Saturday, December 31, 2016

Immigration - simple tip - have you moved? don't forget to change your address with USCIS

I also practice immigration law, mostly for families. One of the common mistakes I am finding with my clients is they move and do not realize they need to inform US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Most non-U.S. citizens must report a change of address within 10 days of moving within the United States or its territories. This can cause problems as a person moves from an immigrant visa to a permanent legal resident to a US Citizen.

It is a pretty simple process. On the USCIS website, it has a page - Change of Address Information. It provides guidance and gives you access to the AR-11 form most people need to use to notify USCIS of the address change. This can help avoid unnecessary problems.

If you want to know more about Mark Medvesky or Medvesky Law Office, LLC, check out my website at 

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

Experiencing financial hardship? What assets should you use first in case bankruptcy happens?

Image by Stuart Miles at
When people find themselves in tight financial times, one of the things they start to do is liquidate assets ... they start selling things and cashing in investments. While that can make sense, people should plan how they use the assets they have available. Many times selling things just isn't enough.

So, why does it matter what a person sells? It matters because some assets can be protected in a bankruptcy and others cannot. So if a people cannot prevent bankruptcy with the property they own, I suggest it is better to save the things that can be protected in the bankruptcy.

The main asset and easiest asset to tap is usually a retirement account. Retirement accounts can be substantial. The problem with withdrawing money early is the cost to do it. First a person probably needs to pay the taxes on the money. Then they must pay a penalty. Usually, a person who withdraws $4,000 from his or her retirement account keeps only about $2,200 in cash. The rest is consumed by taxes and penalties. In bankruptcy, this money is usually 100% safe.

Some equity in homes can be protected. Investment  property may not be safe from the trustee. This is an area of consideration as a source funding people use. Home equity loans and second mortgages take equity out of your home. Once you use your property as collateral for a loan, it will probably need to be paid. By maxing out your home, a person uses value he or she could have protected in bankruptcy.

The recent event that caused me to consider this topic was a recent consultation. I met with a woman who started having financial trouble a couple years ago after a major illness, which resulted in temporary disability and long term limitations on her ability to work. When she entered her financial downturn, she had a decent retirement fund, a home and a rental property with several apartments and a commercial space.

Like many people, the first asset she liquidated was her retirement fund. She spent that down to zero. Then she worked looked into a home equity loan and mortgage modification. That wasn't working and she was in fear of foreclosure. Meanwhile, her rental property was earning enough to pay for itself and  even giving a small return.

If I could have met with her before she started doing anything, I think I would have reserved the retirement money, discussed the potential sale of the home, and explore the possibility of moving into an apartment in the rental property making it her home. That may have been a complete solution ... and maybe not.

I do not know if this would have worked. My point is, I did not get the impression this option or any other options were considered. Dealing with debt can be complex. Planning earlier may be able to help to minimize the damage.

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

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

Saturday, November 19, 2016

One counselor does not fit all circumstances - talk to a bankruptcy attorney too

Almost everyone has a person or two they talk to for advice. Some people have a professional they use. Some people use accountants as their primary advisor, some have trusted business people, and others use financial planners or insurance professionals. Over the last several weeks, I have had the opportunity to speak to several financial planners during networking sessions. It was my thought that there could be times when I could help them help their clients. I think if they have clients pulling money from their retirement accounts or liquidating assets, they could send them my way to see if we can minimize their loss.

Image courtesy of Ambro at
I guess I wasn't surprised by their responses. The first planner responded, "if I have someone to send to you, then I failed at my job." Another planner said "I would try to work out some type of financing for them."
They just don't understand bankruptcy.  First of all, bankruptcy usually results from unfortunate and unforeseen circumstances. No one has failed anything... life happens. Thinking like that inhibits people from seeking help when it would work best. Secondly, piling new debt on top of old debt can cause more problems than it will solve. This doesn't make them poor counselors. They just may not understand Bankruptcy.
If a person has a financial planner when they experience major changes in his or her financial health, that may be a good place to start. However, a debtor should consider consulting a bankruptcy attorney too. A financial planner may not realize retirement funds, life insurance values, and joint property might be protected under the law.
I would never suggest to someone that they not talk to an advisor they trust. I am suggesting people should talk to more than one type of advisor, including a bankruptcy attorney, when they are in serious financial distress before they settle on a course of action.
If you want assistance, legal representation, or just want to know more about Mark M. Medvesky or Wells, Hoffman, Holloway & Medvesky LLP, check out our website at
Why you should not borrow from your retirement fund...

