Attorney Alexz Adams Talks With Katherine On “This Needs To Be Said” About How To Know When You Are In The Position To Consider Bankruptcy.

Categories: Interviews
Katherine:

Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us today on This Needs To Be Said. Our friend, Attorney Alexz Adams, is joining us today, and he’s going to let us know when we’re in the position to be considering bankruptcy. Welcome back, Alexz. How are you?

Alexz Adams:

Hi, I’m doing well. How are you?

Katherine:

I am doing fantastic. While we are talking about a hard topic, I am doing okay, and I appreciate you for taking the time to educate everyone, including my audience, about what it looks like. I tell people all the time it’s better to be prepared and not need the information than to need it and not even know what to do, because we make a big mess out of trying to piece it together.

So, with this being your line of work, your expertise, you can come and let us know when we need to be looking in your direction and screaming, “Help me.” Let us know, what does it look like? I’m at home, and I’m drowning. I think I’m drowning. It feels bad for me. I don’t know what to do next, but does that automatically mean I’m ready to file bankruptcy?

Alexz Adams:

Sure. Let’s talk about what bankruptcy is. Bankruptcy is essentially when your debts outweigh your assets or ability to pay them, and there’s no realistic way to do it on your own. Maybe you have that credit card payment that you defaulted on, you missed a payment, and now it’s demanding all the money. Maybe there was a bill you didn’t pay you’re being sued for, and your wages are being garnished. You’re getting notices from the mortgage company that you got to pay your mortgage or they’re going to foreclose, or maybe your car was repossessed.

In a big picture, when the sort of wagons are circling and you’re feeling trapped or, like you said, I think a good analogy is drowning, that’s the time to look at it. It comes on sort of like a series of, or how do they say it? Bankruptcy is a thousand small cuts. It’s what gets you. It’s not necessarily any one thing.

Katherine:

Ouch.

Alexz Adams:

If you fall behind one bill, sure, we can catch up. If you just forgot to pay it, that’s one thing. But if you have an emergency medical procedure and you’re out of work for three months, and your rent’s late, and your credit cards are now defaulted, that’s not a small problem. That’s a significant problem.

And oftentimes, no matter how hard you work, you’re feeling like you’re spinning the tires. So, you’re drowning. You’re spinning tires. You’re starting to have thoughts you’ve never had before, failures as a person, failures as a mother, as a father, as a husband, as a wife, as a provider. When these thoughts are going through your brain regarding your debts and your ability to pay them, that’s where it makes to look into where bankruptcy is.

I found that there’s a whole other level of that. Clients that end up with substance abuse issues, perhaps depression, self-esteem issues, these things sort of pile on because, certainly where we’re at here in America, people take pride in being able to pay their bills. And when that pride feels, like you say, a sinking ship maybe, it’s time to ask for help.

That’s one of the beautiful things about our country is there is help available if you’re willing to ask for it. Not only bankruptcy, there’s other counseling services out there, but the one I do is bankruptcy, and if people need help, it make sense to reach out and see what help’s available.

I think a lot of people end up in the position that I’m sort of going through and, number one, may not know where to even turn. There’s sort of a feeling of helplessness and what am I going to do, but there is options out there in that scenario.

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Katherine:

Well, I’m feeling out, you may have heard me as you were talking, I’m nodding my head. I know we’re doing radio here, and this is going to be on a blog and stuff like that so people can’t see me in writing nodding my head, but I’m nodding and going yeah. You can picture people in your head, and I know people listening in the audience will be able to do the same. You’ve either been in this position and not known what to do, or you know someone who’s been in this position, and on the outside looking in, you still may not know how to help that person, so you kind of feel helpless.

I know for me, when I don’t know the solution to something, and what you said, you feel like you’re a failure as a spouse, as a parent, as a provider, as someone who should be able to do these things, there’s nothing wrong with me. Why can’t I get this done? Why am I not able to stay on top of it?

We do forget, once were better again, we forget about that emergency that that put us down for a little bit, whether it was a necessary medical procedure, whatever that is, something that came on that you were not prepared for. Most of us are not preparing to have astronomical medical fees. That’s not how this works. You don’t plan for it like that. I don’t even know that there’s a way to save yourself from it because life happens.

