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AMerican LAw firm Detail

AMerican LAw firm Detail

At the American Law Firm, we understand that money isn’t everything, but it can sure help rebuild a life that has been tattered by the negligence of another party. Through the hard work of our attorneys, we have collected over $30 million to help our clients rebuild the lives that got tragically sidetracked. During such a stressful and unnerving time, the last thing you should have to do is deal with insurance companies alone. At the American Law Firm, we are a personal injury law firm also concentrating on immigration, bankruptcy and other areas of law including family, criminal, estate and probate.



Welcome to the American Law Firm, where our locally based attorneys are happy to take on your personal injury, immigration, family, criminal, estate or probate case. Whether you’ve suffered from a slip-and-fall accident or you need help navigating the difficulties that accompany a child custody case, our team is here for you!

We have more than 125 years of combined legal experience that can help make your seemingly complicated case easy to understand. We are happy to answer all of your questions along the way and we won’t stop fighting for you until you receive the results you deserve!
First of Two Articles: Can keep my house if I have to file Bankruptcy?
This is the first of two articles on protecting your property if you are advised to file for Bankruptcy. I have decided to begin with the exemptions protecting real estate. I have been doing Bankruptcy cases since 1990. I have seen several significant changes. When I started there was no means test. I was living and working in Peoria, IL then and the local office of the United States’ Trustee ( Sort of a Bankruptcy Prosecutor) did motions to dismiss Bankruptcies where they felt a debtor (person petitioning for Bankruptcy) could afford to pay at least 10% over a three (3) year period under a Chapter13 reorganization plan Bankruptcy. That eventually became our current means test.

The Trustee; separate from the US Trustee’s office, is usually a local private attorney who contracts with the U.S. Government to review each case and liquidate (sell) non-exempt assets of a debtor to share among the creditors. When I started the percentage kept by the Trustees was less than Fieve percent (5%) of the value of an asset so not a lot of seizures happened due to the low level of profit available to the Trustee for the effort involved. That all changed in 1995; the Trustees were then and now able to retain Twenty Five percent (25%) of the first Five Thousand dollars ($ 5,000.00) from a seized asset and then Ten percent (10%) on any assets above Five Thousand dollars ($ 5,000.00) up to Fifty Thousand dollars ($ 50,000.00). This turned your friendly neighborhood Trustees into wolves attacking all assets of the debtors.

I practice in Illinois and Illinois has its own exemption statutes. Some states use a set of exemption which are part of the United States Code (Federal Statutes) but as each state was allowed to choose to use the exemptions from the United States Code or their own statutes, Illinois chose to use its own. The statute in Illinois providing for exemption (protection) of a debtor’s equity (value) in a residence is found in the Illinois Compiled Statutes at Chapter 735 Section 5/12-901 (735 ILCS 5/12-901).

When I started it was Seven Thousand Five Hundred dollars ($ 7,500.00) for a single debtor and Fifteen Thousand dollars ($ 15, 000.00) for two spouses filing a joint petition. Now it is Fifteen Thousand dollars ($ 15, 000.00) for a single debtor and Thirty Thousand dollars ($ 30,000.00) for two spouses filing a joint petition.

This sounds simple on its face but there are a lot of pitfalls that lie for the unwary. If you have more than the exempt amount in equity in your home it is ripe for liquidation by the trustee and you get a check for the exempt amount. It also only applies to the property you use as a residence. In the late 1990’s I had a client whose mother had thought she had prepared a deed on her home to avoid probate by deeding the house to my client and his siblings. That deed was supposed to have retained the right for the mother to live in the house for the rest of her life and then it became her children’s. However the deed was not correctly drafted and the land was the actual property of my client and his siblings. We had to arrange to buy back my client’s share of his mother’s home to keep it from being sold.

If you hope to get Bankruptcy Relief and keep your home, carefully checking values and making sure only your residence is at issue is as thorny issue. Consulting an attorney on any matter where the Courts or the Government is involved is your best move.

Thanks for reading,
Joe Sparacino,
Attorney at Law
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