Chapter 7 bankruptcy is designed to help people who are unable to pay their existing debts. It allows you to “discharge” (i.e., eliminate) most typical consumer debts including, credit cards, personal loans, checking account overdrafts, certain tax debts, medical bills and utility bills.
Frequently, people try to make minimum payments for years and attempt to work with their creditors, only to find themselves no better off than when they started. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a responsible way for you to reorganize your finances, liquidate your debt, and have one chance to hit the reset button on their financial lives.
Benefits of Chapter 7
- Speed: Complete liquidation typically within 4 to 6 months of filing your case.
- Simplicity: There are no payments to your creditors. You simply work with a qualified attorney to prepare the necessary bankruptcy schedules and file your case.
- Protection: Creditors are required to comply with the bankruptcy code and must immediately cease any of the following actions: collection calls, garnishment of wages, pursuit of judgments through lawsuits, repossession and foreclosure.
- Retain Property: Debtors are often able to keep much of their property in a Chapter 7 filing, including houses, cars, retirement accounts, cash and all household goods and furnishings.
- Improve Your Credit Rating: Over time, most people are more likely to rebuild their credit score by filing for bankruptcy and getting their finances under control than continuing to struggle under an increasing debt load. In many instances you will be in a better position to obtain credit than if you had not filed for chapter 7!
Exemptions: Holding on to Life’s Necessities
When you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you are allowed to keep certain possessions that are “exempt.” Exemptions tell you what assets you can keep and protect. Exemptions are the bankruptcy law’s way of recognizing that people need a minimum level of food, clothing, shelter, transportation, etc. to be able to survive and earn a living. While there are limitations to these exemptions, many clients are able to discharge all of their credit card debt in Chapter 7 and in most circumstances they can keep their home, cars and all of their possessions.
Non-Dischargeable Debts: No getting around it
Unfortunately, not every debt can be eliminated. Debts that cannot be discharged include: Most taxes, Child support, Maintenance, Alimony, Most matrimonial settlements, Debts obtained through fraud or false pretenses, Court-ordered fines and criminal restitution, and Most student loans.
Am I eligible to file for Chapter 7?
The “Means Test” In 2005, Congress created a new bankruptcy law. One of the new requirements in the law is that anyone who files for Chapter 7 must show that their monthly income is below the average income for people in their area. This is called the “means test.” If your income is above the average, then if you want to file for bankruptcy, you’ll be required to file for Chapter 13 instead of Chapter 7. At your initial consultation, we’ll help you figure out if you’re eligible for filing under Chapter 7, or whether it makes more sense to file under Chapter 13.
Costs: How much do I have to pay to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy?
The cost of filing a bankruptcy case is an important consideration. Therefore, we always let our clients know that we will work with any budget. Typically, a bankruptcy attorney’s fee ends up being a small percentage compared to the total amount of debt the client is able to eliminate.
In addition to attorney fees, there are certain fees for any bankruptcy case:
- A Chapter 7 filing fee payable to the Bankruptcy Court.
- A Credit Counseling Course before filing and a Financial Management Course after completion of your case. These courses are required by the 2005 bankruptcy law.