Georgia Bankruptcy 101: An Overview of Chapter 7 & 13 Bankruptcy
WHAT IS CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY?
Chapter 7 bankruptcy, sometimes call a straight bankruptcy is a liquidation proceeding. The debtor turns over all non-exempt property to the bankruptcy trustee who then converts it to cash for distribution to the creditors. The debtor receives a discharge of all dischargeable debts usually within four months. In the vast majority of cases the debtor has no assets that he would lose so Chapter 7 will give that person a relatively quick "fresh start." One of the main purposes of Bankruptcy Law is to give a person, who is deeply burdened with debt, a fresh start by wiping out his or her debts.
WHAT IS CHAPTER 13 BANKRUPTCY?
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is also known as a reorganization bankruptcy.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is also known as a reorganization bankruptcy. Chapter13 bankruptcy is filed by individuals who want to pay off their debts over a period of three to five years. This type of bankruptcy is designed for individuals who have non-exempt property that they want to keep. It is also only an option for individuals who have predictable income and whose income is sufficient to pay their reasonable expenses with some amount left over to pay off their debts.
HOW DIFFICULT WILL IT BE TO FILE CHAPTER 7 UNDER THE NEW BANKRUPTCY LAWS?
For the vast majority of people Chapter 7 is still available with very little extra effort!
There has been much written about the bankruptcy means test under the new laws and how much more difficult it is to file Chapter 7. However, for the vast majority of filers Chapter 7 is still available with very little extra effort!
WILL MY CREDITORS STOP HARASSING ME?
Yes, they will! By law, all actions against a debtor must cease once the documents are filed. Creditors cannot initiate or continue any lawsuits, wage garnishees, or even telephone calls demanding payments. Secured creditors such as banks holding, for example, a lien on a car, will get the stay lifted if you cannot make payments.
WILL MY SPOUSE BE AFFECTED?
Your wife or husband will not be affected by your bankruptcy if they are not responsible (did not sign an agreement or contract) for any of your debt. If they have a supplemental credit card they are probably responsible for that debt. Typical debts, such as credit cards, do NOT require both spouses to have signed.
WHO WILL KNOW?
Bankruptcy filings are public records. However, under normal circumstances, bankruptcy filings are not published in the newspaper or other public domains. The Credit Bureaus will record your bankruptcy and it will remain on your credit record for 10 years. .
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON REASONS FOR A CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY?
The most common reasons for filing bankruptcy are:
- Unemployment, large medical expenses, seriously overextended credit, marital problems, and;
- Other large unexpected expenses.
A Harvard Study reported that half of US bankruptcies were caused by medical Bills (MSNBC). The study was published in February of 2005 by Health Affairs. The Harvard study concluded that illness and medical bills caused over half (50.4 percent) of the 1,458,000 personal bankruptcies in 2001. The study estimates that medical bankruptcies affect about 2 million Americans annually — counting debtors and their dependents, including about 700,000 children.
WHAT DON'T I KEEP? In a bankruptcy, assets in excess of your allowed personal exemption, or non exempt assets such as real estate, automobiles and boats will be liquidated by the trustee.
I WAS BANKRUPT BEFORE. WHEN CAN I FILE AGAIN?
A person can file Chapter 7 again if it has been more than 8 years since he or she filed the previous Chapter 7 bankruptcy (if that person received a discharge). You must disclose any prior bankruptcy filings to your attorney.
CAN I KEEP ANY CREDIT CARDS?
Whether a debtor keeps credit cards after filing bankruptcy is up to the credit card company. If you are discharging a credit card they will cancel the card unless you reaffirm the debt. Even if you have a zero balance the credit card company may cancel the card.
WHEN WILL I BE DISCHARGED FROM BANKRUPTCY?
The debtor is discharged 3 - 5 months after bankruptcy is filed. More than 99% of the bankrupts are discharged.
One of the major purposes of bankruptcy legislation is to afford the opportunity to a person deeply burdened with debt to erase his or her debt and thereby get a fresh financial start. A bankrupt's debt is erased when he or she is discharged.
The debtor is discharged 3 - 5 months after bankruptcy is filed. At that time all debts (with some exceptions) are written off.
WILL I EVER GET CREDIT AGAIN?
