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Archive for the ‘chapter 13’ tag

Exploring Federal and Texas Bankruptcy Exemptions

March 15th, 2019 at 4:27 pm

TX bankruptcy attorneyFor some people, filing for bankruptcy can be a scary thing. In the beginning, you may not know what the future has in store for you and you may wonder which of your possessions you are allowed to keep and which possessions you must give up. Exemptions are an important part of the bankruptcy process. In a bankruptcy case, exemptions are the possessions that you get to keep after you have liquidated your luxury assets to help pay back a portion of your debts. Each state has its own guidelines for what property is exempt during a bankruptcy. In 17 states, including the state of Texas, you are able to choose between state exemption guidelines or federal guidelines, but you must choose one or the other. It is important to understand bankruptcy exemptions because they do differ.

Federal Exemptions

The exemptions that are listed here are the exemption amounts for each individual bankruptcy filer. That means if both you and your spouse are filing for bankruptcy, you can double the amounts. Here is a list of the current federal exemption amounts for each individual filer:

  • Homestead Exemption: Up to $22,675 in equity for a primary residence;
  • Motor Vehicle: $3,775 for one vehicle per filer;
  • Jewelry: Up to $1,600 in jewelry, not including wedding rings;
  • Household Goods: A total of $12,625, but with no item valued more than $600 can be exempted. Household goods include clothing, furniture, appliances, linens, kitchenware, and personal effects;
  • Tools of the Trade: Up to $2,375 for items you use for work;
  • Domestic Maintenance: An amount reasonably necessary for support
  • Social Security, Unemployment, Veteran’s Benefits, Public Assistance, Disability: Exempt without regard to the value;
  • Personal Injury Awards: Up to $23,675, not including pain and suffering or actual pecuniary damages or loss of future earning capacity;
  • Retirement Accounts: Tax exempt retirement accounts are exempt, but IRAs and Roth IRAs are capped at $1,283,025; and
  • Wildcard Exemption: You may also exempt up to $1,250 of any property, plus $11,850 of any unused homestead exemption.

Texas Exemptions

The state exemptions in Texas are slightly different than the federal exemptions. Here is a list of exemptions you receive if you choose to follow state bankruptcy exemptions, rather than federal exemptions:

  • Homestead Exemption: You are permitted to exempt equity in your primary residence as long as that residence does not span more than 10 acres in a city, town or village, or 100 acres elsewhere;
  • Personal Property: If you are single, you can exempt personal property up to $50,000 in value. If you have a spouse, you are permitted to exempt up to $100,000 in personal property;
  • Motor Vehicle: You are allowed to exempt one motor vehicle per household member who has a driver’s license;
  • Pensions and Retirement Accounts: Most tax-exempt pensions and retirement accounts are exempt under Texas law. These can include government employee pensions and retirement accounts, IRAs and Roth IRAs, teacher’s retirement and pension benefits and law enforcement pension and retirement benefits.

Contact a New Braunfels, TX Bankruptcy Attorney Today

Many people who decide to file for bankruptcy do so because it is their last option for debt relief. While filing for bankruptcy can cause you to have to liquidate some of your non-necessary assets, you will not lose everything. At the Law Offices of Chance M. McGhee, we understand that filing for bankruptcy can be a hard decision, but we can help you throughout the entire process. Our skilled Boerne bankruptcy lawyers can help you understand the difference between federal and Texas state exemptions and choose the exemptions that would best benefit you. Call our office today at 210-342-3400 to schedule a free consultation.

 

Sources:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/11/522

https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PR/pdf/PR.41.pdf

https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PR/pdf/PR.42.pdf

What Life Is Really Like After a Texas Bankruptcy

December 21st, 2018 at 6:36 pm

TX bankruptcy lawyer, TX chapter 7 attorney, Coming to the decision that a bankruptcy is your best option was probably not an easy journey. Bankruptcies still tend to have a negative stigma in today’s world, but for some people, it’s the best thing they could have done for themselves. Most people know what goes on when you are filing for bankruptcy and what that means, but what happens after a bankruptcy is often lost in the shuffle. Many people have their ideas of what life after bankruptcy is like, but those ideas are often muddled with unrealistic expectations. What really happens after a bankruptcy can change depending on your situation, but ultimately, your actions have a lot to do with it.

