electric meters

Fighting for Your Rights: Utility Shutoff Laws and Bankruptcy

Safe shelter and protection from the environment are more than convenient privileges: They’re fundamental necessities. Unfortunately, energy companies don’t always seem to view things this way. If you don’t pay, they’re more than willing to shut off the gas or electricity services that help your family survive.

If you live in Wisconsin, can filing for bankruptcy protect you from such dire outcomes? Here’s what you need to know.

Bankruptcy and Utility Shutoffs

Bankruptcy isn’t just for stopping collection agencies from hounding you. In addition to putting an automatic hold on collection activities, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Waukesha can help you keep the heat going and the lights on.

Timing is key to using bankruptcy to avoid a utility shutoff. Once you file, you have just 20 days to prove that you’ll pay your future bills.

Knowing Your Rights When Filing for Bankruptcy

The laws against turning off electricity during bankruptcy are part of federal law. According to 11 U.S. Code § 366, utilities aren’t allowed to treat you unfairly just because you filed. This law means they can’t alter your service terms, refuse to serve you or discontinue your existing service.

What Happens After 20 Days?

After the 20-day period ends, the utility can only refuse, discontinue or change your service if you haven’t given them proof of your payment ability. In most cases, this means forking over a cash deposit, prepayment, credit letter, deposit certificate or surety bond. Different utility companies have their own standards for what kinds of payment assurance they prefer.

It’s also worth noting that this payment is for your future service, not the overdue bills. In other words, filing for bankruptcy may help you clean the slate and move forward.

What Happens to Your Old Account Balance?

One nice aspect of the legal code is that it lets you discharge, or erase, your old bills. If you file successfully and convince the court that you deserve bankruptcy status, the judge may wipe out what you currently owe. Although you’ll still have to pay your upcoming bills, you might be able to escape the burdens of digging yourself out from under a mountain of debt.

Special State Rules

Wisconsin also has some applicable laws against turning off electricity that may affect your case. For instance, in Wisconsin utilities are prohibited from disconnecting service to non-paying customers between November 1 and April 15.

Wisconsin also maintains the same 20-day payment window rule for accounts in non-bankruptcy cases. In these situations, however, the clock starts ticking when you receive the bill.

Should You File for Bankruptcy?

The laws against turning off electricity apply to Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings. However, keeping the gas, water or power connected should never be your only reason for filing.

Seeking bankruptcy status is most powerful when it’s part of a complete debt-management strategy. The most effective filings help you keep your head above water by addressing all of your liabilities. In other words, it’s smartest to discuss your situation with a reputable, experienced legal adviser.

Connect with a lawyer who’s ready to fight tirelessly on your behalf. Get in touch with the Burr Law Office team to learn more. You can also contact a Milwaukee bankruptcy lawyer by texting (262) 720-8783.

Working With Your Attorney

For many people, making the decision to file for bankruptcy is a decision that comes with a lot of thought and consideration and perhaps some professional counsel. Depending on the situation, it can be an emotional process with many nuances and facets that are unique to each individual case. As bankruptcy attorneys, we at Burr Law Office LLC understand this and keep this in mind in everything we do when we are working with our clients in Milwaukee.

Because of the fact everyone’s financial situation is unique, we are going to look at why going through the bankruptcy process is best when we are working together.

First of all, the knowledge of your own situation is invaluable. Even though we’re experts in bankruptcy law, we simply cannot have the same insight into your financial picture that you have. We can’t make decisions for you about what aspects of your financial life are most important to you. We can’t know how you’ve arrived at your current financial situation. All these factors are important to putting together the best plan for you going forward. When we know your history and what’s most important for you, we can work to structure a plan that is tailored to your specific wants and needs.

But even though you know your financial history and what is most important to you, there is another important aspect to filing for bankruptcy, and that is where we come in as your Milwaukee bankruptcy lawyers. As experts in bankruptcy law, we know how to use law to your maximum benefit. We know how to make sure you come out of the entire process in the way that will be most beneficial to you and your financial future. Remember, bankruptcy laws exist to protect you, your family, and your financial future and well-being. We always keep this in mind as we work with you.

So now that we’ve established that both you and your attorney play vital roles in the bankruptcy process, it’s important that we stress the value of communication. In order to make sure we achieve the most beneficial result, we need to be communicating throughout the entire process. We can’t have the combined benefit of your knowledge and ours if we aren’t communicating. It may seem like a trivial point, but it’s of critical importance in putting you in the best situation possible.

