Sunday, December 20, 2015

Bankruptcy - How can I file bankruptcy with $50,000 in my retirement account?

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee
Too many times people walk into my office to file bankruptcy after have spent down their entire retirement account. It is especially disheartening when it is someone who is fast approaching retirement age. It is unfortunate when people spend their retirement savings and find themselves filing for bankruptcy anyway. The truth is their account was probably protected under bankruptcy law.
The purpose of bankruptcy is to help people get back on track. The law recognizes that retirement savings is important to stay on track after everything is done. As a result, most retirement accounts that are funded by pre-tax dollars from an employer or hold tax exempt money deposited by the account owner are fully exempt from creditors in a bankruptcy case, That means 100% of the money in a retirement account may be protected and the debtor would be allowed to keep it.

Having money in a retirement account should not stop a person from filing bankruptcy. A retirement account may be a reason to file bankruptcy. Because the money may be protected, thinking about tapping into that account may be the warning sign people need to admit it is time to file for bankruptcy.

If you want assistance, legal representation, or just want to know more about Mark Medvesky or our firm of Wells, Hoffman, Holloway & Medvesky LLP, check out our website at

#bankruptcy #Chapter7 #Chapter13 #MontgomeryCounty #lawfirm #BucksCounty #Pennsylvania

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Bankruptcy - How long should it take to file a case?

This is a hard question to answer. I have had several conversations with other people and carefully reviewed the histories of my own cases and practices. The professionals have told me cases should be filed as quickly as a week or two after being retained to others believing up to 90 days is reasonable. A review of my files showed me I have filed non-emergency cases as quick as three weeks and a few cases took months to get filed.  

There are many variables. Obviously, a pending garnishment or sheriff's sale can require almost immediate filing with the minimal information. A debtor still must complete credit counseling before filing but it can be done rather quickly.

The law firm's resources and attorney's style can influence the timing as well. If a firm has staff dedicated to its bankruptcy practice, it can reduce the time to file. Some attorneys may rely more on what a client tells them and others may want more documents before filing.

One of the main variables is the clients and debtors themselves. Many people do not realize the number of records required to prepare a bankruptcy case. Attorneys have a duty to investigate the case before it is filed.

The bankruptcy petition, schedules and statements contain information on a debtor's family, income, inventory of assets, debts, leases, banking, payment history, law suits, repossessions and much more.  When an entire bankruptcy package is complete and ready for filing, it is approximately 45 - 60 pages of information.

In order to complete these documents, debtors need to provide the previous six months of paystub, at least 3 months of bank records, four years of tax returns, valuations on real estate and automobiles, official social security card, loan documents, etc. Many attorneys hand out questionnaires and checklists to help a client gather the necessary records.  It takes time to gather this documentation and assemble the bankruptcy package.

To me, two weeks seems a little quick. When I have regular contact and the cooperation of a client, my goal is to have the case ready to file within thirty days.  The preparation can easily slip to 45 days when people are working or lack the technology to gather records. If a client is really working with me to get the case filed and giving me the things I need, I think any time over 60 days is too long.

There is no set time it should take to file a bankruptcy case. It will depend on the attorney's style, workload, and the client's ability to provide the necessary information. My goal is 30 - 45 days providing my clients have the time and fully cooperate.

If you want assistance, legal representation, or just want to know more about Mark Medvesky or our firm of Wells, Hoffman, Holloway & Medvesky LLP, check out our website at

#bankruptcy #Chapter7 #Chapter13 #MontgomeryCounty #lawfirm #BucksCounty #Pennsylvania

Saturday, December 12, 2015

USCIS - Updates Forms I-824 and I-817

It is important to check the dates on the forms and the instruction page on the USCIS website to make sure you are using the most current form. If they are accepting the earlier forms, it will state that on the website. Here are some changes ...

Direct from USCIS Bulletin:

"USCIS has published an update to:

·        Form I-824, Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition. New edition dated 10/21/15. (Starting 02/08/16, USCIS will only accept the 10/21/15 edition. Until then, you can use the 09/30/13 edition).

·        Form I-817, Application for Family Unity Benefits. New edition dated 10/05/15. (Starting 02/08/16, USCIS will only accept the 10/05/15 edition. Until then, you can use the 06/26/13 edition).

