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Understanding Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Posted on in Bankruptcy

If your personal financial situation has you considering filing for bankruptcy, you should know about your two options: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies. Chapter 7 bankruptcy, sometimes referred to as 'straight' bankruptcy, is an effective way to wipe most of your debts clean in a matter of months, but there are several drawbacks to this type of bankruptcy. The largest caveat with Chapter 7 bankruptcy is that many people do not legally qualify for Chapter 7. Therefore, Chapter 13 is the only option for many personal bankruptcy filers. However, sometimes Chapter 13 is the better choice for many even if they qualify for Chapter 7.

What's Unique About Chapter 13?

The main differentiator between Chapter 13 and Chapter 7 is that under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will enter into a payment plan with your creditors. The plan, which is overseen by a bankruptcy trustee, almost always lasts between three and five years.The good news for you is that you might not even be liable for the full debt amount. An experienced bankruptcy attorney is often able to negotiate down the amount you owe. For these reasons, Chapter 13 bankruptcy is sometimes called 'debt reorganization.'

Another attractive feature of Chapter 13 bankruptcy is that you are allowed to keep valuable and essential property such as your house and vehicle. Some types of property valued at certain amounts are exempt from being seized during a Chapter 7 filing, but you will have much more security for your property and assets under Chapter 13. So, if you are interested in keeping your house, Chapter 13 is usually the optimal route.

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When you decide to file bankruptcy, you will have a trustee assigned to your case. The trustee takes on a number of important tasks and administers your case. Their goal is to assess your circumstances, ensure that you are not hiding property, manage the property in the bankruptcy case, and manage payments.

Who Is the Trustee?

Trustees are appointed by the courts. Trustees are typically accountants or lawyers.

Trustees in Chapter 7 Bankruptcies

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the ultimate goal is a discharge of all qualifying debts. The trustee is expected to be impartial throughout the process. They receive a small fee for their services, as well as a percentage of any property sold. This serves as extra motivation to find property that people who file bankruptcy may try to hide.

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Maybe you've decided that bankruptcy is the right choice for your family. What's your next step? This step-by-step guide outlines what to expect throughout the bankruptcy process and what your responsibilities are along the way.

Step 1. Discuss Bankruptcy Options with An Attorney

Though you can represent yourself, bankruptcy cases can be incredibly complicated. For that reason, I always recommend that you hire an attorney. Depending on your income level and the amount of debt you have and your assets, you can choose Chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy. It's important to discuss these options with a lawyer, since Chapter 7 and 13 have their own specific requirements, and each provides different benefits. While a Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows for a full discharge of debt without any repayment, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy permits you to keep some of your assets while making monthly payments.

Step 2. Get Your Documentation to Your Attorney

Your attorney will let you know what is needed to proceed with bankruptcy. You will be expected to provide information on your household income, credit card debt, secured debt, assets, and investments. Most attorneys will also need you to complete a questionnaire.

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Your bankruptcy case is complete and you've received a full discharge-what now? Declaring bankruptcy gives you a clean slate, but you have to approach this time with the right mindset and goals. Here are a few tips to set yourself up for success.

1. Check Your Credit Report

Through each of the three credit bureaus, you have the right to a free credit report once per year. Around 90 days after you've received your discharge, pull your credit report from each bureau. Verify that your discharge is marked on your credit report and that none of the discharged debts are still listed on your report.

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You've filed bankruptcy and eradicated the debt that's been hanging over you for months or years. Now it's time to start planning for the future. While bankruptcy does offer the chance for a fresh start, it also causes an immediate hit to your credit score. With time and careful management of your resources, you can help your credit bounce back.

1. Secured Credit Cards

Some people have difficulty finding lending opportunities after bankruptcy. Creditors may be unwilling to take a chance on someone with a recent bankruptcy on their record. A secured credit card could be the solution. When you get approved for a secured credit card, you make a cash deposit to the lender. The deposit is typically the same amount as your credit limit. You get your deposit returned after making on-time payments for a set amount of time. Secured cards often have high-interest rates, so use them as a credit-building tool and keep a low balance.

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