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Illinois debt collection attorney judgment enforcement

Whether you are from a bank, a credit union, an auto lender, an equipment lender, a truck lender, or another financial institution that might be involved in bankruptcies or other debt collection activities, you might find that sometimes you need more assistance with judgment enforcement. Simply having a judge declare that money or other assets are owed to you or whoever you represent might not be enough to repossess or recover the assets from the debtor. For instance, the debtor might be ignoring your phone calls and letters or the debtor might be hiding the assets you are trying to repossess. Whatever the case may be, using the full power of the law at your disposal is a good idea to recover what the courts determine is yours. That is when you should call upon a professional judgment enforcement attorney to learn what they can do for you. 

4 Ways a Judgment Enforcement Attorney Can Assist You

Among the many ways a judgment enforcement attorney can help you with your court-enforced debt collection case are:

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Illinois commercial debt collection attorney

As someone from a credit union, bank, or other financial institution, among other organizations, who deal with debt collection activities every day, sooner or later, you will have to deal with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, if you have not already and whether you want to or not. This is because, over the last several years, cryptocurrency has made tremendous strides in the following ways:

  • Multibillion-dollar investors from leading companies have been investing in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin to get ahead of the trend, increasing its value and popularity amongst investors.

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Illinois debt collection attorney

As a financial professional, be it as a representative from a credit union, bankauto lendertruck lenderequipment lender, or other financial institution, it is important to work with an attorney who acts as an official litigator. Together, you might think you have everything taken care of when it comes time to investigate the finances of a debtor you suspect might be committing fraud or other wrongdoing. However, with regards to any number of debt collection activities, including such complicated legal processes as bankruptcy, you could also benefit from the assistance of a forensic accountant. 

What Does a Forensic Accountant Do?

Most of the time people assume an accountant does your taxes and that is about it, but as with most fields, there are plenty of subsets. Forensic accountants study the numbers and figures in financial and legal documents, intensively reviewing them to find discrepancies within the recordkeeping as to draw conclusions about potential wrongdoing. They can also confirm if certain errors were made, or support arguments to the contrary. 

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Illinois wage deduction attorney

When it comes to wage garnishment, if you are tasked with collecting debt on behalf of a bank, credit union, or finance company, seizing funds from a debtor’s paycheck through garnishment or wage deductions is often a last-resort strategy for you to use in recouping your organization’s funds. With that being said, if you are faced with the need to garnish a debtor’s paycheck or other earnings, you should know just what types of funds or income can be garnished in Illinois. 

What Can Be Garnished

In general, according to Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA), a person’s earnings can be garnished to collect on debts. Per the CCPA, earnings is defined as:

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Illinois debt collection attorney foreclosure

While the mortgage, rent, and income protections provided for in last spring’s original Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act have long since been exhausted, many states, including Illinois, have continued to offer their own executive orders and legislation to assist residents during this unprecedented time. In addition, many mortgage companies have developed their own programs for homeowners to help them avoid foreclosure, at least for the time being. However, that is not to say if you are looking to eventually collect on the debts owed from these properties that might be in preforeclosure, you should not be prepared to take action. Foreclosure debt collection will be inevitable post-pandemic, despite the latest COVID relief package being signed into law. In that sense, you, as a mortgage lender or servicer who deals with foreclosures, must remain focused on your job, collecting and documenting everything necessary to make the preforeclosure and foreclosure processes go smoothly whenever the time comes.

Advice to Mortgage Lenders When Prepping for Foreclosure During the Pandemic 

With the vaccines only starting to be administered and with the latest COVID-19 economic relief bill signed into law nine months after the CARES Act, you cannot expect things to get back to normal immediately. Therefore, the negative impact of COVID-19 on the economy, including housing, will persist far into 2021. Due to this, you need to be prepared for continual increases in foreclosures, including from residents of normally good standing with your mortgage lending or servicing company. To better prepare for an influx of foreclosures in the new year, consider the following tips:

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Chicago bankruptcy attorney credit union

Bankruptcy is a complex process for any financial institution, but for credit unions, in particular, there are some special issues to take into consideration when proceeding with your debt collection efforts. Unlike many banks, auto lenders, truck lenders, equipment lenders, or other financial institutions, credit unions face additional challenges in their recovery efforts due to the nature of their organizations. Here are some tips for how to manage member bankruptcies or other debt collection needs if you work for a credit union.

