1. What are the Chapters of bankruptcy?
There are 2 basic kinds of bankruptcy available to consumers: Chapter 7, and Chapter 13. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is designed to discharge your unsecured debts and give you a “fresh start”. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is designed to allow the debtor to pay back some or all of their debts over a five (5) year period. This also allows you to get caught up on your house payments and keep your home if you would like. Also, most high income debtors are forced into a Chapter 13 repayment plan as a result of the passage of the new bankruptcy law in 2005 (Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act-BAPCPA).
2. How do I qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy?
Your gross income before taxes and deductions must below the state average for a family your size. This is called the “Means Test”. This is periodically adjusted, so call us to find out the current income level. If your gross income is too high, we might be able to qualify you for a Chapter 7 once we factor in your house and car payments, etc. Again, please call us to get more information.
3. Do I have to undergo credit counseling?
Yes. You must complete a credit counseling class before your case is filed, and then a “Debtor Education” class after your case is filed in order to get your discharge.
4. Will my creditors stop harassing me?
Immediately upon hiring the Law Offices of Scott Bell, you will be able to refer all creditor calls to us, and we will handle your creditors from there. Occasionally a creditor may continue to call you, but most creditors will deal with us once they know we represent you. Furthermore, it is illegal for creditors to contact you once your bankruptcy case is filed.
5. Will I be able to buy a house after the bankruptcy?
Generally it takes two (2) years after your bankruptcy in order for you to be able to buy a house, although I have seen it done as soon as one (1) year after a bankruptcy.
6. How long does the bankruptcy process take?
The filing of your case starts the process. Approximately 30-45 days after your case is filed, we will meet with the Bankruptcy Trustee, whose job it is is to oversee your case. Approximately 60 days after meeting with the trustee your case will close and you will get your bankruptcy discharge.
7. Who is the Bankruptcy Trustee?
The Bankruptcy Trustee (sometimes just called the “Trustee”) is a person designated by the United States Trustee’s Office (Part of the Department of Justice) to oversee your case. The Trustee will examine your bankruptcy petition, ask you questions, and determine if you own any property that cannot be protected. Property that cannot be protected will be seized and sold by the Trustee to be distributed to your creditors to help satisfy your debts.
8. What debts are not discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy?
Child and spousal support arrearages, some income taxes, student loans, debts incurred as a result of fraud or other criminal conduct are types of debts not discharged. There are others, but contact us to determine what debts are non- dischargeable in your specific situation.
9. How much does it cost?
The filing fee for the court is currently $306.00. As for attorneys fees, that varies from office to office. We strive to be the most affordable bankruptcy attorneys while providing the highest level of service. With us, we allow you to get started for only $200.00 down, and we allow you to make payments past that until the case is paid for.
We do provide a free consultation to discuss your options and answer your questions about bankruptcy.
10. I have filed bankruptcy before. Can I file again?
Yes, but there must be eight (8) years between filings, based on the date of filing, not discharge.
11. How bad does bankruptcy hurt my credit?
Generally, bankruptcy does little damage to your credit because most people considering filing bankruptcy have already been missing payments, and the damage is already done. However, once your bankruptcy is discharged, your credit will start to improve quickly because you no longer owe the discharged debts, and you no longer incur new derogatory entries on your credit history. If you keep a car through the bankruptcy and maintain a good payment history on the car loan, your credit will improve radically and quickly.
12. How much property am I allowed to keep?
This depends on your individual circumstances, but most people are allowed to keep everything they own, and lose nothing in the bankruptcy other than the debt. Definitely let us discuss your specific situation with a free consultation.
13. Can I keep my house after the bankruptcy?
This depends on several factors: are you current on your mortgage(s)? Can you afford to continue making your house payment? If you answered “yes” to these questions, you are allowed to keep your house as long as you do not have too much equity in the property. The amount of equity you’re allowed to keep depends on your individual situation, and you should come in to discuss with us your situation.
14. Am I allowed to keep my retirement?
15. Can I give away or sell my property before filing bankruptcy?
Generally, no. Any transfer of property in the year before you file bankruptcy must be disclosed to the Trustee. If the Trustee determines that you gave away or sold property in an attempt to avoid losing it in the bankruptcy, then the Trustee will use the bankruptcy court to compel the return of the property from the recipient, and sell the property to pay your creditors. When in doubt, talk to us before you transfer any property before filing bankruptcy.
16. Can I get credit after bankruptcy?
Yes, but why would you want to? We are of the opinion that you shouldn’t get credit after the bankruptcy so you can avoid being in this position again. However, if you want, you will find it far too easy to obtain credit after the bankruptcy.
17. Can I file a bankruptcy without a lawyer?
Yes, but in most cases, that would not be a good idea. The new bankruptcy law in 2005 made the process of filing bankruptcy exceedingly complicated, even for relatively “simple” cases. You’re better at your job than we are, and we’re better at our job than you are.
18. Can I make payments for the attorney’s fees?
Yes! We know you’re having financial difficulty, and we don’t want to make it worse for you. We allow you to retain our office for only $200.00 down, then you can make easy monthly payments for the rest.
19. Does the bankruptcy stop wage garnishments?
Yes. The filing of your case puts in place what is called the “automatic stay”, which means all collection efforts must stop once your case is filed. This is required by law, and applies to wage garnishments as well as other methods of collection.
20. Does my spouse have to file with me?
No, but in many cases, it is a good idea for you and your spouse to file together. For example, if you and your spouse are both responsible for a debt and only one spouse
files bankruptcy, then the other spouse will be responsible for the entire debt. If there are no joint debts, then it may be advisable for your spouse not to file. Call us to discuss your specific situation.
21. Can I discharge student loans?
Only under very specific circumstances.
22. Why are there so many bankruptcy attorneys now?
That’s a good question. Since bankruptcy has been a very busy area of the law over the last few years, many attorneys that did other types of law have decided to jump in and make some fast money. In many cases, these attorneys are using your case as “on the job training”.