Waiting to file bankruptcy can be hazardous to your financial and emotional health

Most people who come to see us about bankruptcy do so at least a year, sometimes two to five years, after they could have (and probably should have) filed.  Waiting to file and struggling to make minimum payments or robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul by paying on one credit card with another causes not only financial damage to your credit score and personal wealth, but also emotional strain to yourself and your family.

Though using creative financing to keep your head above water may seem like a good idea at the time, it can do irreparable damage.  Many debtors don’t realize that the bankruptcy system is intended to preserve a reasonable amount of your personal wealth so that you aren’t penniless when the bankruptcy is over.  Therefore, without fully understanding what the law protects, people often cash out protected assets like retirement accounts and use the money to pay unsecured debts like credit cards, personal loans and medical bills — not realizing that unsecured debts are typically discharged in bankruptcy, while retirement accounts typically survive bankruptcy to provide a secure retirement for the debtor.  Similarly, some debtors attempt to stay afloat by consolidating unsecured debts like credit cards and personal loans into a first or second mortgage that is secured against their property and cannot be discharged in bankruptcy without surrendering their home.  After the debtor’s bankruptcy is complete, these folks’ personal wealth is less than it would have been if they had filed sooner rather than later.

At the same time, the constant stress of stretching a dollar and coming up short each month with no end in sight takes a toll on body and soul.  According to a 2013 study by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts, financial issues are the number one cause of marital conflict, and the nation’s third leading cause of divorce (22%), after basic incompatibility (43%) and infidelity (28%).  Study upon study shows that financial stress is a leading contributor to heart ailments, depression, anxiety, addiction, as well as PTSD, domestic violence, and even suicide.  Why would anyone want to stay in such a stressful situation juggling finances and dodging bill collectors when they could easily get the relief that the law provides?  Sometimes it’s pride or the thought that “our luck is bound to turn,” but often it’s just habit, fear of the unknown, or lack of knowledge about what bankruptcy really entails and the relief it provides.

Before you squander your personal assets and your physical and emotional health, it pays to talk to an experienced bankruptcy attorney.  Contact us at Norrell & Powers Norrell, LLC for a discreet, informative conversation about your options.  You may find that the time has not yet arrived for you to file bankruptcy, but you may find that the time is here to recapture your financial and personal well-being.


Mandy Powers Norrell is a Lancaster SC bankruptcy lawyer with over 20 years experience in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases.  This post is provided free of charge for general information only, and not as legal advice for your particular circumstances.  To schedule a $25 bankruptcy consultation, please contact us.


Life Insurance Claim Denials in South Carolina

Making a life insurance claim in Lancaster, South Carolina, should be the same as in any other city and state, but it’s not. Laws vary from one state to another. In fact the process is not even the same among different insurance companies.  This lack of uniformity adds complexity and frustration, and it is usually the person making the claim who ends up on the losing end.

The typical life insurance claim involves contacting the insurance company, filling out forms, and providing a certified copy of the death certificate (and sometimes medical records). Most life insurance claims are honored and paid, but some are not.  Some of the most common reasons for denial are:

1. Material misrepresentation in the policy – in other words, the insurance company thinks that the deceased lied about or omitted a medical condition, addiction, risky behavior, or something in the deceased’s background that would have kept the policy from ever being issued.

2. The policy lapsed, either because of non-payment or expiration of the policy term. This is especially harsh when the policy holder was hospitalized, incapacitated or under hospice care for a long time before death and the premium did not get paid. Some insurance companies will stop an automatic bank draft for premiums when they suspect that an insured is near death, hoping that no one will notice.

3. Claim is not made in a timely manner.

4. Policy exclusion – such as death from a dangerous activity mentioned in the policy or suicide within a set time after the policy is issued.

* Although not a reason in itself for denial, insurance companies look more closely at “high dollar” policies and those issued a short time before death.