Yes! A number of banks now offer "secured" credit cards where a debtor puts up a certain amount of money (as little as $200-$300) in an account at the bank to guarantee payment. Usually the credit limit is equal to the security given and is increased as the debtor proves his or her ability to pay the debt. If you re-affirm a home or car loan, this may help rebuild your credit as well. Two years after a bankruptcy discharge, debtors may be eligible for mortgage loans on terms as good as those of others, with the same financial profile, who have not filed bankruptcy. The size of your down payment and the stability of your income will be much more important than the fact you filed bankruptcy in the past.The fact you filed bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years. It becomes less significant the further in the past the bankruptcy is. The truth is, you are probably a better credit risk after bankruptcy than before. This is because you can not file for bankruptcy again for 8 years after the prior filing, if you received a discharge.
CAN MY BOSS FIRE ME FOR FILING BANKRUPTCY?
No. 11 U.S.C. Sec. 525, prohibits any employer from discriminating against you because you filed bankruptcy.
HOW MUCH AM I ALLOWED TO KEEP?
You are allowed to keep certain assets, depending on the state in which you reside.
To check the exemptions allowed in Georgia click below:
WHAT IS CHAPTER 13 AND WHEN CAN IT BE USED?
Individuals may file chapter 13 bankruptcy petitions if they:
- Reside, have a domicile, a place of business, or property in the United States, or a municipality;
- Have a source of regular income; and on the date the petition is filed owe less than$360,475 of unsecured debt and $1,081,400 of secured debt. . Note: The amounts given here are as of April 1, 2010. They are regularly adjusted to keep up with the cost of living.
Corporations and partnerships may not file a chapter 13 bankruptcy petition. If you filed a prior bankruptcy petition and the prior proceeding was dismissed within the last 180 days, you may not be able to file a second petition and should check 11 U.S.C. sec. 109(g).
WHAT DEBTS ARE ERASED BY A BANKRUPTCY?
Most unsecured debt is erased in a bankruptcy except for:
- Child support and alimony;
- Debts for personal injury or death caused by your drunk driving;
- Student Loans.
- Income tax debt. More Detailed information about debt that might survive bankruptcy
The following debts are not erased in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. If you file for Chapter 7, these will remain when your case is over. If you file for Chapter 13, these debts will have to be paid in full during your plan. If they are not, the balance will remain at the end of your case:
- Debts you forget to list in your bankruptcy papers, unless the creditor learns of your bankruptcy case; Child support and alimony; Debts for personal injury or death caused by your intoxicated driving; Student loans from government organizations, unless it would be an undue hardship for you to repay; Fines and penalties imposed for violating the law, such as traffic tickets and criminal restitution, and Recent income tax debts and all other tax debts.
This is a complicated area of the bankruptcy law and and will need to be discussed in detail depending on your particular situation.
You can discharge debts for federal income taxes in Chapter 7 bankruptcy only if all of these conditions are met:
- The IRS has not recorded a tax lien against your property. (If all other conditions are met, the taxes may be discharged, but even after your bankruptcy, the lien remains against all property you own, effectively giving the IRS a way to collect.) You didn't file a fraudulent return or try to evade paying taxes. The liability is for a tax return (not a Substitute or Return) actually filed at least three years before you file for bankruptcy. The tax return was due at least three years ago.
- The taxes were assessed (you received a notice of assessment of federal taxes from the IRS) at least 240 days (eight months) before you file for bankruptcy. (11 U.S.C. §§ 523(a)(1) and (7).)
In addition, the following debts may be declared non-dischargeable by a bankruptcy judge in Chapter 7 if the creditor challenges your request to discharge them. These debts may be discharged in Chapter 13. You can include them in your plan, and at the end of your case, the balance is wiped out:
- Debts you incurred on the basis of fraud, such as lying on a credit application; Credit purchases of $1,225 or more for luxury goods or services made within 90 days of filing; Loans or cash advances of $1,225 or more taken within 90 days of filing;
- Debts from willful or malicious injury to another person or another person's property; Debts from embezzlement, larceny or breach of trust, and
- Debts you owe under a divorce decree or settlement unless after bankruptcy you would still not be able to afford to pay them or the benefit you'd receive by the discharge outweighs any detriment to your ex-spouse (who would have to pay them if you discharge them in bankruptcy).
Please note that this is only an overview of Chapter 7 & 13 Bankruptcy law. Please discuss your specific situation with a Bankruptcy attorney.