Through my consultations over the years with individuals and families who are struggling with debt, I’ve come to learn about a formidable foe to those individuals and families. That foe is procrastination. I get it. You are overwhelmed with money and financial problems. You may be facing a downsize at work, unemployment, divorce, or an unexpected illness. Added to these worries are your anxieties of exactly how you are going to keep the bills paid. It’s overwhelming and enough to shut down even the strongest among us. So, that’s what you do. You shut down, kick it under the rug, and hope for better days. Retreat is a natural human response to overwhelming situations. But in the debt relief context, shutting down and procrastinating can, and often does, lead to devastating consequences. To make matters even worse, many of these consequences could have been avoided with timely action.
What Are the Consequences?
The big ones are these: (1) Home foreclosure, (2) Repossession of necessary personal property such as a motor vehicle, and/or (3) Garnishments of wages, bank account balances or other funds needed to maintain even a minimum standard of living.
Let’s look at the typical home foreclosure scenario. In many instances, individuals and families get behind on mortgage payments through no fault of their own. Perhaps a job loss or a major medical illness has suddenly occurred and there’s not enough money to cover the mortgage payment. Laws vary widely from state to state; however, in Mississippi and in many states, the foreclosure process is relatively quick and easy for the lender. Usually, the lender will give notice of the delinquency and, after a period of time, all the lender need do is publish a notice in the local newspaper for approximately 30 days and then conduct the foreclosure sale. Properly done, this deprives the homeowner of his/her home and he/she can be evicted.
One of the toughest things I see occasionally is a person whose home has been foreclosed upon and now they’re wondering what to do. Sure, you can challenge a foreclosure in the courts but the cost in attorney’s fees alone is likely to run into the thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of dollars. And, the outcome of such suits is always uncertain. Timely action before the foreclosure, in the form of a Chapter 13 case filing, would have avoided the loss of the home in nearly all circumstances. Even better, the cost of filing a Chapter 13 will be much, much less than filing a lawsuit to challenge the foreclosure sale.
Another tough situation that sometimes presents itself in my office is the loss of a motor vehicle to repossession. Many times, I learn that the person went out in the morning to get into their vehicle to go to work only to find the vehicle gone. They usually know why. To make matters worse, there is often important personal property in the vehicle when it is repossessed. Perhaps the prescription medication that they had picked up on the way home yesterday. Or maybe their child’s school work or sports uniform was in the car and now it’s gone. Again, state laws vary widely; but, in some instances a repossessing lender can be required to return the vehicle. However, even when the law permits this, extremely quick and potentially expensive action is required. Timely action before the repossession could have avoided the whole mess in the first place.
Finally, I counsel with persons from time to time who have been hit with a wage garnishment or sometimes the garnishment of bank account balances. A frequent pattern here is that such a person now cannot pay their light bill because the garnishment took the funds they had on hand to pay that light bill. In the dead of a Mississippi summer, no power means no air conditioning. No air conditioning can be deadly due to high heat and humidity. At a minimum, it is inconvenient and uncomfortable. Timely action taken before the seizure of funds is almost always available to prevent wage and bank account garnishments.
The point here is that, if you or your family are facing money problems, DON’T wait to seek reputable, professional help. The problems outlined above can, in almost all circumstances, be wholly avoided if you seek help timely and take timely action to protect yourself and your property. The bankruptcy laws are written to address these situations and the process is not as scary as you may imagine. All you need is to reach out to a caring and compassionate debt relief attorney who can guide you through this rough time in your life. So often, my clients tell me that they wished they’d gotten help sooner. And it always makes me proud to know our firm was able to get them the help they needed.
Ed Woods is the Managing Attorney of several of the Bond & Botes Law Offices throughout Mississippi. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Southern Mississippi, and a Juris Doctorate from Mississippi College School of Law. Ed puts his extensive knowledge of bankruptcy law to use defending consumers from debt collection lawsuits and more. Read his full bio here.