Trusted. Experienced. Tenacious.

Rochester, NY’s Top-Tier Bankruptcy Lawyer

With over 40 years of experience and over 5,000 bankruptcies under his belt, Thomas A. Corletta, Attorney & Counselor at Law has the knowledge and expertise to streamline the process and ensure that all of your legal filings are in order. We know the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act has placed many responsibilities on bankruptcy filers, making the process more complicated and difficult to navigate. Don’t let the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act intimidate or prevent you from taking advantage of the benefits of bankruptcy—ensure you have an experienced, detail-oriented bankruptcy attorney like Mr. Corletta on your side.
With You Before, During, and After Bankruptcy

Benefits of Declaring Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy cases are time-consuming in that a debtor is expected by the court to be completely truthful in disclosure of their debts, income, and assets. This requires careful information gathering and document preparation, as well as cooperation from the debtor in assisting their attorney in gathering this personal information. Failure to disclose all income and assets can result in loss of your fresh start and possible criminal prosecution.

Mr. Corletta has over 40 years experience in Chapter 7 and 13 consumer and small business bankruptcy cases in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of New York, which is known as being one of the most difficult Bankruptcy courts in the country.

Keep Reading

Bankruptcy is a highly technical area based almost entirely upon interpretation of the United States Bankruptcy Code. The Bankruptcy Code and related statutes allow a Debtor, under Chapter 7, to discharge debts in full, except for certain types of debts and secured creditors. Secured creditors hold collateral to secure loan repayment; the most common examples are a house, car, mobile home, boat, etc.

Mr. Corletta demonstrated his knowledge of the law and vigorous advocacy for his client in In re: SF (5/11/05). In that case, the United States Trustee’s Office moved to dismiss a Bankruptcy Petition filed by Mr. Corletta’s 80-year-old client on the grounds of “substantial abuse.” The government argued the debtor had no assets and was on a fixed income and therefore “did not need” protection from his creditors, although the client was sick and being hounded by creditors. Mr. Corletta vigorously defended his elderly client and successfully defended the government’s challenge, which was denied in its entirety.

Bankruptcy Law in Rochester, NY
Bankruptcy Assistance in Rochester, NY

Determine If You Will Benefit From Filing Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy is a legal action that can erase or “repudiate” certain debts. However, not every person with debt may need to file bankruptcy or qualify for bankruptcy. Some people with very low unearned income, such as Social Security, may already have protected money or property that creditors cannot legally reach.

A bankruptcy lawyer will help you determine if your assets are already protected or if bankruptcy is your best choice. For example, an attorney may recommend filing bankruptcy under the following common circumstances:

  • When a person’s debt exceeds their income.
  • When creditors, due to lawsuits, are garnishing a person’s wages or levying against assets
  • When a person’s utility service has been shut off.
  • When a person’s home may be at risk of foreclosure.
  • When a person’s automobile has been repossessed.
  • When a person has overwhelming medical debt.
  • When a person has suffered a life-changing event; such as divorce, illness, or job loss.

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If your attorney recommends that you file for bankruptcy, they can provide guidance as to what type of bankruptcy to file; either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. An attorney can also help you understand the impact filing bankruptcy can have on your life, such as loss of assets, impact on credit, etc.

If you struggle to pay bills, you’re not alone. Many people experience financial setbacks throughout their lives. Luckily, there are many strategies you can use when debt becomes unaffordable due to illness, job loss, divorce, or overspending.

Congress has provided bankruptcy as a way for citizens to have some of their debts discharged if they meet certain criteria. Although individuals aren’t required to have an attorney for bankruptcy cases, hiring an attorney is recommended because bankruptcy law is complex and technical. Declaring bankruptcy significantly impacts your financial situation and life, so it’s best to speak with an experienced attorney who can offer guidance through this process.

How An Attorney Can Help

If you’re considering declaring bankruptcy, here are some ways a bankruptcy lawyer can help.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

In Chapter 7, the Debtor has the option of keeping the collateral, provided they continue to make payments on the loan. This process is commonly referred to as “reaffirmation” and is required under recent changes to the Code to keep the collateral. Unsecured debts, such as unpaid credit cards, doctor bills, utility bills, rent, etc., can be discharged. A Debtor must disclose all of their assets. In most cases, those assets fall within statutory “exemptions,” which is property Debtor is entitled to keep. In certain situations, some assets fall outside the exemptions, which means they must be sold to pay creditors. Sometimes, a Debtor can negotiate with the Trustee to keep such assets, provided the Debtor pays the Trustee for the asset so the money can be used to pay their creditors.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Chapter 13 is another form of bankruptcy; permitting Debtors with assets to repay a percentage of their creditors. It is commonly used to cure defaults or delinquencies in mortgage, tax, or child support payments. In Chapter 13, Debtor proposes a Plan to the Court to repay a portion of their debts, said payments being made over a 3 to 5-year period to the Chapter 13 Trustee, usually by wage deduction. The Court and Trustee examine the Plan, and if found to be feasible, proposed in good faith and in the best interests of the creditors, it is confirmed by the Court and binding on creditors. The Chapter 13 Trustee administers the payments and pays creditors according to the Plan.

