Facing large amounts of debt can be terrifying. Not only may you feel as though you are barred from future financial opportunities, such as buying a house or taking out a loan, but you may also be worried about the present. To be sure, crushing amounts of debt can mean calls from debt collectors, and even the risk of losing your property now. In fact, you may have even had litigation filed against you as a result of your outstanding debt.
When you are facing debt, knowing what to do and what your options are can be confusing and overwhelming. At the law office of Groth & Associates, our Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorneys can help. We understand what you’re facing and the fear you’re experiencing, and we want to guide you through the options that are available to you. Call our law office directly today to learn more about how we can help.
OPTIONS FOR DEBT RELIEF: BANKRUPTCY
While bankruptcy should not be the very first thing that you consider if you are facing large amounts of debt, it may be your best option. Bankruptcy is a legal process through which those who are struggling to repay large amounts of debt seek relief from the courts. There are multiple types of bankruptcy. The two types of bankruptcy filings designed for individuals are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
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WHAT IS CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY?
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a type of bankruptcy filing that is designed for individuals who meet the means test. It is also called liquidation bankruptcy, as most unsecured debt is discharged. While a Chapter 7 bankruptcy will result in many debts being discharged (forgiven), it is not without consequences and it is not for everyone. Chapter 7 bankruptcy will stay on your credit report longer than a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. What’s more, in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will have to give up many of your assets, including your home and your car potentially.
For many, the biggest hurdle to filing for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is simply that they do not qualify for this bankruptcy type.
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THE MEANS TEST: QUALIFYING FOR A CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY FILING
In order to qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing, an individual must pass “the means test.” Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings are only intended for those who do not have enough income or assets to repay their debts, as would be the case in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. As such, in order to qualify for a Chapter 7 filing, a debtor must earn less than the median income in the state where they live. In order to prove this, a variety of financial documents must be submitted to the bankruptcy court, including income statements, tax documents, details of mortgages and car loans, etc.
THE AUTOMATIC STAY IN A CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY
One benefit of filing for bankruptcy that will be extended equally to debtors filing for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy is what’s known as the automatic stay. Essentially, the automatic stay is an immediate pause on creditors’ ability to attempt to collect debts from a debtor. This means that as soon as you file for bankruptcy, a creditor must halt proceedings to foreclose on your home, collect credit card debt, seize your property, garnish your wages, etc.
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CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY: THE PROCESS
After a person has filed for bankruptcy, which will include filing a petition and various other forms (consult with a bankruptcy attorney for guidance!), the court will appoint a bankruptcy trustee who will be responsible for handling various details of the bankruptcy case. The trustee has many different jobs, including that of reviewing bankruptcy paperwork and distributing non-exempt property to creditors. Your trustee will also handle non-exempt property, deal with secured debts, and provide you with information about debts to be discharged. Typically, the process takes anywhere from three to six months.
PREPARING FOR A CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY
Before you file for bankruptcy, there are a number of things that you should do to ensure that a) filing for bankruptcy is the right decision and b) you are prepared for the process.
- Consider your other options. Filing for bankruptcy can provide financial relief, but it can also be very damaging to your credit score and result in a loss of your property. Before you file, be sure to talk with a professional about other options you have, such as consolidating debt or refinancing.
- Take a credit counseling course. Before you can file for bankruptcy, you’ll need to provide the court with proof that you took a credit counseling course. You’ll need to do this within 180 days of filing for bankruptcy.
- Hire a bankruptcy attorney. Working with an attorney can help to alleviate stress and provide answers to pressing questions throughout the process. A knowledgeable attorney with years of experience will be able to advise you of your options, ensure that your paperwork is filled out and filed properly, and represent you in bankruptcy court.
As you begin the bankruptcy process, there are some additional best practices to keep in mind. For example, don’t make any large financial decisions during your case, don’t acquire any new debt, and don’t touch your retirement funds if you have them. Additionally, be upfront and truthful about your debts and your assets throughout the process, especially with your attorney.
LEARN MORE ABOUT CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY TODAY
No one likes the idea of not being able to pay off their debts and having to file for bankruptcy. Unfortunately, though, such is the reality for some Americans. Before you start the process of filing for bankruptcy, it’s very important to consult with an experienced Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of alternatives, as well as advantages and disadvantages of bankruptcy. An attorney can also help you to understand whether or not you qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
To learn more about bankruptcy in our state and how our law firm can help you, please call us directly today or send us a message at your convenience. Our attorneys have decades of combined legal experience and are passionate about helping people like you.