The most common types of personal bankruptcy for individuals are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Chapter 7, known as a "straight bankruptcy" involves the discharge of certain debts without repayment. Chapter 13, involves a plan of repayment of debts over a period of years. Whether a person qualifies for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is in part determined by income. As many as 65% of all U.S. consumer bankruptcy filings are Chapter 7 cases.
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For companies, formal bankruptcy is a normal effect of insolvency, even if there is a reconstruction mechanism where the company can be given time to solve its situation, e.g. by finding an investor. The formal bankruptcy involves contracting a bankruptcy manager, who makes certain that assets are sold and money divided by the priority the law claims, and no other way. Banks have such a priority. After a finished bankruptcy for a company, it is terminated. The activities might continue in a new company which has bought important assets from the bankrupted company.
The latest edition of The New Bankruptcy includes updated lists of assets you can keep (exemptions) when you file bankruptcy, plus the latest rules handed down by the Supreme Court as it interprets the federal bankruptcy law. You'll also get worksheets to help you determine whether you can file for bankruptcy, helpful checklists, and easy-to-understand information for all 50 states.
It is important to understand that while bankruptcy is a chance to start over, it definitely affects your credit and future ability to use money. It may prevent or delay foreclosure on a home and repossession of a car and it can also stop wage garnishment and other legal actions creditors use to collect debts, but in the end, there is a price to pay.
To be eligible to file a consumer bankruptcy under Chapter 7, a debtor must qualify under a statutory "means test". The means test was intended to make it more difficult for a significant number of financially distressed individual debtors whose debts are primarily consumer debts to qualify for relief under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. The "means test" is employed in cases where an individual with primarily consumer debts has more than the average annual income for a household of equivalent size, computed over a 180-day period prior to filing. If the individual must "take" the "means test", their average monthly income over this 180-day period is reduced by a series of allowances for living expenses and secured debt payments in a very complex calculation that may or may not accurately reflect that individual's actual monthly budget. If the results of the means test show no disposable income (or in some cases a very small amount) then the individual qualifies for Chapter 7 relief. An individual who fails the means test will have their Chapter 7 case dismissed, or may have to convert the case to a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Debt consolidation may or may not be a good idea, depending on your situation. Lower interest is a good thing, but turning unsecured debts (like credit card bills) into secured debts (like a home equity loan) can be a costly mistake if you eventually file bankruptcy anyway. Unsecured debts can often be eliminated in bankruptcy, while most secured debts cannot. If you can't pay your secured debt -- or if the payments are late -- you may lose your home.
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:
Your lawyer will probably have you fill in a questionnaire about your property, debts, expenses and income. A good lawyer will be able to determine quickly what kinds of debts will be dischargeable in bankruptcy. The lawyer should advise you to get credit counseling before you file, and will may even have a computer terminal in their office where you can do the counseling right there, online. Many lawyers have preferred credit counselors that they work with.
In Brazil, the Bankruptcy Law (11.101/05) governs court-ordered or out-of-court receivership and bankruptcy and only applies to public companies (publicly traded companies) with the exception of financial institutions, credit cooperatives, consortia, supplementary scheme entities, companies administering health care plans, equity companies and a few other legal entities. It does not apply to state-run companies.
For example, a housekeeping business filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy might increase its rates slightly and offer more services to become profitable. Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows a business to continue conducting its business activities without interruption while working on a debt repayment plan under the court's supervision. In rare cases, individuals can file Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
If you're trying to figure out if you should file, your credit is probably already damaged. A Chapter 7 filing will stay on your credit report for ten years, while a Chapter 13 will remain there for seven. Any creditors you solicit for debt (a loan, credit card, line of credit, or mortgage) will see the discharge on your report, which will prevent you from getting any credit.
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In Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the debtor retains ownership and control of assets and is re-termed a debtor in possession (DIP). The debtor in possession runs the day-to-day operations of the business while creditors and the debtor work with the Bankruptcy Court in order to negotiate and complete a plan. Upon meeting certain requirements (e.g., fairness among creditors, priority of certain creditors) creditors are permitted to vote on the proposed plan. If a plan is confirmed, the debtor continues to operate and pay debts under the terms of the confirmed plan. If a specified majority of creditors do not vote to confirm a plan, additional requirements may be imposed by the court in order to confirm the plan. Debtors filing for Chapter 11 protection a second time are known informally as "Chapter 22" filers.