Together, we’ll find the right path!

At ESSERLAW LLC we want you to be…debt free. Come meet with one of our experienced attorneys.

Should I be considering budget counseling, bankruptcy, or a structured repayment plan?

At ESSERLAW LLC (formerly Todd C. Esser & Associates), we view the filing of a petition for relief under the bankruptcy code to be a remedy of last resort. Before we would counsel a client to consider bankruptcy relief, it is first important to exhaust all other available remedies. For this reason, we typically will meet with a client to review the big picture:

  • What are the total debts the client has i.e. mortgage, car, credit cards, medical bills, tax obligations, student loan debt, as well as any other debt?
  • What is the client’s family structure i.e. how many dependents are they supporting?
  • What is the family income, is there more than one income earner?
  • What is the rate of pay and household budget?

We also look at the availability of assets and the potential to fund a settlement with creditors based on available equity in assets or to fund a repayment plan and the viability of working with Consumer Credit Counseling to set up a debt management plan.

In addition, ESSERLAW LLC provides budget counseling for clients to help them to resolve debts on their own by adjusting budget expenses, eliminating wasteful spending and paying off liabilities over time.

So to make a long answer short, if there is no other viable alternative to considering bankruptcy then bankruptcy is appropriate. If the client sincerely can project that they do not have the financial ability to make progress on repayment of debt, then bankruptcy becomes an appropriate remedy to consider whether a bankruptcy repayment plan under Chapter 13 or complete debt elimination through Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code.

Should I seek help finding my road to financial recovery?
  • Are you consistently having difficulty paying bills as they come due?
  • Have you taken a high interest loan or a new credit card to “catch up”?
  • Have you borrowed or are you considering borrowing or withdrawing from your retirement accounts?

If any of these questions are touching a note with you, come meet with one of our experienced attorneys. Let us help you evaluate your situation and create a plan. Together we’ll chart a course to help you become debt free.

What is Debt Consolidation?
What is Chapter 7?

Proceeding under the bankruptcy code to discharge debts while keeping homes and cars and providing a fresh start. Constitutionally protected bankruptcy laws were created to safeguard consumers.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is often referred to as a straight bankruptcy. While considered to be a remedy of last resort, it may be the quickest way to obtaining a fresh start and becoming debt free. A Chapter 7 proceeding is commenced by the filing of a petition for relief with the United States Bankruptcy Court. Upon the filing of the petition, an automatic stay becomes effective under federal law preventing creditors from taking any action against the person filing or that person’s property. Additionally, the automatic stay stops creditors from continuing with collection actions, harassing phone calls, lawsuits, garnishment of wages, car repossessions, foreclosures, or any other creditor action intended to collect a claim or debt against the person filing or that person’s property.

As part of the proceeding, the person filing the bankruptcy petition is required to make certain disclosures on schedules, which are also filed with the court. A Trustee is appointed (a private attorney) to review the schedules and disclosure filed in the case to determine whether there are any assets available that can be sold or collected in order to pay a dividend to the creditors in the case.

It is often said that 99% of the cases filed turn out to be “no asset” cases. This is because the “exemptions” – the rules that determine what property someone is allowed to keep when they file Chapter 7 bankruptcy – are somewhat generous. In Wisconsin, you have the ability to select exemptions under federal bankruptcy laws or under Wisconsin exemption laws as well as other federal exemption provisions. Federal statutes are more generous in terms of protecting non-homestead equity, cash or deposits and will allow someone filing bankruptcy to protect up to approximately $12,725 in cash or deposits as of the date of filing. On the other hand, Wisconsin statutes allow the person filing bankruptcy to protect as much as $75,000 of equity in their homestead together with as much as $16,000 of equity in household goods and possessions and vehicles and $5,000 in deposit accounts. During the course of the proceeding, the person filing bankruptcy meets with the Trustee, who has been appointed in the case, to review the disclosures on the schedules and to answer any questions the Trustee may have concerning assets, liabilities, income, and the other disclosures. In most cases, 90 days after the filing, a discharge order is entered and sent to creditors in the case informing them that the person filing has received a discharge in bankruptcy and that they are prohibited from attempting to collect their claims from that person in the future. While there are several types of debts that are automatically not affected by the discharge i.e., child support, most tax obligations, student loan debts, fines, penalties and restitution orders, common obligations such as medical bills, credit cards, utilities, and other non-priority debts are erased giving the filer a fresh start.

ESSERLAW LLC will help you to determine if this is the best debt restructuring plan for your financial well-being. In some instances, you may be able to opt for a Chapter 13, which allows you to pay off all or some of your debts through consolidation.

What is Chapter 13?