You Might Have to Change Your Lifestyle

The type of bankruptcy that you file for will have a lot of bearing on your lifestyle after you have completed your bankruptcy. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will be required to pay some or all of your debts with a repayment plan over three or five years. This means that you will have less expendable income and will have to devote more of your money to pay off debt. If you filed for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the majority of your debts will be forgiven, but that does not mean you can take up a frivolous lifestyle. You should be wary of spending too much money on unneeded items at your bankruptcy, no matter the kind.

You Will Probably Have a Hard Time Getting Credit or Loans

To lenders, a bankruptcy signals that they might not get their money back if they lend it to you. After you have gone through a bankruptcy, you will most likely be seen as a high-risk borrower, meaning that many banks and lenders will not even consider loaning money to you. The lenders who do consider allowing you to borrow money will often charge you very high-interest rates in order to make up for the high-risk factor.

You Should Start to Build a Savings Account

Opening and maintaining a savings account is an easy way to begin making your financial picture a healthier one. Even just putting away $5 or $10 a week can make a difference, especially if you have not had a savings account before. Having a little bit of money set aside for emergencies is always a good idea.

Our Boerne Bankruptcy Attorney Can Help Set You Up for Success

Many people come into bankruptcy expecting things to be a certain way after everything is said and done. Like many things, life after bankruptcy is not always what it seems. At the Law Offices of Chance M. McGhee, we can help guide you throughout your bankruptcy process. Our experienced New Braunfels bankruptcy lawyers will make sure the decisions you are making are in your best interest and beneficial fpr you. To schedule a free consultation, call our office today at 210-342-3400.

 

Sources:

https://www.bankrate.com/finance/debt/life-after-bankruptcy-1.aspx

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/07/after-bankruptcy.asp

Which Bankruptcy Option Eliminates All Debt?

September 30th, 2018 at 5:39 pm

debtOne enticing benefit to filing for bankruptcy is the ability to discharge debts, enabling a fresh financial start. The United States bankruptcy code was created to allow honest debtors to free themselves from insurmountable debt; however there are various limitations. Unfortunately, these limitations restrict which debts become eliminated, reduced, or remain the same. Therefore, regardless of whether you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, some outstanding debts are untouchable.

Which Debts Are Eliminated?

Which debts discharge relies heavily on the type of bankruptcy filed by the consumer. Chapter 13 bankruptcy does not eliminate any debt initially, yet restructures the current sums into an affordable repayment plan. This repayment plan typically lasts three to five years, at the end of which any eligible debts are discharged. When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, any unsecured loans become eliminated immediately. In some instances, unsecured debts make up all of the financial burdens. These debts include:

  • Credit card debt;
  • Personal loans;
  • Medical bills;
  • Payday loans;
  • Older tax debts;
  • Utility bills; and
  • Second mortgages.

Secured Debts Are Non-dischargeable

Chapter 7 bankruptcy does provide significant relief regarding secured, non-dischargeable debts, aside from freeing up a portion of the budget to make regular payments. Alternatively, Chapter 13 includes all financial liabilities in the repayment plan, including secured loans. Non-dischargeable debts include:

  • Taxes within the last three years;
  • Child support payments;
  • Alimony or spousal support obligations;
  • Student loans;
  • Traffic ticket fines;
  • Criminal restitution; and
  • Secured debt on a home or car you plan to keep.

Contact an Attorney

These guidelines are general statements intended to help you determine if bankruptcy may help your situation. Each consumer bankruptcy case depends on a variety of individual factors. Therefore, if you think bankruptcy is right for you, you should discuss your unique circumstances with a proven Boerne bankruptcy attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Chance M. McGhee for a free case review today by calling 210-342-3400. Our experienced team will assess the details of your case and provide honest feedback about the best course of action for your financial future.

 

Sources:

http://www.uscourts.gov/services-forms/bankruptcy

http://www.uscourts.gov/services-forms/bankruptcy/bankruptcy-basics

 

How to Get Back a Repossessed Vehicle

May 25th, 2018 at 9:17 am

repoIn the United States, 170 million consumers depend on a vehicle for daily activities. From trips to the grocery store to a daily commute to work, Americans rely heavily on having independent transportation. Unfortunately, when financial hardship strikes, lenders are quick to repossess their vehicles, even if payments are only one month behind, in some cases. The next part of ur “Surprising Benefits” series explains how filing for bankruptcy can stop a repossession from occurring or even return a repossessed car back to your possession.

