Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Lawyer
While no one wants to have to file for bankruptcy, if financial problems become overwhelming and you find yourself harassed by creditors and faced with the possibility of losing your home and possessions, bankruptcy may be the best choice available. Bankruptcy is a legal way to have many debts discharged (eliminated) and allow you to have a fresh financial start. If you are a good candidate for bankruptcy, it can keep creditors from harassing you and allow you to keep many assets and begin to rebuild your life.
The United States Bankruptcy Code provides five types of bankruptcy, and the most common is Chapter 7. Chapter 7 eliminates most unsecured debt, such as credit card and medical debt, and it is over in a few months, so you can begin rebuilding credit quickly.
Chapter 7 is a liquidation bankruptcy. After you file, a trustee is set up to collect assets that are not exempt, sell them, and distribute proceeds to creditors to satisfy your debts. However, that doesn’t mean you will lose everything. Often you will keep all of your property, because there are Missouri bankruptcy exemptions that list types of property that cannot be sold, including clothing, cars, tools and equipment used for work, and household furnishings. Many Chapter 7 filers wind up with enough exemptions to keep much or all of their property.
Not everyone is eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. Your income and debt will be subjected to something called a “means test” to determine if you qualify, by calculating your current monthly income based on the past six calendar months. If you don’t qualify for Chapter 7, you may still be able to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy laws are complicated, and making mistakes can be costly and result in your debts not being eliminated, but you do not have to go through the process alone. The skilled and compassionate legal team at the Birk Law Firm can provide guidance and take care of all necessary legal hurdles and requirements to help achieve a satisfactory result.
Call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation to get started on the road to a brighter financial future.
Why Choose Our Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Lawyer?
There are many attorneys in Missouri, but not everyone has the qualifications to guide you through the complexities of filing for bankruptcy. Here are some reasons why we think Birk Law Firm is your best choice:
- We are highly qualified. Attorney Kelvin Birk is a Certified Public Accountant as well as a lawyer, with more than 30 years of experience in accounting and tax and business consulting. Kelvin is a member of American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI), an association of bankruptcy professionals, which is one of many ways that he keeps up to date on recent developments in bankruptcy law and the most advantageous techniques to use. Whatever your financial or legal situation, we can counsel you as to the choices available and their tax implications.
- We provide personal service. Birk Law Firm is a small firm by choice that is big on client services and is responsive to their clients’ needs. We believe that each client’s matter is the most important matter in the world to them, and we strive to treat it that way.
- We are local. Kelvin Birk has lived in Missouri most of his life and raised a family here, so he understands the needs of the local population.
- We have a long history of helping Missouri families, and you can read their testimonials.
- We offer free consultations to discuss your unique situation and determine if bankruptcy or some other debt-relief solution is right for you.
If your income is too low to pay credit card bills, medical bills, utilities, payday loans or personal loans, if there are no cosigners involved, or if you are facing court action by creditors, Chapter 7 may be your best option.
Chapter 7 Lawyer Explains Advantages and Disadvantages
Typically, Chapter 7 bankruptcy is less complex than Chapter 11, Chapter 12 or Chapter 13 and is over quickly, usually taking only 3 months. It does not require a repayment plan, so you can start rebuilding and take control of your finances. Once you file Chapter 7, an automatic stay goes into effect that stops lawsuits, wage garnishment, foreclosure actions, and debt collection harassment from creditors, who may even have to return your repossessed car or other property. Having unsecured debts discharged can allow you to handle other debts, such as missed mortgage payments, and avoid losing important assets such as your home. It allows restoration of utility services, and you can start rebuilding your credit, as you will be seen as a better risk once most debts are eliminated.
However, Chapter 7 cannot always eliminate all debts and does have some disadvantages. These include:
- Chapter 7 does not wipe out debts of “secured” creditors who have collateral such as a mortgage on a house or a loan on a vehicle or other property.
- It cannot eliminate state or federal income tax debts or obligations such as child support, alimony or student loans, unless you have an “undue hardship” repay.
- You still must pay fines and penalties for violating the law, including traffic tickets and criminal restitution.
- Bankruptcy does not protect co-signers on your debts, so the co-signer may still have to repay all or part of the loan.
