Business Bankruptcy Lawyers Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Business Bankruptcy Finding the Right Commercial Bankruptcy Law Firm Might Save Your Business

When Your Business is in Jeopardy, You Should Rely Upon the Vast Experience of an Extraordinary Pittsburgh Bankruptcy Law Firm


Pittsburgh Business Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy May Protect Your Business

Pittsburgh has a “no quit” approach to the world. Pittsburgh’s resilience is evident from its early days as powerhouse of American industry through its financial self-reinvention as a modern day center of innovation in medicine and technology. Unsurprisingly, our sports teams recognize that a game “ain’t over until it’s over” and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Pittsburgh Penguins are known for their many come from behind victories.  With that in mind, it should come as no surprise bankruptcy is an option of last resort for many Pittsburgh businesses.  Still, a strategic commercial bankruptcy can sometimes result in a stronger, more profitable business enterprise going forward.  A business bankruptcy case does not carry the same stigma as a consumer bankruptcy case.  Sophisticated business people understand that entrepreneurs often undertake considerable risk in their business ventures.  Business risk involves the inherent potential for both profit and for loss.  When the debts of a business become so excessive that they threaten the ability of that business to continue as a going concern, a business bankruptcy case could offer a way back to solvency.

“A strategic commercial bankruptcy can sometimes result in a stronger, more profitable business enterprise going forward.”

First, consider the affect that a bankruptcy case might have on your business in terms of reputation within your industry.  Certain types of businesses suffer from the mere fact of having filed a bankruptcy case.  If you think your customer base would be substantially diminished as a consequence of filing a bankruptcy case, you should weigh that against the benefits you expect from filing a bankruptcy case (a temporary 20% loss of revenue may be tolerable if it eliminates a large chunk of debt).  Second, talk to your bankruptcy attorney about the benefits your company could see as a result of filing a bankruptcy case.  Your bankruptcy attorney should identify issues that are likely to arise in your particular case.  If your business has aggressive creditors, your bankruptcy lawyer should be able to anticipate the strategy those creditors will take in the bankruptcy case.

What Type of Business Bankruptcy Makes Sense for Your Business?

There is more than one type of commercial bankruptcy.  If you expect to continue operating your business after filing your bankruptcy, you will most likely file a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.  Under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code, you will retain operational control over your business as a “debtor in possession.”  You will be able to conduct the day to day affairs of your business and to make transactions in the ordinary course of that business.  However, if you wish to undertake any transactions outside of the ordinary course of business (things like selling all of the assets of the business), your bankruptcy lawyer will need to seek the approval of the Bankruptcy Court.

Under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code, you will give up control of your business and turn over all accounts and records to a Chapter 7 Trustee who will liquidate the assets of the business for the benefit of its creditors and distribute proceeds according to the priorities set forth in the Bankruptcy Code.

Business Bankruptcy Exit Strategy

Before you file your business bankruptcy, you should know what your exit strategy will be.  In most successful business bankruptcy cases, the debtor files a plan of reorganization.  In order to become effective, the Bankruptcy Court must confirm the plan of reorganization and the bankruptcy disclosure statement describing it.  A plan may be approved by the creditors or confirmed over the objection of creditors through a process known as “cram down.”  To be confirmed, a plan must meet several tests, including that it must be fair and equitable, be in the best interest of creditors and meet all other requirements of the Bankruptcy Code.

Increase your chances of success by consulting with an experienced business bankruptcy lawyer in Pittsburgh today.

How the Automatic Stay Works in Bankruptcy Case

The United States Bankruptcy Code provides for an automatic stay upon the filing of any bankruptcy petition. 11 U.S.C. § 362. The effect of the automatic stay is both immediate and broad. The stay halts law suits, stops sheriff sales and lien enforcement, attempts to garnish, repossess property or evict. With few exceptions, filing a bankruptcy case will halt any adverse legal action. In fact, section 362(k) of the Bankruptcy Code provides that debtors are entitled to damages for violations of the automatic stay and, when those violations are willful, a court can award punitive damages to the debtor.
In a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy case, a debtor might file a bankruptcy petition to prevent a sale and, under the provisions of Chapter 13, propose a plan to repay the mortgage arrears over a period of three to five years. In a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy case, the automatic stay could be used to prevent a judgment from getting entered against the debtor and, thereby avoid the fixing of a judgment lien on that debtor’s real estate. Also important to most debtors, the automatic stay prevents creditors from attempting to collect debts. This means that the harassing telephone calls from creditors and collection agencies will end.
From a logical perspective, the automatic stay must have broad application and be strictly enforced–otherwise the fresh start provided by a bankruptcy case would not exist, creditors would simply continue to attempt to collect upon their debts. The automatic stay provides debtors with breathing room.
How long does the automatic stay last? It ends when the debtor receives a discharge and the case closes but it can end sooner. A creditor can petition the bankruptcy court for relief from stay under section 362(d) of the Bankruptcy Code. Typically, an unpaid first mortgage creditor that will not be paid through a Chapter 13 plan will seek relief from stay to foreclose upon the debtor’s interest in the property subject to the mortgage. If a creditor is granted relief from stay, the stay is modified to the extent permitted by the Order of the Bankruptcy Court to allow that only that creditor to pursue its claims.
The automatic stay is one of the most important tools in the bankruptcy toolbox. To find out whether the automatic stay can help you protect your assets and interests in property, you should contact a Pittsburgh Bankruptcy Attorney for a free initial consultation.
(412) 925-8194