If It Is Still in Your Possession

In the state of Texas, repo agents do not need to notify you before taking your vehicle. Realistically, if your payment is in default, even just by a short time, a repossession agency may already be looking for your car, truck, motorcycle, RV, or any other vehicle burdened with a loan. Filing for bankruptcy may be a viable solution to your situation. Bankruptcy places an “automatic stay” is on all collection attempts for all loans, including your vehicle. For many Americans, this stay is enough to catch up on payments, without including it in the bankruptcy process.

After It Is Repossessed

If the car is already repossessed, there is still a possibility of having the vehicle returned; but you must act fast. Lenders work quickly to send the repossessed cars to auction and often have them sold within two weeks. Once the vehicle is sold to a third party, it is too late to have it returned, and you may still owe money to your lender. Typically, the amount the car earns at auction goes toward the original loan balance and the debtor is responsible for the difference, which will include interest and repossession fees. Filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy stops the sale of the vehicle, renegotiates the terms of the loan over the next three to five years, and returns the car to your possession. A lender may still hold the debtor responsible for the repossession fees. However, many find that preferable to losing the car entirely and still owing.

Ask an Attorney

If your vehicle loan is in default, there is a possibility that you are up for repossession. Depending on the bank and your past payment history, you may have a more extended amount of time, but this is not guaranteed. Stop the guessing game today by contacting a Schertz, TX bankruptcy lawyer. Law Offices of Chance M. McGhee understand how frustrating it is avoiding collection calls and the damaging impact losing a car can have on your career and your ability to put food on the table. Call us at 210-342-3400 today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation to further explore your vehicle-saving options.

 

Sources:

https://hedgescompany.com/automotive-market-research-statistics/auto-mailing-lists-and-marketing

https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2014/02/9-reasons-us-ended-so-much-more-car-dependent-europe/8226/

Choosing Between Bankruptcy and Foreclosure

May 10th, 2018 at 9:04 am

foreclosureThe decision between filing for bankruptcy or foreclosing on your home is stressful. Neither is optimal when it comes to the immediate financial impact to your credit score, however, neither are late payments. Bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years, while foreclosure typically rolls off in seven years. But, before you give in to losing your home, there are a few details worth considering.

Saving the Home

First, you must decide if you want to save the home. If you are behind by a month or two, contact your lender. The foreclosure process is expensive for banks. In many cases, your lender will work with you. Options to consider include:

  • Make up the late payments;
  • Restructure the loan; or
  • Request a forbearance.

The Foreclosure Option

First, consider that foreclosure is very serious to future mortgage lenders, more than a bankruptcy that did not include the house. Additionally, foreclosure will drop your credit score by 200 or 300 points. Discuss the option of a short sale instead of foreclosure with your lender. With this option, the house is worth less than the principal balance of the loan, in which case, you may owe the remaining balance. In many situations, banks waive this difference. If a short sale is not an option, some banks accept “deed in lieu of foreclosure,” where you turn the house over to the lender and owe nothing. Explore these opportunities with your lender

How Bankruptcy Can Help

There are many options when filing for bankruptcy, each with unique benefits to suit your needs. Because you own a home and have income, Chapter 13 will probably be your best option. Rather than liquidating everything, Chapter 13 allows you to restructure your debt. As soon as you file, an automatic stay is placed on all accounts, effectively stopping all debt collection attempts. The stay also halts foreclosure proceedings, which may help you catch up on payments. Next, all of the creditor and lenders then convene with an appointed trustee to create a payment plan to repay the debt. This option allows you to keep your assets, including your home, and eventually get caught up on your mortgage.

Ask an Attorney

Mortgage lenders and collection agencies send correspondence that is intimidating and overwhelming. The calls and other communication can stop now. You can begin looking forward to a brighter financial future today. Discover if bankruptcy is the right solution for you by calling a New Braunfels, TX bankruptcy attorney. The Law Offices of Chance M. McGhee will take the time to carefully examine the details of your case and give you honest feedback on which bankruptcy option is best for you. Call 210-342-3400 today to schedule your free, no-obligation consult.

 

Sources:

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/21478416/ns/business-answer_desk/t/which-worse-foreclosure-or-bankruptcy/#.WuvfQDGG_IU

http://www.txs.uscourts.gov/node

The Surprising Benefits: A “Preference” Payment to a Relative or Friend

April 9th, 2018 at 7:00 am

A preferential payment to a favored creditor—a relative or friend—can be a problem, but one which usually has a workable solution. 

