Does Debt Disappear After Bankruptcy?

Does debt disappear after filing for bankruptcy? Debt relief attorneys at OlsenDaines in Oregon State

If you’ve found yourself battling against a mountain of debt, you may be considering bankruptcy as a way to get back on your feet. After all, filing for bankruptcy can be an effective method for relieving debt and regaining control over your finances. But, should you file for bankruptcy, will all of your debt disappear?

The answer to that question is a little complicated. Though bankruptcy can help relieve many different kinds of debt, there are some kinds that will stick with you. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, it’s important for you to know what kinds of debts are covered and which kinds are not.

What Debts Can Be Forgiven by Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy can help you regain financial stability by relieving a wide variety of debts. Your exact amount of relief, however, will largely depend on your specific situation and what kind of bankruptcy you qualify for. If you aren’t sure which path would be best for you, a bankruptcy attorney can help you find a solution that relieves as much debt as possible.

Chapter 7

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is intended for individuals with a lower income and fewer nonessential assets. To qualify for this type, you have to pass a means test, which verifies your income. The types of debt that this chapter can cover include:

  • Medical bills
  • Overdue utility charges
  • Outstanding credit cards
  • Collection agency accounts
  • Lease agreement deficiencies
  • Checks written on insufficient funds

Chapter 13

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is intended for individuals with more disposable income and more nonessential assets. This type of bankruptcy is considered “reorganization”, where you will create a payment plan to repay secured debts – such as alimony, child support, and mortgage delinquencies.

Depending on your specific situation, other types of debt may be reduced, but that is not always the case. Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be tricky to navigate, so it is best to contact a skilled bankruptcy attorney to determine the best approach for debt relief.

What Debts Cannot Be Forgiven by Bankruptcy?

Though bankruptcy can absolve many kinds of debt, there are a few types that usually cannot be discharged. The types of debt that bankruptcy generally cannot cover are:

  • Student loans
  • Alimony and child support
  • Tax debts

While these debts are generally not forgiven through bankruptcy, each person’s situation is different. A knowledgeable and experienced bankruptcy attorney can examine your unique circumstances to help you relieve as much debt as possible.

Experienced Debt Relief Attorneys

Bankruptcy can be difficult to navigate, and without the right guidance, you may miss
opportunities to relieve debt. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, contact the skilled bankruptcy attorneys at OlsenDaines in Washington and Oregon today. Our experienced lawyers understand the ins and outs of bankruptcy law, and they can help you get the best outcome possible for your situation. We can help you through any step of the process so you can regain financial security as easily and effectively as possible. Call us today to schedule your free legal consultation.

What You Can Keep After Filing for Bankruptcy

Many people believe that they will lose everything they own if they file for bankruptcy. Not true. In fact, most people who file for bankruptcy do not lose anything they own at all.

How can that be?

Well, the secret lies in…

Exemptions.

Most consumers file for Chapter 7 (or “liquidation”) bankruptcy. In a Chapter 7, exemptions determine what property you get to keep. If your property is exempt, whether it is your home, your car, your pensions, furniture, your clothes, etc., you can keep it during and after the bankruptcy. Exemptions protect your property and put it beyond the reach of the bankruptcy trustee (“trustee”).

If the property is nonexempt, then the trustee is entitled to sell it to pay your unsecured creditors.

In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it is the exemptions that determine how much you will have to pay to nonpriority, unsecured creditors.

If you are considering bankruptcy in Oregon or Washington, it’s important for you to understand how exemptions work and to know what property is exempt in those states. We can help. We have offices in Tigard, Salem, Albany, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, Bend, and several other cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington.

A Little More About Exemptions.

Every state has its own set of bankruptcy exemptions and most states require that you use the state exemptions only. However, some states allow a debtor to choose whether to use state exemptions or federal bankruptcy exemptions. Like all states, Oregon has its own set of bankruptcy exemptions. But in Oregon, if you file for bankruptcy you can elect to use the federal bankruptcy exemptions instead of the Oregon state exemptions. In Washington, you can use either the federal exemptions or the state exemptions.

How Exemptions Work.