Bankruptcy Exemptions and “The Price is Right”

Bankruptcy exemptions are a privilege belonging to individual debtors in bankruptcy cases. An exemption permits a debtor to shield property that a trustee might otherwise take to pay creditors. Most, but not all exemptions are subject to dollar limits (e.g., a debtor may exempt $3,450 in one motor vehicle, 11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(2)). Under the Federal exemption scheme, a debtor also has a “wildcard exemption” of $1,150, that can be amplified by the unused portion of the debtor’s homestead exemption up to $10,825. The wildcard exemption can be applied to protect any interest of a debtor in property.

Often, debtors face difficult valuation questions for certain assets. What is the value of a one-third interest in a nascent business? How much is a gas lease worth when the lessee has not begun production and the debtor does not know when she will receive royalties or how much those royalties will be?

In 2010, the United States Supreme Court decided that a debtor’s exemption is limited to the dollar amount scheduled (even when the scheduled value and the value of the exemption are equal). Schwab v. Reilly, 130 S. Ct. 265 (2010). Thus, in the context of a gas lease, if production begins after a case is commenced and the debtor exempted $1.00 of her interest under the lease, she could find the royalties in excess of $1.00 are subject to claims by her creditors or a bankruptcy trustee. The Schwab case involved a debtor that understated the value of an asset but argued that, since the exempted value was equal to the scheduled value, the asset was no longer within the reach of the debtor’s creditors. The Court disagreed and limited the value of the exemption to the amount the debtor actually claimed exempt. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently ruled that Schwab was not limited to cases in which debtors purposefully understated the value of assets in order to protect more property than envisioned by the exemptions scheme. In re Orton, No. 11-4157 (3d Cir. Jul. 20, 2012). Rather, debtors are stuck with the value of their claimed exemptions. Therefore, even when a debtor puts a good faith estimate on the value of the asset and exempts the property up to that value, future appreciation (think of the gas well that starts producing after the debtor claims exemptions) in excess of the claimed exemption inures to the benefit of the debtor’s creditors.

Debtors and their bankruptcy lawyers are now forced to play a game of “The Price is Right” with assets. The Schwab and Orton decisions mean that, more than ever, it is important to develop a well-considered bankruptcy strategy with your bankruptcy lawyer.

Cramdown on Secured Creditors in Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Case

For a bankruptcy court to confirm a chapter 11 plan, generally a debtor’s creditors must either be unharmed by that plan or have accepted it. 11 U.S.C. § 1129(a)(8). Under certain conditions, a debtor may cramdown or, have a plan confirmed over the objection of impaired creditors. 11 U.S.C. § 1129(b). Recently, the Supreme Court examined the conditions under which a debtor can sell property that secures a debt to creditor over the objection of that creditor. RadLAX Gateway Hotel, LLC v. Amalgamated Bank, 132 S. Ct. 2065 (May 29, 2012).
In the RadLAX case, the debtor proposed to sell its property over the objection of its secured lender, without permitting that lender the right to credit-bid, or bid using its secured claim as credit instead of new money. The secured creditor argued that 11 U.S.C. § 1129(b)(2)(A)(ii) provided it with a right to credit bid at the sale of its collateral. The debtor relied upon 11 U.S.C. § 1129(b)(2)(A)(iii), claiming that the sale gave the secured creditor the “indubitable equivalent” of its claim.
The RadLAX court reasoned section 1129(b)(2)(A) provided three paths to confirm a plan over the objection of a secured party. First, the plan could provide that the secured party retain its lien and accept deferred payments. Second, the plan could provide for the sale of the collateral securing the debtor’s obligation to the secured creditor (allowing the secured party to credit-bid) and, third, it could provide the secured party the “indubitable equivalent” of its claim. Since the second cramdown method applied specifically to sales of collateral and the third related, more broadly, to “the realization of such holders of the indubitable equivalent of [their] claims,” the more specific provision had to be given effect of the general one. RadLAX Gateway Hotel LLC at 2071-72. Thus, Supreme Court affirmed the opinion of the Court of Appeals, rejecting the debtor’s proposed sale.

