If you have a higher amount of debt than you can manage, our Forest City bankruptcy lawyer can review your situation and advise you of your debt relief options. Many people file for bankruptcy after experiencing an unexpected hardship, such as medical problems or loss of income. While bankruptcy may seem uncommon, there were 774,940 bankruptcy filings in 2019, according to the U.S. Courts.
While it can be overwhelming to figure out your next financial move, you do not have to manage massive debt on your own. Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC, will help you assess what you owe, prepare the bankruptcy forms and schedules that you need, and represent you in all hearings and court appearances. Bankruptcy proceedings can also protect you against debt collectors and stop them from contacting you. You can learn more during a free consultation with us today.
The Benefits of Declaring Bankruptcy
Bankruptcy allows you to either discharge your debts or create a plan to pay your creditors back. Filing it temporarily suspends creditors’ debt collection attempts, which can include bills and debts such as:
- Wage garnishment
- Foreclosure actions
- Car payments and repossessions
- Utility bills
- Civil judgments
- Installment payments or contracts
While you can file under several different bankruptcy chapters, most filings for individuals fall under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.
Why Filing for Bankruptcy Protection Can Be a Complex Matter
The bankruptcy process is complex because you must complete detailed paperwork that outlines your income, assets, and debts. Our lawyers can file your petition and complete all necessary forms, ensuring your bankruptcy filing complies with the court’s rules. Failing to file a proper bankruptcy petition can result in your filing being dismissed, making it harder to file for bankruptcy protection in the future.
When a bankruptcy lawyer from our firm files your case, the court assigns a trustee to review your bankruptcy filings and estate. During your bankruptcy case, you will have to complete financial literacy courses and comply with the court’s decisions that involve your assets. However, most people filing for bankruptcy can retain all of their assets.
Filing for bankruptcy allows you to achieve a fresh financial start and prevents the harm that being unable to pay your debts can cause. In addition, bankruptcy allows you to protect certain assets (such as your home) from creditors, preventing significant hardships.
What You Should Know About Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Many bankruptcy cases are Chapter 7 liquidation filings. This option is common among individuals, small business owners, and corporations. After our bankruptcy attorney reviews your assets and debts, they will discuss whether you have any nonexempt property that a bankruptcy trustee can liquidate.
The money earned through liquidation is distributed to your creditors. However, most people filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy can retain all their assets.
What You Need to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
You must meet certain filing criteria – such as not having above-median income – to qualify for Chapter 7 filing status. Congress imposed these provisions to prevent individuals from abusing the bankruptcy process.
Determining if you meet the criteria to file Chapter 7 can be a complicated analysis. We will advise you on whether you qualify.
Many people filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy do not have any nonexempt assets. Because of this, all qualifying debts are discharged, which likely means you get to keep your assets. Once the court discharges your debts, this permanently bars creditors from attempting to collect a discharged debt from you.
Types of Debt That Can be Eliminated in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case
Examples of debts that can be discharged in Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases include:
- Most civil judgments
- Credit card debt
- Medical bills
- Loans, including installment contract debts
- Utility bills
Some debts can be reaffirmed during the Chapter 7 process, meaning that you could continue paying on a car loan with the court’s permission. Although Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharges many debts, certain debts are almost always non-dischargeable, such as:
- Alimony, child support, and other domestic support obligations
- Property taxes
- Income taxes
- Student loans
- Court costs, fines, and restitution
- Some debts incurred within 90 days before your filing
Immediately after filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy and while the case is pending, creditors are barred from attempting to collect debts without the court’s permission. However, creditors can contest whether a debt is dischargeable, which is another reason you may want to hire a lawyer.
What You Should Know About Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
Companies of all sizes can file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to reorganize their businesses and repay undischarged debt. This option allows them to repay the debts partially without losing their assets. You may be able to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy if:
- You own an LLC, a corporation, or another kind of business.
- You have fallen behind on your debt payments.
- You can develop and commit to a debt repayment plan.
Chapter 11 bankruptcy has its benefits and drawbacks, and we will review both with you. Cost is a consideration with this option, so this is something to think about as you consider it.
Larger businesses can usually pay these costs. However, per the U.S. Courts, two special categories allow small businesses to file for relief under Chapter 11. These categories make the bankruptcy process easier and lower these costs for small businesses. Self-employed individuals can also consider Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which we will cover next.
What You Should Know About Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Chapter 13 bankruptcy also allows you to reorganize and create a payment plan to resolve your debts with creditors – while offering particular advantages over Chapter 7 in certain scenarios.
