How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy provides clear, user-friendly information and all the forms you need to get through the entire bankruptcy process. The book and the local resources you'll find on LegalConsumer.com are a perfect combination. The book is designed to work with LegalConsumer.com's means test calculator and lists of Pennsylvania exemption laws, which determine what property you'd get to keep in bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy filings in the United States fall under one of several chapters of the Bankruptcy Code: Chapter 7, which involves liquidation of assets; Chapter 11, which deals with company or individual reorganizations, and Chapter 13, which is debt repayment with lowered debt covenants or specific payment plans. Bankruptcy filing specifications vary among states, leading to higher or lower filing fees depending on how easily a person or company can complete the process.
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The formal bankruptcy process is rarely carried out for individuals. Creditors can claim money through the Enforcement Administration anyway, and creditors do not usually benefit from the bankruptcy of individuals because there are costs of a bankruptcy manager which has priority. Unpaid debts remain after bankruptcy for individuals. People who are deeply in debt can obtain a debt arrangement procedure (Swedish: skuldsanering). On application, they obtain a payment plan under which they pay as much as they can for five years, and then all remaining debts are cancelled. Debts that derive from a ban on business operations (issued by court, commonly for tax fraud or fraudulent business practices) or owed to a crime victim as compensation for damages, are exempted from this—and, as before this process was introduced in 2006, remain lifelong. Debts that have not been claimed during a 3-10 year period are cancelled. Often crime victims stop their claims after a few years since criminals often do not have job incomes and might be hard to locate, while banks make sure their claims are not cancelled. The most common reasons for personal insolvency in Sweden are illness, unemployment, divorce or company bankruptcy.
In Canada, bankruptcy always means liquidation. There is no way for a company to emerge from bankruptcy after restructuring, as is the case in the United States with a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. Canada does, however, have laws that allow for businesses to restructure and emerge later with a smaller debtload and a more positive financial future. While not technically a form of bankruptcy, businesses with $5M or more in debt may make use of the Companies Creditors' Arrangement Act to halt all debt recovery efforts against the company while they formulate a plan to restructure.
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A good way to approach the decision of whether to hire a lawyer is to buy (and read) Nolo's book How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. It will give you a good idea of what issues may arise when you file, and flags specific situations when a lawyer's help is called for. It will also give you a good idea of whether the filing process seems to complicated for you.