I’m a lawyer. Nevertheless, until recently, the field of bankruptcy has always been murky to me: chapter this and chapter that; lots of different sets of rules for different situations; and then a massive change in the federal bankruptcy regulatory scheme a few years ago. When funds were flowing well for everyone, "BK," as it’s called, came up so rarely it just didn’t seem to warrant the time investment it would take to get up to speed.

However, the global economic events of the last couple of years have occasioned me to be asked an ever-increasing number of questions about bankruptcy, and my real estate practice has certainly crept closer and closer to the field of bankruptcy law, bumping right up against it as clients facing foreclosure and negative equity on their homes seek out wide-ranging solutions and relief.

Book Review
Title: "The Personal Bankruptcy Answer Book"
Authors: Wendell Schollander and Wes Schollander, attorneys at law
Publisher: Sphinx Publishing, 2009; 288 pages; $13.25

I’m a lawyer. Nevertheless, until recently, the field of bankruptcy has always been murky to me: chapter this and chapter that; lots of different sets of rules for different situations; and then a massive change in the federal bankruptcy regulatory scheme a few years ago.

When funds were flowing well for everyone, "BK," as it’s called, came up so rarely it just didn’t seem to warrant the time investment it would take to get up to speed.

However, the global economic events of the last couple of years have occasioned me to be asked an ever-increasing number of questions about bankruptcy, and my real estate practice has certainly crept closer and closer to the field of bankruptcy law, bumping right up against it as clients facing foreclosure and negative equity on their homes seek out wide-ranging solutions and relief.

Consumers feeling like bankruptcy might provide some relief to their own personal debt dilemmas, but also feeling murky on the topic, would do well to pick up "The Personal Bankruptcy Answer Book," by father-and-son attorneys Wendell and Wes Schollander. What was murky will become clear, on reading this book.

The Schollanders know their stuff. And they strut it, by constructing a myth-busting, demystifying, crazy-unmaking primer covering Chapter 7, 11 and 13 bankruptcies in plain language. The entire book is done in Q-and-A format, and effectively so. By positing and thoroughly answering a series of what must be frequently asked questions by those considering filing bankruptcy on the subject matter of each chapter, the Schollanders manage to educate and illuminate readers on:

  • how to determine whether bankruptcy makes sense for the facts of their individual situation,
  • if so, what type of bankruptcy is appropriate, and
  • what to expect and what to do as a filer of any given type of bankruptcy.

And they manage to get this done with an emphasis on the points the average consumer actually cares about. To wit, the Schollanders explain that: …CONTINUED

  • Bankruptcy-filers will not go to jail for not paying their debts, but
  • They might have to give up some of their assets and luxuries, depending on what type of bankruptcy they file, and
  • While a bankruptcy is public record, unless you’re a celebrity it’s very unlikely that anyone out there cares enough to publicize your financial woes.

At the outset, the authors manage to very concisely stop the mindset spiral of guilt, fear and overwhelm that many considering bankruptcy are in, with their professional insights on human nature, common causes of money problems and how people end up in bankruptcy.

Then, they explore the pitfalls of falling behind on debts and the dangers of the collection process, including property-seizure rules and more. Segueing into budgets and financial inventories, the Schollanders provide their own special, quick ratio test and financial inventory guidelines that readers can use to determine if their own situation is in that danger zone where bankruptcy might make sense.

In a couple of uber-useful chapters, the authors explore some common money moves that people with money problems make — like getting cash advances against their credit cards, borrowing against their 401(k), etc. — that they shouldn’t make, especially in light of the way the bankruptcy law treats these various moves.

They then explore which assets are forfeited and which are protected by the bankruptcy laws, and alternatives to filing bankruptcy (many of which are not all they’re cracked up to be, per the Schollanders).

After some intensive myth-busting, the Schollanders get to the nitty-gritty, offering astute answers to a comprehensive set of how-to and what-to-expect questions about Chapters 7, 11 and 13, winding the book down with a detailed set of insights on post-bankruptcy credit rebuilding.

A glossary and appendices on state-by-state assets exemptions from bankruptcy and contact information for the credit counseling organizations through which filers must obtain their prefiling credit counseling certificates close the book out.

While their subject matter is decidedly heavy and painful for those going through it, the Schollander’s clarity-creating, down-to-brass-tacks approach offers a beacon of calm, empowering, action-planning and clear-cut-decision rules to help potential filers take the next step toward their own personal financial recovery.

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Ask her a real estate question online or visit her Web site, www.rethinkrealestate.com.

***

What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

Show Comments Hide Comments

Comments

Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
Success!
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top