Bankruptcy Basics – The Process of Filing and Completing Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Chapter 13 has helped many to resolve their debts and save their homes from foreclosure. The following is a short description of a typical process that someone filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy goes through, from the initial meeting and until a discharge is received.

The initial stage of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy usually involves meeting with your bankruptcy attorney and discussing the case. The attorney will typically ask you to prepare a bankruptcy questionnaire, in which you will be asked to list your income and expenses, assets and liabilities, and describe your financial dealings over the past few years. Once the questionnaire is completed, your bankruptcy lawyer will be able to review and identify various exemptions applicable to your assets, determine whether certain of your debts are dischargeable or not, and will try to do bankruptcy planning to preserve as many of your assets as possible.

Your next step will be taking the credit counseling course. Under the bankruptcy law, you must complete the course before your bankruptcy petition can be filed with the bankruptcy court. The course must be taken from an authorized provider and can be done in person, over the telephone or internet. You will also have to provide your bankruptcy attorney with copies of your pay stubs for 60 days preceding the filing, and a copy of your most recent tax return.

Once the above steps are completed, your petition will be prepared and filed with the bankruptcy court. Concurrently with the petition, a copy of your credit counseling certificate and copies of your paystubs will be filed. Once the bankruptcy petition is filed, the automatic stay begins and protects you from all collection activities by your creditors. The automatic stay will last until the end of your bankruptcy case, unless it is lifted by the bankruptcy court.  Your petition will include a repayment plan pursuant to which your disposable income will be used to repay creditors.

Within 45 days of your filing, a meeting of the creditors, also known as 341 hearing, will take place. You will have to come to the bankruptcy court in Rochester, if you reside in Monroe County, and answer the questions posed to you by the bankruptcy trustee. The trustee will typically ask you questions about your financial affairs, your income, expenses, assets and liabilities. You also may have to answer questions from your creditors who have the right to appear at the hearing. You will have to swear under oath that the information you provided in your petition is complete and accurate.  After the hearing the trustee will issue a report to the bankruptcy court stating whether he recommends that your repayment plan be confirmed.

A typical Chapter 13 plan involves using your disposable income to repay all or a portion of your debts to the creditors over the next three to five years.  The plan provides a repayment schedule that you’ll comply with to catch up on your past-due balances while staying current with other payments.  Filing of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can stop foreclosure and allow you to repay any mortgage arrears over the duration of your plan.  Your plan can include such debts as mortgage and other secured and unsecured loan arrears and any other debts.  You must make your first payment (as part of the repayment plan) within 30 days of filing your petition.  If such payment is not made, the court may dismiss your case.

Within 45 days after the meeting of the creditors, you will have to complete the financial management course. If you will not complete it, you will not become eligible for discharge. The course is designed to help you make the most of your bankruptcy and includes tips on saving, managing money and handling credit.

Within 30 days after the 341 hearing, your confirmation hearing will be scheduled.  On that date, you will appear with your attorney before Hon. John C. Ninfo, United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Western District of New York, who will make the ultimate decision whether to approve your Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Once the plan has been approved, the trustee will typically enter a wage deduction order pursuant to which, all or a portion of your plan payments will be taken out of your wages and paid directly to the bankruptcy trustee.  The trustee, in turn, will be making the payments to your creditors. You are required to make your final payment under the plan within five years of filing your petition. After doing so, you will receive your bankruptcy discharge and officially be out of Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

You will not be eligible for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection if you had filed for bankruptcy in the past four years, so make sure you tell your bankruptcy lawyer whether you had past bankruptcy filings.

If you are dealing with debt problems in Rochester, New York, Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation.

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