One of the most effective tools a consumer or small business person has available to them is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. Often referred to as a ‘wage earner plan,’ Chapter 13 is available to any individual who has a regular source of income whether the income is from a paycheck, business, rents, social security, pension, or any other source. Chapter 13 is extremely flexible and allows an individual to consolidate all of their debts and then provide a plan of arrangement in which some debts, like mortgage arrears, car loans or tax obligations are paid back through the plan at a modified interest rate, while unsecured obligations such as utilities, credit cards, medical bills, payday loans, or other unsecured obligations will be forced by the court to provide deep discounts. In other words, a Chapter 13 plan includes not only a structured payment plan for the types of obligations that need to be repaid in full, but also provides a structure to compromise or discount other obligations which are not ultimately repaid in full. Instead, certain creditor claims will be partially discharged by the proceeding.

Chapter 13 protection can stop foreclosures, car repossessions, garnishments, tax levies, student loan collection, even collection of child support arrears; but navigating a course through waters of bankruptcy, can be fairly complex. At ESSERLAW LLC our experienced attorneys will work with you to fully evaluate your situation, including debt and income, and determine if Chapter 13 is your best option. Together, with our legal team, we’ll map out the correct route for you and your family to become debt free. Contact us today so that we can get started.

What is Chapter 128 Amortization?

As a resident of Wisconsin, you enjoy a unique option when it comes to getting your debts under control. You won’t have to file tax returns, get credit counseling or even go to court. Chapter 128 allows you to organize your debt without filing bankruptcy.

Chapter 128 proceeding is NOT a bankruptcy proceeding. Chapter 128 is a provision under Wisconsin Statutes, not the federal bankruptcy code. Under a Chapter 128, or debt amortization plan, as it is often referred, an individual wage earner is allowed to select certain debts to include as part of a court supervised plan to be paid without interest over a term or up to 3 years. The debt must be paid in full, but it is paid back without interest. At the conclusion of the plan, the court issues an order determining that the debt has now been satisfied in full. There is no discharge. On the other hand the person filing the Chapter 128 case is protected from wage garnishment by the creditor or creditors that are included as part of the repayment plan. Chapter 128 is a very effective tool for individuals who may be in a circumstance where they are not able to live up to the payments required by the creditor; but who could afford to pay if given more time. For instance, if an individual has taken out a payday or check cashing type loan, often times loan payments are scheduled weekly or bi-weekly and can include repayment terms or 500% to 750% interest! Under Chapter 128, that loan could be paid back under the court supervised plan without further addition of interest after the date of filing. This can amount to a huge savings for the individual and peace of mind knowing that the individual’s wages are protected from execution or garnishment. Chapter 128 is not effective in dealing with secured claims. That is, debts that are secured by a lien on property. For instance, if someone borrows money from a title loan company and pledges their car as collateral for the loan, Chapter 128 would not protect the creditor from repossessing the car or other pledged collateral. In that circumstance, it may be better to pursue a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in order to obtain the federal bankruptcy court automatic stay protecting the vehicle from repossession.

ESSERLAW LLC will help you determine if a Chapter 128 is the best debt elimination strategy for you financial well-being. Call or schedule a free consultation today.

When I initially meet with a debt relief agent, what information should I bring?

When you come in for your initial consultation, you’ll want to make the most of this valuable time. The more organized you are, the more productive the consultation will be. Give your debt relief agent the whole story. Draw a complete picture of your financial situation. Enable us to guide you down the best path for you to be…debt free.

  • Bring with you any lawsuits that have been filed against you.
  • Bring pay stubs from the last six months.
  • Bring a copy of your tax returns from the last two years.
  • Bring all bills that you want to discuss.
  • Bring any loan documents.
  • Bring any important papers that would help evidence the type of debt that you have.

ESSERLAW LLC will gladly provide you with a Consumer Questionnaire to help organize your information. If possible, download the Consumer Questionnaire beforehand. Or, plan to come in a little early, and complete the questionnaire here.

The important thing is that you are taking the first step towards becoming debt free.

Who notifies the creditors and bill collectors?

Depending upon the circumstance, when a retainer agreement is signed with ESSERLAW LLC, we can immediately send a letter to the creditor threatening action to let them know we have been retained and will be representing you to resolve your pending matter. Generally speaking, the court will send notice to creditors and bill collectors letting them know that the petition for relief has been filed and that there is an automatic stay in effect under federal law preventing them from contacting you or taking further legal action against you or your property. Contact us and let us know about your specific situation, so we can determine what type of notice needs to be provided to protect you from further creditor action.

If I go to court, what information should I bring?

Of course, the type of court proceeding is relevant to this determination. If, for instance, the question is what should I bring to the meeting of creditors in a bankruptcy proceeding, the list would be as follows: a driver’s license, picture ID, passport or other state or government issued identification which would enable the trustee to determine that the individual before them is indeed the person who filed the case. Secondly, you should bring with you proof of your social security number by either bringing your social security card, Medicare card, original W2, 1099 or 1098 indicating your full name and address as well as your full social security number. Check with your attorney before the court hearing to determine if there is any other relevant information. For directions or other information contact ESSERLAW LLC at 414-461-7000 or 262-619-0433.