Chapter 7 Attorney Explains Bankruptcy Steps Involved
When filing Chapter 7, your main task is gathering information and completing forms so your attorney can file the bankruptcy petition, schedules, and other forms that require listing your debts, assets, financial transactions, and so on.
Here are the steps you typically will take:
Hire a bankruptcy attorney who will fight for you. Bankruptcy is a complex process that involves the federal court system and also involves state laws regarding property and debtor’s and creditor’s rights. At Birk Law Firm, your bankruptcy attorney will meet with you and discuss your options to decide on whether or not you should file bankruptcy.
Pay your attorney, filing fee, and other costs. The bankruptcy court has filing fees, and there are attorney fees that vary, based on the complexity of your case. Talk to our bankruptcy attorney about your specific situation and how we can make it easier for you to pay.
Get mandatory credit counseling. You must receive credit counseling during the six-month period prior to filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Your bankruptcy attorney will recommend a provider who is good to work with and will charge a low fee.
File your petition and other forms. To start your bankruptcy case, your bankruptcy attorney will file a packet of forms electronically with the bankruptcy court. This includes the bankruptcy petition, a number of schedules listing your assets and liabilities, your income and expenses, any contracts you have (for example, a lease), and a form to show that your income is low enough to qualify for Chapter 7. Your attorney will also claim exemptions for property you are allowed to keep under state and federal law. Once your bankruptcy is filed, an automatic stay goes into effect and stops most creditor collection actions against you for the duration of your case.
Trustee. The court will appoint a trustee to analyze your paperwork and take any nonexempt property to distribute to your creditors. You have to submit a copy of your tax returns and other information to the trustee.
Meeting of creditors. You’ll receive a notice from the court, telling you when your meeting of creditors (also called a “341 meeting”) will be held. At the meeting, you will have to answer, under oath, questions about your finances and bankruptcy forms from the trustee and any creditors. This meeting is typically very short and few creditors attend.
Your eligibility to file for Chapter 7 is confirmed. The court decides whether or not you pass the means test and are eligible for Chapter 7 protection or can file for Chapter 13.
Nonexempt property. If you have nonexempt property, the trustee will decide whether to seize and sell it, to distribute proceeds to your creditors. You may be able to negotiate with the trustee to keep certain nonexempt property if you can come up with enough cash or are willing to give up exempt property instead. Many cases are “no asset” cases, which means that you get to keep all the assets that you have.
Secured debts. If you have secured debts backed by collateral, you must relinquish it, redeem it by paying the creditor what it’s worth, or reaffirm the debt and still owe it after your bankruptcy case is over. If you reaffirm any debts and do not have a lawyer, you will have to attend a reaffirmation hearing before the judge, or your lawyer can represent you so you do not need to attend.
Financial management course. After you file and before you get your discharge, you have to complete a debtor’s education course.
You receive your discharge. From three to six months after you file, you’ll receive your bankruptcy discharge in the mail. At this point, the automatic stay is lifted.
Case closed. About a week after your discharge is granted, your bankruptcy case will be officially closed, and you will no longer be liable to most or all of your creditors.
Get Help from Our Bankruptcy Lawyer in Missouri
Bankruptcy is not something to be entered into lightly, but it can relieve stress and allow you to move on with your life. If you are a debtor whose financial obligations have become overwhelming, attorney Kelvin Birk can examine your financial situation to determine if Chapter 7 or some other debt-relief solution is right for you. We understand what you are going through and are here to help.
Call us today for a free consultation to discuss your individual situation and get started on the road to a brighter financial future.
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Why Choose Birk Law?
Birk Law Firm is a small firm by choice that is big on client services. Attorney Kelvin Birk and his team are responsive to their clients’ needs. When we sign on as your law firm, you can count on us for strong legal counsel, from negotiations to settlement to trial.
Our clients benefit from the intertwining of Kelvin Birk’s legal and CPA background and experience. We provide well-rounded advice to solve both legal and financial issues and to come up with creative solutions. We use modern technology to deliver legal services in a more efficient and client-focused manner than was previously possible.
We provide personalized and compassionate service. We believe that each client’s matter is the most important matter in the world to them, and we strive to treat it that way.