Chapter 13 filings allow you to exempt some property and keep some nonexempt property. To retain nonexempt property, you must pay the property’s value – the value will become part of your payment plan.
Reorganizing Secured Debts Under Chapter 13
Chapter 13 can restructure some of your secured debts, such as vehicle loans, meaning you may be able to decrease your interest rate or total payout. During a Chapter 13 filing, you must show you can meet your payment obligations. As such, having a steady income improves your chances of having your Chapter 13 plan approved.
A Chapter 13 repayment plan typically lasts three to five years, depending on the details of your plan. If you cannot adhere to your payment plan, you may be able to transition to a Chapter 7 case. When financial emergencies happen, it can make it increasingly difficult to afford your bills – let alone pay off debt. Losing a job or becoming temporarily or permanently disabled can make bankruptcy a valid option.
Chapter 12 Bankruptcy Relief for Farmers and Fishermen
North Carolina family farmers and fishermen can also seek bankruptcy protection under Chapter 12. This chapter was specifically designed for people in this category. Those who seek Chapter 12 protections must meet certain income guidelines. They must also agree to repay their debts during a specific time, usually between three to five years.
Per the U.S. Courts’ guidance, this bankruptcy chapter clears some of the hurdles other bankruptcy protections present and makes it easier for family farmers and fishermen to file. We will help your family negotiate or develop a plan that allows you to repay your debts and protect your domestic assets.
How Our Forest City Bankruptcy Lawyer will Help You
Filing for bankruptcy is a challenging process, so you will need time and patience as you go through it. Our bankruptcy lawyers will be by your side during this time to explain every step to you and ensure you understand what it means for you and your family. Our team represents individuals and small businesses with Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 in Forest City. We also assist with Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy and help family farmers file for Chapter 12 bankruptcy.
When we meet with you during your free consultation, we will go over your situation to determine if bankruptcy is the best route for you to take. If our attorneys can help you, you will become our client, and from there, we will manage your entire case. Additionally, we will:
- Ensure you know your rights during the bankruptcy process
- Explain how we protect your rights and work to protect your assets
- Confirm you meet the requirements for a bankruptcy filing
- Develop a strategy that addresses your situation
- Gather required proof of your finances, including your assets
- Manage your case, keeping you on track to meet critical deadlines
- Prepare the forms your need for your bankruptcy filing and submit them on time
- Represent you in hearings and present your case
- Advise you on all matters, including how to protect your assets and money
We will update you regularly on your case’s status and explain any developments in the case. If the case is rejected during a hearing, we will advocate for you. We also will advise you and answer all your questions and concerns.
What You Need to Know About Exempt Property
Bankruptcy prevents your exempt property from being repossessed or forcibly sold to pay off most creditors. For example, say you have a civil judgment against you in state court and your state allows the creditor to have your property sold to pay the judgment. In that case, bankruptcy prevents the state from allowing a creditor from pursuing collection against your exempt property.
Under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1C-1601 and 11 U.S.C. § 522(a)(3)(C), North Carolina individuals can claim the following as exempt property during bankruptcy:
- Up to $35,000 in equity in your home
- Up to $3,500 in equity in a motor vehicle
- Up to $5,000 worth of household goods and furnishings and related household items
- The cash value of certain life insurance policies
- Tax-exempt retirement accounts
There are additional assets that you can claim as exempt, which is why you may want to consult with a lawyer before you file. For example, people can usually claim a burial plot exemption in addition to an exemption in their homes. The exemptions you choose dictate what assets and personal property you can retain following a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 case.
We will Explain How Bankruptcy Affects Your Financial Future
While our team will fight to reduce or eliminate your debt and help you reorganize your finances, we must advise you on how this action can shape your financial future. We will provide specifics upon learning more about your case, but the following could happen after your bankruptcy filing:
- Your credit score could drop, and your credit report could reflect this change.
- You may not be able to take out a home or business loan for a period of time.
- Your insurance rates may increase.
- In limited circumstances, your prospects for future employment could be affected.
We inform our clients of all possibilities as they go through this process to prepare for any outcomes.
Contact Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC, Today to Discuss Your Case
Our bankruptcy lawyers are ready to advise you about which options are best for you and your situation in Forest City. Our firm manages bankruptcy cases for Chapter 7, Chapter 13, Chapter 11, and Chapter 12, and we encourage you to file for protection as soon as you can. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we can start working on your behalf.
If you are thinking about pursuing any of these, you may want to meet with an attorney who can help you take care of your financial matters the right way. Our firm will prepare your case and look out for your interests. Call Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC, for a free consultation at (828) 286-3866 and speak with a team member today.