Bankruptcy Changes

Like any other legal matter, each person’s situation must be evaluated. However, if you are contemplating bankruptcy, you should be aware the Bankruptcy Code has undergone drastic changes in the mid-2000’s. On April 14, 2005, the House of Representatives passed the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. On April 21, 2005, President Bush signed the bill into law.

The changes greatly affect who can file under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code and contain several prerequisites making it more difficult to initiate a filing under Chapter 7. There were numerous modifications to long standing Chapter 7 principles that are unfavorable to Debtors. There were also extensive changes to Chapter 13, resulting in Debtors paying more money to secured and unsecured creditors through their Chapter 13 plans.

The changes also place greater responsibilities on attorneys preparing bankruptcy schedules, resulting in a substantial increase in the amount of work performed and fees charged. Potential filers should also be aware that Chapter 7 filing fees are now $339.00. Chapter 13 filing fees have also increased. In addition, clients must now pay for Pre-Petition Consumer Credit Counseling and a Post-Petition Debt Management course, in addition to the filing fee.

Clients should also be aware the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of New York went to an all-electronic filing effective October 1, 2004. After October 1, 2004, no paper filings were accepted. This has changed the procedures for filing of bankruptcy cases, making it more difficult to file without an attorney who has access to the system.

According to a CNN report, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing that used to cost between $500.00 – $1,500.00 now costs between $1,000.00 and $3,000.00. Moreover, for those who now try to file independently, the law works at cross purposes. Because it has become more complicated and created traps even for veteran attorneys, consumers filing for bankruptcy often find their cases dismissed for failure to file required documents under the Code.

In short, the substantive law of bankruptcy has not been substantially changed. However, the procedural law of bankruptcy has been changed to make filing requirements more demanding, making it more costly for debtors to hire an attorney and more complicated for them to do it independently.

Provide Legal Guidance

The bankruptcy process can be complicated. When you hire an attorney, you have a legal professional available to answer your questions and provide personalized legal advice. For instance, an attorney will help a client understand what types of debt can be discharged in bankruptcy.

A court will often discharge unsecured debts after the Debtor files bankruptcy. Unsecured debt includes utility bills, personal loans, medical bills, and credit cards. However, debts like alimony, most taxes, and student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. An attorney can also help you keep property secured by loans, such as cars and houses, provided you continue to pay for them. Talk with a bankruptcy lawyer to help you determine your secured and unsecured debts.

Assist with Paperwork

There is a great deal of paperwork involved in filing bankruptcy that must be completed properly. Many people find it beneficial to have an experienced attorney help them complete the necessary documents. Fortunately, many attorneys who regularly handle bankruptcy cases have specialized software that makes preparing and filing bankruptcy documents much easier. An attorney can also ensure your paperwork is filed accurately, to help you avoid issues down the road.

Represent You at Your Bankruptcy Hearing

Once you complete the schedules and the case is filed, the Court schedules a §341 Hearing, or Meeting of Creditors. Due to the pandemic, these meetings are now being held remotely.

This meeting is an opportunity for creditors and the Bankruptcy Trustee, who is appointed by the Court to oversee your case, to question debtors under oath concerning their Bankruptcy schedules. The debtor should bring an attorney to represent him or her at this hearing. The attorney will provide information to the Trustee and creditors regarding paperwork and your bankruptcy filing and provide supporting documentation, such as Tax Returns, Deeds, Titles, etc.

After the Meeting of Creditors, an attorney will keep a client updated on whether the Court issues a Discharge Order. The attorney will also ensure his or her client meets all obligations required by the Court and Trustee. Attorneys will make sure clients have all necessary information throughout the entire process. When an individual files bankruptcy at the right time and in the proper fashion, he or she can often get a fresh start for his or her financial future.

Bankruptcy Case Studies

Case Study 1


With New York recently expanding Statutes of Limitations for Sexual Abuse Tort cases, meaning that allegations can go back as far as the 1960s, creative lawyering is necessary to help defend against these cases, which are often brought against elderly people.

Even if not technically criminal due to the Criminal Statutes of Limitations expiring, they are often treated in prosecutorial fashion, and aggressively by Plaintiff’s attorneys seeking cash payments from school districts, churches, and other institutions.