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

Thursday, November 10, 2016

"Can I Walk Away From My House After Bankruptcy?" - Bankruptcy Blog article from

Image courtesy of stockimages at
While working with a former bankruptcy client, I found this article; "Can I Walk Away From My House After Bankruptcy?" They completed their bankruptcy last year. Since then, their home has suffered continuous water seepage.

After several insurance claims and convincing the homeowner association to re-grade landscaping, the problem continues. They are considering walking away from the home.

I explained to them at the time they could walk away from the home since the mortgage was discharged during the bankruptcy. They did not sign a reaffirmation agreement before discharge.

The article author, Gerri Detweiler, simply recognizes almost as a side note,"When you do not reaffirm your mortgage in bankruptcy you can continue to live in your home as long as you make your payments. But you are no longer personally liable for the debt if you decide to leave."

The bottom-line is I sent a link to article to my clients and they found it helpful. So I thought I would share the article here on my blog to help other people looking for information.

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

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

Thursday, October 27, 2016

"It's a shame you can't file bankruptcy because you aren't behind on any payments." ... Who says these things?

This will be a quick post. I had a potential client call me today to discuss filing bankruptcy. We spoke about whether he should or shouldn't and if he did, what chapter ... 7 ... or 13. After about 50 minutes on the telephone, we were about ready to wrap up and give him time to think about his options and he said, "I have one more issue ... I am current on all my bills."

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at
I asked, "why is that an issue?" He explained he had an Employees Assistance Plan as a benefit at work and one of the services is financial counseling. He went to a financial counseling session and when he asked about bankruptcy, the counselor said something like, "it's shame you can't file bankruptcy because you aren't behind on any payments. You must be in default to file bankruptcy."

This is not true. Bankruptcy attorneys prefer people to come in before finances get so bad that debtors fall behind on bills and start "wasting" or liquidating their assets. If a person is thinking about bankruptcy, the best place to get answers about bankruptcy is to talk to a bankruptcy attorney.

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

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

USCIS recently updated Form N-400, Application for Naturalization

USCIS recently updated Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. The new edition is dated 09/29/16  and starts 12/1/16. USCIS will only accept the 09/29/16 and 03/26/16 editions after 12/1/16. Until then, people can use the 09/13/13 edition. For more information, please visit the USCIS Forms Updates page.

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 #Law_Firm

Monday, October 17, 2016

Debt Settlement ... why?

Image courtesy of punsayaporn
The internet is full of ads for debt settlement companies as well as articles on why people should not use these services. Debt Settlement (or sometimes referred to as Debt Consolidation) is when a company collects money from a debtor and creates a stockpile of cash to negotiate settlements on debt. For a more detailed discussion on the debt settlement see my Blog - Debt What? (see link below)

It never sounded like a good practice to me. Recently, I had two clients who came in and started down this path. Their experiences reinforced my belief.

After reviewing the cases I realized the clients would probably do better filing for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 13.

One client completed the paperwork and was going to pay about $750 per month to settle only his largest debts. He decided it was not a practical choice and came to me.

The second client started her payment program before her family talked her out of it. I got my first look at a payment schedule from one of these companies. She had approximately $32,000 in debt to settle. She was scheduled to make two payments of $664 and 46 payments of $465. After reviewing her payment schedule, I have to ask ... Why? why debt settlement ...

Under her debt settlement plan, she was going to pay fees of $9,000 to the settlement company and an "ESTIMATED" $13,000 to settle the full debt. The payment plan extended over 4 years. It should be noted at the bottom of the payment schedule in fine print, it stated, "Settlement Reserves above is only an estimate of the amount needed for settlement." To me, this means  the settlement is not guaranteed after 4 years and paying $13,000.  

Under a Chapter 13 payment plan, the same client could pay approximately $5,000 in fees (attorneys' fees and court costs) and $13,000 towards the debt and discharge the remaining debt. The payment plan in Chapter 13 could be completed in 3 years.