For more information, please visit USCIS Forms Updates page."
If you want assistance, legal representation, or just want to know more about Mark Medvesky or Wells, Hoffman, Holloway & Medvesky LLP, check out our website at
#BucksCounty #Immigration #lawyer #lawyers, #MontgomeryCounty #Souderton #Law_Firm

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

USCIS - Deadline to Register for Nepal TPS is Dec. 21, 2015

Deadline approaching quickly. Direct from USCIS Bulletin:

"The deadline for eligible nationals of Nepal (and people without nationality who last habitually resided in Nepal) to register for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is Monday, Dec. 21, 2015. This deadline marks the end of the 180-day initial registration period. The TPS designation for Nepal runs from June 24, 2015, through Dec. 24, 2016.


To be eligible for TPS, you must demonstrate that you meet all eligibility criteria, including that you have been both “continuously physically present” and “continuously residing” in the U.S. since June 24, 2015. You must also undergo thorough security checks. Individuals with certain criminal records or who pose a threat to national security are not eligible for TPS.


To register for TPS, you must submit:

  • Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status;
  • The Form I-821 application fee (or a fee-waiver request);
  • The biometric services fee (or a fee-waiver request) if you are 14 years of age or older;
  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, regardless of whether you want an Employment Authorization Document (EAD); and
  • The Form I-765 application fee (or a fee-waiver request), but only if you want an EAD. If you do not want an EAD, no application fee is required. There is no Form I-765 fee for initial applicants under the age of 14 or over 65; these applicants may receive their initial EAD cards for free.

Fees and Fee Waivers

If you cannot pay the fee, you may request that we waive the Form I-821 application fee, Form I-765 application fee, or biometric services fee by filing Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, or submitting a written request. You must also submit supporting documentation with your fee-waiver request. We will reject your TPS application if you do not submit the required filing fees or a properly documented fee-waiver request.

Additional Information

For more information about the designation of Nepal for TPS—including guidance on eligibility, the application process and where to file—visit, the Nepal TPS page or the Federal Register notice.

This Web alert is also available in Nepali.

For more information, visit our website."
If you want to know more about Mark Medvesky or Wells, Hoffman, Holloway & Medvesky LLP, check out our website at

#BucksCounty #Immigration #lawyer #lawyers, #MontgomeryCounty #Souderton #LawFirm

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Small Business/Personal Finance - things people can do to plan for income tax

As the year winds down and people prepare to take time to enjoy their holiday season, accountants, tax attorneys and other tax professionals start gearing up for the tax season that follows. While we have little control of our tax code, we can control how we take advantage of the benefits allowed by the code. I found this article that explains some of the simple things people can do lessen their tax burden.

Image courtesy of ratch0013 at
"Gail MarksJarvis: 8 easy ways to cut your taxes now" on the Miami Herald's website runs down a list of steps people can take to manage their tax burden. One of the suggestions may be particularly helpful to small business owners. The article mentions the idea of delaying income. I would suggest another consideration is taking as much income as possible this year too. If a company is just starting up or in a building phase, it may be advantageous to take income this year if the plan is to dramatically grow next year. Discussions about potential changes in tax rates between years due to growth may be a reasonable query. These are consideration a business owner should be discussing with their tax professional now.

Other steps include contributions to retirements funds, considering medical treatments that have been put off, pay school bills early, and dump bad investments before the end of the year. Check out the article for these ideas. If people find any of these options seem worthy of consideration, they should consult their accountant to ensure the moves will accomplish what they intend to accomplish with their tax planning. If there are legal issues connected to the options, people should include their attorneys in the discussion. 

If you want to know more about Mark Medvesky or Wells, Hoffman, Holloway & Medvesky LLP, check out our website at

#BucksCounty #Immigration #lawyer #lawyers, #MontgomeryCounty #Souderton #LawFirm #smallbusiness

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Small Business - USCIS Seeks Comments on Proposed Changes to Form I-9

Image courtesy of  imagerymajestic at
I do not usually place USCIS Regulation announcements up here. But the I-9 form is something that impacts every employer and many small business owners do not know enough about filling out the form. Because there can be significant penalties for incorrectly completing and maintaining employee I-9 forms, I think this notice is appropriate for posting. This may be a time when an owner of a small business might want to comment. Also, this is a great opportunity to raise awareness about a significant part of the hiring process that many owners consider "routine" and may not monitor as well as they should.