 

Our last two blog posts have been about one of the more confusing parts of bankruptcy: the law of preferences. This law says that if a creditor takes or receives money from you within the 90 days before you file your bankruptcy case, the creditor may need to pay it back. A creditor would not pay that money to you but rather to your Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee. The trustee would then pay out that money to creditors based on a priorities schedule in bankruptcy law.

Our last blog post was about how that priority schedule could result in most of that money going to a creditor you need and want to be paid. One example we used was a recent income tax debt. That can’t be discharged (written off) in bankruptcy. So preference law could result in the trustee getting some money back from a creditor you don’t care about to pay the tax debt so you don’t have to.

Preference Payments You DON’T Want Undone

But preference payments don’t just involve creditors you don’t care about. You may well not lose sleep over a trustee forcing a credit card company to return $1,000 it garnished from you on the eve of your bankruptcy filing. But what if you’d paid $1,000 on a personal loan to your brother or grandmother 6 months before filing bankruptcy? You’d promised to pay him or her back as soon as you got your tax refund, for example. So you did pay the $1,000. He or she really needed the money, and you felt huge emotional and ethical pressure to pay it. It was the right thing to do.

But now you hear from your bankruptcy lawyer that a Chapter 7 trustee could force your brother or grandmother to pay back that money. You feel that would be crazy, and wrong. Your brother or grandmother has long ago spent the $1,000 you paid on the loan. It would really be hard on them to now turn around and pay $1,000 to your trustee. In fact maybe one reason you paid off this debt was so that he or she would not be involved in your anticipated bankruptcy case. You may prefer that your relative not find out about you having to file bankruptcy. You can’t think of anything worse than he or she getting a demand from the trustee to pay the $1,000. This prospect may well turn you off about filing bankruptcy altogether.

The Solutions

However, this problem has a number of likely practical solutions. We’ll list them here and give brief explanations. Then next week we’ll expand on them to make sure they make sense.

1. Wait to File Until after the Preference Look-Back Period: With “insiders”—relatives and potentially anybody close to you–the look-back period is a full year before filing. It’s not just 90 days back, as it is with non-insiders. Regardless, especially if you are getting close to a year since your preferential payment, consider waiting long enough to avoid the problem altogether.

2. Persuade Trustee Not to Pursue the Preferential Payment: Your relative or other favored person that you paid may genuinely be unable to pay the $1,000 or whatever you paid. He or she may have no legally reachable income or assets. The trustee won’t want to waste money to pay his or her lawyer to fruitlessly pursue a preferential payment.  

3. Offer to Pay the Trustee a Reduced Amount Yourself: The trustee will usually not care where the preference money comes from—from the relative or other creditor who got your money, or anywhere else. So you could offer to pay that $1,000 or whatever that sum of money yourself. The trustee may even take monthly payments from you. Also, he or she may accept less than the full preference payment amount, subtracting what it would have cost in attorney fees and other costs for him or her to get it from your relative.

4. File a Chapter 13 Case to Prevent Pursuit of the Preferential Payment: Chapter 13 “adjustment of debts” often provides a very good solution. It works particularly if 1) you need to do a Chapter 13 anyway, 2) the preferential payment is large, and/or 3) none of the above solutions will work.

Next Time…

We’ll explain these four in our next blog post. The bottom line until then: a preferential payment to a relative and other favored creditor can be a scary problem, but it’s one that usually has a very sensible practical solution.

Your Home Mortgage in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13

November 27th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Here are 6 ways filing a Chapter 7 case can help you deal with your home lender and related debts, and 6 ways filing a Chapter 13 one can.

 

 If you’re buying a home your mortgage and other home-related debts are probably your most important ones. That’s especially true if you want to keep the home. So the choice between filing a Chapter 7 “straight bankruptcy” and a Chapter 13 “adjustment of debts” often turns on how each would handle these kinds of debts. We’ll get into more detail about these in upcoming blog posts, but here’s an introductory list.