Why debt settlement when you can set up similar payments, pay about the same amount on your debt, save about $4,000, and do it all one year faster.

The irony of both these cases is these plans would have failed. When I sat down with these clients and asked questions probing and poured through their records, we found they did not have the disposable income they believed they had.

It is common for people who desperately want to pay their bills to over estimate the money they have to do it. We determined both clients were eligible to file for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 7, which is much less expensive and much shorter in duration. 

For those who want to review the details:

Though the plan listed my second client's gross income as about $1,700 per month when she was really bringing in around $1,100 and that was a disability payment. Giving the debt settlement company the benefit of the doubt, they probably relied on the debtors representation without much probing. The fee schedule had her paying about $664 per month to the plan for the first two months and $465 for the remaining 46 months. Depending which gross income figure you use, she committed to paying 27% - 42% of her gross income into this plan.

The more shocking part is the distribution of the payments. First, there is a $399 enrollment fee. After the enrolment fee is paid, there are a series of monthly fees: Service Fee - $340; Maintenance Fee - $59; Trust Fee - $10, which equals $409 per month to fees. This left her under $56 per month in her account to work on the settlement of her debt.

After six months, the service fee dropped to $213 per month for 18 more months. At the end of two years, my client would have paid $5,900 to the settlement company and saved or spent $3,600 towards settling her $32,000 debt. If she were able to make payments beyond two years, the service fees drop to $69 per month for the last two years. After four years, the plan "ESTIMATES" it will settle the debt for about $13,000 and charged a total of $9,000 in fees to the client saving the client a total of $10,000 on the debt.

Consider a similarly situated person who wants to pay the creditors something back and has $465 per month in disposable income to contribute to a payment plan. He or she may have an option to file for bankruptcy protection using Chapter 13 protections and only need to commit to a 36 month payment plan. The debtor would pay $310 filing fee, $50 for credit counseling, and $1,500 - $3,000 attorney's fee.

The cost to file for bankruptcy would be $3,360. Then the person would make 36 payments of $465, which equals $14,880. The bankruptcy trustee can charge up to 10% of the debtor's payments or $1,488, which would be deducted from the money being paid through the plan.

As a result, the debtor would pay approximately $4,848 in "service fees," $13,000 on the debt: saving $14,000 and one year's time in payments.

RECAP: A debtor in the financial situation described above could save $4,000 (or more depending on attorneys' fee and trustee fees actually charged) and 1 year in time using Chapter 13 Bankruptcy over a debt settlement plan.

In some instances, a person in a similar position will qualify for bankruptcy protection using Chapter 7. He or she would pay $335 filing fee, $50 for credit counseling, $1,000 - $2,000 in attorney's fees, and the case would be over in about six months.

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

Related Blog Entry - Debt What?

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

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Bankruptcy - why I do this ...

As a part of my practice, I attend creditors meetings with my clients. I attended a creditors meeting earlier this week. Like most clients, when we first met with them, they were incredibly apprehensive.

The wife had suffered a serious accident that left her in a progressively deteriorating physical condition. She had an advanced degree and held a lucrative professional position. She was unable to return to her profession after the accident.
Image by nuttakit at

Since the accident, medical bills grew and treatments were skipped due to costs.

The husband also held a well-paid position. Shortly after his wife's accident, he was laid off. He eventually found a job for much less than what he had been earning. Their household income leveled out to about a third of what they were making before the accident and lay off.

They tried everything to avoid bankruptcy. They spent the personal injury settlement she received from the accident.

They allowed their expensive cars to be repossessed and were living on their credit cards. They were like most people and expected the next month to be better than the previous month. They finally got to the point they started selling their holiday decorations on eBay.

Even after they hired us, they drug their feet. They took their time getting us information and sort of fell off the face of the earth a couple weeks at a time. Finally, we got everything together and filed their case.

The evening before the creditors meeting, they were nervous and called to ask questions. Again, very common for clients the night before.

The day of the meeting, I met my clients there at the meeting place. The wife, who happens to walk with a cane, came in looking as if she was a criminal client preparing to be sentenced. Her concern was clearly apparent on her face. He body was tense and she was quiet. Her husband was nervously chatty.