Keep in mind that insurance companies are in the business of making money and they don’t like to pay it out. Some insurance companies take advantage of people who are grieving and are not aware of the law. Those insurance companies play the odds that you will just give up. But you don’t have to take the insurance company’s word for it! Yes, some denials are proper, but many are because of bad faith business practices by the insurance company.

When filing a life insurance claim, do these things:

♦   After the first telephone conversation with the insurance representative, insist that all communication be in writing. Respond to requests in a timely manner, and document every communication with the insurance company in writing, and keep copies of every letter and record.

♦   If you are asked to provide medical records, or give a recorded statement, or meet with a claims investigator, speak to an attorney first. The attorneys at Norrell & Powers Norrell, LLC have experience in these cases. Remember: the insurance carrier should be able to make its determination based upon the death certificate and the information provided by the deceased in his or her application. Since you weren’t part of making the insurance contract, then the most likely reason that the insurance company wants a statement from you is to justify their denial, not help your claim.


Mitch Norrell and Mandy Powers Norrell are Lancaster SC insurance claim lawyers with over 45 years combined experience in handling wrongfully denied life insurance claim cases. This post is provided free of charge for general information only, and not as legal advice for your particular circumstances. To schedule a free consultation, please contact us.

Grounds for Divorce in South Carolina

In South Carolina, there are four (4) fault-based grounds for divorce and one (1) no-fault ground set out in S. C. Code of Laws Section 20-3-10. The fault-based grounds are: adultery; habitual drunkenness or drug abuse; physical abuse; and desertion. The no-fault ground is continuous separation for at least one year.

One year’s separation is the most common ground for divorce, because it is the easiest to prove. You do not have to show malicious intent, you just have to show that you and your spouse have been apart for more than a year without reconciling. You don’t even have to go to court or file any court documents at the beginning of the year, as long as you have a corroborating witness at the end of the year who can affirm that you and your spouse were separated for the whole year. But keep in mind that if you attempt to reconcile and cohabit (live together as spouses) even for one night, you may have to start the year over.

To prove adultery, you don’t need to prove actual adultery, but you have to show compelling evidence of opportunity (overnight visits, private rendezvous, etc.) and inclination (romantic communications, public displays of affection, etc.). A confession of adultery by your spouse is not enough without evidence and corroborating testimony from others. Typically, the best witness is a private investigator, since he or she knows from experience what evidence to gather for your case. Increasingly, photos and communications sent via text and social media like Facebook® are used to prove adultery.

To obtain a divorce on the ground of habitual drunkenness or drug abuse, you do not have to prove continual intoxication, but you do have to prove that abuse of alcohol or drugs has undermined the relationship to the point that the marriage cannot continue. Medical records, employment records, criminal records, and financial records are typically used as evidence to augment eyewitness testimony of alcohol or drug abuse.

Physical cruelty does not require a “beating” in order for you to get your divorce. It does, however, require at least an actual or reasonably perceived threat of physical harm that makes continuation of the marriage impossible. Some examples of such “non-beatings” are: grabbing, pushing or forcefully confining the victim spouse; the pointing of a loaded gun at the victim spouse; and attempting to run over the victim spouse with an automobile.

Desertion is the least used of the fault grounds. Since it requires proof of malicious intent in addition to one year’s separation, it is much simpler to just acquire a divorce based upon the no-fault ground of one year’s continuous separation.

Defenses. Keep in mind that the most effective defenses to these fault-based grounds for divorce are forgiveness and condonation. If, with full knowledge, you have forgiven or condoned your spouse’s wrongdoing, then you may lose your right to a divorce on those grounds. Therefore, the more time that passes between the wrongdoing and your filing for divorce, the greater the chances your spouse will raise these defenses.


Mitch Norrell is a Lancaster SC divorce lawyer with over 25 years experience in Family Court cases. This post is provided free of charge for general information only, and not as legal advice for your particular circumstances. To schedule a consultation, please contact us.

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