Direct from USCIS:
"USCIS published a notice in the Federal Register on Nov. 24, 2015, to inform the public of proposed changes to Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. The public may provide comments on the proposed changes for 60 days, until Jan. 25, 2015.

Many of the proposed changes to Form I-9 are intended to help reduce technical errors and help customers complete the form on their computer after they have downloaded it from For instance, the form:

  • Checks certain fields to ensure information is entered correctly;
  • Provides additional spaces to enter multiple preparers and translators;
  • Includes drop-down lists and calendars;
  • Provides instructions on the screen that users can access to complete each field;
  • Includes buttons that will allow users to access the instructions electronically, print the form and clear the form to start over;
  • Provides a dedicated area to enter additional information that employers are currently required to notate in the margins of the form; and
  • Will generate a quick-response matrix barcode, or QR code, once the form is printed and can be used to streamline audit processes.
Other proposed changes include:

  • Requiring employees to provide only other last names used in Section 1, rather than all other names used;
  • Streamlining the certification in Section 1 for certain foreign nationals; and
  • Separating the instructions from the form to bring the form in line with USCIS’ practices.

Submit a Comment

To view the proposed form and instructions, go to the Form I-9 notice at To submit a comment, enter USCIS-2006-0068 in the search box and click the “Comment Now!” button. After completing all the necessary fields, click “Submit Comment.”

After the 60-day period

After the 60-day period ends, USCIS may make changes to the form based on comments received and will publish a second notice in the Federal Register. The public will have an additional 30 days to provide comments on proposed changes. USCIS will notify the public about these comment periods on I-9 Central.

Which Form Should I Use?

Employers must complete Form I-9 for all newly hired employees to verify their identity and authorization to work in the United States. The current version of Form I-9 is available on USCIS’ online I-9 resource center at Employers must continue to use the current version of Form I-9 until the Office of Management and Budget approves the proposed version and USCIS posts it on I-9 Central.
I-9 Central includes information about employer and employee rights and responsibilities, step-by-step instructions for completing the form, and information on acceptable documents for establishing identity and employment authorization. Subscribe to I-9 Central to receive updates and alerts."
As a side note on this issue, business owner and their HR professionals should know that dictating what documents your company will accept from the approved list on the I-9 form can be a violation of the law and result in fines. Any document or combination of documents as identified and allowed in the instructions on the I-9 form must be accepted. For instance, a company cannot determine it will only accept Passports and no other documents. That would be a violation.

Also, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can come into a company and check for I-9 compliance. A compliance inspection can happen as a result of an investigation due to an incident in the work place or as a random check as part of its general enforcement duties. It is wise for a company to do audits on its I-9's from time to time to make sure they are complete, current, and that it has not imposed illegal restrictions.

If you want to know more about Mark Medvesky or Wells, Hoffman, Holloway & Medvesky LLP, check out our website at

#BucksCounty #Immigration #lawyer #lawyers, #MontgomeryCounty #Souderton #LawFirm #smallbusiness

Sunday, November 22, 2015

USCIS Announces Addition of 16 Countries Eligible to Participate in the H-2A and H-2B Visa Programs

Direct from USCIS:

"USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the Department of State, have added Andorra, Belgium, Brunei, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, Singapore, Taiwan**, and Timor-Leste to the list of countries whose nationals are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B Visa programs for the coming year...

The H-2A and H-2B Visa programs allow U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural and nonagricultural jobs, respectively. Typically, USCIS only approves H-2A and H-2B petitions for nationals of countries the Secretary of Homeland Security has designated as eligible to participate in the programs. USCIS, however, may approve H-2A and H-2B petitions for nationals of countries not on the list if it is determined to be in the interest of the United States." For a more complete list, see the USCIS announcement.
If you want to know more about Mark Medvesky or Wells, Hoffman, Holloway & Medvesky LLP, check out our website at

#BucksCounty #Immigration #lawyer #lawyers, #MontgomeryCounty #Souderton #LawFirm

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Does it matter what Bankruptcy does to your credit score?

