A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the most common type of case filed by individual consumers. There are numerous circumstances that may warrant this type of filing, including:
- If you have significant unsecured debt, such as credit card debt and medical bills and you don’t have a lot of non-exempt assets
- Creditors and debt collectors are harassing you
- You own a business and you have personally guaranteed some of the business’ debt
- You have garnishments, repossessions, or lawsuits being threatened or pending against you
- Your home is in foreclosure or a foreclosure action is being threatened
- You have lost your job or had a significant reduction in your paycheck
- Your divorce has left you with unmanageable debt
- You own an investment property that is underwater (the property is worth less than the mortgages encumbering them)
- You are living paycheck to paycheck and are still unable to pay your bills
- You are always worried about money and ready to obtain relief from your debt
Every bankruptcy filing is unique, but most Chapter 7 cases last 3 months. This is one of the fastest means of achieving comprehensive debt relief. Additionally, most Chapter 7 debtors are allowed to keep most, if not all, of their assets. It is essential to discuss this matter with a debt relief lawyer before you file your case. Whether you recognize that filing bankruptcy on your own is difficult or you attempted to handle your own case and it was dismissed, we can help.
What Is the Means Test?
The bankruptcy court uses a formula called the “means test” to determine whether you are eligible to file a Chapter 7 case. This test was created to prevent individuals from abusing the bankruptcy system. The test combines your average income over the 6 months prior to filing and subtracts certain IRS allowances for basic living expenses and some of your actual living expenses. The means test can be confusing. You also may be exempt from the means test, for various legal reasons. It is important to seek the assistance of a seasoned bankruptcy attorney to assist you with your Chapter 7 filing.
What Does Filing Chapter 7 Accomplish?
Most Chapter 7 cases follow a fairly straightforward process. When you successfully complete your case, the bankruptcy court grants you a discharge, which eliminates your personal liability to pay the discharged debts. In most cases, this is tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars the debtor no longer has the responsibility to pay. Obtaining a second chance with your finances in Chapter 7 is commonly referred to as a “fresh start”.
The federal government passed new bankruptcy reform legislation in October 2005. However, don’t be discouraged! Most studies indicate that the new law affects less than 15% of individuals who could have filed previously. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your debts and considering filing bankruptcy, it is highly probable that you fall into the category of the 85 percent of people who are still eligible to file.