November 22, 2017

Process – Bankruptcy Basics

Article I, Section 8, of the United States Constitution authorizes Congress to enact “uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies.” Under this grant of authority, Congress enacted the “Bankruptcy Code” in 1978. The Bankruptcy Code, which is codified as title 11 of the United States Code, has been amended several times since its enactment. It is the uniform federal law that governs all bankruptcy cases.

The procedural aspects of the bankruptcy process are governed by the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure (often called the “Bankruptcy Rules”) and local rules of each bankruptcy court. The Bankruptcy Rules contain a set of official forms for use in bankruptcy cases. The Bankruptcy Code and Bankruptcy Rules (and local rules) set forth the formal legal procedures for dealing with the debt problems of individuals and businesses.

There is a bankruptcy court for each judicial district in the country. Each state has one or more districts. There are 90 bankruptcy districts across the country. The bankruptcy courts generally have their own clerk’s offices.

The court official with decision-making power over federal bankruptcy cases is the United States bankruptcy judge, a judicial officer of the United States district court. The bankruptcy judge may decide any matter connected with a bankruptcy case, such as eligibility to file or whether a debtor should receive a discharge of debts. Much of the bankruptcy process is administrative, however, and is conducted away from the courthouse. In cases under chapters 7, 12, or 13, and sometimes in chapter 11 cases, this administrative process is carried out by a trustee who is appointed to oversee the case.

A debtor’s involvement with the bankruptcy judge is usually very limited. A typical chapter 7 debtor will not appear in court and will not see the bankruptcy judge unless an objection is raised in the case. A chapter 13 debtor may only have to appear before the bankruptcy judge at a plan confirmation hearing. Usually, the only formal proceeding at which a debtor must appear is the meeting of creditors, which is usually held at the offices of the U.S. trustee. This meeting is informally called a “341 meeting” because section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code requires that the debtor attend this meeting so that creditors can question the debtor about debts and property.

A fundamental goal of the federal bankruptcy laws enacted by Congress is to give debtors a financial “fresh start” from burdensome debts. The Supreme Court made this point about the purpose of the bankruptcy law in a 1934 decision:

[I]t gives to the honest but unfortunate debtor…a new opportunity in life and a clear field for future effort, unhampered by the pressure and discouragement of preexisting debt.

Local Loan Co. v. Hunt, 292 U.S. 234, 244 (1934). This goal is accomplished through the bankruptcy discharge, which releases debtors from personal liability from specific debts and prohibits creditors from ever taking any action against the debtor to collect those debts. This publication describes the bankruptcy discharge in a question and answer format, discussing the timing of the discharge, the scope of the discharge (what debts are discharged and what debts are not discharged), objections to discharge, and revocation of the discharge. It also describes what a debtor can do if a creditor attempts to collect a discharged debt after the bankruptcy case is concluded.

Six basic types of bankruptcy cases are provided for under the Bankruptcy Code, each of which is discussed in this publication. The cases are traditionally given the names of the chapters that describe them.

Chapter 7, entitled Liquidation, contemplates an orderly, court-supervised procedure by which a trustee takes over the assets of the debtor’s estate, reduces them to cash, and makes distributions to creditors, subject to the debtor’s right to retain certain exempt property and the rights of secured creditors. Because there is usually little or no nonexempt property in most chapter 7 cases, there may not be an actual liquidation of the debtor’s assets. These cases are called “no-asset cases.” A creditor holding an unsecured claim will get a distribution from the bankruptcy estate only if the case is an asset case and the creditor files a proof of claim with the bankruptcy court. In most chapter 7 cases, if the debtor is an individual, he or she receives a discharge that releases him or her from personal liability for certain dischargeable debts. The debtor normally receives a discharge just a few months after the petition is filed. Amendments to the Bankruptcy Code enacted in to the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 require the application of a “means test” to determine whether individual consumer debtors qualify for relief under chapter 7. If such a debtor’s income is in excess of certain thresholds, the debtor may not be eligible for chapter 7 relief.