Pittsburgh Bankruptcy Attorney

Pittsburgh bankruptcy attorneys can help you through some very difficult situations. Bankruptcy Attorneys in Pittsburgh know that, like the rest of the nation, Pennsylvania residents have seen their unemployment rates rise over the past few years.  The loss of income from losing a job can make it impossible to pay credit card debt.  Worse, unemployment can result in falling behind on your mortgage payments and home foreclosure.  For tough situations, you need a tough bankruptcy lawyer.

If you are working and want to stay in your home, a Pittsburgh bankruptcy lawyer may be able to keep you in your house by forcing your mortgage lender to accept payments over a period of 36 to 60 months.  If you owe tens or hundreds of thousands in credit card, medical or business debt, a pittsburgh bankruptcy attorney could help you discharge some or all of that debt with little or no payment.  Unlike debt consolidation and negotiation companies, a good bankruptcy lawyer does not merely take money from you and permit creditors to file judgments against you, leaving you defenselessly hoping to settle at some uncertain point in the future.  The best bankruptcy lawyers will tell you the effect of your filing a bankruptcy case before you ever sign a voluntary petition.

To make your decision, call today for a free consultation with a Pittsburgh Bankruptcy Attorney.

What is a Bankruptcy Exemption?

Bankruptcy exemptions are critical to individual bankruptcy filers.  Exemptions give debtors in bankruptcy cases the ability to shield certain of their assets from the reach of their creditors.  A fresh start would not be very meaningful if it meant that you had to turn over every stitch on your back and every cent you have.  The United States Bankruptcy Code permits states to provide their own set of exemptions to debtors or to allow debtors to use the exemptions contained in section 522(d) of the Bankruptcy Code.  Some states, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, allow debtors to select between the federal exemption scheme and the exemptions provided under state law.  The Pennsylvania exemptions are scattered through numerous statutes and still others are “common law exemptions,” contained within the written opinions of state courts of law.  Debtors should consult with a bankruptcy lawyer to determine which set of exemptions would protect more assets.

Generally speaking, the federal exemptions permit a debtor to exempt $21,625 in property that the debtor or a dependent of the debtor uses as a residence.  If debtors are married, filing a joint bankruptcy and own their home together, they can protect even more equity by applying both exemptions to their property.  In the case of a married couple where only one spouse has significant debt but both spouses own the home, it may make sense to apply the Pennsylvania exemptions.  In Pennsylvania, married couples who own a home usually hold it as “tenants by the entireties.”  The couple’s interest in property is not divisible and, therefore, creditors of only one spouse cannot resort to that property for payment.

Under the federal exemptions, debtors may exempt $3,450 of their interest in a vehicle.  In a simple example, if you own a vehicle that is worth $10,000 but, upon which you still owe $8,000, you may exempt your $2,000 interest in the vehicle in a bankruptcy case and continue paying on the $8,000 loan to keep the vehicle.  The federal exemptions also permit a debtor to exempt $1,450 of jewelry, $11,525 in household goods, furnishings, wearing apparel, appliances, books, animals, crops or musical instruments, $2,175 in “tools of the trade” of a debtor and most life insurance and retirement assets.  Additionally, the federal exemptions allow for  a “wild card” exemption of $1,150 in any property, which is increased up to $10,825 by any unused homestead exemption.  Thus, if a debtor does not need to exempt equity in a home, that debtor has more flexibility to exempt other property through the use of the wild card exemption.

Knowing how your exemptions work is a prerequisite to getting a meaningful fresh start in a bankruptcy case.  If you have questions about bankruptcy exemptions, you should consult with a bankruptcy attorney for a free consultation.  To find out how, call (412) 925-8194 now.

How Do I Pay for Bankruptcy?

How can I afford to pay for a bankruptcy case? We hear the question so often that we thought it was time to post an answer on our blog. We think that the idea that someone can be too poor to file bankruptcy is as unjust as being too poor to afford an attorney in a criminal case. In 1963, the United States Supreme Court decided that people should not be denied access to a lawyer in a criminal matter involving the potential for imprisonment simply because they could not afford to pay that lawyer. Neither the United States Supreme Court nor the United States Congress has seen fit to provide similar protections to those facing financial ruin and in desperate need of a fresh start.

Robleto Law is proud to work with its clients to find payment arrangements that our clients can live with. Often, we will agree to represent individuals for as little as $100 down. When we agree to take on a case, your creditors become our problem. They are no longer permitted to make harassing phone calls to you–we deal with them. We have broad flexibility to create payment terms that will work for you. We can accept a credit card payment from a party that is not filing a bankruptcy case (think, parents or a non-filing spouse) or we can set up automated bank transfers at no additional cost.