Which court house do I go to and where is it?
US Bankruptcy Court MKe Courthouse

Federal Courthouse
Address: 517 E Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Phone: (414) 297-3291
Hours: 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM


If I filed for bankruptcy before, may I file again?

Yes, relief under the bankruptcy code is available to someone who may have filed in the past. In order to qualify for a discharge under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code, you must wait eight (8) years from the date, of the filing of the petition, in the prior case. However, Chapter 13 is available at any time! If someone has filed for and received a discharge in a prior Chapter 7, in order to receive a discharge in a subsequently filed Chapter 13 case, they will need to wait more than four (4) years from the date of the petition in the prior Chapter 7 case. However, that person is still eligible to file a Chapter 13 and, in fact, a Chapter 13 petition could be filed days after the discharge is granted in the prior Chapter 7 case. This type of situation is generally referred to as a “no discharge” Chapter 13 filing. However, it is often used by individuals to prevent foreclosure of a house, or repossession of a car, or to prevent tax levy of wages. The creditor is still affected by the automatic stay in the subsequently file Chapter 13 case and is bound by the terms of the order confirming the plan of arrangement. For instance, if a creditor is attempting to foreclose a house, a subsequently filed no discharge Chapter 13 would still have the effect of stopping the foreclosure, reinstating the mortgage note and allowing the homeowner to pay the mortgage arrearage, costs and attorney fee from the foreclosure, over a repayment term of up to five (5) years. The effect would be to reinstate the mortgage loan and commence regular payments as if no payment had been missed in the first place.

At ESSERLAW LLC, we want to help you keep your house, car and wages. Call us today for a free consultation to talk about your specific situation and how we can help you become debt free.

Will the bankruptcy stop bill collectors from calling?

If you determine, after consultation, that filing a petition for relief under the bankruptcy code either under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is right for you, the filing of the petition for relief will trigger the automatic stay. Once the creditor is notified of the bankruptcy filing and the automatic stay, they know that they are prevented from further contact with you by federal law. If a creditor violates the stay, they are subject to being sanctioned by the bankruptcy court and could risk imposition of substantial fines or other penalties. Find out more about how the automatic stay works and whether you should be considering bankruptcy as relief for your circumstances. Contact ESSERLAW LLC at 414-461-7000 or 262-619-0433, or schedule a free consultation. At ESSERLAW LLC, we want you to be…debt free.

Is there financial life after bankruptcy?

This is probably the most common question we are asked by individuals we consult with about various forms of debt relief including relief under the bankruptcy code. At ESSERLAW LLC, we consider bankruptcy to be a remedy of last resort. We are happy to work with you to consider other alternatives to filing for bankruptcy relief. We will work with individuals on budget counseling options, refinancing and debt settlement, if those options are feasible.

We are happy to make referrals to consumer credit counseling agents, in the right circumstance. We believe that individuals should first satisfy themselves no other feasible plan is available, or that circumstances warrant bankruptcy protection due to time constraints, or other immediate creditor action. However, in circumstances where debt relief under the bankruptcy code is necessary, you should do so knowing there definitely is financial life after bankruptcy.

Since 1982, we have helped numerous individuals put their financial lives back on track. Given the complexities of today’s financial markets, the ups and downs of the economy, and everyday life sometimes creating the need for debt relief through no fault of the individual, (as in the case of divorce, medical injury, job loss or other unforeseen circumstances,) bankruptcy has become a common and accepted circumstance for millions of individuals. In many cases, the filing of the bankruptcy results in an actual increase in an individual’s FICO score shortly after the discharge is granted. In part, this may be as a result of open credit, accounts in collection and other liabilities being forgiven as part of the bankruptcy process.

While financial recovery doesn’t happen overnight, we have certainly seen the positive effects that bankruptcy has had on our past clients’ overall financial health resulting in the ability to obtain credit, car loans and even mortgages within two years of a bankruptcy filing. For more information about how you can be on the track to reestablishing your financial health contact us at ESSERLAW LLC by calling 414-461-7000 or 262-619-0433, or click here for a free consultation.

How do I choose the Debt Relief Specialist that’s right for me?

Contact Info

11805 W Hampton Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53225

Milwaukee: 414-461-7000
Racine: 262-619-0433
Fox Valley: 920-727-0775
Text: 414-461-7000
Email: debtfree@esserlaw.com

Todd C. Esser

Rated by Super Lawyers

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Coverage Area

Milwaukee, Wisconsin Metropolitan Area, Southeastern Wisconsin, Fox Valley
Racine & Kenosha

Business Hours

Monday - Friday:
8:30am to 5:00pm