As bankruptcy attorneys, too often we hear stories of people who tried to handle their bankruptcy largely by themselves. For a variety of reasons, people may sometimes feel it is best to handle this process by themselves as much as possible. We do understand why some people feel this way; however, without the expert advice and guidance of experienced and qualified bankruptcy lawyers, there is a big risk of missing out on absolutely maximizing your benefit and putting yourself in the best position for your future and the future of your family.

Conversely, we also hear stories of the opposite problem. Some bankruptcy law firms don’t communicate or even care to learn about their clients’ financial history. Without this critical information, they can’t properly structure the case for maximum benefit to their clients. You should be wary of bankruptcy attorneys who don’t ask you questions and actively engage you in communication about your financial situation. Remember, your attorney needs your insight just as much as you need his or her expertise.

At Burr Law Office LLC, we pride ourselves on our excellent communication with our clients as well as our expertise in bankruptcy law. We are always looking to maximize the benefit this process can provide to you. Sometimes this means finding creative solutions that take into account both your insight and our expertise. Without working together, this simply wouldn’t be possible. Though our approach may seem obvious, it’s surprising how many attorneys out there don’t share our philosophy. They lose sight of the ultimate goal of the bankruptcy process—to put the client in the best situation possible and to protect their future. We never see the bankruptcy cases we handle as merely paperwork to file and be done with. We understand that there are people behind the numbers, and there is a real life impact of going through the bankruptcy process.

If you are ready to file for bankruptcy, or if you need more information about the process and advice about making a decision about the best way to proceed regarding your financial future, please contact us today. In everything we do, we’ll always listen to you and your unique needs and work with you to come up with the best solution possible.

Legal Aid Milwaukee: Why to File at the Beginning of the Year

When you’re looking for legal aid in Milwaukee and you visit a bankruptcy attorney, they’ll like say “now is the best time for you to file,” regardless of when it is. There is some truth to this statement. If you’re in a situation of financial distress, waiting to file may only increase your risk for things like repossession of belongings, garnishment of wages, or even foreclosure on your home. However, now that we’re just into the new year, it truly is a good time to consider filing. Here’s why.

Tax debts

Income tax debt specifications state that you aren’t required to pay off income tax debt until the first day of the following year in bankruptcy. If you have a large amount of debt from taxes, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a popular option. In this case, waiting until after the first of the year is a good idea – that means your tax debt from the previous year is considered pre-petition debt.

Holiday debt

It’s no secret that people spend more during the holidays, and often it’s done on a credit card. After having built up additional debt from the holidays, the new year is a good time to file as it’s when this debt comes due.

As a rule of thumb, if you’re filing for bankruptcy you should stop using your credit cards right away. If you continue to use your credit cards after you’ve filed, it appears to the courts that you’re doing so with no indication of repaying the debt incurred.

If you’d like to learn more about when to file for bankruptcy, contact the legal aid experts in Milwaukee at Burr Law Offices LLC.

What To Look For In An Attorney

When you make the decision to file for bankruptcy, an important next step is figuring out who to trust to guide you through the process.There are a lot of attorneys who claim to offer bankruptcy services, but your best choice is someone that specializes specifically in bankruptcy law. Here are a few things our Waukesha bankruptcy experts recommend you consider as you make your decision.

Avoid the cheapest…and most expensive

When you’re stuck in a financially difficult situation, the last thing you want to do is spend money to fix it. There are a couple different structures for payment, including hourly rates and flat fees. When you look into payment, don’t jump for the cheapest option right off the bat. The old saying “you get what you pay for” rings true, and you may find yourself wasting money on something that doesn’t help. On the other hand, some attorneys that charge per hour for their time may drag things out in attempts to get more money.

Legal know-how

The law industry as a whole is quite broad. There’s divorce law, real estate law, corporate law, etc. In a technical sense, any lawyer can help you file for bankruptcy. Your best bet is to go with someone that has a thorough understanding and experience with bankruptcy law.

Avoid scams

Some companies may offer “quick debt relief” services, promising to rid you of your debt with a snap of your fingers. Sadly, these companies take advantage of people all too often by charging insanely high rates without doing proper work.