3 Keys to Successful Credit Union Debt Collection 

While there are many ways you can pursue debt collection successfully, recouping as much of the lost funds as possible, that are similar to banks and other related institutions, there are certain approaches that credit unions should keep in mind when pursuing collection efforts against one of their members, such as the following:

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Chicago debt collection attorney

It is common during the holidays, especially during Black Friday, for consumers to purchase more than they can actually afford; in fact, some of these shoppers are already struggling financially but believe the holiday gives them a great opportunity to max out their credit cards and take out loans for exorbitant holiday gift-giving before they eventually file for bankruptcy. There are ways to contest such holiday bankruptcy fraud, but this year might not be the same due to the pandemic. 

How COVID-19 Will Change Black Friday 

Numerous retailers are struggling financially as a result of the pandemic due in large part to early stay-at-home orders for all non-essential workers and businesses as well as the economic recession itself. Fortunately, those companies with strong e-commerce skills have been able to offer their products online. The pandemic will change Black Friday in this way—it will further accelerate the trend of people avoiding the in-store rush and simply shopping online instead. 

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Chicago debt collection attorney detinue

If you work for a bank, credit union, auto lender, truck lender, equipment lender, or other finance company, you are familiar with the way some debtors might refuse to pay their monthly payment for their debt secured by collateral. In those cases, repossession of the collateral is necessary, but sometimes the debtor will hide the car, boat, or other collateral to prevent repossession. If that is the case for you and your organization, consider the actions you can take to recover the property, including legal actions.

When Repossession Fails 

Repossession companies are legally permitted to do many things in their pursuit of reclaiming property for creditors, but one thing they cannot do is “breach the peace,” which means they cannot commit crimes like breaking into a property or intimidating creditors in order to retrieve the collateral. This is one of the reasons creditors should be very mindful and discerning when choosing a repossession partner. 

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Chicago Debt Collection LawyerAn unsecured creditor can secure their claim on a debt by receiving a judgment lien. If a court finds in favor of the creditor in a lawsuit, the creditor can request that a lien be put on the debtor’s property – most often their home. If the debtor tries to sell the house, the buyer or seller must pay the lien before ownership can be transferred. The lien would also make them a junior creditor if another creditor foreclosed on the property. As a creditor with a judgment lien, you may wonder whether you can initiate a foreclosure on the property. While you do have that right, there are several reasons why foreclosing on a judgment lien may not be worth your effort:

Sale Process: Forcing a sale on a home will cost both time and money. You will need to publish a listing of the sale and pay a fee to the local sheriff’s department to hold the property. You will also need to hire a real estate attorney to ensure that the sale is legal. Once you are able to sell the property, you will be required to give the debtor time to repay the lien. The whole process could take the better part of a year, with no guarantee of success.

Homestead Exemption: Each state offers a homestead exemption to protect a homeowner’s equity in their primary residence. In Illinois, the exemption is $15,000 for a single person and $30,000 for a married couple. This means that the first $15,000 or $30,000 from the foreclosure sale will go back to the debtor. You will get nothing out of foreclosing on a home if the debtor’s equity is less than the exemption.

