Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection is designed to eliminate most of the unsecured debts of an individual or business. Unsecured debt is an obligation that does not have specific property as collateral, as such, a house or a car. The process is often referred to as a “liquidation bankruptcy” because the property and/or assets of the debtor are sold in order to pay off as much of debt as possible. Any debt that remains is then eliminated or discharged. If you are unable to pay your debts and need a fresh start, our experienced bankruptcy attorneys can help you explore your options.
Who is Eligible for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
In order to be eligible to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your income must be lower than the median income in your state. If you earn more than that amount, you must pass a means test and demonstrate that you do not have enough disposable income to pay your debts.
Who is Ineligible for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
You cannot file under the following circumstances:
- A previous debt was discharged within the past eight years under Chapter 7
- A previous debt was discharged within the past six years under Chapter 13
- You attempted to defraud creditors or the bankruptcy court
- You failed to attend credit counseling
Debts That May Be Eliminated
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, debt that may be eliminated includes:
- Credit card debts
- Medical bills
- Lawsuit debts/civil judgments (including personal injury)
- Personal loans
Some types of property are protected, or exempt, from being sold to pay off debts including residential real estate, automobiles and certain personal property such as furniture and clothing.
How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Prior to filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must attend credit counseling with an agency approved by a bankruptcy trustee. Once the course is completed, you can file for bankruptcy in a local bankruptcy court. Information about your income, debt, expenditures, secured and unsecured debt, the sale of prior property, and a list of exempt property must be included in the petition.
As soon as your bankruptcy petition is filed, a court order, known as an automatic stay, immediately goes into effect that stops creditors from debt collection activities. Creditors are also barred from proceeding with repossessions, foreclosures, garnishments, and filing lawsuits unless permission is obtained from the bankruptcy court. The automatic stay remains in effect until the bankruptcy is discharged.