Did you know that there is a legal process that allows individuals to eliminate tens of thousands of dollars of debt within six months? This process is called Chapter 7 bankruptcy and is the most common type of consumer bankruptcy filed in the United States.
Some people hear “bankruptcy” and immediately imagine losing everything they own in a forced sale. They also imagine a permanently ruined credit score and even a publication that tells all their friends, family, and neighbors that they went bankrupt. These are just a few of the harmful myths that prevent people from filing bankruptcy.
At Wolfson Bolton, our attorneys work every day to dispel these myths and help our clients understand the truth about this powerful debt-relief option. If you are struggling to make ends meet because of staggering levels of debt, let us evaluate your case and determine whether Chapter 7 may provide the financial freedom you need and deserve.
Like other forms of bankruptcy, Chapter 7 begins when you file a document called a petition. You will need to include schedules, which are documents that outline all your financial information (e.g., debts, assets, income, etc.). The court will then determine your eligibility for Chapter 7 by verifying whether you pass the means test.
The means test compares your income to the median income in your state for a household of your size. If you make less than the median, you will generally qualify for Chapter 7. If you make more than the median, you might still qualify, and our attorney can help you perform the calculations to determine your eligibility before filing. Fortunately, there is no debt limit, so you can potentially qualify for Chapter 7 no matter how much money you owe.
If you don’t qualify for Chapter 7, you may consider filing under Chapter 13, which does not have an income limit.
Once the court approves your petition, it will issue a court order called the automatic stay. The automatic stay applies to all bankruptcy cases — not just Chapter 7.
The automatic stay prohibits all collection actions, including:
- Phone calls
- Wage garnishment
Typically, this protection will last for the duration of your bankruptcy case. To continue to collect your debt during your bankruptcy case, a creditor or debt collector will need to obtain approval from the court.
Liquidation & Property Exemptions
Chapter 7 is often called “liquidation bankruptcy” because the trustee may seize certain assets and sell them to repay your creditors.
To protect your property, you can use state or federal laws called exemptions, which allow you to exempt (i.e., shield) certain funds and assets from the liquidation process. Most Chapter 7 cases are no-asset cases, which means the filer has no nonexempt assets (i.e., no property that the trustee can sell). Our attorney can help you determine whether you will be able to exempt all your property from liquidation.
Once the liquidation process is complete, the court will discharge qualifying debts. When a debt is discharged, the borrower is no longer legally obligated to pay it, and the creditor can no longer attempt to collect it.
Bankruptcy may discharge the following debts:
- Medical debt
- Credit card debt
- Payday loans
- Utility bills
- Certain taxes
- Student loans (in rare cases)
- Automobile loans and mortgages*
*The court may eliminate your liability for an automobile loan or mortgage, but this does not necessarily mean you will avoid foreclosure or repossession. You will not be legally obligated to continue paying these loans, but, if you defaulted on payments, your lender would still have the contractual right to seize the collateral (i.e., your home or vehicle) after your bankruptcy.
Some debts, such as child support, alimony, and criminal fines or penalties, are non-dischargeable.
Seek the Help You Need from an Experienced Firm
We understand that filing for bankruptcy is a choice that should not be taken lightly. At Wolfson Bolton, our legal team is happy to provide you with everything you need to know to make an informed choice about your financial future. We can help you determine whether bankruptcy is right for you and walk you through the filing process. We can also help you seek solutions outside of bankruptcy if you decide that it isn’t for you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to learn more during a free consultation!
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Troy, MI 48083