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Three Limitations of Wage Garnishment for CreditorsWage garnishment is one of the most direct tools that creditors use to collect from noncompliant debtors. A creditor can submit a garnishment order after it has filed a lawsuit against the debtor and received a money judgment from the court. Employers are required to comply with a garnishment order and can be fined if they do not withdraw the exact amount ordered or if they retaliate against the debtor for the garnishment. However, wage garnishment has limitations that can sometimes prevent a creditor from collecting the necessary money from the debtor. Here are three facts about wage garnishment that creditors should know:

  1. Cap on Withdrawals: There are federal and state protections against wage garnishment to prevent creditors from taking all of a debtor’s wages. First, garnishment must come from the debtor’s disposable earnings, which is the debtor’s wage after deducting expenses such as Social Security and pension contributions. Commercial creditors in Illinois are not allowed to garnish a wage unless the debtor makes more than 45 times either the state or federal minimum wage – whichever is higher. With Illinois currently having a higher minimum wage, debtors must earn more than $371.25 per week. If the debtor is eligible, commercial creditors can take the amount that the wage exceeds $371.25 per week or 15 percent of the debtor’s wage – whichever is lower.
  2. Employees Only: Wage garnishment applies only to debtors who are employed and receive a W-2 form from their employer. Freelance workers, independent contractors, and self-employed workers do not qualify for wage garnishment. However, the owner of a corporation does qualify for wage garnishment if they pay themselves through the company. If wage garnishment is not allowed, the creditor can request non-wage garnishment instead. This order allows it to seize the debtor's other assets, such as bank accounts and personal properties.
  3. Order of Priority: A debtor may own several debts other than commercial debts. Some of these debts take priority over commercial debts, such as child support, federal income taxes, state levies, bankruptcy payments, and defaulted student loans. These collectors are allowed to garnish more from wages than the state’s limits on commercial creditors, but there may still be a limited amount of money left after these debts are paid.

Contact a Chicago Debt Collection Lawyer

If wage garnishment is not an efficient means of collecting a debt, there are other tools you can use. A Chicago debt collection attorney at Walinski & Associates, P.C., can explain your options after winning your lawsuit against your debtor. Call 312-704-0771 to schedule an appointment.

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Debt Collection Tips for Small Business OwnersAs a small business owner, you likely do not think of yourself as a creditor. However, that is the role you have taken when you allow customers to repay you over time for products or services provided. Collecting debt sometimes requires being more forceful with debtors than you are comfortable with. Because you deal with your customers personally, it may be awkward to hold them accountable for unpaid debts. You can minimize confrontation during debt collection by acting quickly and being thorough.

Crafting an Agreement

You should always finalize any borrowing or repayment plan with a customer by having them sign a written contract. Verbal agreements are difficult to enforce if your customer does not pay you back. A contract should explain:

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Being Thorough with Citation to Discover AssetsAfter a judge rules that a debtor must repay a creditor, the two parties will often find themselves back in court as part of the debt collection process. The creditor has several tools at its disposal, such as wage garnishment and seizing collateral property. However, the process must start with determining what resources the debtor has available. In Illinois, a creditor can file a Citation to Discover Assets, which compels the debtor to appear in court and answer questions under oath. With this opportunity, it is important for the creditor to ask questions that will help it uncover the debtor’s true asset values.

Leading Up to Court Appearance

The process starts with filing the Citation to Discover Assets with the local court and serving notice to the debtor. As part of the notice, the creditor can request that the debtor prepares specified financial documents for the hearing. Illinois law requires creditors to include an Income and Asset Form as part of the citation. Debtors must respond to a series of written questions meant to determine:

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Four Ways to Present Reaffirmation Agreements During BankruptcyOffering a reaffirmation agreement to a debtor going through Chapter 7 bankruptcy can allow a secured creditor to receive close to full value on debts for real and personal property. As part of a Chapter 7 debt discharge, a secured creditor normally repossesses properties if a debtor will be unable to repay the loan. However, the creditor most likely cannot hold the debtor liable for any deficiency after resale of the property. With a reaffirmation agreement, the debtor keeps the property as long as he or she can continue making payments. If the debtor defaults, the creditor can repossess the property, and the debtor would be liable for any deficiency after resale. Knowing the risk this may pose their clients, bankruptcy lawyers will discourage debtors from signing reaffirmation agreements. Creditors need to inform debtors of why a reaffirmation agreement may be to their advantage:

