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At your initial consultation,
you will need to provide us with some basic information such as information on your debts (including your credit card debt, any lawsuits, foreclosures or repossessions, tax, student loans, or medical bills) and information about property you own (bank accounts, real estate, cars, insurance policies, retirement accounts, etc.). After reviewing this information with you, we can discuss your finances and concerns, and we will propose a recommendation for action.
If you decide to file for bankruptcy,
we will then prepare a Petition for Bankruptcy from the information you provided, and we will have you review it carefully. If you are filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, we will prepare a Chapter 13 plan as part of the Petition; this plan sets forth a monthly payment amount to be distributed to your creditors over a period of time.
After you sign the Petition,
and pay our fees, we will file it with the Bankruptcy Court, and a trustee is appointed. At this point your creditors must stop harassing you. Any contact from them can be referred to your attorney. Filing a Bankruptcy Petition also stops any lawsuits, foreclosures, garnishments and attachments.
Next, the Court sets a date for a creditors meeting,
and notifies your creditors. The creditors meeting takes place approximately one month after filing. This is usually a brief, informal hearing which we will attend with you. The trustee will question you regarding your assets and your outstanding debt. Your creditors can attend too (however, most times they do not).
If you are filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy,
the trustee reviews your plan at the creditors meeting to ensure it is feasible. You will begin making payments to the Trustee immediately, although the Court may not officially confirm your plan for weeks or months after filing. If the Court does approve your Chapter 13 plan, subsequent payments will be deducted from your paycheck over a set period (usually between three to five years).
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy,
your case will generally be discharged after approximately three and a half months. You will receive a Notice of Discharge from the Court eliminating your debts. Under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the Court issues a discharge once you have made all your payments. After discharge, creditors are prohibited forever from collecting these discharged debts.
Your bankruptcy case progresses in steps,
beginning with the first day you step into our office. We'll immediately work to stop harassment by the debt collectors; if necessary, we will bring a lawsuit on your behalf against them to enforce your legal rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. We'll draft all of your bankruptcy papers and make sure that all necessary documentation is made available. You'll always be involved in the process so that you know exactly the status of your case.
In order to be eligible to file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must complete a pre-filing briefing outlining the opportunities for credit counseling. The counselor assists the individual in performing a budget analysis within 180 days before your case is filed. When your case is filed you must file with the bankruptcy court the certificate you receive from the approved nonprofit budget and credit counseling agency. We will provide you with a list of approved credit counseling agencies.
Filing Your Case
As soon as your case is filed with the court, a Trustee is appointed. The trustee's role is to sell any assets that are not protected by law and to distribute the proceeds of that sale to your creditors. In most cases there are no assets to liquidate, so do not be concerned. If the trustee does identify assets, we probably have already advised you about this possibility.
If you have filed a Chapter 13 case, the trustee is responsible for reviewing your proposed repayment plan, making recommendations to the court regarding the feasibility of that plan, and distributing the payments to your creditors under the terms of the plan. You will be sending your Chapter 13 payments to the trustee each month, along with any other documents required by law.
All About The Meeting Of Creditors
This meeting, which is held in all bankruptcy cases, usually occurs within 4-6 weeks of the filing of your case with the court. The purpose of the meeting is to give creditors a chance to ask questions, although it is very rare that a creditor shows up; it is mostly handled by the trustee assigned to your case. The trustee may also ask you questions about particular items on your petition usually focusing on assets or income. Most meetings take only a few minutes.
Some consumers feel some level of anxiety or fear leading up to the meeting with the bankruptcy trustee, but there is no reason to fear the trustee. The meeting will take place in an ordinary conference room, and the trustee is not a judge; the setting is informal. After the meeting most people comment on how simple the process was.
How To Be Prepared For Your Meeting Of Creditors
You must bring state-issued photo identification and your social security card to your meeting. There are other documents that need to be provided to the trustee before your meeting can take place, and we will send you a letter with the list.
Attending Your Hearing on Confirmation For Chapter 13 Cases
If you file a Chapter 13 case there is one additional hearing you must attend. This is called a Hearing on Confirmation, and it takes place after your Meeting of Creditors. At the Hearing on Confirmation the trustee will make a recommendation to the judge as to whether your proposed payment plan is sufficient to satisfy the requirements under the Bankruptcy Code. The judge will then give final approval to your repayment plan or tell us to make adjustments.
How Long Your Case Takes To Complete
All Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 debtors must complete a Financial Management Course before they receive a Discharge. This Course is intended to help Debtors identify and correct the financial mistakes that led to bankruptcy.
In a Chapter 7 case, your case is usually completed approximately 90 days after your Meeting of Creditors; at that time you will receive a single-page document titled Discharge of Debtor from the court. The discharge order is the official court order relieving you of your obligation to pay your bills. Remember that the Discharge of Debtor in a Chapter 7 case will not relieve you of all of your debts. You should speak with us to find out which debts will not be discharged in a Chapter 7 case.
In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, the discharge order is issued upon your successful completion of the repayment plan. This will vary depending upon the length and type of your Chapter 13 Plan.
Filing bankruptcy is stressful, and it is not easy.
The decision as to whether to use an attorney should be taken very seriously. After all you will have many questions throughout the process and if you mess up badly, your case could end up being dismissed altogether. Because of the long-term legal and financial consequences, you need to strongly consider obtaining sound legal advice.
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