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Bankruptcy can provide a debtor relief from excessive debt by providing a fresh start. Clients are able to discharge some or all of their debt, can stop the foreclosure process and are given time to get back on their feet without harassment by creditors. Bankruptcy laws can also benefit creditors by giving them a means to collect at least partial payment of a debt in a timely manner.

Filing for bankruptcy is a difficult decision. For some it carries a stigma of failure or irresponsibility. In fact, a majority of people who file for bankruptcy intend to pay their bills but simply cannot. By filing for bankruptcy, an individual is given a clean slate, free of the stress that results from financial problems. In spite of what you may have heard about the changes Congress made to the bankruptcy laws in 2005, bankruptcy remedies are still available for individuals, including Chapter 7, where you are able to discharge debts and Chapter 13 where you can restructure the terms of certain debt and potentially eliminate secured liens (such as second mortgages) altogether.

At Hoffman & Forde, Attorneys at Law, we believe it is important for each client to know all their rights and options. We will listen to our clients and work diligently to achieve the best course of action to meet their goals. Bankruptcy is more than simply filling out forms. The decision of whether to file bankruptcy requires planning with an experienced bankruptcy attorney. Petition preparation services cannot legally advise clients regarding bankruptcy law so the problems an individual may face in the event of a mistake could likely exceed the cost of hiring an experienced bankruptcy attorney. We work diligently to correctly list all obligations, maximize exemptions to help keep all property, eliminate as much debt as possible and provide our clients with peace of mind. We handle Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies and, in contrast to most bankruptcy firms where clients deal primarily with paralegals, at Hoffman & Forde, Attorneys at Law, clients only meet with a bankruptcy attorney – from the free initial consultation through discharge. We offer competitive flat fees so you know exactly what your case will cost from start to finish.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 bankruptcy, otherwise known as a “liquidation” is a powerful tool and is generally the simplest and quickest form of bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy may eliminate most kinds of unsecured debt. Some examples of unsecured debts Chapter 7 bankruptcy may eliminate are credit cards, medical bills and most personal loans. Chapter 7 can also stop wage garnishments, and stop lawsuits filed by creditors through the Automatic Stay. In addition to getting rid of your debt, Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows you to typically keep most if not all of your “exempt” property. Depending on the situation, it may be possible to keep your car and home provided your payments are current, and there is no significant equity. Our goal is to help you keep your property and eliminate your debt. The time-line for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is generally a 90 day process. Concurrent with filing the Petition, a procedure known as an automatic stay goes into effect. This stops all creditor harassment and wage garnishment. Once the case is filed, the court will set a 341 Meeting of Creditors date to take place approximately 30 days from the file date. This is a mandatory meeting that is overseen by the bankruptcy trustee. The debtor(s) creditors also have the opportunity to appear and inquire about debt incurred. The debtor(s) must then take the Financial Management Course or post-bankruptcy class within 45 days of the 341 meeting. The course is required for discharge and if not timely filed, the case will be closed without a discharge. If the Trustee determines the case to be a “No Asset” case, a Report of No Distribution will be filed. Once the deadline for objection to dischargeability has expired, the court will issue an order of discharge and final decree. The case is then closed.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a repayment plan where you consolidate your debts and make a payment on your debt over a three to five year period. While in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy debt repayment plan, the creditors cannot collect from you, and the creditors are required by a Federal Court order to adhere to the terms of the plan. The payment plan looks at what you can afford over a three or five year period taking into account your disposable monthly income after all your expenses.. After making payments within the plan, the remaining unsecured debts (such as credit cards and medical bills) are discharged, and you continue to pay your mortgage, car loans and other secured debts that survive the bankruptcy. Chapter 13 bankruptcy offers two major benefits: (1) Any late mortgage payments or “arrearages” can be made up over the repayment periods; and (2) A Second mortgage or home equity lines of credit may be “stripped” off of your property potentially eliminating your second mortgage or equity lines of credit altogether. Chapter 13 can be useful to people who are facing foreclosure, have property they want to keep or for those who need bankruptcy protection, but do not qualify under Chapter 7 bankruptcy. One important consideration to remember about Chapter 13 bankruptcy is that you must be working or have a consistent source of income for your repayment plan to be approved by the court. Once the petition is filed, an impartial trustee is appointed to administer the case. Concurrent with filing the Petition, a procedure known as an automatic stay goes into effect, stopping creditor harassment and all foreclosure activity. The court gives notice to all creditors that a bankruptcy has been filed, and twenty to fifty days after filing the trustee will hold a meeting of creditors. At this meeting, the trustee and creditors inquire about the debtor(s) financial affairs and the debtor(s) proposed plan for repayment. No later than forty-five days after the meeting of creditors, there is a hearing before the trustee to confirm the proposed plan. If the plan is confirmed, the trustee will start collecting and distributing funds pursuant to the plan. If not confirmed then the plan is modified or the debtor(s) may have the option of converting their bankruptcy to one under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code.

The Important Role Of Your Attorney

Having an attorney help you with the bankruptcy process will ensure that you meet the specific eligibility requirements for filing under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. An attorney also ensures that the Petition and relevant documents are correctly completed and timely filed, that all assets are correctly exempted in a Chapter 7 and that the proposed Chapter 13 plan is feasible. Most importantly an attorney will give you peace of mind. Most importantly, at Hoffman & Forde, Attorneys at Law client deal only with attorneys from the initial consultation all the way through discharge. The team of attorneys at Hoffman & Forde, Attorneys at Law have helped countless individuals and families get out from under their debts. We offer free consultations to determine if bankruptcy is right for you, as well as, the appropriate chapter to file under given your specific circumstances.

If you would like to discuss our bankruptcy services, contact us today.