Chapter 9, entitled Adjustment of Debts of a Municipality, provides essentially for reorganization, much like a reorganization under chapter 11. Only a “municipality” may file under chapter 9, which includes cities and towns, as well as villages, counties, taxing districts, municipal utilities, and school districts.

Chapter 11, entitled Reorganization, ordinarily is used by commercial enterprises that desire to continue operating a business and repay creditors concurrently through a court-approved plan of reorganization. The chapter 11 debtor usually has the exclusive right to file a plan of reorganization for the first 120 days after it files the case and must provide creditors with a disclosure statement containing information adequate to enable creditors to evaluate the plan. The court ultimately approves (confirms) or disapproves the plan of reorganization. Under the confirmed plan, the debtor can reduce its debts by repaying a portion of its obligations and discharging others. The debtor can also terminate burdensome contracts and leases, recover assets, and rescale its operations in order to return to profitability. Under chapter 11, the debtor normally goes through a period of consolidation and emerges with a reduced debt load and a reorganized business.

Chapter 12, entitled Adjustment of Debts of a Family Farmer or Fisherman with Regular Annual Income, provides debt relief to family farmers and fishermen with regular income. The process under chapter 12 is very similar to that of chapter 13, under which the debtor proposes a plan to repay debts over a period of time – no more than three years unless the court approves a longer period, not exceeding five years. There is also a trustee in every chapter 12 case whose duties are very similar to those of a chapter 13 trustee. The chapter 12 trustee’s disbursement of payments to creditors under a confirmed plan parallels the procedure under chapter 13. Chapter 12 allows a family farmer or fisherman to continue to operate the business while the plan is being carried out.

Chapter 13, entitled Adjustment of Debts of an Individual With Regular Income, is designed for an individual debtor who has a regular source of income. Chapter 13 is often preferable to chapter 7 because it enables the debtor to keep a valuable asset, such as a house, and because it allows the debtor to propose a “plan” to repay creditors over time – usually three to five years. Chapter 13 is also used by consumer debtors who do not qualify for chapter 7 relief under the means test. At a confirmation hearing, the court either approves or disapproves the debtor’s repayment plan, depending on whether it meets the Bankruptcy Code’s requirements for confirmation. Chapter 13 is very different from chapter 7 since the chapter 13 debtor usually remains in possession of the property of the estate and makes payments to creditors, through the trustee, based on the debtor’s anticipated income over the life of the plan. Unlike chapter 7, the debtor does not receive an immediate discharge of debts. The debtor must complete the payments required under the plan before the discharge is received. The debtor is protected from lawsuits, garnishments, and other creditor actions while the plan is in effect. The discharge is also somewhat broader (i.e., more debts are eliminated) under chapter 13 than the discharge under chapter 7.

The purpose of Chapter 15, entitled Ancillary and Other Cross-Border Cases, is to provide an effective mechanism for dealing with cases of cross-border insolvency. This publication discusses the applicability of Chapter 15 where a debtor or its property is subject to the laws of the United States and one or more foreign countries.

In addition to the basic types of bankruptcy cases, Bankruptcy Basics provides an overview of the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act, which, among other things, provides protection to members of the military against the entry of default judgments and gives the court the ability to stay proceedings against military debtors.

This publication also contains a description of liquidation proceedings under the Securities Investor Protection Act (“SIPA”). Although the Bankruptcy Code provides for a stockbroker liquidation proceeding, it is far more likely that a failing brokerage firm will find itself involved in a SIPA proceeding. The purpose of SIPA is to return to investors securities and cash left with failed brokerages. Since being established by Congress in 1970, the Securities Investor Protection Corporation has protected investors who deposit stocks and bonds with brokerage firms by ensuring that every customer’s property is protected, up to $500,000 per customer.

The bankruptcy process is complex and relies on legal concepts like the “automatic stay,” “discharge,” “exemptions,” and “assume.” Therefore, the final chapter of this publication is a glossary of Bankruptcy Terminology which explains, in layman’s terms, most of the legal concepts that apply in cases filed under the Bankruptcy Code.