If you believe you may have trouble paying for a bankruptcy case, contact us. We want you to have a fresh start, freedom from your debts and the ability to create a new financial future and improve your credit.

Call us today. 412-925-8194

Multiple Bankruptcy Cases Pittsburgh

A Pittsburgh bankruptcy lawyer can tell you whether a prior bankruptcy filing will affect your ability to qualify for bankruptcy protection or a bankruptcy discharge.

Generally speaking, if you are an individual and you have not filed a bankruptcy case in the previous 8 years, you will qualify to be a debtor under the Bankruptcy Code. If you have filed a bankruptcy case within the last 8 years, your rights will depend on the chapter under which you previously filed and whether you received a discharge of your debts. Additionally, other factors (such as the dismissal of your prior bankruptcy case) could affect your rights.

If you have received a discharge under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code within the previous 8 years, you will not be eligible to receive a second discharge under Chapter 7. If you have received a discharge under Chapter 13, you cannot receive a discharge under Chapter 7 within 6 years of the prior Chapter 7 discharge; however, you may receive a second discharge under Chapter 13 after only 4 years.

Even if you are not eligible to receive a discharge under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 of the United States Bankruptcy Code, you may still wish to file a case under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code to protect your home from foreclosure or avoid some other adverse action.

If you have a prior bankruptcy case and need to file another bankruptcy, you should reach out to a Pittsburgh bankruptcy lawyer.

Can a Trust File a Bankruptcy Case?

In a word, maybe. Let’s take a step back and think about the general nature of a trust. Very often, trusts are a vehicle for transferring wealth in a way that is tax favorable and avoids court oversight and litigation. Often, in such cases, a trust acts as a safety deposit box into which a grantor places assets that a trustee will dole out to beneficiaries of that trust pursuant to the trust’s terms.

In other cases, a trust is less like a safety deposit box and much more like a business. A trustee, trust employees or professionals paid through a trust make decisions that put property in the trust (commonly called the “corpus” or the “res”) at risk with the goal of increasing the value of the corpus.

As much as it may seem counter-intuitive to some, bankruptcy protection should be available to individuals and businesses. That concept is so essential to our economy that its basis lies in Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution. Individuals and businesses have creditors who are interested in getting paid as much as possible from the estate of a debtor in bankruptcy and bankruptcy law provides an orderly process for the fair treatment of creditors.

Now, back to the question of whether a trust can file a bankruptcy case. A trust that acts as a business has all of the hallmarks of a debtor. It may have an income stream from its operations that is not sufficient to meet the demands of its creditors but it generates income and has assets and liabilities. It may even have some value as a going concern. It should be permitted to file a bankruptcy case. Contrast this with our “safety deposit box” trust. A safety deposit box trust should not have the right to file bankruptcy for the same reason that your house is not able to file bankruptcy to avoid foreclosure.

The reality of a safety deposit box trust is that its beneficiaries only have an interest in the property contained within the trust. For simplicity, let’s imagine a safety deposit box trust thats res consists only of cash and that pays its sole beneficiary the interest from the res on a monthly basis. There is no reasonable justification to allow that trust to shield itself from the claims of its creditors via the bankruptcy process. To do so would allow the trust beneficiary to reap the benefit of funds to which the trust creditors are entitled.

And now to complicate matters. The safety deposit box/business trust distinction is not one that grantors and the drafters of trusts make. Trusts come in more than 31 flavors. Additionally, the Bankruptcy Code provides no clear delineation and the case law varies by jurisdiction and typically involves an analysis of the trust formation documents and the trust’s business activities. To determine whether a particular trust is eligible to be a debtor under the United States Bankruptcy Code, you should contact commercial insolvency professional.

Locate Chapter 13 Lawyer in Pittsburgh

Need to find a Chapter 13 lawyer in Pittsburgh? Not every bankruptcy lawyer files cases under Chapter 13 and it’s important for debtors to understand the process. Unlike a pure liquidation bankruptcy under Chapter 7, a bankruptcy under Chapter 13 involves a Chapter 13 Plan under which debtors “reorganize” by paying some or all of their debts over a period of 36 to 60 months.

There are clear advantages and disadvantages to Chapter 13. A reorganization can help you to keep assets like a house or car when you are behind on the payments. Also, the period for which credit reporting agencies report the filing is shorter than under Chapter 7. A Chapter 13 could be the best path for you but you should not file any case without consulting with a bankruptcy attorney.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the process. Look for a lawyer that offers a free consultation and only enter into an agreement if you feel comfortable with your law firm. Contact us if you need to locate a Chapter 13 lawyer in Pittsburgh.