  1. Property Importance: Some collateral property during a bankruptcy has greater value to a debtor than others. A debtor may be more eager to hold onto real estate and personal vehicles than luxury items. Thus, debtors will be more receptive to proposals that allow them to retain possession of important properties.
  2. Realistic Plan: A court will reject a reaffirmation agreement that puts an undue burden on the debtor. Debtors must also be current on their debt payments in order to enter an agreement. Creditors should understand whether debtors will have the financial means to make payments after bankruptcy. If a debtor does, the creditor can explain why it is reasonable to reaffirm the debt.
  3. Short-Term Debt: In some situations, the remaining debt on an agreement may be small enough that the debtor could repay it in a year or less. Offering short-term repayment plans that allow them to keep their properties may be more palatable to debtors.
  4. Modifying Loan: The debtor may need an extra incentive in order to reaffirm a debt. The creditor can present an agreement that lowers the burden on the debtor by reducing the monthly payments or interest rates. A better deal may entice a debtor to reaffirm.

Reaching an Agreement

Debtors must state their intention to reaffirm debts before their debts are discharged during Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Though either party can file a reaffirmation agreement, creditors are most often the ones to initiate the discussions. Reaffirmation agreements must be filed within 60 days after the first meeting of creditors. A Chicago creditor’s rights attorney at Walinski & Associates, P.C., can help you negotiate a reaffirmation agreement with your debtor. Schedule a consultation by calling 312-704-0771. 

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Convenience Fees Not Allowed Without Consent in Debt AgreementDebtors have multiple payment methods they can use to transfer money when repaying debts. Some forms of payment incur additional convenience fees, such as when debtors use credit cards or money orders. Creditors have at times formed agreements with the third-party vendors to share these convenience fees. However, they should examine state laws and their contracts with debtors before entering such agreements. Creditors and debt collectors are often prohibited by law from collecting convenience fees and may be punished for doing so.

Federal and State Law

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act states that a debt collector cannot institute a fee that increases the amount a debtor owes unless:

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Be Careful When Creating Intercreditor AgreementsWhen a debtor borrows money from multiple creditors, an intercreditor agreement can be helpful in determining the rights of each creditor. The primary purpose of the agreement is to establish which creditor receives priority in case the borrower defaults on its debts. The higher-priority lender is called the senior creditor, and the other lender is called the junior creditor. In the event of default, the agreement may state that the senior creditor must be repaid in full before the junior creditor can take action on the debt. However, the agreement can also include provisions that will protect the junior creditor in case the senior creditor takes action that impairs the junior creditor's ability to collect on its debt. Depending on the severity of the action, a court can decide to strip the senior creditor of its priority claim on the debt.

Impairment

An intercreditor agreement is based on the junior creditor knowing how much the senior creditor must be repaid before the junior creditor can file a claim on the defaulted debt. Following the agreement, a senior creditor may act on its own to increase the borrower’s debt obligation by:

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The Risks in Working with Debt Settlement CompaniesWhen debtors are worried about their ability to repay their creditors, they become susceptible to people who offer quick fixes. Some debt settlement companies are taking advantage of this by advertising misleading debt relief claims to debtors, such as:

  • Being able to eliminate debts in months without bankruptcy;
  • Stopping calls from debt collectors;
  • Relieving their debts without affecting their credit ratings; and
  • Allowing them to continue the same lifestyle with no consequence.

Debt settlement companies tout their services as a win for all parties. The debtor relieves his or her debt, and the creditor receives some compensation for the debt. As a creditor, you know the downside of working with debt settlement companies. They ask debtors to send payments to them instead of you, delaying your reimbursement by years. Once the company has accumulated enough of the debtor’s money, it will come to you with a lower settlement offer than what you may have been able to negotiate directly with the debtor. However, the debtor may have more to lose than you from using a debt settlement company. You can help yourself and your debtors by explaining the drawbacks to them:

  1. A debt settlement company cannot stop you from contacting them about their outstanding debts. Instead, you are more likely to contact them because they have stopped making any payments.
  2. You are not obligated to work with a debt settlement company. Some companies regularly make unacceptable settlement offers or are generally disreputable.
  3. The debt settlement company’s plan will increase their debts. A debtor may need to stop paying you for years in order to save enough money to make a settlement offer. During that time, you are likely to add interest to what is owed.
  4. They may pay more using a debt settlement company than if they had negotiated directly with you. Besides the company’s fees, there is a tax obligation. The IRS considers any debt that you forgive to be taxable income for the debtor.
  5. Nothing is stopping you from suing them for their outstanding debts. If the court rules in your favor, you may use tools such as asset seizure and wage garnishment to collect your debt.
  6. The debt settlement process will hurt their credit ratings. Intentionally missing debt payments will affect how future creditors will view them.

Reaching an Agreement

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Bankruptcy Law Allows Debtors to Continue Retirement ContributionsA Chapter 13 bankruptcy trustee in Illinois recently objected to a debtor’s request to exclude $200 per month from his disposable income in order to contribute to his 401K retirement plan. The trustee questioned the motivation of the decision because the debtor had not made any contributions to the plan in the six months prior to filing for bankruptcy. However, an Illinois bankruptcy court denied the objection, stating that the debtor was within his rights. The ruling shows how bankruptcy courts treat retirement plan contributions as a protected expenditure.

Chapter 13 Plans

As opposed to Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Chapter 13 bankruptcy involves creating a repayment plan instead of liquidating assets. Qualified debtors must submit documents that detail their:

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Successor Liability Can Hold Companies Accountable for DebtsA company that has extensive debts has many means by which it can attempt to avoid its creditors. One such way is when a second company purchases the debtor company and its assets. The debtor company often no longer has its own assets that its creditors can claim. Creditors may instead seek compensation from the second company that purchased the debtor company. However, Illinois law presumes that a buyer is not responsible for the debts and liabilities of the company it purchases. Business owners may try to abuse the law by essentially continuing to run a company under another name, while dodging creditors. Fortunately, Illinois courts allow creditors to claim successor liability in order to collect debts from successor companies. The creditor must prove one of four established exceptions that transfer debt liability to a successor company.

Expressed or Implied Transfer of Debt

Successor liability claims are most simple to prove when the successor company has a written or verbal agreement to assume the debts of the company it purchased. However, the successor company can also expressly state that it is not liable for the previous company’s debts. In some cases, the purchasing agreement does not mention debt liability. Creditors can examine the agreement to determine if there is an implied assumption of the debt. A court may interpret the assumption of a contract or obligation from the previous company to imply the assumption of other liabilities.

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Using Citation to Discover Assets with DebtorsCreditors who take legal action against uncooperative debtors can view their debt retrieval as happening in two overarching stages. The first stage is receiving a court judgment that quantifies the monetary amount that the debtor owes the creditor. The second stage is retrieving the judgment debt from the debtor. Judgment enforcement of a debt can require further legal measures. Though the debtor is legally obligated to compensate the creditor, the debtor may claim financial hardship in order to delay or deny repayment. Creditors can use a citation to discover assets, which forces the debtor to disclose all of his or her available assets.

Citation of the Debtor

When a creditor files a citation to discover assets, the debtor is given notice of a court date that he or she must attend. At the hearing, the debtor is placed under oath and must answer questions about his or her available assets, including:

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Piercing the Corporate Veil to Collect DebtOne of the purposes of forming a corporation is to separate the debt liability of the business from its shareholders. When a corporation defaults on its debts, the creditor is often limited to collecting the debt from the corporation itself. If the corporation has insufficient assets or dissolves, it becomes more difficult to retrieve the full debt. However, courts will allow a creditor to seek compensation from a corporation’s shareholders in certain situations. The practice is called piercing the corporate veil, and its success depends on the type of corporation and how closely the shareholders are connected to it.

Piercing the Veil

Illinois courts are likely to protect shareholders from personal liability in a corporate debt case. When deciding whether to pierce the corporate veil, a court is instructed to consider:

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