Our bankruptcy experts are here to help guide you through this difficult time. Call Burr Law Office at 262-827-0375 to schedule a complimentary consultation. We’ll show you why we’re the right choice for your filing.

Importance of a Lawyer

When you make the decision to file, one of the most important things on your mind is getting through the proceedings successfully. Some people approach the situation by filing on their own, but the best way to ensure a smooth ride is by working with an experienced Milwaukee bankruptcy lawyer.

There is no rule that requires someone to hire a lawyer and, yes, it is possible to do everything on your own. However, managing your case is an extremely difficult task and is best left to a seasoned professional.

Specialization is key

Bankruptcy law is very complex. With constantly changing laws, things can get confusing even for seasoned lawyers. There are many lawyers out there who claim to provide bankruptcy services. While these lawyers are certified and have the ability to take care of your case, you’re better off with a lawyer who specializes in bankruptcy and understands the ins and outs of the system.

Steer clear of scams

Too often, people find themselves in even bigger trouble than they were before they made the decision to file by using untrustworthy sources. There are a lot of companies that offer financial advising or debt settlement services and make promises they can’t keep. In order to avoid a situation like this, make sure you do your research. If they’re not accredited by the Better Business Bureau, you’d be smart to steer clear.

If you’ve found yourself in financial difficulty and are in search of a great Milwaukee bankruptcy lawyer, contact Burr Law Office today. Attorney Michael Burr personally takes on each case and works to bring you to financial freedom.

Legal Aid Milwaukee: Are You Hurting Your Credit?

Maintaining healthy credit takes persistence and dedication. Financial freedom is something that many people strive for, but there may be things you’re doing that are causing you to take a step back from achieving said goal. For the best financial legal aid Milwaukee has to offer, look to Burr Law Office. Here are a few things mistakes people often make that can damage their credit.

Applying for cards when you don’t need them

Retail store and gas credit cards often seem very appealing. Free merchandise, added discounts, and other benefits may be great, but you could be hurting your credit score if you open too many. What most people don’t think about is the astronomically high interest rate most of these cards possess. Credit card offers you receive in the mail can also seem like a great deal, and some are. The important thing to remember is that you should open cards just to have those perks. It’s good practice to only apply for credit when you need it.

Cosigning on loans

When it comes to family, saying “no” can be one of the hardest things to do. When you cosign a loan, be it for a car, business, or any other purpose, your credit rating will be affected if there are any issues. Only agree to cosigning if you trust the person will be responsible with the loan. You don’t want to jeopardize your relationship over something like a loan.

Charging major expenses

One of the biggest mistakes people make is charging huge expenses to their credit cards without having the means to pay them back. Vacations, jewelry, cars…you name it. These types of expenses should only be charged to a credit card if you have the means to immediately pay them off. Just because you’ll get miles or rewards doesn’t mean you should risk your credit.

For more legal aid Milwaukee, contact Burr Law Office. Our experts will help keep you financially safe and secure.

Legal Aid Milwaukee: Tips for Filing a Chapter 7

Filing for bankruptcy can be a daunting process, but when done correctly it an provide great relief to the debtor. Working with an experienced attorney like Michael Burr is the best way to give yourself the best legal aid Milwaukee has to offer. Here are a few tips if you’re considering a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Consider what’s ahead

Before filing for Chapter 7, it’s important to look to the future. Major financial events can have a great effect on the process; having a child, needing a new car, getting a promotion at work, and many others. By planning ahead for these things, whenever possible, you can help ease stress when they arise.

Seek support

While conversations about finances with friends and family can be difficult, the process will be much easier if you have the support of loved ones. Seeking out external sources of advice and support is crucial, especially if they themselves have experienced bankruptcy and can offer guidance.

Be pessimistic and optimistic

It’s confusing, but helpful. When filing for Chapter 7, the best way to approach the situation is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. If you know what will happen if things go south and prepare ahead of time, you’ll better be able to handle things.

If you’re considering filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and need a Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer, contact attorney Michael Burr for the best legal aid Milwaukee has to offer. Ease yourself of financial burdens and call 262-827-0375 to schedule your free consultation today!

