How can an attorney help me with debt relief?
Many Americans need help resolving their debts, and a debt relief attorney can help. According to the Brookings Institution, close to 30 percent of all student loan accounts and three percent of all credit card accounts are in delinquent status. What follows are collection calls, judgments and sometimes lawsuits. A debt relief attorney’s job is to help debtors resolve these issues, and help their client get back on track with solutions like bankruptcy.
What Can A Debt Relief Attorney DoFor Me?
A debt relief attorney knows exactly how to push back against aggressive debt collectors and ensure those collectors don’t overstep their legal boundaries. Specifically, this is what an attorney can do for their clients:
- Put an immediate end to collection calls – As soon as a debt relief attorney decides to represent a client, they notify their client’s creditors. At this point, any attempts to collect must be made through the attorney. Collectors can no longer contact the debtor. The attorney will usually file a dispute against any debts immediately. This forces the collectors to validate the debt, a process that typically takes some time. During the validation process, collectors are not allowed to contact debtors. The attorney essentially filters out the “noise” for their client, giving them time to decide what to do next.
- Pressure collectors into settling – It is often difficult for third-party debt buyers to validate a debt as they usually don’t receive all of the information they need to legally pursue the account when they purchase it. Debt buyers purchase accounts in bulk and at a big discount, so missing or outdated information is a common issue with these transactions. This approach shouldn’t be limited to third-party debt buyers, either. Putting creditors through debt validation shows them that they will have to expend a lot of resources in pursuing this account. Debt relief attorneys leverage this in securing favorable settlements for their clients. Sometimes, all their client needs is a little help to make their payments. An attorney can make this happen by working out a settlement, and frustrating creditors through proper use of the law is one way to get them to the negotiation table.
- Help clients avoid judgments and fight debt collection lawsuits – Debt relief attorneys may be able to prevent any default judgment from being awarded, and if the collector does sue, the attorney has many defenses at their disposal. If a debtor is sued by a creditor, an immediate response is required. If the lawsuit is ignored, it will quickly result in the collector winning a default judgment, even if they have minimal evidence of the debt’s validity. Collectors can even win judgments on debts that have passed through the statute of limitations. Debtors must avoid a judgment whenever possible, as it grants the collector a lot more power in going after the debt. With a judgment, collectors can attempt to garnish wages, place a lien against property and force the debtor to reveal all their assets. Checking the statute of limitations and forcing the creditor to prove every detail regarding the debt can make a creditor reconsider a lawsuit. Also, third-party debt buyers have many accounts to go after, so they will often stop pursuing the lawsuit should they have to contend with a debt relief attorney. This can also drive them to settlement proceedings.
- Guide clients through bankruptcy, if it’s the right choice – Sometimes, bankruptcy is the best choice a debtor has. If so, a debt relief attorney will advise their client on their best options (like deciding between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13), how to protect their property from liquidation, or how to develop a repayment plan. Bankruptcy is an involved process that comes with many questions, and a debt relief attorney is there to answer them.
Choosing An Attorney Not A Debt Settlement Company
Debt settlement companies advertise their ability to reduce a client’s debt load or monthly payments. However, these claims come with several caveats that debtors should consider. For example, the amount a debtor owes may increase as soon as they hire a debt settlement company and stop making payments. Also, some creditors may get more aggressive with their collection attempts, as they see the hiring of a debt settlement company as a discouraging sign. It’s unlikely that a debt relief/settlement company will reveal these risks before taking on the debtor’s accounts.
It’s important that debtors consider choosing a debt relief attorney, and not a debt settlement company. Here’s how you’ll know you’re working with a true debt relief attorney, and not one that’s representing a debt settlement company:
- The attorney will meet with you face-to-face – Reputable debt relief attorneys want to meet with their clients, especially at the outset for case building purposes. Initial meetings should leave the debtor with an idea of how the case will proceed. A debt settlement company is uninterested in the legal details surrounding a debtor’s case, and even if they do employ attorneys, it’s highly unlikely that they will set up a face to face meeting between client and lawyer.
- The attorney will represent the debtor if sued – Debt settlement companies will not defend their clients should they be the target of a lawsuit, but a debt relief attorney will, fighting on the debtor’s behalf in court and at the negotiation table.
- The attorney will handle legal matters directly – Some debt settlement companies claim to be “attorney-backed,” which really means the attorney is only connected to the case superficially. A reputable debt relief attorney will personally negotiate for and represent the client on their behalf, and not leave it to a staff member the debtor never meets.
A debt relief attorney stakes their reputation on helping clients properly handle their debts. There are no false promises or unrealistic expectations, only sound advice and action that uses the law to your best advantage.