Well ... does it matter? I guess it is the age old response, "it depends." One of the standard questions I get when I first meet new clients is, "What will this do to my credit score?" My response usually is, "What is your score now?" By the time people come to me, most of them already have severely damaged credit. My personal thought is the score no longer has a high priority at this point. 
I found this article - 3 Things Bankruptcy Does to Your Credit Score - and thought so what? The points the article makes are:

1. "Bankruptcy Causes Your Credit Score to Plummet ... It is one of the worst things you can do to your scores."  I do have clients that come to me and have kept their payments up to date so their score is high. But this is not the norm. Even if their scores are not affected, they cannot afford to take on anymore debt and they are crumbling under the debt they are carrying. Once a person gets beyond the point they can afford to pay his or her debt, significantly damaging his or her credit score is usually just a matter of time anyway.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at
2. "A Bankruptcy on your Credit Report Causes Long-Term Damage ... Having bankruptcy information listed on your credit report will impact your credit for years." Late payments, missed payments, repossessions, judgments and foreclosures do to. Every month you make a late payment, you extend the bad debt on your report. These events may not be as bad as bankruptcy but they impact a person's ability to access credit all the same.

3. "The Negative Impact on your Credit Diminishes Over Time ... A year (or two or three) after the date a bankruptcy first appears on your credit report, its impact will shrink until eventually, the bankruptcy information is removed from your credit report altogether and is no longer a factor in your credit scores."  This is the key and purpose of bankruptcy. The idea is to break the trend and reset finances. Once the debtor files bankruptcy and hits the reset button, he or she needs to work and take deliberate steps to rebuild his or her credit. At this point, credit score and rebuilding it becomes a priority again. Bankruptcy is a long-term process.
Here are a couple more articles on rebuilding credit after Bankruptcy:

Rebuilding credit after Bankruptcy

When will I be able to buy a new home after bankruptcy?

You can overcome bankruptcy

Debt What?

If people truly have the resources to pay their debts and can protect their credit score, they probably should not be filing bankruptcy in the first place. For those who truly are in over their heads, I would argue credit scores are irrelevant because they cannot use the score and it will ultimately drop anyway.

If you want assistance, legal representation, or just want to know more about Mark Medvesky or our firm of Wells, Hoffman, Holloway & Medvesky LLP, check out our website at

#bankruptcy #Chapter7 #Chapter13 #MontgomeryCounty #lawfirm #BucksCounty #Pennsylvania

Monday, November 16, 2015

Things to consider before the Fed raises rates ...

Just a quick article. Everyone is predicting that the Fed will raise interest rates next month. I came across this article that I thought was interesting:

Image courtesy of jscreationzs
5 moves to make before the Fed raises rates - Obviously, it talks about 5 things people should consider doing within the next month. Three of the suggestions relate to the work I do ... bankruptcy.

"Pay down credit card debt. If you can, pay down as much as possible, given that credit cards will start to hike their interest rates soon after the Fed makes its move, Schulz noted. "Even a small increase means money out of your pocket," he said.

Take advantage of zero-percent balance transfers. It's still easy to find these offers, so consider taking advantage of one now, especially if you can't quickly pay down your current credit card debt. If you're struggling to pay off your cards and have a high APR card, Schulz said, it could be time to think about one of these cards. Some of the best zero-percent balance transfer options include Slate from Chase and Capital One QuicksilverOne Rewards, according to a new survey.

Refinance your mortgage. While mortgage rates are still near record lows -- and the Fed's boosting of short-term rates has only an indirect impact on long-term rates -- the Mortgage Bankers Association sees 30-year fixed mortgage rates rising to 4.5 percent next year and 5.2 percent in 2017. For homeowners with an adjustable-rate mortgage, it's an especially good time to consider refinancing into a fixed-rate loan."

These are the types of events that can drive people into my office. If you are paying the minimums of on your credit cards now, the slightest boost can put the payments beyond a person's reach. People who have been living on credit should evaluate their financial circumstance and plan for this change.

If you want assistance, legal representation, or just want to know more about Mark Medvesky or our firm of Wells, Hoffman, Holloway & Medvesky LLP, check out our website at

#bankruptcy #Chapter7 #Chapter13 #MontgomeryCounty #lawfirm #BucksCounty #Pennsylvania

Bankruptcy - When is it a "good" time to file?

Image courtesy of artur84 at
When is it a good time ... the right time... to file for bankruptcy? I think this is probably one of the most important questions when preparing someone's case for  bankruptcy. Clients and attorneys need to look forward as well as in the past. This should be done as soon as someone realizes they are having financial trouble. This early review could give debtors options that can be missed by jumping too soon or waiting too long.