Reprinted from http://www.uscourts.gov/services-forms/bankruptcy/bankruptcy-basics/process-bankruptcy-basics

CONTEMPLATING A BANKRUPTCY AFTER DIVORCE

Oftentimes Bankruptcy and Divorce go hand-in-hand.  If you are in the process of getting divorced, it would be wise to consult a consumer attorney to analyze your financial circumstances, ensuring all of your obligations will be accounted for in the Divorce Decree/Separation Agreement, and to determine if you can handle paying them once you go back to a single income after the divorce.  Bankruptcy may be a safe option once you are divorced if you find you cannot afford living on a single income.

If you will be taking the bulk of the debt once you separate and do not have the income to support it, you may consider filing for bankruptcy and starting over all together once the divorce is finalized.  Here are some topics that often arise from divorce when contemplating a bankruptcy or may lead you to file for bankruptcy after your divorce:

  1. Who will take the marital home and pay its related expenses?

If you are getting a divorce and taking over possession of the marital home, along with taking over the related expenses, especially the mortgage(s) on the home, be sure to have your Divorce Decree state the terms of this transfer accurately.

Also, making a budget before the divorce is final will help you determine if you will be able to afford to stay in the home.

If it is determined that you can, in fact, afford to live in the home after the divorce, then make sure the proper documents are recorded on the Land Records after the transfer.  This will give you a paper trial you may need to provide in your bankruptcy case later on.

  1. Will you be responsible for credit cards in your ex-spouses name?

If so, make sure the Divorce Decree/Separation Agreement spells out all debt you will be taking responsibility for once the divorce is final, along with the last four digits of any account numbers.  Once the divorce is final, be sure to contact each company in writing and have the accounts switched into your name.  Wait at least six weeks and then review your credit report(s) to ensure accurate reporting, so as not to inadvertently leave off a debt you are responsible for on your Bankruptcy petition, among other things.

  1. Will you be ordered to pay alimony or child support?

Keep in mind, that these particular types of “debts” are allowable deductible expenses in your Bankruptcy case; this means that they are taken into consideration when qualifying for Bankruptcy.  Also, it is important to note that court-ordered Alimony and Child Support are what is known in the Bankruptcy realm as “priority debts” and cannot be discharged in most cases.  (Taxes and loans involving the government are also included in the priority category.)  It is vitally important to have all obligations in this category fully defined and explained in your Divorce Decree/Separation Agreement, as you will likely be fulfilling these obligations regardless of ever filing for Bankruptcy.

Filing for bankruptcy after a divorce is not the end of the world.  In fact, it may be the best thing that ever happened to you, and will help you to move on and start fresh.

25% Off Estate Planning / Reminders & Announcements

For the month of January 2017, all Estate Planning Packages are 25% off.  They include a Will, Living Will and Power of Attorney.  Also, we are announcing that we are moving from 74 Cherry Street to 50 Cherry Street, Milford, CT as of February 1, 2017, and we will be starting a new Blog/Vlog Series in February 2017 regarding the entire Chapter 7 Bankruptcy process!!

FORECLOSURE DEFENSE & BANKRUPTCY SEMINAR | JUNE 8, 2016 | STAMFORD, CT

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5 Easter Ideas On A Budget

Holidays can be a lot of fun, but they can also get expensive! As Easter approaches, you are probably interested in making some festive food and partaking in fun activities with your children, but you might not be sure if you can afford it. Luckily, Easter is a holiday with many opportunities to save money. For some cheap Easter ideas that your family is sure to love, read on!

