Bankruptcy is an unfortunate reality of modern life, but we have to deal with the process when it becomes necessary. Many people are unfamiliar with how Chapter 13 bankruptcy works or what a Chapter 13 bankruptcy lawyer does.
If you are considering Chapter 13 bankruptcy to take control of your finances, please keep reading. This blog post will discuss what you should know about Chapter 13 bankruptcy, what to expect from your bankruptcy lawyer, and how the process works.
What Is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a court-supervised payment plan in which the bankruptcy debtor pays his or her secured and unsecured creditors a monthly amount based on the debtor’s household income and reasonable costs.
The debtor’s “Chapter 13 plan” consists of monthly installments and amounts paid to different creditors.
Who Can File Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy reorganization is exclusively available to individuals. If you have business debt and want to file Chapter 13, you must file as an individual. But, you may include any business-related obligations for which you are personally liable (including personal guarantees).
Your eligibility to file Chapter 13 Bankruptcy may be determined by local bankruptcy attorneys, but in general:
You Must Be Up-To-Date With Your Tax Return Filings
You must demonstrate that you have filed your federal and state income tax returns for the last four years.
Your Debts Cannot Exceed Set Limits
Currently, you are barred from filing if your unsecured debts exceed $465,275 or your total secured debts exceed $1,395,875. These limits are established by the Bankruptcy Court and change periodically.
You Must Have a Significant Amount of Disposable Income
You must show that you have enough consistent income to repay your creditors. You can use to fund your repayment plan using wages, unemployment benefits, commissions, or pension payments. If you are married, your spouse’s salary counts too.
Chapter 13, like Chapter 7, requires proof that you obtained credit counseling from an authorized agency within 180 days before filing bankruptcy. Furthermore, you cannot file if you have had a bankruptcy case dismissed or have failed to comply with bankruptcy court requirements within the last 180 days.
Why Should You File Chapter 13?
Many individuals prefer not to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy since it demands repayment of at least some debt. However, it may be the right choice for you if:
You Have a Significant Amount of Unsecured Debt
In Chapter 13, you’ll pay off student loans, tax obligations, and other debts that cannot be discharged in Chapter 7.
You Wish to Keep Non-exempt Property
Chapter 13 lets you save your personal property, including those non-exempt ones.
Your House Is at Risk of Foreclosure
You may avoid foreclosure or repossession proceedings if you make timely payments and catch up with late payments.
You Want to Protect a Co-debtor Who Is a Friend or Family
As long as you adhere to the court-ordered payment schedule, your creditors will not seek payment from your co-signer on your loan or credit card.
Here’s What You Can Expect From a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Attorney
There are numerous advantages to filing bankruptcy through a bankruptcy lawyer. Generally, your retainer agreement (the contract you and your bankruptcy lawyer sign) will specify the services your lawyer will perform. Your lawyer’s responsibility is also to offer professional counsel throughout the bankruptcy process.
Give You Sound Legal Advice
To begin, you may expect your attorney to advise you on whether filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy is in your best interests. If this is the case, you should further learn:
- if Chapter 7, Chapter 13, or another form can assist you in meeting your financial objectives;
- things to anticipate throughout the bankruptcy process; and
- whether your bankruptcy case contains any unique problems or dangers.
If you have any questions, you can expect your attorney to respond to your emails or calls or emails ASAP.
Expect Competence From Your Bankruptcy Attorney
Not all bankruptcy cases are complex, but they aren’t all simple, either. Your attorney should have the requisite level of skills to manage your case in any scenario.
In general, the complexity of your bankruptcy will be determined by:
- the details of your case;
- whether you need to file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13;
- whether the bankruptcy trustee will sell some of your property (an asset or “no asset” bankruptcy case);
- if you have a small business; and
- the engagement of bankruptcy litigation.
Ask whether the lawyer has represented clients in similar situations in the past.
Prepare and File Your Paperwork
Filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires the completion of a lengthy bundle of paperwork. Almost all bankruptcy lawyers use specialized software to prepare and file the necessary bankruptcy documents with the court.
You will present your attorney with your financial information, including income, expenses, assets, and debt information. Your lawyer will utilize it to prepare the official forms. Then you and your lawyer will go over the finished paperwork to ensure correctness.
You may also be required to present additional paperwork to the court or the trustee. Your attorney will make sure to do so as soon as possible since failing to meet a bankruptcy deadline might result in:
- delays in the procedure;
- dismissal of your bankruptcy case; and
- or other negative outcomes.
For these reasons, knowing the local regulations and filing processes is one of your bankruptcy attorney’s obligations.
Represent You at Hearings
After filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, all debtors must attend a mandatory hearing known as the 341 meeting of creditors. However, depending on your situation, you (or your lawyer) may be required to attend additional hearings.
The following are some of the common types of hearings your bankruptcy lawyer will represent you at:
- Chapter 13 confirmation hearings
- Chapter 7 reaffirmation hearings
- and any other objection or motion hearings filed by you, your trustee, or creditors.
In most circumstances, your attorney will be able to inform you about the hearings you should expect to attend before you file your case.
Overview of Chapter 13 Filing Process
The following is the outline of the filing procedure:
- Your bankruptcy lawyer will first assist you in preparing a voluntary bankruptcy petition and detailed schedules of your assets, obligations, income, and spending. You must submit evidence of income, copies of your tax returns for the previous four years, and confirmation that you have completed the mandatory credit counseling. In addition, you must create a reasonable payment plan outlining how you intend to pay off your obligations. This plan must be submitted to the court and is subject to court approval.
- An automatic stay will take effect once your lawyer helps you in electronically filing your bankruptcy petition. This temporary order will guard you against creditor harassment and save your house and other possessions from foreclosure or repossession.
- Within 30 days after filing, you must begin making monthly payments to the court-appointed trustee based on the conditions of your proposed payment plan. You must do so even if the plan has not yet been confirmed by the court.
- Following the meeting of creditors, your proposed repayment plan will be examined at a confirmation hearing. When your plan is approved, you’ll begin making periodic payments to the trustee. These payments may or may not be the same as those you initially proposed. The trustee will pay your creditors, in which some will get 100 percent of what you owe, while others will receive a significantly reduced amount. High-priority debts are commonly paid in full, such as child support and tax obligations.
You can also read our blog where we discuss the steps for filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy Lawyer Near Me | Contact The Law Offices of Emil Fleysher for Legal Assistance
All Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorneys provide one thing: debt relief. What separates one from another is the amount of knowledge, experience, and dedication to the process they bring to the table.
So, while you seek a good bankruptcy lawyer to hire and handle your debt, look for these special qualities. Not every lawyer has them, but those who do are worth seeking out.
If you are in Florida and are considering filing for bankruptcy, talk to one of our Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorneys at the Law Offices of Emil Fleysher to schedule a free case evaluation protected by an attorney-client relationship. We will do everything we can to help you get back on track.
You can reach us at 888-886-0020 or through our online contact form.