Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Lawyer
A typical Chapter 7 bankruptcy case is less complex than a Chapter 11, Chapter 12 or Chapter 13. Your main task is gathering information and completing forms for your attorney so that he or she can file the bankruptcy petition, schedules, and other forms, which will require you to list your debts, assets, financial transactions, and so on. After you attend a brief non-court hearing (the meeting of creditors) and meet a few other requirements, you’ll receive your discharge and your case will be closed, usually three to six months after you file for bankruptcy. Most of your work is at the beginning of the process before the bankruptcy “papers” are filed, since that is when you are gathering the information and reporting it to your attorney. Usually you only need to attend one meeting at the court.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Steps
Hire a bankruptcy attorney that will fight for you. Bankruptcy is a complex process that most people are not familiar with. It involves the federal court system and derives from federal laws, but also involves state laws regarding property and debtor’s and creditor’s rights. Be sure the attorney you hire is not just filling out forms and getting through your case without looking out for the best end result for you. Also be sure the attorney you hire is well-versed in all the bankruptcy chapters (options) so that they choose the best option for you and not just what they deal with. At Birk Law Firm, your bankruptcy attorney will meet with you and discuss your options with you and along with you decide on the best option for you for filing bankruptcy, or if you can avoid bankruptcy. If necessary, we will file additional court proceedings to void liens and other matters if they will benefit you and result in the best outcome for you.
Pay your attorney, filing fee, and other costs. We charge $1,000 attorney fee for a small, simple Chapter 7 bankruptcy. We charge a little more if there are issues in your case requiring more work on our part. You also reimburse us for the bankruptcy court’s filing fee of $335 because we pay that when we file your case electronically with the court. If you have questions about fees specific to your bankruptcy filing, talk to our bankruptcy attorney.
Get mandatory credit counseling. You must receive credit counseling during the six-month period prior to filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. As your bankruptcy attorney, we can provide a recommendation for a provider of this required counseling that we know is good to work with and will charge a low fee.
File your petition and other forms. To start your bankruptcy case, we as 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), another form to show that you can pass the Chapter 7 means test, which is a calculation to see if your income is low enough to qualify for Chapter 7. Al of these filings are often referred to as your bankruptcy “papers”. On your bankruptcy papers, your attorney will also claim your property exemptions, which under state and federal laws that allow you to keep certain property in bankruptcy. 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. After you file your paperwork, the court will appoint a trustee to handle your bankruptcy case. The trustee’s job is to analyze your paperwork and take your nonexempt property (if you have any) 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,” after its place in the bankruptcy code) will be held. At the meeting, you will have to answer questions about your finances and bankruptcy forms, under oath, from the trustee and any creditors who show up (often, none attend the meeting). This meeting is typically very short.
Your eligibility to file for Chapter 7 is confirmed. At this point, the trustee has gathered and reviewed all of your information and the court makes a decision on whether or not you are eligible for Chapter 7 protection. You might not be eligible if you can’t pass the means test (a comparison of your income to expenses to determine whether you could afford a Chapter 13 repayment plan). If the court denies eligibility, you still may have the option to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Nonexempt property. If you have any nonexempt property, the trustee will decide whether it’s worth seizing and selling, to distribute 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. A lot of 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 — debts that are backed by collateral, which the creditor has the right to take if you default — you must relinquish it (give the property back), redeem it (by paying the creditor what it’s worth), or reaffirm the debt (agree that you will still owe it after your bankruptcy case is over). If you reaffirm any debts and are not represented by a lawyer, you will have to attend a reaffirmation hearing before the judge. Birk Law Firm as your attorney will represent you at this hearing and 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, you will no longer be liable to most or all of your creditors, and you can move on with your life.
If you have questions about how you might seek debt relief and get a fresh start, contact our Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer today.
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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.