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  1. Dyeing hardboiled eggs. This is a classic Easter activity, and it is a resourceful one at that! At 1-5 dollars per dozen – depending on the type of eggs you buy – eggs are a cheap and filling meal. High in protein and good cholesterol, eggs make for a healthy breakfast, so you can feel confident serving them to your family. On top of the money-saving and health benefits, coloring Easter eggs is a classic activity to do with your kids. For a few extra dollars, you can pick up an Egg Decoration and Dye kit. You and your kids can have fun decorating Easter eggs, which will double as a delicious breakfast. Total cost: $3-7.
  2. Easter egg hunt. Another classic Easter activity, you can save a lot of money by reusing plastic eggs and putting small presents in each. Plastic egg packets only cost a few dollars per dozen, and you can fill them with loose change, candy, stickers, special coupons, stick-on tattoos, glow sticks, fruit snacks, etc. Once you invest in the eggs, you will be able to reuse them for years to come. In all, you can create an incredible hunt for your kids for around $10.
  3. Deviled eggs. Another great use for your decorated Easter eggs is to turn them into deviled eggs. This is a simple and easy recipe. All that you need are hardboiled eggs, mayonnaise, mustard, sweet relish, and paprika. You can make a dozen deviled eggs for around $3. Bring them to a party or share them with the family – deviled eggs are always a crowd pleaser!
  4. Easter bunny project. You and your kids can use old paper towel tubes, paint, markers, stickers, and more, to create a cute Easter bunny family. Use whatever you have in your house to create a fun, free activity that you can do with your family. Total cost: free!
  5. Host a potluck arts and crafts party. Invite the kids in the neighborhood or your child’s classmates over for an arts and crafts party. Have each child bring their own activity to contribute to the party – this will provide tons of different ideas for the kids to do at little cost to you. Total cost: $10 to provide some snacks and basic craft resources for the kids.

These are just five ideas for Easter food and fun, but the possibilities are endless. Start with these activities, which will be easy on your wallet, and expand from there.

Happy Easter!

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Series Part Five: Preparing, Signing and Filing a Bankruptcy Petition

In this blog we will explore a very important step in your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy process: Your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition Signing and Filing.

Once you have met with me for your free initial consultation, retained me to file your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition and delivered to me all of the required documents, I will then prepare your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition and schedule a convenient time for you to come in to our office to sign your Petition.

Your Bankruptcy Petition signing is a very serious step in your Bankruptcy Process and you will be required to carefully read your petition.  This appointment will take approximately one hour in which I will go over each and every page with you and answer any questions you may have.  Ultimately, you will be asked to sign several pages of the Petition under oath, swearing that the information provided is true and accurate to the best of your ability, and I will then electronically file your Petition with the Bankruptcy Court.

This blog is intended to give you preview of the many parts of a typical Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition. Please keep in mind that your Petition may differ according to your specific financial circumstances and that it is vitally important to always disclose all of your income, assets, debts (liabilities).  Not fully disclosing all of your information could lead could be deemed Bankruptcy Fraud which is a crime.

The first part of your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition consists mainly of identification and general information.  It will list your name, address, and the last four digits of your social security number.  It will give a rough estimate (or a “range”) of how many creditors, assets and liabilities you have.  It will also include your signature (as the “Debtor”) and mine (as your “Attorney”), affirming that the information provided is true and accurate under the penalties of perjury.  Please note that your Bankruptcy Petition is a public document and due to that fact your Social Security Number will always be redacted to the last four digits for anti-identity theft purposes.

The next several pages in your packet will be your Means Test, the assessment used to determine if you qualify for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy filing.  For more information on your Means Test please consult me, and/or my previous Blog in this Chapter 7 Series.

Your Means Test will be followed by Exhibit D which is your statement to the Court that you successfully completed your Credit Counseling requirement.  Credit Counseling is a mandatory course taken usually on the telephone or internet, which takes about one hour, analyzes your financial circumstances and helps you create a budget.  For more information on the Credit Counseling requirement please consult me, and/or my previous Blog in this Chapter 7 Series.

The next part of your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition will be a Summary of the Schedules to follow.  This is a snap-shot view of your income, assets and liabilities as more fully reported on each individual schedule (described in detail below) and a Statistical Summary of Certain Liabilities (in layman’s terms that mean you “debt-to-income ratio”).

