For some people, the prospect of filing bankruptcy is intimidating and overwhelming. Generally it is a decision that is made as a last resort and is one that has been postponed on at least one occasion. While the decision to file bankruptcy is one that should be given consideration, the same holds true for the attorney that you choose to represent you in connection with the filing of a bankruptcy petition. While the process is oftentimes confusing, having an experienced bankruptcy attorney—and perhaps more importantly, an attorney that will return your telephone call—can make the process easier to understand and navigate.
While bankruptcy filings are public record, they are not advertised like foreclosure proceedings, so there is no embarrassing ad in the local newspaper notifying people of your filing. Unlike a Chapter 13 case, in a Chapter 7 filing, generally your employer is not notified of your bankruptcy filing. Additionally, you can generally continue to use the checking account that you used prior to filing bankruptcy (unless the account is held at a bank that is one of your creditors), and there is no requirement that a new bank account be opened. These are often misconceptions that are not understood by some individuals considering bankruptcy.
The first step in examining a Chapter 7 case is determining whether the debtor will qualify under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. Basically, in order to file a Chapter 7 petition, a debtor cannot make too much money (see article on the Means Test ) and the debtor cannot have too much equity in his current assets (see Georgia exemptions in bankruptcy ). If a debtor passes these two tests, the bankruptcy filing is typically not terribly difficult. In order to file for bankruptcy, all information concerning the debtor’s financial condition and income must be provided to the attorney, so that it can be input on the standard Chapter 7 petition. At Coleman, Chambers, Rogers & Williams, LLP we have an intake form that is easy to complete that will allow us to easily prepare your bankruptcy petition. In addition to the petition, we will need a copy of your most recently filed tax return, as well as your pay stubs for the six calendar months prior to the month in which your bankruptcy petition is filed.
Once your petition is filed, the clerk will set your case down for a 341(a) hearing. This is commonly referred to as your “Meeting of Creditors”. At your Meeting of Creditors, which occurs approximately one month after the date your bankruptcy petition is filed, you are placed under oath by the United States Trustee’s Office and asked questions about your income, assets, and bankruptcy petition by the United States Trustee. The purpose of the meeting is to determine whether the Trustee’s Office believes you are a candidate for bankruptcy, or whether the Trustee’s Office deems it appropriate to review your file in more detail. Any of your creditors have the right to show up at your 341(a) hearing and ask you questions. However, typically, the creditors that tend to appear at 341(a) hearings are those that hold liens against automobiles or other personal property. Absent special circumstances, unsecured creditors generally do not appear at 341(a) hearings. A meeting of creditors lasts less than 10 minutes, in many situations. At Coleman, Chambers, Rogers & Williams, LLP, we meet with our clients prior to the 341(a) hearing to give them an idea of the types of questions that the Trustee will likely ask them at the hearing.
The 341(a) hearing begins the time period for objections. The United States Trustee’s Office or any other creditor has the right to object to a Chapter 7 filing within 60 days of the date the meeting of creditors was first scheduled. A creditor cannot simply object to the bankruptcy because they are owed a substantial amount of money. Instead, any objection made in Bankruptcy Court must be based on an allegation that either you do not qualify for bankruptcy, you have made some sort of misstatement in your bankruptcy petition, or that a particular debt of a creditor is nondischargeable in bankruptcy, based on special circumstances such as fraud or that the debt was taken out with no intention to repay the same. Many debtors may keep their home and car and still receive a discharge in Chapter 7. The 60 day period after the 341(a) hearing is generally the time that reaffirmation agreements are obtained from creditors with whom debt will be reaffirmed and filed with the Court (see article on Reaffirmation Agreements ).
Once the time to object has expired, if no objection has been filed, you are eligible to receive a discharge from the Bankruptcy Court. If your case is a “no asset case”, which means that there are no assets being tendered to the United States Trustee’s Office in connection with your bankruptcy filing, you generally receive a discharge shortly thereafter. Once you receive your bankruptcy discharge, you have a fresh start with your finances and can begin to rebuild your credit and move on with your life.
Please call the Gainesville Chapter 7 attorneys at Coleman, Chambers, Rogers & Williams, LLP to talk to an experienced bankruptcy attorney today. We offer a wide variety of payment plans to assist our clients through a Chapter 7 filing.
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