I recently gave a clinic on pro se bankruptcy filings to group of low income people that needed bankruptcy protection but cannot afford to engage private counsel. My hat if off to these people, willing to brave by themselves the difficult task of completing the necessary petition, schedules and statement of financial affairs, navigating available exemptions, ensuring they pass the means test and asking the court to waive the chapter 7 filing fee.
Eventually the discussion got around to what precipitated the decision to file for bankruptcy relief for the various participants. As you would expect, unemployment, catastrophic illness, the death of the principal breadwinner, and simple bad luck were among the more common reasons.
But one woman’s story was even more heartbreaking, and her saga prompted this post.
I did not inquire of the woman’s life story, but it was clear to me that at one point in her life she and her family were relatively prosperous with a meaningful income, good health, and a promising future. That all changed when the husband, the chief source of income, died suddenly, and her daughter began to suffer from a chronic medical problem that soaked up a lot of disposable cash.
If that was the end of the story, there would not be much to remark about. But the woman, accustomed to some of the better things in life, sought to reclaim the life she once knew by searching for private investments that promised huge returns. If she could find such an investment, her thinking went, she could make up for the income lost when her husband died and replenish the bank account that was being drained by uninsured medical costs incurred by her daughter.
But fate had one more nasty blow in store for this brave woman. The man she entrusted her money to on a “can’t lose” investment proposition absconded with the money and has not been heard from, or seen, since. All efforts to locate the scofflaw have failed, and the poor woman is now out of options. Bankruptcy is likely the only answer to her current situation, and she cannot afford to hire a lawyer to guide her through the chapter 7 process. Hence her attendance at the pro se clinic.
Surprisingly, there was no bitterness, no self-pity, but a calm resignation to her fate. Even in the worst of circumstances, the woman retained a sense of quiet grace and elegance that most of us can only aspire to.
And out of all this came the thought that others might profit by a reminder that there are only too many scam artists out there, ready to pounce when the “mark” is most vulnerable. And so I post the following link to an article that contains some suggestions on how to avoid scams.
I help people who have legal problems caused by too much debt. But I would rather help people avoid such problems. My hope then is that this post might cause some to wisely sidestep the “can’t miss” proposition that results in financial ruin.
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