What to Expect from the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Process
Bankruptcy can provide the re-set you need to regain control of your finances and build a more stable financial future. But, the legal process is intimidating to many people, and not knowing what to expect makes that worse. For most people who work with an experienced consumer bankruptcy lawyer, the Chapter 7 process is relatively quick and painless.
Often, a Chapter 7 case can be completed in just four to five months. Most Chapter 7 bankruptcy filers don’t lose any property, and most only have to make one live appearance. That appearance, at the 341 hearing, doesn’t even take place before a judge. Instead, the bankruptcy trustee runs the meetings, which usually lasts only a few minutes. And, though the 341 hearing is also called the “meeting of creditors,” it’s rare for creditors to appear.
It’s true that filing a Chapter 7 case requires completion of complicated forms and schedules, and that mistakes in those documents can hurt your case, and even accidentally affect your options in other debt-related proceedings. So, it’s smart to be cautious. But, working with an experienced bankruptcy attorney takes that burden off of your shoulders.
Tucson bankruptcy lawyer Jeffrey Judge has been helping people get fresh starts through bankruptcy for (number of years) and thoroughly understands the requirements, processes, and even pitfalls associated with a consumer bankruptcy case.
In most Chapter 7 cases, the process goes like this:
Your creditors receive notice of the bankruptcy filing, which includes an order requiring them to stop any collection action immediately
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Your creditors and debt collectors are forever prohibited from pursuing collection of discharged debts
Of course, there are variations and special circumstances in some Chapter 7 cases. In most cases, your bankruptcy attorney will be able to tell you in advance whether any additional filings, hearings, or action will be required in your bankruptcy case. Some examples of additional issues that may arise include:
- Liquidation of any non-exempt assets for the benefit of creditors: This is very rare, since most Chapter 7 filers can exempt all of their property. Only about 4% of Chapter 7 cases involve any liquidation of assets
- Reaffirmation of a secured debt: If property you want to keep serves as security for a loan, you will have to surrender the property or enter into a new agreement with the creditor. This agreement, called a “reaffirmation agreement,” allows you to keep your car or other property that secures a loan. But, it also means you agree that the debt won’t be discharged.
Adversary proceedings: Adversary proceedings take many forms, including objections to exemptions, objections to discharge, and motions for relief from the automatic stay so a creditor can resume collection action. Like liquidation, adversary proceedings occur in only a very small percentage of bankruptcy cases.
One other reason a small percentage of bankruptcy cases are delayed is that the trustee does not have sufficient information or documentation, or believes that the information provided is not entirely accurate. Most bankruptcy petitioners can avoid these slowdowns by ensuring that they provide complete and accurate information to the bankruptcy attorney, and carefully reviewing the documents to be filed with the bankruptcy court. In the event that the trustee requests additional information or asks for proof of information provided, it is important to respond promptly and completely.
What happens when you file for bankruptcy?
In short, the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process is far less daunting than many people expect, and should not be an obstacle to getting the debt relief you need. If you’ve been struggling with debt and haven’t moved forward because going through bankruptcy seems overwhelming, you owe it to yourself to get more specific information about what you could expect in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case.
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