By Christopher C. Carr, Esq., Suburban Philadelphia Bankruptcy Lawyer
Christopher C. Carr , Esq., MBA explains the types of bankruptcy and weighs the pros and cons of filing bankruptcy.
In these troubled economic times many people are having difficulties paying their bills and may be wondering whether a bankruptcy will help them. To examine the various strategies available to avoid bankruptcy, we must first understand what bankruptcy is and what it can and cannot do. The United States Bankruptcy Code offers several types of debt relief. The United States Bankruptcy Code offers two primary paths for consumers:
- A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: In a so called “straight” bankruptcy, the Trustee in bankruptcy seeks to liquidate the debtor’s non exempt property and distribute the proceeds to the creditors in order of priority, in exchange for discharge of all of the debtor’s eligible debt. (Exemptions for various property classifications are set out in federal and state law.) However, certain debts such as guaranteed student loans and domestic support obligations are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. Most 7’s are “no asset” bankruptcies.
Certain higher income debtors who do not meet the new Means Test must instead file a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.
- A Chapter 13 “debtor in possession” Bankruptcy: Here, unlike in Chapter 7 proceedings, the debtor retains possession of the assets (hence its nickname). In order to be confirmed by the court, the debtor must prove sufficient income to support a 3-5 year plan wherein payments on secured debt such as mortgages and auto loans (including arrears) and non-dischargeable items continue and unsecured creditors typically get paid a small portion of their debts. For debtors facing mortgage foreclosure, Chapter 13 may be the only choice to halt the process while seeking other remedies within or outside of bankruptcy such as a Home Affordable mortgage modification is obtained. However, recent statistics indicate that only about 35% of all 13 plans are ever completed.
There are overall limits as to how much unsecured and/or secured debt a debtor may have and still utilize Chapter 7 or 13. If either is exceeded then the debtor will have but one alternative if they wish to file for bankruptcy:
- Chapter 11, a third type of Bankruptcy, is primarily used to help in debt businesses restructure. An example is the bankruptcy from which GM has successfully emerged with the help of a massive US bailout. It is much more complex, time consuming and expensive than Chapter 7 or 13, but is the sole resort for individual debtors with debt which exceeds the limits mentioned above.
Other Advantages to Bankruptcy: The overall goal of every bankruptcy case is to give the debtor a “fresh start.” The “automatic stay” in bankruptcy will apply once your case is filed. This generally halts all collection activities, foreclosures, repossessions, Sherriff’s sales, etc. while in effect.
Disadvantages to Bankruptcy:
- Many people wish to avoid bankruptcy because of the social stigma perceived to be associated with “going bankrupt” even though it is perfectly legal and in fact is guaranteed by the US Constitution.
- bankruptcy remains on the debtor’s credit for up to 7 (Chapter 17) or 10 years (Chapter 13) from filing and may interfere with efforts to obtain credit, purchase or refinance a home or even obtain employment. However, it should be noted that most who seek this relief already have impaired credit and, more importantly, in reality new credit is generally extended to debtors who keep their payments current for a year or two following discharge. So, in effect bankruptcy can work to “repair” credit.
- Homeowners, who have racked up large arrears in their mortgage payments which have to be repaid in full over the 3-5 year plan period in a chapter 13 , may find the payments too high to afford causing the bankruptcy ultimately to be discharged or converted, perhaps thus only delaying the ultimate loss of their home in contrast to a Home Affordable (HAMP) mortgage modification where as the name implies ideally a long term affordable solution is reached.
- Not all types of debt are dischargable in bankruptcy, a good example being guaranteed student loans.
- While perhaps not strictly speaking a disadvantage, there is a substanitial waiting period once a bankruptcy has been discharged…the debtor has to wait to file again, the timeframes varying with the type(s) of bankruptcy selected. For this reason, bankruptcy should be considered strategically. When its gone, its gone, at least for a good long time!
The key point is that each debtor’s situation is unique and deserves special consideration. Further, because the process is hardly ever as smooth as it is supposed to be because of the complexities and pitfalls involved, it is advisable to consult a competent and compassionate attorney who has experience in bankruptcies and/or in negotiating modifications to guide you through the process and help you properly complete the paperwork.
©Christopher C. Carr, Attorney at Law 2009, All Rights Reserved
If you live in the Suburban Philadelphia area, including the counties of Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, or Montgomery, and are seeking a competent and compassionate bankruptcy lawyer to help you explore your options and find the optimum solution, please call Attorney Christopher C. Carr, MBA (Finance) at 610-380-7969 (Offices in Paoli and Coatesville) for a FREE DEBT RELIEF EVALUATION. Or visit my web site at westchesterbankruptcyattorney.org and fill out the contact sheet.
I also provide Mortgage Mod Services.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not your bankruptcy lawyer, and nothing within this site creates that relationship. Bankruptcy law requires that for me to be your lawyer, you and I must have a written contract. So, unless we both agree in writing, you are not my client. Therefore, nothing written herein is to be relied upon as legal advice such as I might give to a client.
I am a debt relief agency. I help people file for bankruptcy relief under the bankruptcy code.