The Law Offices of Selwyn D. Whitehead

Chapter 7, 13 or 11 California Certified Bankruptcy Specialist---Know Your Options!

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Firm Overview

In addition to my legal training, I have a background in finance, insurance, financial services industry regulation and consumer advocacy. As such, the primary focus of my professional life has been to help individuals protect and grow their income and assets. This emphasis has continued and is now the primary focus of my legal practice. As such, I advise and counsel with my clients on the intricacies of federal bankruptcy law. This area of law encompasses the proper application of the Federal Bankruptcy Codes and Rules along with the applicable California and Federal case law to help my clients achieve their ultimate debt restructuring or debt relief goals. I accomplish this by meeting with clients to thoroughly review their debts, assets, liabilities, income and expenses. I then counsel my clients regarding the advisability of filing either a Chapter 7, Chapter 13 or Chapter 11 case, discussing the pros and cons of both procedures, and answering the questions each client needs in order to make an informed decision about whether to file for bankruptcy, and if so, which chapter to file under.

With a Master's Degree in the Laws of Taxation, I also advise my clients on federal income, estate, and excise tax issues, and state and local level income, business, property, sales and use tax issues. I also provide tax planning advice in the selection of a business structure, including proprietorships, corporations, limited liability companies, limited liability partnerships, limited partnerships, and joint ventures. And because I hold a California Department of Real Estate Broker's License and manage my own portfolio of real estate, I have expertise in real estate and land use law. That means I can help my clients by providing advice in the areas of residential and commercial sales, leasing, financing, title issues, landlord-tenant and other related matters such the negotiation, preparation and review of contracts and other legal documents in accordance with California Real Estate Law.

My final areas of focus are that of estate planning and wealth management. This area of law encompasses the proper application of tax, estate planning, trusts and probate law and requires expertise in the drafting of wills, trusts, durable powers of attorneys for assets, and healthcare directives. That means I help my clients do all that is legally required to ensure their assets are disposed of in accordance with their wishes upon their passing and/or their assets/financial management and healthcare-related decisions are executed by the individuals of their choosing upon their incapacity.

My firm was established part-time in 2005 with a focus on estate planning tax law. However, in the wake of the financial industry meltdown that caused most consumers to move from wealth accumulation to debt management, I moved the focus of my practice to bankruptcy, debt relief and related tax issues in 2008.

Example cases

Bankruptcy Work

In my first full year as a bankruptcy practitioner, I have counseled more than 150 families via seminars and individual consultation. I have helped more than 50 families facing foreclosure access the protection of the U. S. Bankruptcy Court as the means of keeping their homes. And while under the protection of the Court, I have been successful in stripping away my client wholly underwater junior mortgage liens. If you are behind in your mortgage payments and your bank is unwilling to offer you a meaningful loan modification, I may be able to help you keep your home by filing a Chapter 13 in Bankruptcy Court.

In a Chapter 13 Reorganization and Repayment Plan, an eligible homeowner is allowed to consolidate all their debts, including any mortgage arrearages and other secured and unsecured debt, into one low monthly payment. The payment amount is tailored to the debtor's budget. If the plan is found to be "feasible" by the Court, homeowner consolidates all missed mortgage payments or arrears and then spreads the repayment out over three to five years. The net result is that a mortgage that is in default can be legally reinstated by Federal Court Order and the homeowner continues to make her normal mortgage payments outside the plan. Once the homeowner is under the protection of the Court, the lender is also under strict scrutiny to account to the Federal Court for any fees they attempt to assert over the normal mortgage payments.

As a simple example, if you are $15,000 in arrears on your mortgage and your monthly mortgage payment is currently $3,000, your Chapter 13 Chapter payment would be approximately $250 per month. (15,000 / 60 months = $250, plus Trustee fees). The new total monthly house payment would be about $3,250. The Chapter 13 program results in a more realistic repayment plan than the short term catch up plans currently offered by most lenders outside the Bankruptcy Court, and you maintain all your rights under the Truth in Lending Act and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act to seek relief from lenders who violated these federal consumer protection laws.

Once under the protection of the Bankruptcy Court, I urge my Chapter 13 clients to work with one of the HUD-approved non profits, such as The Unity Council, who will charge them nothing more than the cost of a credit report to lead them through the maze of people and paperwork inside their lender with the goal of securing a meaningful modification of their first mortgage. If there is a reasonable basis to believe that the lender and/or any of its agents engaged in predatory lending in the origination or servicing of the loan, I make a referral to another great non profit, the Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (HERA), who has had success in suing some of these lenders.

Main Office

Main
4650 Scotia Avenue
Oakland  CA  94605

Phone
  • (510) 632-7444
Fax
  • (510) 856-5180

Fees

Free Initial Consultation?

I offer a free one hour consultation, in addition to a free download and analysis of the financial data prospective clients provide to me via my online bankruptcy questionnaire.

Services Offered For Fixed Fees?

My bankruptcy fees are within the parameters set by the Bankruptcy Courts. However, I am willing to discuss terms with clients who need some assistance.

Hourly Rates

$250.

Office Information

Office Hours

Monday through Friday
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Emergency After Hours

No

Languages Spoken

I have access to a Spanish translator.

How did your firm decide on the primary area of practice(s)?

To help the little guy or gal have a fighting chance against their well-financed financial services industry adversaries.

What is your firm's point of view regarding clients educating themselves on legal issues?

I want my clients to educate themselves on the pertinent legal issues because each client must realize that their legal issue is THEIR legal issue, not mine. My job is to help sheppard the client through the legal minefields standing between them and their goals. The only way we both can be successful is if we act as a team, and I want my teammates to be well informed.

Is your firm willing to review documents prepared by clients?

I am willing to review my client's documents.

Is your firm willing to coach clients who want to represent themselves?

I already do so as a volunteer attorney with the Alameda County Bar Association's Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Clinic.

Selwyn D. Whitehead

April 2004 to December 2008 - Fireman's Finder Insurance Company, Claims Legal Expense Audit Manager for the Litigation Services Unit
2001 to 2003 - Soul Beat International Television Network, Legal Analyst, Writer and Producer
2000 to 2001 - Institute for the Rule or Law, Interim Executive Director
2000 - The Law Offices of Greg Harper Stuart Flashman Attorney at Law, Law Clerk
1999 - California Public Utilities Commission, Legal Division, Law Clerk
Prior to entering law school in 1998, I ran a couple of non-profits focusing on insurance regulation, consumer financial products literacy and economic empowerment, the founding executive director of the Greenlining Coalition, which was an entity of Public Advocates, and the CEO of the Economic Empowerment Foundation.

My expertise in finance, insurance, financial services industry regulation and consumer advocacy. My advanced legal training. And most importantly, my life experience of being raised by a grandparent who lived through the great depression, and in turn raising a family in sometimes harsh financial times.

I am direct, a good listener, and have a low tolerance for B.S.

Personal interests:

Movies, the theater, good food and containing or reducing my carbon footprint through the use of technology.

License
  • Bar Number: 236391
    California , 2005
Education
  • New College School of Law
    J.D. , 2001
    San Francisco, CA
    Real Property Law.
  • Golden Gate University School of Law
    LL.M Taxation Law , 2002
    San Francisco, CA
    Taxation Law, Estates and Trust Law.
  • Golden Gate University School of Law
    LL.M IP Law , 2003
    San Francisco, CA
    Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks, Media and Entertainment Law.

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