Do I live too far away for you to be able to represent me?

No.  With Internet and phone technologies, it is not necessary for you to be within an easy drive of my office in Westlake Village.  We can easily discuss your legal issue over the phone or Skype, and exchange all necessary documents via snail mail, e-mail or fax.  On the other hand, some people prefer being able to meet in person with their attorney whenever they would like to.  This is really a matter of personal preference.  I have not personally met approximately 20 percent of my clients; some are as far away as Boise, Idaho, or even St. Gallen, Switzerland.  These “remote” clients chose me primarily for my expertise, which was more important than their ability to meet me easily in person.


How much will it cost? 

I don’t know until I talk to you.  Some people walk into my office saying that they want a chapter 7 bankruptcy, and after I interview them, we decide on an entirely different course of action.  Some seemingly-simple cases have hidden issues that will cost more; some seemingly-difficult cases have easy resolutions.  So I can’t quote a price until I have had a chance to interview you.

I can tell you that most chapter 7 cases cost between $2,300 and $3,500, plus a $306 filing fee; most chapter 13 cases cost between $4,000 and $4,500; and that my hourly rate (most tax work falls here) is $360 per hour.  But I also find other attorneys and paralegals to work at lower hourly rates and get the same things done.

I offer a free phone consultation, and a $100 in-person consultation.  Rather than putting a time limit on these consultations, I generally allow the consultation to go as long as the potential client has questions.  At the end of the consultation, the client will know what course of action I recommend and how much it will cost.


How fast will my matter get resolved?

It all depends on the matter.  A simple chapter 7 bankruptcy can take less than four months from our initial consultation to the discharge.  A chapter 13 case will last five or six years.  Offers in compromise to the IRS or FTB take six to twelve months.  Tax Court cases take about a year from the petition to the first trial date.  I can usually give a good timetable for action and resolution at the initial consultation.


If I file bankruptcy, what can I keep?  

Debtors get to keep a variety of goods and assets through bankruptcy.  California has established a set of exemptions for bankruptcy debtors; you can examine the exemptions by clicking here.  The exemption sheet does not tell you that there is a homestead exemption of $75,000, $100,000, or $150,000 (depending on whether the debtor is single, married, or elderly) available under Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. 704.

These sums are net of any amount owed on the property.  Thus, if a debtor owns a car worth $20,000 but owes $10,000 on it, there is only $10,000 worth of value in the car.  The debtor may exempt $5,100 of that value under 703.140(b)(2), leaving $4,900 not exempted.  The trustee has the right to take the car and sell it, distributing the proceeds first to the car’s lender, then the $5,100 exemption to the debtor, and then the $4,900 to creditors and the trustee’s administrative expenses.  Will he do it?  Probably not.

The general rule: you can probably keep more assets and goods in bankruptcy than you think.  Consult with Faucher & Associates and find out how this works.


What is an Offer in Compromise?

An Offer in Compromise is a contract between the taxpayer and the tax authority.  The taxpayer agrees to pay over some reduced amount of tax to the tax authority (IRS or FTB), and the tax authority agrees to write off the rest of the tax debt.  The process is much like bankruptcy: the taxpayer must report everything he owns and will earn for the next few years.  In return for voluntarily giving the IRS or FTB everything it could get if it applied its collection expertise in full force, the tax authority discharges the rest of the tax debt.


If I file an offer in compromise, what can I keep? 

Taxing authorities are less lenient than bankruptcy trustees, and the state exemptions do not apply to them.  Guidelines published by the IRS and FTB require the liquidation of most nonessential assets.  In addition, while a bankruptcy debtor can usually keep an asset that is “underwater,” i.e., the debtor owes more than the asset is worth, the taxing authority will require that the debtor stop making payments on such an asset unless it’s required for the debtor’s life.  The reason is that the tax authority does not want to allow a taxpayer to divert money that could be used to pay for taxes to fund an unnecessary asset.


For more answers to these and other questions, please visit the blog or call Mr. Faucher at 818/889-8080.