The Summary will be followed by a series of Schedules as follows:

  • Schedule A – Real Property: This Schedule will list any Real Estate that may be in your name according to the Land Records with a brief description and its location, along with the nature of your interest in the property (e.g. whether you own it solely or jointly), its current value and the amount of any liens (e.g. mortgages) against the property.  This list may also include time shares, if any.
  • Schedule B – Personal Property: This Schedule will list all of your personal belongings, such as cash, contents of bank accounts and safe deposit boxes, security deposits with public utilities or landlords, clothes, jewelry, antiques, collectibles, firearms, sports equipment, household goods and furnishings, stocks, bonds, retirement accounts, patents, copyrights, or other intellectual property, future interests in any estates or life insurance policies, legal claims against other persons or entities, vehicles and any other personal property not already listed.
  • Schedule C – Property Claimed as Exempt: This Schedule will list all of your property that is exempt (or, in other words, immune) from being liquidated by your Chapter 7 Trustees in order to pay back your creditors.  It will also list the specific law that provides for each exemption.  A typical exemption is that for the equity in your car, or home (usually referred to as a “homestead exemption”).  Depending on your specific set of financial circumstances, I will determine if it is in your best interests to utilize the State or Federal exemption scheme in order to maximize the protection of your assets under the law.  (Check back to the Consumer Legal Services, LLC Blog site in the future for an extended explanation of the exemption system!)
  • Schedule D – Creditors Holding Secured Claims: This Schedule will list any creditors you have holding a security interest in any of your property.  Common examples of such interests are mortgages for homes and and car loans for cars.
  • Schedule E – Creditors Holding Unsecured Priority Claims: This Schedule will list any of your creditors that are holding unsecured (for which they do not have a lien) priority claims.  These types of claims arise when you have child support obligations, government student loans or tax debt.  These types of debts are considered “priority” and take precedence over your other debts.  They are usually not discharged in Bankruptcy and you will continue to pay them while your Chapter 7 case is pending.  Some exceptions apply, especially with regard to taxes. (Check back to the Consumer Legal Services, LLC Blog in the future for an extended explanation of taxes in bankruptcy!)
  • Schedule F – Creditors Holding Unsecured Non-Priority Claims: This Schedule will list all of your unsecured debt, such as credit cards, personal loans and medical debt.  Unless otherwise determined by the Bankruptcy Court, all of the debts listed on this Schedule will be discharged.  There will be an ancillary document related to this Schedule called the Verification of the Creditor Matrix.  This verification will include a list of your creditors in a matrix format for easy uploading to the Bankruptcy Court.
  • Schedule G – Executory Contracts and Unexpired Leases: This Schedule will list all unperformed contracts and leases that you may be subject to.  The example I often give for an executory (or unperformed) contract is for snow plowing when it has not yet snowed and/or you have not yet paid the plowman.  A lease, for example, for an apartment or a car is an executory contract to the extent that it has not expired.
  • Schedule H – Codebtors: This Schedule will list any persons you have become liable with on a debt, other than a spouse in a joint petition.  Examples often include parents you have co-signed a loan for a child.
  • Schedule I – Current Income of Individual Debtor(s): This Schedule will list all current income you are receiving at the time of the signing of the petition.  If you are married, your spouse’s income must be included whether or not your spouse is filing Bankruptcy.
  • Schedule J – Current Expenditures of Individual Debtor: This Schedule will list all of your expenses that you will continue paying regardless of ever having filed for Bankruptcy, such as your mortgage, utilities, transportation and food expenses.

At the end of all of the Schedules there will be a “Declaration Concerning Debtor’s Schedules” which you will sign under oath stating that all of the foregoing information contained in the various schedules is true and accurate to the best of your ability.

Next there will be a document called “Statement of Financial Affairs.”  This statement will include information about such things as any pending lawsuits you are involved in, how much you paid for debt counseling and information related to any businesses you may own or have owned, among other pertinent information.

That statement will be followed by a Disclosure of Compensation of Attorney for Debtor.  On this document I will list the amount of money you have paid for my services.