But how you recover is what Attorney Adams is a part of. How you recover, asking questions, who can answer this question for me? And a lot of times we don’t even know the right question to ask to get the help, so we’re here to help you. You’re looking at your life, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed, if you’re feeling, like you said, I love what you said, your ability to pay is outweighed by what you owed or what’s sucking the life out of your money, and I’m thinking that’s a simple enough way. Bankruptcy can be one thing for another person. I may be bankrupt before you’re bankrupt, but it still basically has the same implications. I feel defeated, and I need help.

So, I’m at the beginning. I’m calling your practice, and I’m saying, “Hey, Attorney Adams, I am overwhelmed. I am sinking.” What do we do next? Where’s the help?

Alexz Adams:

Sure. I think that’s a really good place to go. One of the things that I found over the years is that the absolute hardest part across the board for my clients, and I’ve got clients who are incredibly poor and on a very tight budget, and I’ve got other clients that people would look at as maybe more well-to-do, but the hardest part across the board is to pick up the phone and say, “I got to consider this because I don’t know what to do. I’m at wits end. It’s affecting my family, my kids, my work life, my relationships.”

That’s the hard part. You can talk to other practitioners and they’ll tell you pretty much the same thing, that once you pick up the phone and reach out for some help, there’s a certain stress relief just to acknowledging the fact that maybe I have to look beyond what my comfort zone is or beyond what I ever thought I’d have to look at.

If someone reaches out to me, the first thing we’ll do is have him come in and talk to me. I’m one of the attorneys. I don’t charge for my initial meeting. I want to make sure that I can do what I need to do and that you like me and we can strike it out. After we meet we’ll come up with a plan, and if it makes sense to go through it, it’s oftentimes a whole lot less work and money to do the bankruptcy proceeding than people think.

A typical, for instance, Chapter 7 case, a client will come in. We’ll have a meeting for an hour or two. We’ll go over the situation. We’ll ask the client to do some, I call it busy work or homework, and it’s oftentimes fun talking to people who haven’t been in school for a while, and I feel like a teacher sending them out to fill out some forms and gather some stuff up. We make a joke about it. I say, “All right, go get your homework. When can you get that in?” And assuming the dog doesn’t eat the homework, we get the homework back and we’ve prepared the case. We have the clients come in. That’s maybe, on the client’s … My clients typically have to spend five or 10 hours, whatever that is, a couple of long weekends, after work, or appointments gathering it up, and they get me the information.

We prepare it. The clients come in again and review it with us, and then typically it’s ready for filing. In a Chapter 7 setting, we’ll file the case. We’ll be in court a month later. There’s some other paperwork we have to fill out that’s not too burdensome, maybe an hour or two for the client, and then you’re done, and you’re out of debt.

Most Chapter 7 cases take between three to in some cases four or five months to get the discharge. In some situations it can be open longer for administration, but it’s usually a 90 to 120-day ride through Chapter 7, and people say, “Ho, wait a minute. Bankruptcy’s not forever?” No. Bankruptcy is a moment in time, and when you get that stress off your back, most of my clients, by the time they look up, bankruptcy’s in the rear view mirror, because three to four months goes by, certainly the older you are it goes by quicker and quicker-

Katherine:

Yeah, of course.

Alexz Adams:

… in my situation, but it’s oftentimes much less involved than clients think it is. Again, the hard part is being comfortable with the fact you’re going through it, and by contrast, that with the other consumer chapter, all of those things happen, and then in Chapter 13 you make some monthly payments for a period of time, and then at the end you’re done.

That’s bankruptcy from my perspective. There’s some busy work in there, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s things people can do if they’re comfortable, if the relief that they need fits within the bankruptcy system, that’s a whole lot less work on the client side than people may anticipate, and I think that’s important to understand.

Katherine:

I think that feeling like you’ve done something wrong is the thing that makes you hide, or try to solve it yourself, or hope it goes away, but knowing that bankruptcy is not going to be for the rest of my life is enough for me to say, “I’m willing to go through this process. I’m willing to be uncomfortable for a short while.” It does take some time to think about, takes some time to process. I don’t mean like forever, but now that you’ve heard this information, you’ve heard the attorney’s perspective and you are now examining your situation, you’re probably wondering who all gets to know that I went through this moment in time, because there are public records for everything if somebody sits still long enough to look through them. So, does bankruptcy fall on that list of public records, is my question to you.

Alexz Adams:

Bankruptcy is available on the public record, but it’s not as though it’s broadcast on a billboard. The people that get notified of bankruptcy are the people you owe money to, the court, and a handful of other people. Those are the ones that get the formal notice. Most of the time it’s a lot less people than you think.