Chapter 7

  1. Maintain current mortgage payments: If you want to keep your home and are current on your mortgage, just continue making the payments. Doing so should become much easier since you’re likely discharging (legally writing off) all or most other debts.
  2. Forbearance agreement: If you are no more than a few months behind on your mortgage, enter into a “forbearance agreement” with your mortgage lender. You agree to pay an extra amount each month to catch up on the mortgage. This assumes that your bankruptcy filing frees up enough money each month so that you can catch up fast enough
  3. Judgment lien avoidance: Chapter 7 can often “avoid” (remove from your home title) a creditor’s judgment lien against your home.
  4. Stop ongoing foreclosure to buy time to sell: If you are in the midst of selling your home, filing bankruptcy may buy enough time to close the sale. A Chapter 7 case buys you only a limited amount of time. Plus the Chapter 7 trustee may also have a say in what happens. So be sure to discuss this carefully with your bankruptcy lawyer.
  5. Buy time to save money and move: If you’re surrendering your home, Chapter 7 can stop a foreclosure and buy you more time.  You can be in your home without paying your mortgage longer, giving you more time to save money for your upcoming rent payments and moving costs.
  6. Discharge any “deficiency balance”: Surrendering your home without bankruptcy could result in a large “deficiency balance” owed from your mortgage debt. That’s the difference between the amount the home would sell for and the amount of the loan balances. Any such “deficiency balance” would be discharged in your Chapter 7 case.

Chapter 13

  1. Maintain current mortgage payments: As with Chapter 7, it’s usually much easier to keep current than before filing. That’s because Chapter 13 usually greatly reduces how much you pay on other debts.
  2. Much more time to catch up: Chapter 13 gives you as much as 5 years to catch up on a past-due mortgage and/or property taxes.  You enter into a court-approved payment plan based on your ability to pay. You are protected from your mortgage lender and all your creditors.
  3. “Strip” a second and/or third mortgage: If the value of your home is less than the balance on your first mortgage, you may be able to remove junior mortgages from your home’s title. You could stop paying these monthly payments. This would make keeping your “underwater” home more economically sensible.
  4. “Avoid” creditors’ judgment liens: This is the same as in Chapter 7 listed above.
  5. Dealing with other liens on your home: Chapter 13 usually provides more flexible and practical ways to deal with most other kinds of liens. These include liens for income taxes, child/spousal support, and home repairs/remodeling.
  6. Flexible timing for selling your home: You can often arrange to sell your home 2-3 years after filing. This is handy if you want to stay in your present home until a child graduates, you make a career move, or until your home’s property value increases.

 

Using Time to Your Advantage in Chapter 7 and 13

November 20th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Chapter 7’s big advantage is that it’s quick. Chapter 13’s big advantage is that it buys you more time to do what you want or need to do.


A Key Distinction-Treatment of Time

We’re starting a series of blog posts about the practical differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Before getting down into the details let’s look at a difference that affects just about everything else—time. These two options deal with time very differently.

Sometimes getting something done quickly is to your advantage. Sometimes getting more time to get something done is to your advantage. Here’s how these play out with Chapter 7 and 13.

Chapter 7—In and Out Fast

If you’re like most people thinking about bankruptcy, you’ve been hurting financially for a long time. Understandably you want to get a fresh financial start fast.

With any kind of bankruptcy you get relief from almost all creditor collection actions the minute you file your case. Then with Chapter 7 “straight bankruptcy” your debts are discharged less than 4 months from the day you file the case. All or most of your creditors can never again attempt to collect on the debts.

So, you get immediate relief, your creditors are put on hold, and then just a few months later you’re done. You have your fresh start.

Chapter 7—One Point in Time

Chapter 7 bases just about everything on that moment in time when your case is filed. It particularly focuses in on your assets as of that moment. Generally your future assets are not relevant, unless they derive from assets owned as of the date of filing. (Rental income from property you own now would be an exception.)  Future income doesn’t count as present assets, unless it was for work done before filing.

Chapter 7—Short-Lived Automatic Stay

One problem with Chapter 7 is it can be TOO quick, when it comes to protecting you from certain creditors. The “automatic stay” is the name of the protection that kicks in the moment you file a bankruptcy case. That protection lasts only as long as the case is open. In a Chapter 7 case that means only 3-4 months, at the most.

Chapter 7 also gives you no enforceable mechanism for making payments on debts that you want or need to pay. For example, if you’re behind on a mortgage and want to catch up you have to bring it current by whatever terms and timetable the mortgage holder demands. There is nothing in Chapter 7 that compels the mortgage holder to give you more time. It’s the same if you’re behind on a vehicle loan, child or spousal support, or recent income taxes. You have little or no protection, and no power to compel these kinds of creditors to be more flexible.