There is a lot to know about exemptions, but briefly, this is how it works: if you have property that is worth a certain dollar amount that is equal to or less than the exemption, you will be allowed to keep the property. If, on the other hand, the property’s value exceeds the exemption, it is highly likely that the trustee will sell that property and use it to pay your unsecured creditors. Why? Because the federal government assumes that honest debtors try to pay off their debts. So, if a debtor has excessive property, the federal government believes it should be sold to pay those debts. On the other hand, the bankruptcy laws are designed to give debtors a “fresh start” —– not to leave them destitute. As a result of these dual concepts, both state and federal bankruptcy laws provide debtors with property exemptions.  Generally, Chapter 7 exemptions are far lower, stricter and are less flexible than Chapter 13 exemptions.

 We Can Guide You Through It.

If you are considering bankruptcy and want to know what property exemptions you would be entitled to, contact us. We have offices throughout Oregon and in Washington, and we offer free consultations.

 

 

Bankruptcy in the Context of Divorce

Statistics show that 55% of all marriages end in divorce. And 39% of all divorced couples say that conflict over finances was the reason the marriage fell apart. Fights over money ruin relationships. That’s why we so often see divorce occurring when there is a bankruptcy. It’s because of this that it is critical to understand the intersection of the bankruptcy laws and divorce laws.

 What Comes First – Divorce or Bankruptcy? No Simple Answer.

If you are facing divorce and a bankruptcy, the first thing you need to consider is timing. You must decide whether to file for divorce first or for bankruptcy first. (Filing the two together causes significantly more problems.) How you answer that question depends on a number of things: your income, your spouse’s income, what type of bankruptcy you are filing for or qualify for (Chapter 7 or Chapter 13), what assets you have, the costs of divorce and bankruptcy, and more.

There is no easy answer to this question. You must take into account both the facts of your situation, the divorce laws, and the bankruptcy laws before you can come to a final decision. That’s why you should sit down with an experienced bankruptcy attorney to discuss your situation and what is best for you. We have offices throughout Oregon and in Washington, and we offer free consultations.

Here are just two things you need to think about when facing bankruptcy and divorce:

Divorce and the Automatic Stay
Once a bankruptcy is filed, whether it is a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13, the “automatic stay” immediately goes into effect. The automatic stay stops all attempts to collect on your debts and it freezes your assets and your property. The purpose of the stay is to allow the bankruptcy court time to sort through what debts you owe and what assets you have (if any) to pay them with. The automatic stay remains in place until your bankruptcy case is fully resolved (by discharge, dismissal or the case is closed).

Since dividing up a couple’s assets and property (in addition to other things) is what the divorce is all about, bankruptcy’s automatic stay means that the family court will be prevented from making any decisions or dividing up the marital property until the bankruptcy is completed. And that means that the divorce will take longer.

 What Type of Bankruptcy?

Another factor to consider is the type of bankruptcy that you should file for. A Chapter 7 (“liquidation”) bankruptcy requires that you meet the income requirements of the “means test.” If your income compared to certain expenses is too high, you will be required to file for Chapter 13 (“reorganization”) bankruptcy instead.

If there is a big difference between what you earn and what your spouse earns, it might make more sense to file for divorce before you file for bankruptcy. On the other hand, if you earn significantly less than your spouse and you file for bankruptcy individually after the divorce is final, you may have a better chance of qualifying for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Then there is the fact that if you both agree to file for bankruptcy jointly, you may not qualify for Chapter 7 as a couple, because the income amounts are based on household size, and the income maximum for two people is not twice that of one person.

The intersection of bankruptcy and divorce may be a common occurrence, but it is not a simple one to navigate. But the good news is that you do not need to try to figure all this out on your own. We are here to help.

 Let Us Help You Decide.

If you are facing filing a bankruptcy and either your spouse has filed for divorce, or you have both agreed to divorce, let us help you think through your options. We are bankruptcy attorneys with offices in a number of cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. We offer free consultations and we can help you. To set up an appointment, call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568 or contact us here.

Core Proceedings and the Bankruptcy Court

Let’s say you’re having a really, really, bad week. You were injured in a car accident, the extension the contractor put on your house fell apart and now you’re suing him for breach of contract, your wife just found out about your (latest) girlfriend and has filed for divorce, and you can’t pay your creditors, so you just filed a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. In the middle of reeling from all of this you think to yourself, when I get into bankruptcy court, is the judge going to decide the liability, breach of contract and divorce cases too?