It is on the public record. There’s a court website called PACER, which is the website that anybody can subscribe to and get federal court documents, and this would include proof that my client’s filed bankruptcy, but you got to be looking for it. It’s not as though-

Katherine:

Absolutely.

Alexz Adams:

It’s not as though it’s the first Google search that comes up, although perhaps if you have a very unique name it’s easier to find. But what matters, I think, from my clients more than if it’s on the public record is what does it mean? Well, it means you filed bankruptcy.

People come in routinely and say, “Oh my God. I’m not going to have credit for 10 years. What am I supposed to do?” It’s actually the opposite of that. Typically, when I file a bankruptcy, within a week or two my clients have mailboxes of junk mail of credit card applications, loan applications, car loan applications. People say, “Well, why is that?” Well, the people that are offering those lines of credit know you’re out of debt, so they want to drag you back in.

Katherine:

It’s not funny. It’s funny, but it’s not funny.

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Alexz Adams:

I agree with you. I mean, it’s a completely predatory system that we live in, but that, in fact, is the reality of it.

FHA loans. People say, “Well, I’ll never get a house.” Well, no, that’s not true. You can get an FHA loan after two years in bankruptcy, and there’s other types of loan products that you can get very shortly after bankruptcy. You have to typically have a down payment, a stable work history, and you have to repair your credit.

That ends up being an important thing, so how I deal with that is I enroll all my clients in a credit improvement course after bankruptcy, and my clients that go through the course after bankruptcy find their credit score is typically over 700 within a year or two of bankruptcy. There’s a lot of false facts out there in the media-

Katherine:

Yes, there are.

Alexz Adams:

… and on the internet that says what bankruptcy is. I just say if you’re considering bankruptcy, don’t listen to necessarily what people who didn’t file, find some people who filed bankruptcy and say, “What’s your experience?” Across the board, it’s very much the story of the Phoenix, that from the ashes of your past prior to bankruptcy, you’re able to typically very quickly recover in a way that you wouldn’t think.

One last sort of story on that, I mean, I’ve got clients who come in with massive amounts of credit card debt, massive, 50, $100,000 of credit card debt, and in most of those cases minimum payments are $2,000 a month, $1,500 a month, those sorts of things. Bankruptcy eliminates that. So, if you can eliminate 50 to $100,000 of credit card debt fairly effectively, and cost-effectively, how much money does that put in your pocket? How much stress does that get off your shoulders? How much better can you sleep at night? How does that improve the relationships?

I think that there is a lot of good things that happen after bankruptcy that people don’t see the stories of. So, look around. If bankruptcy is something you’re considering, just Google what do people who actually filed bankruptcy think about bankruptcy, and I think you’ll see-

Katherine:

Asking a better question. Right.

Alexz Adams:

Ask a better question. Like Tony Robbins says, ask that better question, you’ll get better input. I think that’s right.

Katherine:

Absolutely. I’m nodding. Again, I’m listening, I’m nodding, and, of course, I’m snickering in between because it is like the more I talk to you all is that I say, “Oh, yeah. They need to call you,” because it’s like getting that water cooler talk, and somebody talks confidently so they must know what they’re talking about, only to find out no, they have no idea.

So, I’m so happy that I’m able to have experts like yourself to come on and help us to see a better way. What I can say, before we close here, is I did file bankruptcy years ago, and what you’re offering wasn’t there. I was able to file the bankruptcy, but the credit repair, and this has been … My youngest child is about to be 19, so it’s been a long time ago. When I filed it was just a sigh of relief, and for me that was good, but as I talk with you today, I’m realizing that there is more. There’s life after bankruptcy. That’s what I was hearing, there’s life after bankruptcy, as you’re talking. See? There’s life after bankruptcy.

So, yes, talk to someone who has been through it. Also ask them how long ago it’s been, and more than anything, if you’re listening to this show, you don’t have to just fish around for information. You have someone to contact to ask your questions to that can give you a better answer than even I can give you. So, ask better questions. Ask him what is it that I don’t know that I need to know? And as we’re wrapping up today, Attorney Adams, because our time is up, let people know how to get in touch with you outside of This Needs To Be Said.

Alexz Adams:

Sure. You can reach me at my website, portlandbk.com, that’s P-O-R-T-L-A-N-D-B-K dot com, or my phone number (503) 278-5400. At this point we’re accepting bankruptcy cases in the state of Oregon and the state of Washington.

Katherine:

Until next time, you have a super day. Thank you.

Alexz Adams:

Thank you. Bye.

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