(Chapter 7 does allow for “reaffirming” secured debts like vehicle loans. But “reaffirmation” doesn’t usually help if you’re behind on payments. It just makes you liable as if you hadn’t filed bankruptcy. And it doesn’t apply to other kinds of not-discharged debts like child/spousal support or income taxes.)

Chapter 13—Stretching Out Time in Your Favor

A quick bankruptcy procedure isn’t always in your favor. So getting in and out of bankruptcy quickly isn’t good if you’re left with ongoing special debts.

That’s not a problem if the surviving debt is one you can readily handle. You may have had trouble keeping up with payments on your vehicle loan. But after discharging all or most of your other debts under chapter 7 you may have no trouble making them. Same thing may be true if you still owe a relatively small amount of nondischarged income tax. You may well be able to pay it off conveniently through a negotiated monthly payment agreement.

Problems occur when the debt that would survive a Chapter 7 case is too large to handle on your own. It’s not at all unusual to have more than one such debt. Then you need the substantial additional time that Chapter 13 “adjustment of debts” gives you.

With Chapter 13 you’re not effectively being left on your own to deal with these special debts as under Chapter 7. Instead Chapter 13 can give you up to 5 years of time and protection. You have up to that much time to bring a debt current or to pay it off.

Chapter 13—Flexible Time

Chapter 13 doesn’t just buy you time to deal with those other problems. It buys you flexible time. It does so in three ways.

First, the amount of time it buys flexibly depends mostly on your budget. If your income qualifies you for a 3-year plan, you’re usually allowed to stretch it out longer. If you just need an extra 3 months, or the full 5 years, or anything in between, your personal budget is often the main determinant.

Second, if you have more than one important debt you need to pay, you often have flexibility about that. For example, let’s say you owe back home property taxes and child support, and recent income tax. All of them have to be paid in full before the end of your Chapter 13 case. But the property taxes accrue high interest. The child support you feel morally obligated to catch up fast. The income tax is not accruing interest. Your Chapter 13 payment plan could likely get the property tax and child support caught up before paying anything on the income taxes.

Third, Chapter 13 flexibly keeps your options open. For example, if you’re considering selling your home at some point, your payment plan could schedule that for 3 years into your case. You could keep your plan payments lower until paying a lump sum out of those later home sale proceeds. Or you may be able to leave that potential home sale open-ended, depending on what happens in the meantime.

Conclusion

As you can see, Chapter 7 and 13 each turn time in your favor, depending on what you need. If you don’t have a lot of debt that would not be discharged in a Chapter 7 case, then its quickness can be a big advantage. If you do have debt that would survive, Chapter 13’s length can be a great advantage. It not only buys you time but gives your protection and flexibility for dealing with these special debts.

 

Keep an Open Mind about Chapter 7 or 13

November 17th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Here’s an example why to keep an open mind about filing under Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13. Slightly different facts can make all the difference. 

 

Last time we introduced some of the main differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. We suggested that you learn about them but also keep an open mind when you go see a bankruptcy lawyer. At that meeting you will always hear about advantages and disadvantages of each option you didn’t know about. Often you hear for the first time about certain tools that can really help you. So you may end up going a different route than you expected.

Here are two versions of an example that illustrates this well.

An Example Using Chapter 7

Assume the following. Three months after losing a job you get another one at a somewhat lower salary than before.  Over the years before you’d accrued $50,000 in credit card debt and medical bills on which you’d started falling behind. While you weren’t working you fell even further behind and one medical collector has just sued you. You’re now also 2 months behind on your $1,500 monthly home mortgage payments ($3,000). For personal and financial reasons you really want to keep your home.

A Chapter 7 “straight bankruptcy” case would very likely discharge (legally write off) all of your non-mortgage debts. In this example that would enable you—with a short-term tight but realistic budget and a temporary part-time job—to pay one and a half mortgage payments each month ($1,500 + $750) for four months to catch up. Your lawyer contacts your mortgage lender which agrees to that catch-up schedule.

So you decide to file a Chapter 7 case as a means to get current on your mortgage, and to get a fresh financial start. About 4 months after filing the case you’d have both.