But what occurs when your individual client is elderly, sick, has no such insurance coverage and has only minimal retirement based assets?

Such was the case in a case Mr. Corletta handled; Anonymous v. Anonymous (Wayne Co., 3/22).

In that case, Mr. Corletta’s 76-year-old client was sued by a person claiming they had been sexually abused by Mr. Corletta’s client in the 1980s-1990s, and had suffered trauma and alcoholism. The person had children, a career, and lived in a western state.

Mr. Corletta’s client was never prosecuted for any alleged offenses. The lawsuit literally came out of the blue and threatened what minimal assets the client had. It appeared to be a “moneygrab”.

After appearing in the case and interposing an Answer, Affirmative Defenses, and other discovery-related pleadings, Mr. Corletta researched whether the client would qualify for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, and whether Plaintiff could object to a Discharge of their claim in the client’s Bankruptcy, and what standard of proof they had to meet.

Mr. Corletta determined that while an Objection could be filed, the standard of proof to sustain the Plaintiff’s claim would be much higher in Bankruptcy Court, and would have to rise to the level of a “willful and malicious” act.

Accordingly, Mr. Corletta placed his client in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, noticing the Plaintiff in the Child Victims Act case. Mr. Corletta not only obtained a Bankruptcy Discharge for his client, but also successfully opposed a Motion by the Plaintiff for an extension of time to file an Objection.

Plaintiff’s counsel was clearly not familiar with the Bankruptcy Code and the Rules and procedures of the Bankruptcy Court, and did not timely file an Objection to Mr. Corletta’s client’s Bankruptcy Discharge. They also didn’t retain outside Bankruptcy counsel, although claiming they were going to.

As a result, the claim was discharged in Bankruptcy and the case closed, barring Plaintiff from any further action against Mr. Corletta’s client.

Mr. Corletta’s elderly client was released from the case and was quite grateful for Mr. Corletta’s hard work and diligence, as this allowed the client to retain the minimal assets they had.

Most lawyers in these cases simply cry poverty and beg for mercy from Plaintiffs, acting in a Judgmental fashion, instead of looking for solutions to help their clients. Lawyers are not here to judge, but to advocate and help the client, no matter what the allegations are. This was an example of that principle.

Case Study 2

K.A. v. P.U. (Mon. Co. Sup. Ct., 1/22).


In a complicated matter, Mr. Corletta showed his ability to diagnose and analyze the facts and apply the applicable law in K.A. v. P.U. (Mon. Co. Sup. Ct., 1/22).

In that case, Mr. Corletta’s client was a former Bankruptcy client who ran upon hard times after the death of a spouse. The client obtained a Bankruptcy Discharge. All of the client’s assets were exempt from the claims of creditors in the Bankruptcy, and consisted of some retirement accounts and equity in a home.

Several years prior, the client had settled their mother’s affairs upon her death in a foreign country. This involved the sale of a condominium, which the client used to pay off the mother’s expenses, and for her funeral. The condominium had already been gifted to the client several years prior.

A disgruntled relative apparently believed they were entitled to some of the proceeds from the sale of the condominium, and brought a lawsuit against the client in the foreign country, obtaining a Judgment. The client, who lived in the USA, was never served or notified of the Judgment.

The relative then obtained a lawyer in New York City to “collect”. The lawyer attempted to enforce the Foreign Judgment by filing a Motion to Enforce the Judgment in Monroe County well after Mr. Corletta’s client obtained their Bankruptcy Discharge.

In this extremely complicated fact pattern, Mr. Corletta acted quickly. He determined the Foreign Judgment should not be honored under the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, which governed the enforcement of Foreign Judgments in the USA, for a variety of reasons. He also determined the client’s prior Bankruptcy Discharge barred enforcement of the Foreign Judgment.

Mr. Corletta quickly filed responsive papers to the Motion, as well as a Memorandum of Law. The result was a complete denial of the relative’s Motion, barring enforcement of the Foreign Judgment against the client.

Needless to say, this had all the earmarks of an attempted money grab. It caused the client a great deal of stress, since the client was somewhat elderly and had limited means. The client was grateful that Mr. Corletta was able to stop this in a quick, efficient, and decisive manner, totally defeating the mercenary relative.

Bankruptcy Case Studies in Rochester, NY

If you’re considering filing bankruptcy, contact us at 585-546-5072 to help you decide if bankruptcy is right for you.

Thomas A. Corletta, Attorney at Law

Thomas A Corletta Attorney at Law

16 W Main St Suite 204
Rochester NY 14614

Satellite Office
1235 Route 332 Farmington, NY 14425
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