If a debtor files too early, I think an attorney may be setting their client up for problems down the road. Wait too long and a person can spend down savings and retirement money only prolonging a bankruptcy filing but not avoiding it ... or maybe wait long enough to miss qualifying for Chapter 7 and be forced into a Chapter 13 payment plan.

When clients come to me to discuss bankruptcy, I talk to them about their employment. If they are unemployed or hold a temporary position, I look for ways to delay filing without spending down assets. This is difficult since they are realizing they may not be able to pay new debts. I explore their prospects of new jobs and future financial plans with them. I want to help my clients prevent creating new debt after bankruptcy due to the lack of sufficient income.

Also, a review of the debtor's spending for the preceding 90 days is important. Some purchases can be presumed as fraudulent if a person files bankruptcy within 90 days of the purchase. While a creditor can still claim the same purchase was fraudulent after 90 days, waiting until 90 days have passed will remove the presumption. This is a better position for the debtor if the creditor challenges the discharge of that debt.

Problems with filing too late are more obvious. I cannot say how many of my clients have come to me after spending month and years trying to pay off debt before filing bankruptcy. Many times they have spent all their savings including their retirement funds. I recently met with a woman who spent her IRA  on debt, entered into a debt management plan, and made three years of payments. She managed to pay off three of her six credit cards before her bills overwhelmed her again. She is now three months behind on her mortgage. Now, she must chose between a Chapter 13 payment plan to keep her home or filing for Chapter 7 and giving up the house.

There is also a way to use Chapter 7 and then Chapter 13 but that is a topic for another blog article. The point is, after years of paying, it seems she is at the same point now as she was when she started the debt management plan three years ago. She may even be worse off. She is not the first person I worked with that has a similar story. There is no real way to know what would have happened if she filed three years ago but my thought is filing three years ago would have been better.

Besides spending money without any real benefit, a person who gets a new job with an increased salary can end up forced into filing under Chapter 13. Because he or she started earning an income above the median income, he or she can lose the option of filing under Chapter 7. If the person still needs bankruptcy protection, he or she will be forced to pay his or her remaining disposable income to unsecured creditors for five years.

I had another client who came to me and was fully employed after several years of illness and unemployment. He had built up significant debt. When he came to me, he was within a month of losing his eligibility to file for protection using Chapter 7. We filed his bankruptcy the last week of the month allowing him to use Chapter 7 and completing his case within months instead of years.

I had a third client who wasn't eligible to file for Chapter 7 protection because he was just over the median income but he was under-paying his child support. Once he was ordered to pay the appropriate child support, he dropped below the median income and made it through the "means" test. However, he was coming up on the time of the year he was eligible to receive his annual bonus, which was not a guaranteed figure.

But it didn't really matter because any amount would probably have placed my client over the median income again. By paying attention to past and future events, we were able to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case between the different pay events.

Not all cases require such specific timing. But people cannot know about timing issues if they are not looking for them. The parties need to look forward as well as what has happened in the past. Don't wait until the last moment if you are having financial problems. Talk to someone early about all your options.

If you want assistance, legal representation, or just want to know more about Mark Medvesky or our firm of Wells, Hoffman, Holloway & Medvesky LLP, check out our website at

#bankruptcy #Chapter7 #Chapter13 #MontgomeryCounty #lawfirm #BucksCounty #Pennsylvania

Friday, November 13, 2015

Small Business - still trying to figure out the Affordable Care Act?

As the presidential race heats up, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to be a key topic. But what ever happens the next election, small business owners will need to prepare for a reporting requirement starting in January 2016.

Image courtesy of stockimages
I found this article on the Lexology Blog during my daily reading and thought it might be helpful to other business owners:

"The Affordable Care Act (ACA): what employers need to know"

It offer an overview of the act and some of the key provisions for small business. It explains that a small employer is 2 - 50 "Full-Time Equivalent" (FTE) employees. To be an FTE employee a person either works 30hrs/week or 130hrs/month. The article links to a calculator to help employers calculate how many FTE employees they employ.

It also talks about reporting requirements, the insurance exchange set up for small business, and required disclosure to employees. If you are a small business owner and your accountant has been talking to you about ACA, this article may help you understand what he or she is talking about.

If you want assistance, legal representation, or just want to know more about Mark Medvesky or our firm of Wells, Hoffman, Holloway & Medvesky LLP, check out our website at

#MontgomeryCounty #lawfirm #BucksCounty #Pennsylvania