Chapter 7 bankruptcy basics
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a process provided for under United States federal bankruptcy law by which you are entitled to a fresh start.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy may eliminate most kinds of unsecured debt. Some examples of unsecured debts Chapter 7 may eliminate are credit cards; medical bills; most personal loans; judgments resulting from car accidents; and deficiencies on repossessed vehicles.
In addition to getting rid of your debt, Chapter 7 allows you to typically keep all of your property. As long as your car and mortgage payments are current, and there is no significant equity in your property, we should have no problem making the arrangements for you to reaffirm the debt. Keep your home, keep your car, keep your personal belongings, but eliminate your debt; that is our goal with Chapter 7.
Common Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Questions
1. Will I lose anything if I file for personal bankruptcy?
Generally, you may file a bankruptcy and retain all of your personal belongings, including your house, your car and all household goods. We will make sure that all of your personal belongings are protected. If you owe more on your car than the car is worth, the bankruptcy court will not sell your car, because after sale there would be no money left over to make a distribution to your creditors. The same goes for your home and personal property. Even if your property is worth more than what is owed on it, usually we can use the state bankruptcy exemptions to protect these items.
You may be more at risk of losing property if you don't file bankruptcy, as creditors can sue you and attach your bank accounts, garnish your wages and attach and seize your property. As a result, you may miss rent, mortgage or car payments, making it difficult to provide even your most basic necessities.
2. When do I get relief from creditor harassment?
Immediately. As soon as you come into our office, we will give you a client record number and you will then refer all future creditor calls to your bankruptcy attorney. No more credit card payments and no more harassment immediately upon retaining our law office.
3. Does my spouse have to file jointly with me?
If all or most of the debts are in your name only, your spouse may not have to file. Creditors usually cannot pursue a non-filing spouse, unless he or she is legally a co-debtor on the debt. Additionally, the bankruptcy should not be reflected on the non-filing spouse's credit report. The law does vary, however, from state to state so make sure you ask our attorneys about whether or not your spouse has to file.
4. Who knows about my personal bankruptcy case?
The only parties that receive notice of the bankruptcy are your creditors, the bankruptcy court and the IRS. Generally, the bankruptcy will have no effect whatsoever on your taxes. Your employer will not be notified of the bankruptcy unless your employer is also a creditor. The bankruptcy is public record, so anyone who wants to find out could determine that you had filed. Generally, however, only you, your creditors and the IRS will know about the bankruptcy.
5. Will I be able to rent after I file personal bankruptcy?
There were over 1 million bankruptcies filed in the United States last year alone. Common sense will tell you that these people are not all living on the street. If you are presently renting a home or apartment, usually your present landlord will renew your lease without running an updated credit report, and will have no knowledge that you even filed a bankruptcy.
If you are applying for a new lease, there could be some slight difficulties that can easily be overcome. We have found that larger leasing companies usually have stricter policies regarding leasing to applicants with blemished credit. Remember that it is the blemished credit report, not necessarily the bankruptcy that is reflecting poorly on your application. Also, with no outstanding debt, you may appear to be a better risk than other applicants who have outstanding debt and blemished credit reports. We find that a good faith gesture, such as offering an extra month security deposit, may be enough for a potential lessor to overcome her concerns about your blemished credit.
6. How do I know if I should file personal bankruptcy?
If you are being sued, and you own a home, we strongly urge you to speak with us immediately about filing a bankruptcy. A bankruptcy will stop a lawsuit immediately and prevent your creditors from placing a lien on your home or garnishing your hard-earned wages.
Is your home being foreclosed or is your car about to be repossessed? If it is, very often bankruptcy may prevent the foreclosure action or repossession from proceeding and allow you to consolidate your mortgage arrears or automobile balance and make payments on those debts over time through a payment plan designed by us with your help. If your house is being foreclosed or your car is about to be repossessed, Chapter 7 bankruptcy may not be an option. Chapter 13 bankruptcy may save your house and your car.
Do credit cards or medical bills have you so deep in debt that it is hard for you to save for the future? If you are only paying the minimum payment on the credit card bills from month to month (generally from two to three percent of the outstanding balance), and the interest rate is only 15%, you will take about 20 years to pay off a $10,000 debt. Do you really want to be in the same financial situation in twenty years? Chapter 7 bankruptcy can provide you with a fresh start that you are entitled to under the law and get you out of debt NOW.
7. Is filing personal bankruptcy immoral or does it make me a bad person?
Everyone is entitled to a fresh start. Many times, events occur in people's lives that cannot be expected. You may have had a sudden loss in income, a family medical catastrophe, a work injury, or any one of numerous other difficulties that would have been almost impossible for which to plan. Most of the people that we represent are good people who have encountered unfortunate circumstances and just want to get a fresh start. We understand that for most of our clients bankruptcy is the last resort. Many of our clients have a very difficult time determining if personal bankruptcy is the right decision for them.
You must ask yourself? Are the credit card companies concerned about your financial difficulties? Are you paying your creditors instead of saving for your children's education or your retirement? When is the last time you took a vacation? We believe that it is very important for an attorney to provide both bankruptcy and non-bankruptcy alternatives. We believe in giving you our honest opinion as to what will put you in the best possible financial condition now and into your future. The client always comes first. Please call at 718-333-2394 to speak with us about the issues you should consider when deciding whether or not bankruptcy is for you.
8. Can I get rid of student loans or tax debts?
Any bankruptcy attorney must have a sophisticated understanding of bankruptcy law to deal with student loan and tax debts. Until October 1998, student loans were discharged through Chapter 7 bankruptcy if the first payment on the loan became due more than seven years prior to the date of filing. In October 1998, President Clinton signed a new law into effect that disqualified all student loans from discharge. We can still help you obtain relief from your student loan debts through the use of Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, our attorneys can consolidate your student loan debt, along with any other outstanding bills, and arrange an interest free repayment plan, so that you do not have to suffer through the burden of garnishments, harassment and other collection efforts by student loan agencies. We may even be able to reduce the amount paid to the student loan agency during the course of your Chapter 13 bankruptcy so that your consolidation payment is as low as possible. If you would like to find out more about how we can ease the burden of student loan debts through the use of Chapter 13, call at 718-266-1555 to speak directly with us. Tax debts are generally subject to discharge only if you file personal bankruptcy more than three years after you file a timely, truthful tax return. If your return is filed late, the taxes are generally discharged only if you file bankruptcy more than two years after filing a truthful tax return.
9. Can I get credit after filing personal bankruptcy?
Although bankruptcy may legally be reported to your credit report for up to 10 years, you can begin to reestablish your credit immediately. Remember that "credit" is your ability to borrow money. Lenders consider many factors while determining whether to loan you money, but most importantly, they consider your debt-to-income ratio. You are probably visiting this site because you already have more outstanding debt than you have the ability to pay. So, arguably, you do not have credit.
Filing eliminates most, if not all of your debts, therefore reducing your debt-to-income ratio, potentially improving your ability to borrow money in the future. Some financial institutions actively solicit business from people who have filed. Lenders are in business to make money by lending you money and charging you interest. Lenders know that once you have filed, you will not be able to file again for 6 years.
Many of our clients have purchased cars immediately upon receiving their discharge orders. Many lenders have programs that provide for post-bankruptcy borrows to obtain home financing within a year or two after a discharge. Many of our clients even receive solicitations for unsecured credit cards almost immediately upon receiving their discharge.
If you would like to discuss your estate planning needs, please contact an experienced estate planning attorney at the Law Offices of Inna Fershteyn by calling (718) 333-2394 or contact us via email today.