Bankruptcy Basics – A Brief Summary

Under Title 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code, an individual, corporation or partnership, can obtain relief from certain debts under the law.

When filing for bankruptcy, your property becomes a part of bankruptcy estate, which will be administered by the bankruptcy court. In Chapter 7, certain property is exempt and you can keep it. The New York bankruptcy exemptions are discussed in this post. In Chapter 13, you can keep your property, subject to passing the “good faith” test. When filing, you will be required to list all the property that you own, regardless where that property is located. If you fail to disclose the property, there may be serious consequences, including criminal charges.

Exemptions are used to protect your property. There is always a chance that you may lose some of your property in a Chapter 7, because it is a liquidation type of Bankruptcy. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the trustee (who is appointed to collect and sell all property that is not exempt and to use any proceeds to pay creditors) can sell your non-protected property to pay your debts. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will have to pay a portion of your income to the trustee in order to keep your non-exempt property. If you are thinking about filing for bankruptcy, it is critical that you discuss these issues with a bankruptcy attorney in advance so that you protect your assets.

As a part of your bankruptcy petition, you will be required to list all your creditors. If a creditor is not listed, you will take a chance of either not having your debt not discharged or having your entire case being dismissed.

Chapter 7 is the liquidation chapter of the Bankruptcy Code and those cases are commonly referred to as “liquidation” cases. Under Chapter 7, a trustee is appointed to collect and sell all property that is not exempt and to use any proceeds to pay creditors. In the case of an individual, the debtor is allowed to claim certain exempt property. Upon the completion of the bankruptcy, the debtor will receive a discharge of the debts. If you are filing bankruptcy for your corporation or partnership, the debts of that entity are discharged, but you may still be personally liable for the debt. It is possible that you may have to file a personal bankruptcy to protect yourself.

Chapter 11 is called the reorganization chapter for either businesses or individuals who have too much debt to file a Chapter 13. The creditors get to vote as to whether or not they will accept the plan to reorganize. It is very costly to file a Chapter 11 and it is very complex.

Chapter 12 is used by individuals, corporations or partnerships who derive their income from family farming. There are certain debt limits that apply. The plan must be proposed to repay the creditors over time and it must be approved by the Court.

Chapter 13 is the debt repayment bankruptcy for individuals but those who are sole proprietors can use this chapter also. It is usually considered if the filer has regular income to fund the plan and if the debt is less than $336,900 in unsecured debts and $1,010,650 unsecured debts. Your plan can only last 60 months.

Almost without any exception, the bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or 13 will stop garnishment or any other collection activities by your creditors.

If you have been sued on a consumer debt, like a credit card or a personal loan, I can usually stop the garnishment with a bankruptcy filing. Creditors have to obey the automatic stay imposed by a bankruptcy filing.

The automatic stay gives the debtor protection from his creditors, subject to the oversight of the bankruptcy judge. The automatic stay prohibits beginning or continuing law suits, collection calls, repossessions, foreclosure sales, and garnishment or levies. The automatic stay remains in effect until a judge lifts the stay at the request of a creditor; the debtor gets a discharge; or the item of property is no longer property of the estate. Anyone who willfully violates the stay, in the case of an individual is liable for actual damages caused by the violation, and sometimes for punitive damages. Some courts confine the right to damages to individual debtors and deny damages for stay violations as to corporate debtors.

There are some limited exceptions. You can’t stop deductions for a child support payments. Child support payments are not dischargeable in bankruptcy, but under some circumstances, a bankruptcy filing may be used to stop the additional payment for overdue support payments but it will not eliminate them altogether. In most cases, you will typically need to file under Chapter 13 in order to address overdue support payments owed through a payment plan. If the debt can’t be discharged (such as child support, maintenance, or other domestic support obligations, or most student loans) the garnishment could resume after your case is concluded, or if the automatic stay is lifted.

For most people, garnishments and executions come as a result of old consumer debts. Creditors’ actions in enforcing such debts tend to make consumers fall behind on their rent or mortgage and car payments. Bankruptcy will allow you to change the order of payments — to allow you to decide who gets paid and who does not.

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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