The final document in your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition will be your Form B21, otherwise known as your “Statement of Social Security Number.”  This statement is the only non-public part of your Bankruptcy Petition and will only be seen by, you, me and the Bankruptcy Court.  It is not a public document and therefore, your entire Social Security Number will be protected against identity theft.  This is quite possibility the most important document you will read and sign at the time of filing.  In fact, I will require that you re-read this document several times, and even show me your Social Security Card to confirm the accuracy of your Social Security Number.  If your social security number is wrong on this form, your debts will not be discharged…but someone else’s may be!  So always triple check…and then check again!

After you have read and signed all of the documents you will be given a copy of your entire Petition.  After you go home, I will then electronically file your Petition.  During the e-filing process a Case Number, a Chapter 7 Trustee, and a date for your 341 Meeting will be randomly generated and assigned to your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case.  I will deliver this information to you by phone or email, and a Notice will be delivered to you directly on the mail by the Bankruptcy Court including this and other pertinent information about your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case.

Stay tuned for our next blog entry in this Chapter 7 Series which will explain just who and what the Chapter 7 Trustee is and why the Trustee plays such a vital role in your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy!

For more information or to find out if you qualify for Bankruptcy, please call our office at 203-713-8877.

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Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Series Part Three: Means Testing

After we have our Initial Consultation and you have delivered your documents to me, I will analyze your financial circumstances and perform your Means Test.  A Means Test is an assessment used to determine if you qualify to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

Before 2005 it was easy to file for bankruptcy; virtually anyone could do so.  In 2005 Congress enacted the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA)1 and added the Means Test requirement to prevent abuse of the Bankruptcy process.  Simply put if you “pass” the means test, you are a qualified candidate and can file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition.  If you “fail” the means Test, you may not file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy but you may enjoy other alternatives such as a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy (which will be discussed in a future series of Consumer Legal Services, LLC’s blog posts).

The Means Test primarily encompasses a two-step analysis.

STEP ONE: Your (the “debtor’s”) gross income is calculated on an average over a six month period prior to filing for Bankruptcy.  Gross income for means testing purposes includes wages, salary, tips, bonuses, overtime and commissions.  It does not include social security benefits.  The figure derived from taking the average is than considered the Debtor’s Current Monthly Income which is then compared to the median income for your state and household size.  If your current monthly income is less than the median income for your state and household size, than you “pass” the means test and are allowed to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition.  If, however, your current monthly income is greater than the median income for your state and household size, you may proceed to Step Two.

STEP TWO: If your current monthly income is greater than the median income for your state and household size, there is, in technical terms, a “presumption of abuse.”2 In order to rebut the presumption, or in other terms, to pass the means test by using the second step, the means test’s second section allows you to subtract from your current monthly income certain allowable and deductible expenses.3 These allowed deductions include, but are not limited to, expenses for living (mortgages and property taxes), transportation (car loans and car taxes), health insurance and charitable donations.  After the calculations are performed, and the allowable deductions are taken, and if you then have no disposable monthly income available, you will than have passed the Means Test (with no presumption of abuse) and may file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.  If, on the other hand, you do have remaining disposable income, you may consider a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

The discussion above is an overview of the Means Test in basic terms and is in no way intended as a specific analysis of your personal financial circumstances.

For an analysis of your own financial circumstances, please contact Attorney Theresa DeGray at Consumer Legal Services to schedule your free consultation today.

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1See: 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)
2See: 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)(2) and 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)(3)
3See: 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)(2)(A)

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Q: What is Chapter 13?

A: Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code provides for adjustment of debts of an individual with regular income.  Basically it allows you to re-organize your debts and save your home and cars.

A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is also called a wage earner’s plan. It enables individuals with regular income to develop a plan to repay all or part of their debts. Under this chapter, debtors propose a repayment plan to make installments to creditors over three to five years. If the debtor’s current monthly income is less than the applicable state median, the plan will be for three years unless the court approves a longer period “for cause.” (1) If the debtor’s current monthly income is greater than the applicable state median, the plan generally must be for five years. In no case may a plan provide for payments over a period longer than five years. 11 U.S.C. §1322(d). During this time the law forbids creditors from starting or continuing collection efforts.

