Frequently Asked Questions About Bankruptcy

1. What will Bankruptcy do for me and why do people file Bankruptcy?
Filing Bankruptcy will stop your creditors from trying to collect from you. It will stop harassing calls and letters, lawsuits, garnishments, repossessions and foreclosures. There are many reasons people decide to file Bankruptcy. The most common reasons are loss of job or decrease in income, excessive medical bills or being over extended with your credit card bills.

2. What's the difference between receiving a Discharge and a Dismissal from the Bankruptcy Court?
Discharge: You get a fresh start! You completed your case by fulfilling your obligations to the Court.
Dismissal: You do not receive a Discharge and your creditors can resume collection activities.

3. Are all of my debts the same?
No. There are 3 main categories of debts: secured, unsecured and priority.
Secured: Debt which has collateral. If you don’t pay, you have to surrender the property.
Examples: Houses, cars.
NOTE: If you borrowed money and gave a security interest in your household goods, it’s a secured loan.
Unsecured: Debt which does not have collateral. The creditor only has your promise to pay.
Examples: Credit cards, medical bills, magazine and book subscriptions.
Priority: Debts owed to governments or classified by the Bankruptcy Code as priority.
Examples: Taxes (Federal & State; personal property & real estate; sales), child support, student loans.

4. What happens to all my debts when I file?
It depends on which chapter you file.
If you file Chapter 7, you will Reaffirm (agree in writing to continue paying) and continue to pay your secured debts if you want to keep the property. If you don’t want the property, you can surrender it. The debt then becomes unsecured and is discharged along with your other unsecured debts. Your priority debts will be unaffected and you will continue to pay them.
If you file Chapter 13, all of your bills (except your mortgage) are consolidated into one monthly payment. Your unsecured debts will generally be paid only a small percentage of the balance owed.

5. Do I have to include all my debts?
Yes, but certain ongoing monthly bills such as utilities, insurance, etc. do not need to be listed.

6. Will I lose any property?
That’s up to you. In order to keep secured property, you must pay for it. As long as you continue to pay, you keep it. If you own property that is valuable, the Trustee may want you to make a choice of either surrendering that property or paying the value of that property to your creditors. This is an issue we would like to discuss before we file your case.

7. Do I have to have a certain amount of debt before I file?
No. The issue is whether you are having difficulty paying the debts you do have.

8. How long does this whole process take?
A Chapter 7 generally takes about 4 months. A Chapter 13 is a debt consolidation plan which will last a minimum of 36 months and a maximum of 60 months. The types of debts you have, the amounts you owe and your budget will determine the length of your repayment period.

9. Who determines my monthly payment in a Chapter 13?
There are many factors that determine your payment, such as your income and the amount and type of debt to be included in the repayment.

10. What about Co-signers?
If someone co-signed for you and you discharge your liability through Bankruptcy, the creditor may try to collect the debt from the co-signer. If you want to protect the co-signer, you can agree to pay the debt back in full. You decide how you want to handle this situation.

11. What about utility bills?
You can include utility bills in your Bankruptcy. This will stop the utility company from turning off your utilities if they are threatening to do so. You must be aware that the utility company will then require you to pay a deposit for future service. If you only owe for your current service and can work out an arrangement with the utility company to bring that amount current, it may be cheaper for you to make those arrangements and not have to pay a deposit.

12. Will I have to go to Court?
You will have to attend at least one hearing whether you file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. It is called the Meeting of Creditors (or Section 341 Meeting). This Meeting is usually about 3 weeks after your case is filed. A Trustee will be appointed by the Court to review your case. The Trustee will ask you questions about the answers you provided when you completed your initial documents. It usually takes less than five or ten minutes for the Trustee to complete these questions.

13. How will bankruptcy affect my credit rating?
The fact that you filed bankruptcy may be on your credit report for up to 10 years. However, the fact that you are paying your bills late every month is usually on your credit report for 7 years. Bankruptcy provides a “fresh start” and future creditors will see that you are no longer burdened with debts that you can’t pay. Additionally, you can explain the reasons you had financial problems and how your situation has changed.

14. Are there any debts that can’t be discharged?
Yes. Generally, taxes, student loans and child support payments will not be discharged. However, there are exceptions. These debts can be repaid through a Chapter 13.

15. How often can I file Bankruptcy?
You can only receive a discharge under Chapter 7 once every 8 years. You can file a Chapter 13 more frequently, but the protections you would ordinarily receive can be diminished. Further, the Bankruptcy Judge will ask for an explanation about why you have filed so many times.