Good question.

When you file for bankruptcy, it is important to understand what matters the court will decide and what matters it won’t decide. Knowing the extent of the court’s  jurisdictional authority is one reason why it is important that you hire competent bankruptcy counsel to represent you. We have offices throughout Oregon and in Washington State. Our attorneys are experienced bankruptcy attorneys and they know the law.

The Bankruptcy Court’s Jurisdiction. Core Proceedings.

Bankruptcy courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. That means that they do not hear and decide everything and anything. Congress granted bankruptcy judges jurisdiction over certain issues, which are called “core proceedings.” A bankruptcy judge’s decisional power is generally limited to bankruptcy matters.

Core proceedings are proceedings or issues that are entirely related to the bankruptcy case. The bankruptcy judge has the power to hear and decide these matters and enter judgment on them. Some examples of core proceedings are: the bankruptcy trustee’s duties, matters concerning debtor exemptions, or proceedings to determine, decide or recover fraudulent transfers. There are many more, but this should give you some idea of what the bankruptcy court will hear and decide.

Non-core Proceedings.

Non-core proceedings are issues that arise in a bankruptcy case that are not technically bankruptcy matters. These are called “non-core proceedings.” Examples of non-core proceedings in our fact pattern above would be your divorce, the car accident and the breach of contract action against your contractor. These matters are not governed by bankruptcy law but by other state laws and they are not directly related to your bankruptcy.

However, that does not mean that the bankruptcy court cannot hear and decide issues that may be non-core proceedings yet are matters directly related to your bankruptcy. For example, in our fact pattern above, while the bankruptcy court will not decide your divorce (in other words, it won’t enter a dissolution of marriage), it may decide issues in the divorce case that are related to your bankruptcy— like division of the marital property.

If the bankruptcy judge makes a decision in a non-core proceeding, that decision cannot become a final judgment unless all parties consent. If the parties don’t consent, then the bankruptcy judge must submit proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to the Superior or Circuit court.

We Know the Law!

If you find any of this confusing, don’t worry. We are bankruptcy attorneys with offices in Tigard, Salem, Albany, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, Bend, and several other cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. We offer free consultations and we can help you. To set up an appointment, call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568.

What to Expect in Pre-Bankruptcy Credit Counseling

The decision to file bankruptcy is not an easy one to make. Many people experience enormous distress, shame and embarrassment over their financial difficulties. Without question, declaring Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy is no minor decision. But it just may be the right one for you. Especially if you cannot see any way of paying off your debt in the next 5 years.

Mandatory Pre-Bankruptcy Credit Counseling.

Before you can file for bankruptcy, however, you must complete mandatory credit counseling and receive a certificate. Once you have completed the counseling and have your certificate, you must file it with the court along with your other bankruptcy forms. Credit counseling is mandatory. If you do not file a certificate of credit counseling with the court, the bankruptcy court will dismiss your case.

But why do you have to do mandatory credit counseling?

Its purpose is to ensure that bankruptcy is your only best option. In 2005, Congress passed the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) in response to the fact that many people who were financially capable of repaying their debts were using bankruptcy to have those debts discharged. This new law completely overhauled the bankruptcy law and made a number of important changes to bankruptcy rules and procedures. One of these changes was the requirement that debtors complete credit counseling both before filing bankruptcy and prior to discharge.

The purpose of pre-bankruptcy credit counseling is to provide an impartial look at whether or not a debtor really needs to file for bankruptcy.

The Where, When, and What of Pre-Bankruptcy Credit Counseling.

Pre-bankruptcy credit counseling may be the most painless part of bankruptcy. It can be done in person, by phone, or online; and it usually doesn’t take more than a couple of hours.

The most important thing to remember is that you must complete the counseling before you file for bankruptcy. Upon completion, you will receive a certificate that is valid for 180 days. If you decide to file for bankruptcy, you will need to file that certificate with the court.

For your counseling session, you will want to bring with you (or have available) information about your debts and your income.

The counselor will discuss your financial situation with you and will talk to you about what non-bankruptcy options you may have. Counseling will most likely include:

  • A thorough review of your personal finances
  • A discussion of alternatives to bankruptcy
  • Personal budget plan.