As we were waiting for the meeting, I went over everything with them. They both calmed a little and then it was our turn. Into meeting room we went. Everything went as smoothly as I had expected and we left the meeting.

Image courtesy of stockimages at
As we were leaving the meeting, the look of relief on the wife's face was astounding. Her whole demeanor changed and I think she even smiled. When we got into the hallway, the husband exclaimed, "that's it?" It seemed like years of tension were washed away in that meeting.

This a pretty common reaction after creditors meetings. This is why I do this ... practice bankruptcy law ... I find helping people through this stressful time ... helping them clear the slate and restart their lives ... This is some of the most satisfying work I have ever done.

The primary causes of bankruptcy for most people are usually under or unemployment; serious medical issues; and/or divorce/family/relationship issues. I have also had my share of clients who had an unsuccessful attempt at small business ownership.

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

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

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Location ... Location ... Location ... does it apply in bankruptcy cases?

I have often received telephone calls from people some distances away from my office. As we were talking, they realized my office was a little bit of a drive. When that happens, it is common to hear something like, "Gee ... I wanted to talk to someone closer to me."

Does distance matter? And should it be your first consideration when finding an attorney? I would argue the answer is "No" to both questions.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at
First, technology allows us to transfer information freely. Fax's, e-mail, and "dropbox" services can be used to conduct conversations and exchange information. I have had clients snap photos on their phone to send me copies of documents. If I have a client that is not comfortable with transferring documents using technology, I can usually accommodate any schedule to  drop off documents with an appointment outside normal business hours. Technology and flexible scheduling can close the physical distance between a client and his or her attorney.

Finding a bankruptcy attorney close to home or work does not need to be a primary consideration. I will generally see clients in my office as many times as they need to be comfortable. Most clients want and are satisfied with two office meetings. First, people generally want to meet up front. They want an in-person initial consultation. The second meeting is usually the time we review and sign the court filings.

But I feel I only really need to meet with clients once if that is more convenient and the desire of a client. I need to meet with once to prove they are who they say they are, review the filing with them, and have them approve and sign the petition and schedules. The next required meeting is the creditors meeting, which is held in a regularly scheduled place not connected to the attorney's office location.

Because technology, scheduling flexibility, and the limited number of necessary office visits can lessen impact of distance when dealing with bankruptcy attorneys, clients are free to choose attorneys further from their home or work.  

If you want assistance, legal representation, or just want to know more about Mark M. Medvesky or Wells, Hoffman, Holloway & Medvesky LLP, check out our website at
#bankruptcy Chapter7 #Chapter13 #MontgomeryCounty #lawfirm #BucksCounty #Pennsylvania

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Estate Planning - why should I plan? I'm not here ...

I came across this article that discusses the family's responsibility to cover debts of a person who passes away - Will your heirs get slammed with your outstanding debt when you die? (By Sarah O'Brien, special to With the average unsecured debt, the family generally has no responsibility to pay the debt. The executor of the person's estate has an obligation to pay the bills from the estate before any of the estate can pass to the heirs. The article also explains the challenges with secured loans and mortgages; they need to be paid or the property will go to the creditor. But with a little planning, a financially secure person can take care of most of this before they pass.

Image courtesy of photostock at
One thing the article doesn't mention is financial support from the state; Medicaid/medical assistance/long term care. The state is mandated by the federal government to attempt to recover medical assistance payments whenever possible. This issue revolves around ownership interests and timing. This is more complex and must be done years before a person's death. Fortunately, the state is limited to the person's estate but it can wipe out the entire estate leaving nothing for the heirs. For more info in Pennsylvania, you can check out the FAQs on the state's website: Medical Assistance, ESTATE RECOVERY PROGRAM, Questions and Answers

Finally, we have the "Gottcha" issue. There are times in some state where a child could be stuck with a parent's debt. About half the states in the US have "have so-called 'filial responsibility' laws that require adult children to support their parents if they become indigent." Pennsylvania is one of those states. This article explains, in broad strokes, the law - Children may have to foot bill for indigent parents' care. (By Erin E. Arvedlund, Staff Writer at The article further explains Pennsylvania has gone a little further than other states. "What is unique about Pennsylvania is that the law has been interpreted as permitting third parties, such as nursing homes, to sue the children directly, Pearson explains." This is left out of the article I found first.

