Bankruptcy Basics – The Process of Filing and Completing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

The following is a short description of a typical process that someone filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy goes through, from the initial meeting, until a discharge is received.

The initial stage of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy usually involves meeting with your bankruptcy attorney and discussing the case. The attorney will typically ask you to prepare a bankruptcy questionnaire, in which you will be asked to list your income and expenses, assets and liabilities, and describe your financial dealings over the past few years. Once the questionnaire is completed, your bankruptcy lawyer will be able to review and identify various exemptions applicable to your assets, determine whether certain of your debts are dischargeable or not, and will try to do bankruptcy planning to preserve as many of your assets as possible.

Your next step will be taking the credit counseling course. Under the bankruptcy law, you must complete the course before your bankruptcy petition can be filed with the bankruptcy court. The course must be taken from an authorized provider and can be done in person, over the telephone or internet. You will also have to provide your bankruptcy attorney with copies of your pay stubs for 60 days preceding the filing, and a copy of your most recent tax return.

Once the above steps are completed, your petition will be prepared and filed with the bankruptcy court. Concurrently with the petition, a copy of your credit counseling certificate and copies of your paystubs will be filed. Once the bankruptcy petition is filed, the automatic stay begins and protects you from all collection activities by your creditors. The automatic stay will last until the end of your bankruptcy case, unless it is lifted by the bankruptcy court.

Your bankruptcy case will likely last between four and six months, during which time, the following events are likely to take place.

Within 45 days of your filing, a meeting of the creditors, also known as 341 hearing, will take place. You will have to come to the bankruptcy court in Rochester, if you reside in Monroe County, and answer the questions posed to you by the bankruptcy trustee. The trustee will typically ask you questions about your financial affairs, your income, expenses, assets and liabilities. You also may have to answer questions from your creditors who have the right to appear at the hearing. You will have to swear under oath that the information you provided in your petition is complete and accurate.

If the bankruptcy trustee is satisfied with your information, this is likely to be the only trip you will have to make to the bankruptcy court. If your petition is incomplete, and trustee has additional questions or needs additional documents, your hearing may be postponed to another date.

If the bankruptcy trustee identifies any non-exempt assets, he can sell them to raise money to pay your creditors. In many Chapter 7 cases, filers do not have any non-exempt assets. If such non-exempt assets are identified, you have the option of either letting the trustee take those assets or paying trustee the value of those assets in order to keep them.

If you have such assets as a home or a car, and you still owe money on either a mortgage or a car loan, you will have an opportunity to sign a reaffirmation agreement in order to keep those assets. A reaffirmation agreement is an agreement renewing your liability on the debt with the lender. You will agree to continue making payments so you will keep whatever property you don’t want to give up. You will have to be current on any such debts or will have to make them current in order for a creditor to let you sign a reaffirmation agreement.

Within 45 days after the meeting of the creditors, you will have to complete the financial management course. If you will not complete it, you will not become eligible for discharge. The course is designed to help you make the most of your bankruptcy and includes tips on saving, managing money and handling credit.

Typically within 2 months of the meeting of creditors, you will receive the bankruptcy discharge. The discharge is basically an order of the bankruptcy court relieving you of your responsibility to pay debts that were discharged in the bankruptcy. After you receive your discharge, your bankruptcy is completed.

Once you complete a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you cannot file a Chapter 7 again for the next eight years.

If you are dealing with debt problems in Rochester, New York, Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation.

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