And gossip columns never tire of dishing on the latest celebrity inches from bankruptcy whether it's Gary Coleman or Mike Tyson having to part with his pet tigers. You might even fear that you're a few steps from going under. After all, we live in an economy in which credit card offers clutter our mailboxes. And living in debt is an accepted norm. But, just how can you tell when it's time to throw in the towel and declare bankruptcy?
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.
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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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Bankruptcy statistics are also a trailing indicator. There is a time delay between financial difficulties and bankruptcy. In most cases, several months or even years pass between the financial problems and the start of bankruptcy proceedings. Legal, tax, and cultural issues may further distort bankruptcy figures, especially when comparing on an international basis. Two examples:
Bankruptcy can be one of the best and only ways to wipe away debt that is impossible to pay off. While bankruptcy can be a solution to many people's debt problems, the filing of bankruptcy can be very confusing and frustrating to those that have never dealt with it before. If you are like many bankruptcy filers, you probably don't have the money to pay an attorney to do this for you. If you fall into this category, there is no need to fear as Affordable Documents is here to offer you a friendly, easy, and fast experience when it comes to filing for bankruptcy.
Chapter 7 means the court sells all your assets—with some exemptions—so you can pay back as much debt as possible. The remaining unpaid debt is erased. You could lose your home (or the equity you’ve put into it) and your car in the process, depending on what the court decides. You can only file Chapter 7 bankruptcy if the court decides your income is too low to pay back your debt. This type of bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years.
A Bankruptcy Trustee (in most cases, the Official Receiver) is appointed to deal with all matters regarding the administration of the bankrupt estate. The Trustee's job includes notifying creditors of the estate and dealing with creditor inquiries; ensuring that the bankrupt complies with their obligations under the Bankruptcy Act; investigating the bankrupt's financial affairs; realising funds to which the estate is entitled under the Bankruptcy Act and distributing dividends to creditors if sufficient funds become available.
Chapter 11:This is designed for businesses. Chapter 11 is often referred to as “reorganization bankruptcy” because it gives businesses a chance to stay open while they restructure the business’ debts and assets so it can pay back creditors. This is used primarily by large corporations like General Motors, Circuit City and United Airlines, but can be used by any size business, including partnerships and in some rare cases, individuals. Though the business continues to operate during bankruptcy proceedings, most of the decisions are made with permission from the courts.
Bankruptcy fraud is a white-collar crime. While difficult to generalize across jurisdictions, common criminal acts under bankruptcy statutes typically involve concealment of assets, concealment or destruction of documents, conflicts of interest, fraudulent claims, false statements or declarations, and fee fixing or redistribution arrangements. Falsifications on bankruptcy forms often constitute perjury. Multiple filings are not in and of themselves criminal, but they may violate provisions of bankruptcy law. In the U.S., bankruptcy fraud statutes are particularly focused on the mental state of particular actions. Bankruptcy fraud is a federal crime in the United States.
Chapter 9: This applies only to cities or towns. It protects municipalities from creditors while the city develops a plan for handling its debts. This typically happens when industries close and people leave to find work elsewhere. There were 20 Chapter 9 filings in 2012, the most since 1980. Detroit was among those filing in 2012, and is the largest city ever to file Chapter 9. Detroit’s GDP shrunk by 12.2% in the 10 years prior to declaring bankruptcy. The average major metro growth in that time was 13.1%.
If you file for personal bankruptcy under Chapter 7 a so-called “automatic stay” is placed on all your creditors, including the foreclosing lender, by the court. In fact, Chapter 13 bankruptcy is actually designed to stop foreclosure and may provide you with the protection and relief you need to stay in your home while you catch up on your mortgage.
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.