Debt Settlement/Credit Counseling

Debt settlement involves making payments to a company for a period generally ranging from 36-60 months until enough has been accumulated for it to individually settle each of your debts. Typically, a debt settlement company charges 10%-15% of the total debts placed with it as its fee for services. Now every industry has its good and bad actors (including the legal profession) and I do not mean to suggest that the debt settlement industry is uniformly bad, however, a google search of “debt settlement complaints” or “debt settlement FTC complaints” will quickly confirm that this industry has had its share of problems. I believe that this is largely because these services are sometimes aggressively, marketed by commissioned salespeople who recommend debt settlement as the solution to your problem with very limited information regarding your circumstances.

Even when offered by highly reputable companies, I believe the concept of debt settlement itself has several weaknesses. First, while you are accumulating the funds necessary to settle your debt, you have absolutely no protection from your creditors. They may call you directly if they wish and may even file a lawsuit to recover the money owed. I couldn’t imagine anything more stressful than to have a sherriff show up at my door with a summons when I thought that my debt issues were being “handled”. Second, fees based upon a percentage of the debts placed with the company may produce a fee much larger than you might expect. A debt settlement company charging 15% of debts placed with them, for instance, would command a fee of $6,000 for settling $40,000 worth of debt (more than three times the cost of an average Chapter 7 bankruptcy)! Third, not every creditor will agree to participate in the debt settlement plan. Fourth, I believe you are better served to have your debt issues evaluated comprehensively. Debt settlement companies usually do not have employees with the necessary background and education to competently advise you on all of your debt issues including mortgages and other secured debts, taxes, student loans, etc.. Fifth, depending upon your circumstances, it may not be advisable to defer more pressing financial goals such as retirement planning, etc. for the 3-5 years necessary to successfully complete a debt settlement plan.

Client Testimonials

  • I would recommend him

    I just want to say that Mr. Garris is one of the nicest most down to earth persons I have ever met. I went into the whole the case having a ton of questions that Mr. Garris answered and was patient enough to spend a lot of his time to make sure I understood. I would recommend him to anyone that needs help on the matter of bankruptcy. I was worried about the case but in the end the process was smooth and straight forward and Mr. Garris was more than helpful no matter what time of the day it was I was even able to speak to him about my case after hours and that was very kind of him. He is a very kind person and cares about your life.

    M.H.

  • Highly knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney

    Kevin Garris helped me through one of the most difficult times of my life. He is a highly knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney. Whenever I had a question or needed advice during my case he was always there to lend a hand no matter the time of day or night. He made the process very easy to understand and the transitions from step to step seamless. I would highly recommend Kevin Garris to anybody who is going through the difficult and sometimes very confusing problem of bankruptcy. He helped me get my life back on track, and he can help you too.

    C.M.

  • He was a great help

    Since the first moment I contacted Kevin until the very end to the closure of our bankruptcy case. Kevin has always been there working late hours, overtime and even weekends to make sure everything went smoothly! He was a great help. Answered every question in depth and never left us confused. We would not hesitate in using Kevin again for any legal matter that is within his reach. If you want someone that you can trust to be there every step of the way, contact Kevin. Thanks again Kevin for everything you did for us and all of your help and for multiple calls from us and long conversations! :)

    D.M.

  • Mr. Garris was more than professional

    I was a little hesitant at first, using a lawyer and not even meeting him, but Mr. Garris was more than professional. He was very prompt answering emails and returning phone calls. We had some unexpected issues come up and Mr. Garris went above and beyond to help us get the problem resolved. I would certainly recommend his services to anybody. It was a pleasure working with him to get our bankruptcy completed.

    T.H.

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Credit Counseling (or debt management) is a debt relief strategy underwritten by the creditors that restructures debt terms to make the payments more affordable. However, with these plans, the majority of the debt is eventually repaid.  Unlike debt settlement, you are not required to be delinquent in order to participate in these plans. Because these plans provide for regular payments to your creditors, they tend to be somewhat less damaging to your credit than debt settlement. Generally speaking, credit counseling has a better overall reputation than debt settlement. You improve your chances of a favorable outcome considerably when you select a firm associated with  a nationally recognized organization. Using a Credit Counseling firm that holds membership in a nationally recognized organization,  such as NFCC (National Federation Of Credit Counseling) ensures that:  (1) the counselors from which you are receiving advice are properly certified and committed to  high ethical standards; (2) reasonable fees are charged (usually no more than $25.00 per month); (3) the firm enjoys relationships with the creditors who underwrite the program that make it less likely that you will be contacted directly or be subject to a lawsuit; (4) other useful services such as budgeting assistance are offered. Critics of these credit counseling programs dismiss them as mere collection agencies for the creditors, but I do not believe that to be a fair criticism. The biggest weakness of these programs is simply that most debtors do not have the surplus funds available each month to fund them. For those with surplus funds available each month to make the required payments, which are often substantial, this can be a perfectly acceptable alternative.