There are times that financial problems can become simply overwhelming for either an individual or a business. When a person’s or business’s financial position becomes truly untenable, federal bankruptcy law provides several types of possible relief.

Should I Consider Filing Bankruptcy?

If you are considering filing a bankruptcy, here are some questions to consider to help decide if bankruptcy is the right option for you:

  • Have you fallen behind on your rent or mortgage, or have foreclosure or eviction proceedings begun?
  • Have you fallen behind on your car payment, or has your car been repossessed?
  • Are you not paying your bills on time each month?
  • Are you paying your normal monthly expenses, such as food, gas and utilities on credit cards?
  • Do you use credit cards to pay other monthly bills?
  • Are creditors either threatening to file suit or have already filed suit against you?
  • Have you considered cashing out your 401K to catch up on your bills?
  • Have you considered a home equity line of credit for the purpose of paying bills?
  • Have you experienced significant health problems, causing high medical bills or periods of unemployment?
  • Have you lost a job and been unable to find comparable work?
  • Have you recently been hired after an extended period of unemployment and are unable to pay your bills?
  • Have you recently divorced and found you are unable to manage your new household expenses?
  • If you have already had a foreclosure, eviction, repossession or lawsuit filed against you, it is important that you contact an attorney immediately. Your options with regard to bankruptcy can change as these events begin to occur.

If you have already had a foreclosure, eviction, repossession or lawsuit filed against you, it is important that you contact an attorney immediately. Your options with regard to bankruptcy can change as these events begin to occur.

If you are in a situation where you are constantly struggling to pay your bills each month, but aren’t behind on any of your bills yet, it is a good idea to go ahead and discuss your bankruptcy options early on. Learning about all of your options can give you the maximum flexibility in trying to address your financial issues. While bankruptcy should not be considered your first option to resolve your financial issues, it should also not be your last option.

Bankruptcy Relief

There are two types of bankruptcy protection available to individuals. An individual may either seek to have his debt structure reorganized under Chapter 13 so that he pays off his secured debts over a specific period of time or he may seek relief from his debts by liquidation under Chapter 7.

For first time filers, filing for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 7 or 13 prevents the creditors of the filer from doing anything to try to collect debts. This means the creditors cannot contact him, threaten him, or sue him.

Trustees are appointed under all Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases to evaluate the debtors assets and liabilities, and to assure that creditors receive all that they are allowed under the law.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows individual debtors with regular income to create a plan to repay their debts. Within 15 days of the bankruptcy filing, the debtor submits a proposed plan to retire the past due amount on any secured debt over a period of time not to exceed five years. The Court must approve the plan and the plan must pay off the secured debt and a percentage of the unsecured debt within the life time of the plan.

If the plan is successfully completed, the secured debts are brought current and the remaining unsecured debts are discharged. If the individual fails to make the payments required under the plan, the case may be dismissed.

An individual cannot file for Chapter 13 discharge if he has been granted a Chapter 7, 11, or 12 discharge within the past 4 years or Chapter 13 discharge within the past 2 years.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows the debtor to discharge all of his or its debts but at the price of liquidation of most of his or its assets. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy usually affords the debtor a “clean start.” As with Chapter 13, a Trustee is appointed by the court. The debts owed to unsecured creditors are either discharged or paid by the Trustee through the liquidation of the debtor’s assets.

An individual seeking to file a Chapter 7 proceeding must first satisfy a means test and an individual cannot file for Chapter 7 discharge if he has filed for Chapter 7 or 11 discharge within the past 8 years.

Our lawyers at Merritt Webb are anxious to represent your interests and ensure you receive just treatment from your creditors and that your assets are protected to the full extent of the law. If you want to determine if filing bankruptcy is the right answer for your situation, you may call us at 1.800.556.8480.

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Website responsibility: The attorneys responsible for this site are Joy Rhyne Webb (NC), 2525 Meridian Parkway, Suite 300, Durham, NC 27713 and Heather Caruso (SC, TN), 8910 Two Notch Road, Suite 400, Columbia, SC 29223.