For more information, a Free Consultation and/or Free Means Test, please contact Consumer Legal Services, LLC.

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Bankruptcy 101: The Very Basics

What is Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is a legal proceeding afforded to people (or businesses) who are unable to handle a financial crisis. Bankruptcy is made available by federal law so that you can have a fresh start.

How Does Bankruptcy Work?

After an individual qualifies and files a bankruptcy, legal protections are then instilled by the court that protect the filer as they fix their financial situation, and get their life back on track.

Title 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code offers various forms or chapters of relief. The chapters most commonly used by consumers are Chapter 7 (known as the Bankruptcy Reform Act) and Chapter 13.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is for persons wishing to be free from debt who cannot afford to pay back a significant portion of their unsecured debt. Chapter 13 is for those who wish to pay a portion of their unsecured debt back, and can afford to do so.

Filing for bankruptcy can have the following impact:

• Relieve you of unsecured debt that you are unable to pay such as medical bills, credit cards, bank loans, business debts, overdraft charges and utility bills. Not all unsecured debt is dischargeable.

• Stop creditor harassment. After you file a bankruptcy petition, the automatic stayprotection immediately works to prohibit creditors from calling, billing, threatening, suing or taking any measures to collect from you. After you file a Bankruptcy Petition, even secured creditors must get court permission to repossess your car or foreclose on your home.

• Give you the opportunity to catch up on your car and/or mortgage payments.

You are probably wondering: “How does one qualify? How long does the process take? How will bankruptcy affect my credit? Will I lose everything I own?”

An individual contemplating bankruptcy should seek out as much information as possible as the process is complex and will have a major impact on your life. Bankruptcy for many people is the best answer, and can provide immediate relief both personally and financially. There are many factors to consider before filing for bankruptcy and scheduling a legal consultation will help in providing you answers to any questions you may have.

Bankruptcy is federal law, but individual states have unique exemptions — so it is best to seek out a competent, professional and experienced local bankruptcy attorney like Attorney DeGray, who’s legally bound to provide you with the best counsel possible for your unique case.

What is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

Chapter 13 is an interest-free repayment plan that allows you to combine your debts and repay all or part of them while protecting you from creditor harassment. It is an excellent alternative for debtors whose financial problems cannot be helped by a Chapter 7 filing. Chapter 13 often provides much greater protection to debtors who own significant assets or have income that would not be exempt in a Chapter 7. For example, if you own a home, and foreclosure is on the horizon or the finance company has threatened repossession, a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy filing will stop them in their tracks affording you the opportunity to then pay off the back balance gradually. Chapter 13 is also a great option when you have a regular income but you still find yourself unable to pay all your bills at the end of the month. Filing Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is for people who have some discretionary income after their normal and usual monthly expenses are deducted from their normal monthly income. For this reason, a Chapter 13 is called a “Wage Earner Bankruptcy.”

 Monthly Payments with a Chapter 13?

The big difference between Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is that there are monthly payment plans created for the Chapter 13 debtor. Payments must be made to the Chapter 13 Trustee over a period of time (usually between three and five years).

What are these payments?

These payments usually include some or all of your credit card debt, mortgage payment arrearages, and sometimes your car loans. This is a good way to stop foreclosure and save your house. It can also be used to stop creditor harassment.And, of course, all the bankruptcy exemptions still apply, so you can keep some or most of your stuff.

Wage Earner Bankruptcy
Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code is designed to enable individual debtors — under Court protection and supervision — to apply a portion of future earnings to the payment of a portion of their debts over an extended period of time. The debtor is protected from creditors by an Automatic Stay while a plan of repayment is developed and carried out. It is similar to a Chapter 11 Business Reorganization. In fact, Chapter 13 is sometimes called “Consumer Debt Adjustment.”