An Example Using Chapter 13

Change the facts this time so that now you’re 8 months behind ($12,000) on your mortgage instead of just 2. Also your budget is tighter and no part-time job is available. So without paying any of your credit card and medical debts you can only afford $300 per month. At that rate you would need 40 months to catch up on your $12,000 mortgage arrearage. Your lender says that’s totally unacceptable.

A Chapter 13 “adjustment of debts” would give you up to 5 years to catch up on the mortgage. The mortgage lender would generally have to go along with this—be unable to foreclose or take other collection action—as long as you consistently stuck with your plan. You would have to pay all you could afford to every month for at least 3 years. You’d have to pay for 5 years if your income was too high. Either way the money would first go to catch up the mortgage. (This would be after or simultaneously while you were paying your lawyer fees and trustee fees). You would usually only pay the other debts—the credit cards and medical debts) if and to the extent you had money left over during the 3-to-5-year payments period.

Because you really want to keep your home you decide to file a Chapter 13 case. You don’t mind its length because that’s to your advantage—more time to catch up on the mortgage so that you can reasonably afford to do so. About 4 years after filing the case you finish catching up, the remaining debts are forever discharged, and you have a fresh financial start. You owe nothing except the fully-caught up mortgage. It took a lot longer than a Chapter 7 case but saving your home made it well worthwhile.

Conclusion

In both of these scenarios you were behind on a mortgage on a home you wanted to keep. In the first scenario the tools of Chapter 7 enabled you to meet your goal. In the second you needed the stronger tools of Chapter 13.

This is a simplistic example. Even here this illustration show that it’s important to keep an open mind about which Chapter is better for you. Real life is usually much more complicated. That’s all the more reason to get informed about your options and then be receptive about your lawyer’s legal advice about them.

 

Chapter 7 or 13? You May Be Surprised

November 15th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Chapter 7 takes about 4 months, while Chapter 13 takes 3 to 5 years, and likely costs more. But that doesn’t begin to answer which is better. 

 

Chapter 7 and Chapter 13

Chapter 7 “straight bankruptcy” is usually, but not always, for simpler situations. It’s often the right choice if your income is relatively low, your assets are modest, and your debts are straightforward.  You keep all of your assets, all or most of your debts are discharged (legally written off), and if you want you keep paying on your vehicle and/or your mortgage or rent.

Chapter 13 “adjustment of debts” is usually, but not always, better for somewhat more complicated situations. Your income may be too high to qualify for Chapter 7. You may have an asset or two that is not “exempt”—not protected. Or you may have debts much better handled under Chapter 13. Do you owe income taxes or student loans or a second mortgage? Are you behind on a vehicle loan, home mortgage, property tax, or child or spousal support? These and certain other kinds of debts are often handled much better in a Chapter 13 case.

Overall, these two options each have advantages and disadvantages that need to be carefully matched to you and your goals. Chapter 7 may be able to solve immediate problems and do so quickly. Chapter 13 is more expensive but that can be far outweighed by the money you save over using Chapter 7. In some situations the unique tools of Chapter 13 can save a person many thousands of dollars. Chapter 13 takes so much longer but that length can itself be an advantage. When you need or want to pay a special debt, you can stretch payments out to lower their monthly amount. So it just depends on your personal situation.

Be Flexible When You Meet with your Lawyer

You’re reading this blog post, so we’re glad that you’re working on getting informed about your options. But it’s also important to have an open mind when you go to see your bankruptcy lawyer for legal advice. If you do inform yourself in advance you may tentatively decide which option is best for you. Or you may just not know. It is easy to not be aware of a crucial advantage or disadvantage that could be decisive. So don’t be too convinced about going with one option when the other may actually be better.

Sometime Easy, Sometimes Difficult Choice

The reality is that sometimes it’s pretty clear which option is better for you. Sometimes you only qualify for one of the two. Or your circumstances can push your decision strongly towards either Chapter 7 or 13. In these situations, you may have an easy choice.

But often you qualify for both. It’s not unusual that each gives you some advantages and disadvantages that the other doesn’t. Especially in these situations it’s crucial to know all these advantages and disadvantages in order to make the best choice.  Then it comes down to a deeply personal decision based on what goals and benefits are most important to you.

To Help You Be Informed

It IS good to be as informed as you much as your time and energy allows. This choice between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 is very important. So during the next few weeks we’ll look at the differences between them.

 

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