We all have our own perceptions of what the bankruptcy process entails. Some feel that bankruptcy represents financial failure, during which all property is seized and sold in order to pay off creditors—yet the bankruptcy process is nowhere near that frightening. Here’s a quick overview of what you can expect from bankruptcy court:
1. Initial Filing
After you and your lawyer have made the decision to file for bankruptcy, you will need to determine which kind of bankruptcy to file. If you don’t have a large income, you might select Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which eliminates your debts in exchange for some of your property. If you do have a substantial income, you can choose Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which allows you to get rid of your debts through a 3-5 year repayment plan. Once you’ve determined the right bankruptcy option, your attorney will help you fill out the appropriate paperwork.
2. Bankruptcy Hearing
Soon after you file, you will go to a bankruptcy hearing. Although this may sound intimidating, it’s simply an informal meeting with a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee. At the hearing, the trustee will ask you a series a questions in order to determine whether or not you qualify for bankruptcy.
Immediately after filing for bankruptcy, the court will issue an automatic stay, which halts all collection efforts so the bankruptcy process can proceed. With a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the trustee will seize any non-exempt property, sell it, and distribute the money to your creditors. With a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you simply have to keep making payments on time. In both cases, you will emerge debt-free.
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