Chapter 13 was intended to give the wage earner a reasonable opportunity to arrange installment payments out of future income so that creditors would receive more money than they otherwise would receive in liquidation.

A skilled bankruptcy attorney can help you make your payment plan no more than you can afford for your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy filing.

Do I qualify for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

In order to qualify for a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, you will need to meet two general income requirements. First, you must have a regular source of income. Second, you must have sufficient disposable income. In other words, you must have some income left over — after you subtract your living expenses from your net monthly income — to distribute to creditors.

Debts that are not discharged in a Chapter 13*: 

• Debts incurred through fraud, such as lying about your income on a credit application

• Child and spousal support

• Most taxes

• Most student loans

• Debts that you forgot to list on your bankruptcy papers

• Debts for personal injury and death caused by your driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated

• Debts you never intended to pay back (such as debts took on near in time to filing bankruptcy, a cash advance that wasn’t paid back, debt taken on after meeting with a bankruptcy attorney)

• Debts for personal injury incurred through willful or malicious harm

• Criminal fines and penalties.

There are other debts that may not be dischargeable in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy filing. Consult your attorney to see which specific debts are dischargeable. No attorney should every guarantee the discharge of a specific debt.

*Some debts that are not dischargeable in a Chapter 7 will be dischargeable in a Chapter 13.

How does it work?

There are specific and complex procedures involved in filing a Chapter 13 plan. First, your lawyer will need to prepare a detailed financial summary of what and whom you owe, what your assets are, your monthly living expenses, and income. Your attorney must also prepare a comprehensive proposal for repayment. Often a plan will call for different percentages of repayment for different classes of creditors. All of the items submitted must be prepared on court-approved forms.

Once you file your petition and plan the court will issue an Automatic Stay (an order, barring all creditors from taking any further collections or legal action against you, including foreclosure or garnishment of your wages). The court will then set a date for a hearing which is called the Meeting of Creditors. You and your creditors will be notified of the time, date, and place of this meeting. You will be required to attend this hearing with your attorney and answer questions under oath about your financial matters.

The trustee appointed to your case will run the meeting. It is the trustee’s job to verify the financial information you provide — and the meeting may include questions about your income, expenses, property, past earnings, and the schedule of repayment. The trustee will then decide whether he can recommend to the judge that your plan be confirmed.

The court will also notify you of the date for the confirmation hearing. At this hearing, the judge will determine whether your plan should be confirmed and allowed to proceed. The creditors may attend in order to offer any objections they may have. Your presence at the confirmation hearing is often not required. Once your plan is confirmed, you will simply make one payment a month to the trustee who will then make payments to your creditors according to the schedule set out in the approved plan. You will start living your life again.

What will Chapter 13 do for me?

Many of the benefits derived from a Chapter 13 cannot be obtained through the filing of a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Some of the many benefits that may be reaped from a Chapter 13 are as follows:

• Stop a finance company from repossessing your car and make the back payments over a period of time.

• Stop foreclosure proceedings against your property and pay off the back balance gradually. Such an extension is also available on back taxes

• If your monthly payments on contracts are too large, you may be able to lower the monthly payment and possibly the interest rate

• Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to pay the unsecured creditors far less than 100 percent of their claims — with no interest after the date of filing

• In most instances, you can stop any more interest from continuing on unsecured debts

• Possibly keep property that would have otherwise been given to your creditors in a Chapter 7

• Stop collection activities against a person who cosigned a loan for you

• Force a creditor to take back its collateral in full satisfaction of the claim

• End further obligations to creditors whose services you have not fully received, such as health clubs, dance studios, correspondence courses, leases, etc.

• For debts incurred before you filed your bankruptcy petition, no one can bother you, sue you, garnish your wages, or repossess property without court approval

• Void certain liens against your household goods and against some other personal items

• Possibly pay extra into the plan to get it paid off sooner

• If there is a major change of circumstances, you can propose changes to your plan that would help you complete it.

How do I get started?

The first step in the process is contacting us

This firm is a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief amongst other things, under the Bankruptcy Code.