How an Experienced Lawyer Can Help You

We all experience difficulties when it comes to money. Job loss, illness, injuries, unexpected expenses – there are a number of factors that contribute to financial stress and hardship. If bankruptcy is an option for you, it’s a good idea to consider hiring an experienced Milwaukee bankruptcy lawyer to help you with your case. By working with a lawyer like Michael Burr, you will reduce the amount of stress and heartache that can sometimes go along with filing.

A Chapter 13 filings tend to be quite complicated due to the number of parts that are associated. These parts include:

  • Setting up a repayment plan
  • Reporting assets and determine what, if anything, can be kept
  • Stopping foreclosures and repossessions
  • Stopping creditor harassment

These processes can become quite complicated for the average person. There are a number of variables that, without prior knowledge of the bankruptcy process, can be difficult to manage. So much so that, depending on the situation, a Chapter 13 case filed without an attorney is in danger of being immediately dismissed.

When it comes down to it, a poorly filed bankruptcy petition can do you more harm than good, especially in the long term. Working with an experienced Milwaukee bankruptcy attorney like Michael Burr will help ensure you are getting the most out of your petition.

If you’d like to learn more about the Chapter 13 process and filing with Burr Law Office, call us at 262-827-0375 to schedule a free consultation. We will work around your schedule, including evenings and weekends.

Bankruptcy Court: Inheritances

Milwaukee bankruptcy inheritanceIt’s not uncommon for people to receive inheritance money when a loved on passes away. For those that have filed or are considering filing for bankruptcy, the question of “what will happen to that money?” will generally come up. This situation will affect the way the Milwaukee bankruptcy court views your case. Attorney Michael Burr is here to help you find the optimal solution to these types of questions. Here are a couple general circumstances to consider when it comes to inheritance dollars.

Whether Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, inheritance money received during your bankruptcy will generally be considered an asset. Assets can be protected in some cases but will often become part of the bankruptcy estate in some way or another.

Chapter 13

When you file for Milwaukee Chapter 13, your property is not liquidated as in a Chapter 7. In return, however, you’re required to pay back your debts through a repayment plan. Inheritance money is considered an asset, so trustees will generally want you to pay more to your unsecured creditors. In other words, inheritance money can increase the amount of your monthly plan payment.

The 180 Day Guideline

For Milwaukee Chapter 7 cases, any inheritance money you acquire within the first 180 days after filing would be considered property of the bankruptcy estate. This means the nonexempt portion of the money you receive would be taken by your trustee and distributed to any unsecured creditors.

In Chapter 13, you generally get to keep your assets. However in these cases you would still be required to pay. A general rule of thumb is that you’ll be required to pay at least the nonexempt portion of the inheritance.

If you receive inheritance money after the 180 day period in a Chapter 13, most trustees will argue that you should be required to pay it into your plan.

If you’re thinking about filing for bankruptcy and have received or will be receiving an inheritance, contact the experts at Burr Law Office. We’ll help you figure out what the best steps are and how to work with the Milwaukee bankruptcy court to settle your case.

Legal Aid Milwaukee: Rebuilding Credit

After a bankruptcy filing, the question of rebuilding credit scores is often raised. Just as your bankruptcy filing and proceedings take time, so does rebuilding your credit. There are a lot of things to keep track of during the process, so legal aid Milwaukee from Burr Law Office can help. The number one rule for rebuilding your credit is to know your score and the things that will change it.

Acquire and review credit reports

As mentioned above, before you can do anything to fix your credit score you’ll need to know where you can go. Attorney Michael Burr will not only help with your bankruptcy filing, but will also help you review your credit report as well. By breaking down your score, you will have a better idea of what you can do to fix it.

Open credit/loans with caution

Many people do not keep a major credit card open during bankruptcy. If that’s the case for you, it’s a good idea to open one once your bankruptcy has been discharged and pay it off monthly in full. Also, a few years down the road, it may be worth considering getting a line of credit – maybe a car loan or something similar – that you can pay off successfully. Be sure to shop around for interest rates and know that the higher your credit score the better interest rate you’ll get.

Be timely with bill pay

Most people don’t understand the influence timely bill pay has on your credit score. To make it simple, paying your bills on time is a must. There are a number of services that allow for automatic bill pay nowadays. If you’d rather not do automatic bill pay, set reminders in your electronic calendar.

If you’re having troubles rebuilding credit after your bankruptcy, call Burr Law Offices to speak with attorney Michael Burr and get the legal aid Milwaukee you need. He’ll help you get your credit back on track.