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texas bankruptcy lawyerDebt can be a difficult issue for anyone to deal with. Fortunately, bankruptcy can provide relief for those who find themselves unable to pay the debts they owe while also covering their ongoing expenses. In many cases, Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the preferable option, since it will allow most debts to be eliminated quickly and easily. This form of debt relief is referred to as a “liquidation bankruptcy” since the bankruptcy trustee may seize some of a debtor’s assets and sell them to pay off the debts owed to creditors. However, certain types of assets are exempt from liquidation. By understanding what exemptions apply to them, debtors can determine whether Chapter 7 bankruptcy is their best option or whether they should choose a Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead.

Bankruptcy Exemptions in Texas

Those who live in the state of Texas can take advantage of some of the most generous bankruptcy exemption laws in the United States, and if necessary, they can use the federal bankruptcy exemptions as an alternative. Homeowners can use the homestead exemption for the equity they own in their homes. In Texas, there are no limits on the amount of a homestead exemption that can be claimed, as long as the home is located on a property that falls within certain size limits. For urban homes located in a city or municipality, a lot can be no larger than 10 acres. For rural homes, a homestead may consist of up to 100 acres for a single person or 200 acres for a family. When filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a homeowner may be able to avoid the foreclosure of their home if they make up any missed mortgage payments and will be able to continue making payments after completing the bankruptcy process. 

Texas’ exemption laws also cover the personal property owned by a debtor. A single person can exempt up to $50,000 of property, and a family can exempt up to $100,000. Personal property may include:

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san antonio bankruptcy lawyerThe recent CARES Act deadline for excluding pandemic relief payments from Chapter 13 “current monthly income” was extended to March 27, 2022. 

Way back in March 2020, the CARES Act made some helpful temporary changes to consumer bankruptcy law. (See our blog post in April 2020 about this.) Some of these changes would have expired, but in the meantime, Congress passed two other laws which extended the changes. These are still temporary, so it’s important to know the new deadlines. Last week we focused on one change dealing with Chapter 7’s means test. Today we focus on a similar change and new deadline about Chapter 13’s crucial “current monthly income” calculation. 

The Crucial Role of Your “Current Monthly Income” in Your Chapter 13 Payment Plan

The Chapter 13 “adjustment of debts” consumer bankruptcy option provides many advantages over Chapter 7 “straight bankruptcy” for many people. Chapter 13 tends to be better for those with tax and child/spousal support debts, vehicle and home mortgage loans, and more than usual or unusual assets. It involves paying into a monthly Chapter 13 plan for the benefit of your creditors. Usually, that plan allows you to prioritize paying your more important creditors over the rest of them. 

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san antonio bankruptcy lawyerThe CARES Act’s March 27, 2021 deadline for excluding pandemic relief payments from the means test was extended by one year to March 27, 2022.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the CARES Act made some helpful temporary changes to consumer bankruptcy law. (See our blog post in March 2020 about this.) Those changes had expiration dates which have now passed. However, in the meantime, Congress passed two other laws which extended the changes. They are still temporary changes. As time passes, these consumer bankruptcy law changes and their new expiration dates continue to be important. Today we focus on one of these changes pertaining to the Chapter 7 means test. 

All Pandemic Relief Payments Excluded as Income for the Means Test

The point of this first change is to prevent the pandemic relief payments from disqualifying people from Chapter 7, “straight bankruptcy.” People could receive and spend their payments without jeopardizing their bankruptcy options. Here’s how it works. 

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texas bankruptcy lawyerOne of the biggest concerns that people have when they file for bankruptcy is how it will affect their financial situation. Many people who are married have shared finances with their spouse, making bankruptcy that much more difficult. Many people falsely believe that when they are married, they must file for bankruptcy along with their divorce. However, even if you are married and have joint finances with your spouse, you can still file for bankruptcy individually. It is important to note, though, that filing for bankruptcy without your spouse can have an adverse effect on his or her credit, depending on the situation.

What Happens to Our Property?

In Texas, any property that either spouse acquires during the course of the marriage is considered to be joint property. However, for the purposes of bankruptcy, joint property is only considered to be that which has both you and your spouse’s name on it. For example, if a person files bankruptcy separately from their spouse in Texas, all of the property that they own -- even jointly -- is part of the bankruptcy estate. This means a spouse’s vehicle can also be included in the bankruptcy estate, even if they have financed the vehicle alone.

How Does Bankruptcy Affect My Spouse?

There are specific ways bankruptcy can affect your spouse in a community property state. Since all of the property that a couple owns is included in the bankruptcy estate of a married couple in Texas, this means that the protection of the extended stay is also extended to the spouse of a person filing for bankruptcy. This means that the bankruptcy trustee cannot take property that has been excluded as collateral to pay off some of the person’s debt. This also means that any debts that are held jointly by the couple will be discharged upon completion of the bankruptcy, essentially discharging the spouse’s liability from the debt as well.

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Posted on in medical debt

Borrowing to pay medical debts creates new potential risks. A debt that was easy to discharge in bankruptcy becomes one that you often can’t. 

About one-fourth (26%) of American adults (18-64 years old) reported that they or someone in their household had problems paying medical bills during the previous year. This is according to a 2016 survey by the highly reputable Kaiser Family Foundation, The Burden of Medical Debt. Not surprisingly, more than half of people who did not have health insurance reported such problems. However, more than one-fifth of people who had health insurance still had trouble paying medical bills. So if your medical bills are a challenge for you, you are clearly not alone.

You may have options short of borrowing money to pay off the medical debts. It’s worth contacting the medical creditor—as early as possible—to find out their payment alternatives. Sometimes interest-free repayment plans are available. In some situations, medical providers are willing to negotiate a settlement with you reducing the balance. Especially if you are uninsured, you might even qualify for financial assistance.

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