Bankruptcy Resources Myths vs. Facts • Author Mark Martella • May 16, 2015
Part I- Looking at the Numbers.
If you are reading this article, most likely, you have been thinking about the possibility of filing for bankruptcy for a while, or you’re just wondering if bankruptcy could help you. The fact that you have decided to take action by getting more information is a great step in the right direction, and you should be congratulated just for doing what many are unwilling to do: making the choice to move forward and get on the path to a fresh start and a new life!
If you are like most of my clients, one of the biggest hurdles you face in deciding to file bankruptcy is not the numbers issue because, when you sit down and look at where your income and expenses are, you can logically determine that you need to do something to reduce your debt. You already know that you can’t continue to go on with your increasing debts and the stresses you are having to endure based on your current and foreseeable income. The BIG hurdles you have are getting passed the emotions and embarrassment you believe are associated with the filing of bankruptcy. You have always paid all of your bills on time! You are a responsible person! You were raised to pay all of your debts! What will your friends and family think? What will your co-workers or church members think? How can you face your friends, your parents or your children?
Some clients have even said to me: “Filing bankruptcy for me would be a fate worse than death!” Unfortunately, we have all read stories in the newspapers of people who have killed themselves from financial woes. First, if you are having suicidal thoughts because of your financial situation, PLEASE SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ASSISTANCE. I can assure you that the despair you are feeling is not insurmountable, and that through proper medical treatment and the financial correction provided by bankruptcy, you will find relief.
Hopefully, you have not put off facing your financial reality to the point where you are at the end of your rope and are having extreme thoughts. More likely, you are in a state of mind of feeling lost, thinking that you are the only one facing your situation, and you are too embarrassed to let anyone know about your situation (sometimes even your spouse). The reality is that you ARE NOT ALONE!
My goal in this article is to first share with you some of the statistics regarding the number of people each year who actually seek help through bankruptcy. When you look at the numbers, I hope you will realize that you most likely have friends, relatives and co-workers who have gone through just what you are experiencing, even though they may not have told you. They are not bad people because they did it, and I am sure that you do not look at them that way. They will have the same compassion and understanding for you as you have for them.
Next, I am going to share with you stories of several famous people who, without the existence of bankruptcy laws or similar laws available to them at the time, not only would have been “financial slaves” to their creditors, but also, would not have been able to go on to do tremendous things to touch the lives of millions of people and make huge contributions to not only the national, but also, the global economies. They are people of whom you have heard and may be surprised to learn that they have ever had financial woes: Milton Hershey, Conrad Hilton, Henry Ford and Walt Disney.
Finally, I probably have written a couple of things already that have made you say to yourself “Yes, that’s exactly how I feel” or “Boy, he must really get to know his clients well to understand what they are thinking”. Well, if you look at our clients’ comments provided at the end of this book, I think you will see that our firm is unique in the compassion we show to our clients. This sets us apart from other firms that are just bankruptcy mills, moving clients through the system in mass quantities. One of the main reasons that we are different and have such compassion is because I have walked in my clients’ shoes down the bankruptcy path in 1997. Therefore, I know of all the thoughts and emotions that you are going through right now, as I have lived it myself. I will end this chapter by sharing “my story” with you. a. the numbers
Most people, when they feel that they have been wronged and need an attorney, are quick to pick up the phone and make an appointment. However, the general exception to this rule is when people who are facing the possible need to file bankruptcy. As I have already described, there is a fear of the unknown and the embarrassment that comes with the thought of having to file for bankruptcy. Quite often, we find that clients are ashamed and believe that they are the only ones in their circle of friends or co-workers who have faced the same financial difficulties. The reality is that there are tens of thousands of people, including your friends and neighbors, who file for bankruptcy each year and who understand the difficulties that you are going through.
Each year, the Clerk for the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida, where my law practice is located, reports the number of annual filings. Over the past five years, there have been more than 269,000 bankruptcies filed in the Middle District alone. The Middle District is a diagonal district starting in Naples, working its way north to Tampa, across to Orlando, and ending in Jacksonville. In 2012, the total number of filings was 45,898. While this is down 14 percent from the 2011 filings, it is still 8 percent higher than the 2008 filings of 42,450. Over the last five years, the year with the greatest number of filings was 2010, which had 66,476 filings. Of the 45,898 filings for 2012, more than 19,000 were filed in the Tampa and Fort Myers Districts. If you were to take a look at the national statistics over the last five years, the numbers are in the millions.
The bottom line is that the myth that you are alone or unique in filing for bankruptcy and facing difficult financial challenges is simply that, a myth. Most people would be surprised to learn of all of their friends, acquaintances and even family members who have had to file for the protection provided by the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. My point is that, unfortunately, one of the biggest challenges that bankruptcy attorneys face is the psychological barrier that clients have, even after coming in for a consultation. These psychological challenges only delay the benefits that one receives from a bankruptcy discharge. I would liken it to someone with a toothache who has a fear of the dentist (like me)! You put it off, and put it off, until it gets to the point where you need to have the tooth pulled or experience the pain of a root canal. While I can assure you that the bankruptcy process is not as painful as a root canal or having a tooth pulled, the result is a tremendous relief of the stresses of being harassed by creditors and worries of having your wages or bank account levied upon.
Additionally, one of the advantages that a member of the general public has over a famous person is that the bankruptcy filing process, while public record, is generally not on the radar screens of your friends, co-workers or family members. Unlike famous athletes, like Mike Tyson, Warren Sapp and Michael Vick, or music and Hollywood stars like Toni Braxton, Willie Nelson, Nicholas Cage, Larry King, Kim Bassinger, Ed McMahon and Gary Busey, who have filed, your bankruptcy filing will generally go unnoticed.
Remember, the bankruptcy laws were created by Congress as a material tool necessary for our capitalistic system to function. As I will discuss in more detail, many great entrepreneurs, such as Milton Hershey, Walt Disney, Henry Ford and Conrad Hilton, had to file for bankruptcy to get a fresh start. Had they not had the opportunity to file for bankruptcy and be relieved of their creditors, they would never have been able to create the great business empires which employ millions of people and contribute immensely to our economy. In Part II of this article, we will a look at their stories.
Contact a Bankruptcy Attorney
If you have a situation as we described in this article and have questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us to answer your bankruptcy legal questions.
Martella Bankruptcy Firm
18501 Murdock Circle, Suite 304
Port Charlotte, FL 33948
5237 Summerlin Commons, Suite 411
Fort Myers, FL 33907