filing date. That would mean that 8/12 to 9/12 of the refund would be bankruptcy estate property, depending on the date filed. All of the refund that was withheld/earned after the filing date would be post-petition assets.

    Second, you want to argue that the amount of the refund attributable to your income prior to the April marriage, is not community property. This is a bit of a stretch, and would be easier if you had filed taxes separately, so you could point to an exact number. By filing jointly, the numbers are an aggregate, so while it may be easy to conceptually agree that some of the tax withheld was withheld from individual, not community, property, it is hard to quantify that amount.

    The Trustee in this case may argue that the refund based on your pre-marriage work is still a community asset. The rationale can be illustrated by a comparison. If he was single and filed in August, with an expectation of a tax refund, that would be an asset, almost akin to an account receivable. Being married, the community has an expectation of the refund, so the Trustee could argue that it is the same thing, no matter if the money was withheld from your income or his.

    I'm not sure how likely your Trustee is to settle - here, they would certainly be willing to work out something. It probably depends on the amount at issue, but a 50% split might be something they would consider, if you point out that the accumulated refund amount at that time was substantially less than the total refund amount.

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  • What are the laws for a debt collector calling in washington state

    I have been called for the last four days from this debt collector, I have send the paperwork and also send the payment and they still are calling, they told my wife and I that they were told to call everyday, is this legal for them to do that, we...

    Clayton’s Answer

    The answer will depend on who it is that is contacting you. Original creditors (Chase, for example) have more freedom to contact you than debt collectors (if Chase sells the debt to another firm, for example). If it is a debt collector, they are subject to the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, which says that they cannot contact you more than 3 times in a week, and must stop calling you if you make a written request to that effect. There are several other parts of the law as well. However, if it is the original creditor, those laws won't apply. You might consider taking this to a local attorney to have them review your case.

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  • Bankruptcy question

    I filed a chapt. 13 that I later converted to a chapt 7 approximation 3 years ago, I lost my job in the mean time and have a 6,000 dollar judgement against me and other debt that I cannot afford to pay what are my legal options?

    Clayton’s Answer

    You also have the option of filing another Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Even if you aren't eligible for a discharge (which you may or may not be), you would have a payment plan based on your income and expenses, which may make your payment smaller than it otherwise would be. The minimum payment is about $100 per month or so, but it might be less than you're paying now. Even if you don't get a discharge, it will keep creditors from trying to collect against you.

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  • Received a lawsuit from Collection's attorney (WA state)

    I am correct in thinking that after a debt collection's attorney serves me with a complaint, I answer him not the court as there is no file number on the complaint. Is it correct that I must address each paragraph in his complaint and this can ...

    Clayton’s Answer

    I'd agree with the above posters, with the exception that the second poster mentioned it would be fraud to send you the papers without filing them with the court first. As the first poster said, this is an allowed practice in Washington, but the summons will have directions so you can require them to file the summons/complaint with the court. It is very important that you don't disregard it simply because there is no case number.

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  • What do I do if I'm served papers from an attorney's office saying I owe money to a company I've never hear of.

    I was served papers. They haven't been filed yet. I don't even know who the orginal creditor is. It sounds like it was sold a couple of times. The company that has it now, I've never heard of it. I don't believe I owe this. They have the dat...

    Clayton’s Answer

    To begin with, I'd recommend contacting an attorney about this issue. If the debt is relatively large, it would be worth hiring an attorney in order to minimize your risk. That said, if the debt is relatively small or you can't afford an attorney and you want to proceed on your own, you can do so.

    It is good that you sent your request by certified mail to the attorney. You will also want to review the paperwork you received - sometimes a summons will ask you to serve a copy to the court as well. It will say this in the area where it says you have 20 days to respond. You will want to follow what it says, as sometimes the summons has been filed with the court, and sometimes it hasn't.

    Once you do what the papers instruct, you should at least have a chance to review the debt. You can then try to see if you have a valid defense to the claim.

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  • Which year's tax return should I use in my bankruptcy case?

    I saw some instructions somewhere that I need to send my tax return to the trustee at least 7 days before my creditor's meeting (341 meeting). I have not yet filed my 2011 tax return and I am expecting to have to pay and not receive a refund. I...

    Clayton’s Answer

    You can file your 2011 taxes as you normally would - if you owe and want to wait until the deadline, that's fine. You'll just need to provide your most recently filed taxes to the trustee. The trustee will likely ask if you expect a refund, because you would need to exempt those funds or turn them over to the trustee, but since you expect to owe you should be fine.

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  • Spouse debt before marriage and a way to avoid it.

    My girlfriend has school and CC debt and I was wondering if there's a away if we get married that i wont be tied to it.

    Clayton’s Answer

    There are a couple different issues that your question raises. The first is whether it is "your" debt or will show up on your credit report, and the answer to that is generally no. However, with her credit card debt, if you get married and then use those same accounts and get new debts together, the line blurs. Debts you incur while together are community debts, and once the account has both personal and community debts, it is hard to differentiate between them. A good plan is to not use those accounts once you are married.

    The second, and more important issue is the practical side of things. If you get married and she stops paying those debts, the creditors can sue and eventually garnish wages or levy bank accounts. Living in a community property state, the money you earn while married could be used to pay her debts. This is because all the money earned by each of you is owned by you both.

    Depending on the amount of credit card debt, she may want to file bankruptcy before getting married. This will deal with credit card debt, but not most student loan debts. She can also file after marriage, but it may be easier to deal with the issue now (after marriage, your income would be a factor, while it isn't considered at this time). If she is interested, it might be worth meeting with an attorney to discuss her options. My firm offers free consultations (Advantage Legal Group) but we are a ways away, and you may be able to find someone closer to you that can help you out.

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