A bankruptcy attorney can help you manage personal or business debts you are unable to pay. Bankruptcy laws allow people and businesses to (1) get a “fresh start” by relieving most debts; and (2) repay the money owed to all creditors as fairly as possible. When you file for bankruptcy protection, all other legal actions against you are put on hold. Creditors cannot sue you, garnish your wages, repossess your car or home entertainment system, or start or continue with a foreclosure action against your home. There are different types of bankruptcy filings and each has its own advantages. Since bankruptcy can significantly impact your future purchasing power and credit rating, you should see a bankruptcy attorney to make sure the benefits of filling bankruptcy outweigh the consequences.
Tax refunds you are entitled to receive are considered property in bankruptcy just like money in your bank account. You must disclose any anticipated tax refunds as an asset on your bankruptcy schedules. This means that if you want to keep your refund, you must be able to exempt it. If you can exempt your tax refund in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can keep it.
There are two alternative systems that can be used to "exempt" property from a bankruptcy estate, federal exemptions (available in some states but not all), and state exemptions (which vary widely between states). For example, Maryland and Virginia, which are adjoining states, have different personal exemption amounts that cannot be seized for payment of debts. This amount is the first $6,000 in property or cash in Maryland, but normally only the first $5,000 in Virginia. State law therefore plays a major role in many bankruptcy cases, such that there may be significant differences in the outcome of a bankruptcy case depending upon the state in which it is filed.
Individuals who make too much money to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy may file under Chapter 13, also known as a wage earner's plan. The chapter allows individuals and businesses with consistent income to create workable debt repayment plans. The repayment plans are commonly in installments over the course of a three- to five-year period. In exchange for repaying their creditors, the courts allow these debtors to keep all of their property including nonexempt property.
After the bankruptcy is annulled or the bankrupt has been automatically discharged, the bankrupt's credit report status is shown as "discharged bankrupt" for some years. The maximum number of years this information can be held is subject to the retention limits under the Privacy Act. How long such information is on a credit report may be shorter, depending on the issuing company, but the report must cease to record that information based on the criteria in the Privacy Act.
When the debtor completes payments pursuant to the terms of the plan, the court formally grant the debtor a discharge of the debts provided for in the plan. However, if the debtor fails to make the agreed upon payments or fails to seek or gain court approval of a modified plan, a bankruptcy court will normally dismiss the case on the motion of the trustee. After a dismissal, creditors may resume pursuit of state law remedies to recover the unpaid debt.
Financially distressed municipalities, including cities, towns, villages, counties, and school districts, may file for bankruptcy under Chapter 9. Under Chapter 9, there is no liquidation of assets to repay the municipality's debts. Chapter 12 bankruptcy provides relief to "family farmers" or "family fishermen" with regular annual income. Both Chapters 9 and 12 make use of an extended debt repayment plan. Chapter 15 was added in 2005 to deal with cross-border cases which involve debtors, assets, creditors and other parties who may be in more than one country. This type of petition is usually filed in the debtor's home country.