Clearly, people should plan for the end of their lives as best they can. It is best if it is done with their children and other family members. Even if you cannot avoid these problems, you can prepare the people you leave behind so the know what they can expect.

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

#Bucks_County #lawyer #lawyers, #MontgomeryCounty #Souderton #Law_Firm #Wills #Power-of-Attorney #Living_Will #Healthcare #Trusts 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Bankruptcy - Do you know the US Constitution provides for our Bankruptcy Laws?

The framers realized that the ability to discharge debt was important for the health of our economy and recognized the need to have a uniformed system. The Constitution states:
"The Congress shall have Power To...establish...uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States...." Article I, Section 8, Clause 4
The leaders of the most self-reliant and individualistic society in our history understood people had to have an opportunity to reset their financial life from time to time. Read more about the Bankruptcy Clause.

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 or call us a 215-660-3170 and schedule an appointment.

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

Thursday, August 4, 2016

USCIS- DHS Announces 18-Month Redesignation and Extension of Temporary Protected Status for Syria

Direct from USCIS:

"WASHINGTON—Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has redesignated Syria for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and extended the existing TPS designation for the country from Oct. 1, 2016, through March 31, 2018. This allows eligible nationals of Syria (or persons without nationality who last habitually resided in Syria) to register or re-register for TPS in accordance with the Federal Register notice published today [1 August 2016].
Who is Eligible
Current TPS Status
When to File
Current TPS beneficiaries from Syria
Have TPS
To extend your TPS, you must re-register during the 60-day re-registration period that runs from Aug. 1, 2016, through Sept. 30, 2016.
Syrian nationals and persons without nationality who last habitually resided in Syria, who have:
  • Continuously resided in the United States since Aug. 1, 2016, and
  • Been continuously physically present in the United States since Oct. 1, 2016.
Do not have TPS
To obtain TPS, you may apply for TPS during the 180-day initial registration period that runs from Aug. 1, 2016, through Jan. 30, 2017.


Individuals re-registering for TPS:

Current beneficiaries under Syria’s TPS designation seeking to extend their TPS status must re-register during a 60-day period that runs from Aug. 1, 2016, through Sept. 30, 2016. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) encourages beneficiaries to re-register as soon as possible.
The 18-month extension also allows TPS re-registrants to apply for a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Eligible Syria TPS beneficiaries who re-register during the 60-day period and request a new EAD will receive one with an expiration date of March 31, 2018. USCIS recognizes that some re-registrants may not receive their new EADs until after their current work permits expire. Therefore, USCIS is automatically extending current TPS Syria EADs with a Sept. 30, 2016, expiration date for an additional six months. These existing EADs are now valid through March 31, 2017.
To re-register, current TPS beneficiaries must submit:

Individuals applying for TPS for the first time:

For Syrian nationals (and persons having no nationality who last habitually resided in Syria) who do not currently have TPS, the TPS redesignation may allow them to apply for TPS if they have continuously resided in the United States since Aug. 1, 2016, and have been continuously physically present in the United States since Oct. 1, 2016. Applicants must meet all other TPS eligibility and filing requirements.
To apply for the first time, individuals must submit:
Individuals who still have a pending initial TPS application under Syria’s designation do not need to submit a new Form I-821. However, if they currently have a TPS-related EAD and want a new EAD, they should submit:
Applicants may request that USCIS waive any fees based on inability to pay by filing Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, or by submitting a written request. Fee-waiver requests must be accompanied by supporting documentation. USCIS will reject the application of any applicant who fails to submit the required filing fees or a properly documented fee-waiver request.

All USCIS forms are available for free. Download forms or order them by mail through the USCIS website at or by calling the USCIS Forms Request Line toll-free at 1-800-870-3676.
Applicants can check their case status at My Case Status Online or by calling the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 (TDD for the deaf and hard of hearing: 1-800-767-1833).
For more information about USCIS and its programs, please visit or follow us on
Twitter (@uscis), YouTube (/uscis) and the USCIS blog The Beacon." 

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