It is a legal process in relation to persons or businesses who cannot pay their remaining debts. Bankruptcy laws are designed to help debtors unable to pay off their outstanding balances and help the creditors get relief from assets the debtor has no need for. There are different types of bankruptcy which we will see below.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
It allows you to get a “fresh start” as it erases most of your debts. When you file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will receive a “bankruptcy discharge order” from the United States bankruptcy court. Creditors or lenders can never again attempt to collect a debt that’s been discharged. It erases unsecured debts which are debts not connected to any specific piece of property. It may include credit card debts, medical bills, personal loans, older tax debts, old utility bills, deficiency on a car loan after possession, and other unsecured debts.
However, not all debts can be erased with Chapter 7 bankruptcy, such debts are known as non-dischargeable debts. Some common non-dischargeable debts are recent tax debts, child support or alimony payments, and, in general, student loans. You have to pay back these types of debts after bankruptcy. Secured debt which is backed by the specific property is not erased in bankruptcy if you keep the property securing the debt. Some common examples of secured debts are mortgage loans backed by real property and car loans secured by the vehicle.
How to apply for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
To qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you need to pass the “means test”. It is a review of your regular income and allowable expenses that look back over the past 6 months. It compares your income to the median household income of a household of the same size in the state. If their income is lower than California’s median income, they automatically qualify to file for bankruptcy.
After filing for bankruptcy, a trustee will collect all of your assets and liquidate every asset as long as it is not exempted. After liquidating assets, you will be paid off any of the exempted amounts and the proceeds of the liquidation will be distributed to the creditors.
An automatic stay will take effect as soon as you filed for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It means all creditors will stop actions against you. Any wage garnishment that is happening or about to happen will be stopped. It also prevents utility shut off and helps recover a driver’s license that was suspended due to unpaid debts. The automatic stay also temporarily stops foreclosure, repossession, or eviction.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the filer is required to make monthly payments to their bankruptcy trustees to pay portions of what they owe through their repayment plan. The bankruptcy trustee functions as a plan administrator, who receives the filer’s monthly payment and distributes the funds according to the plan of reorganization. The plan payment has to be high enough so that all unsecured creditors get as least as much if the filer has significant non-exempt property. This is called the best interest test.
How to apply for a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
The forms for filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy are almost the same for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, though some forms, including the means test, are a bit different. The filer doesn’t need to file a statement of intentions at the bankruptcy court as their intentions with respect to their secured debts are outlined in their Chapter 13 plan. The automatic stay takes effect as soon as they filed for bankruptcy at the bankruptcy court providing immediate debt relief.
Since Chapter 13 bankruptcy offers reorganization, wage earners with regular monthly income high enough to pay their monthly living expenses and make a monthly plan payment can take advantage of it. You can modify your car loans as long as you meet the legal requirements for it and the creditor will be bound with the payment plan. It also gives you the opportunity to catch up with your mortgage or HOA dues over the term of three to five-year plan and fight off a foreclosure proceeding. Filers can also pay off non-dischargeable priority debts in full but their student loans are not considered a priority debt and you may end up owing more student loans than what you originally owed before filing for bankruptcy. Furthermore, as long as you have enough to cover the value of your non-exempt property, you are able to keep it.
Are you considering filing for bankruptcy? Better consult a bankruptcy attorney.
While filing for bankruptcy can be done alone, availing the services of an experienced lawyer will be highly beneficial for you. We, at the Law Offices of Marc Grossman, are well versed in bankruptcy cases. If you have a question about anything from the process of filing for bankruptcy to potential liabilities, our bankruptcy attorneys can answer such questions for you. Call us now and get free legal advice.