The counseling will help you to understand how bankruptcy works and what you can do to avoid financial risk in the future.

We’ll Walk You Through it!

If you are concerned about whether or not you should file for bankruptcy, or have questions about what happens if you decide to file for bankruptcy, give us a call. We offer free consultations. We are experienced bankruptcy attorneys with offices in Tigard, Salem, Albany, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, Bend, and several other cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. You can call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568.

What Role Does Your Attorney Play in Filing for Bankruptcy

What Role Does Your Attorney Play in Filing for BankruptcyBankruptcy is a complex process that begins before the time you file and goes straight through to the debt discharge and the period when you will begin the process of rebuilding your credit. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can help you navigate the maze of decisions, paperwork, procedure, and compliance that goes along with a bankruptcy filing.

From the beginning, your bankruptcy attorney is there to determine the right course for you and your specific circumstances. We assess your financial situation, help you to determine your financial goals, and discuss the options that are available and most appropriate for you. We can also begin taking collection calls and other creditor communications on your behalf.

One of the main tasks your bankruptcy attorney will undertake for you is the preparation and filing of your bankruptcy petition. These forms are exhaustive, and often run to 30-60 pages or more. The attorney will ensure that the forms are filled out completely and accurately in compliance with the applicable state law. Once you have reviewed the information, your bankruptcy attorney will file the finalized, signed version with the bankruptcy court.

A bankruptcy attorney will also help you determine whether a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing is right for you. This involves you and your attorney assessing the size and makeup of your debt, what assets you are willing to risk in a bankruptcy, and your ability (if any) to repay your debts. When you have an initial consultation with a bankruptcy attorney, here are some of the key points to go over:

  • How you can leverage bankruptcy to achieve your financial goals
  • What you can expect during the bankruptcy process
  • Any difficulties or issues specific to your case
  • Whether you should file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13
  • What can be done to make the bankruptcy process easier for you

 

 

Bankruptcy and Divorce

Bankruptcy and DivorceDivorce is one of the big three reasons people file for bankruptcy (medical and job loss are the other two).  The interplay between these two areas of law can be complicated.  To make the right decision in terms of if and when to file for bankruptcy in the context of divorce, you need to know how bankruptcy can affect divorce and vice versa.

Generally, it makes the most sense to file for bankruptcy before getting a divorce. Since bankruptcy fees are the same for both joint and individual filings, you and your spouse can save money on fees by declaring bankruptcy while still married. Furthermore, attorney fees will likely be lower if you file jointly (make sure your bankruptcy attorney is aware of the upcoming divorce to avoid any conflict of interest).

Regarding Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13, it is usually a better idea to file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy before a divorce. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing will usually take only a few months to receive the debt discharge. A Chapter 13, however, will run for three to five years. Since this process drags on, if you want to file for Chapter 13 it is usually better to do so after the divorce.

Filing for bankruptcy before also simplifies the property division process that will take place during the divorce. However, this is only the case if you live in a state that allows for enough exemptions to protect all of your joint property. Some states allow you to double the exemptions if you file for bankruptcy jointly. If you can’t double the exemptions, it might be a better idea to file individually after the divorce. Check with your bankruptcy attorney to clarify what your state will allow.

Also, when deciding when and if to file for bankruptcy before/after a divorce, keep in mind that certain debts are not dischargeable. Non-dischargeable debts include: alimony, child support, student loans, and attorney fees related to child custody or support cases.  If possible, consult with a bankruptcy attorney before starting the divorce proceedings to get the best course of action (if the petition for divorce has already been filed then each party will need to consult with their own bankruptcy attorney).

Pros and Cons to Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Pros and Cons to Chapter 13 BankruptcyFor people who are ineligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, or wish to repay their debts using a repayment plan, filing for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be a great option. The following are some pros and cons to declaring a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Pros:

  • While under Chapter 13 the repayment of debts generally take place over a longer term, it’s often an advantage to have more time to budget and make disciplined payments; there can also be more flexibility on the payment terms in the context of Chapter 13. Furthermore, once you have successfully completed the Chapter 13 repayment plan, creditors cannot then obligate you to pay them in full.
  • While you can only file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy once every eight years, you can file for Chapter 13 repeatedly (every two years) if you need to (though each additional filing will show up on your credit report).
  • A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is noted on your credit score for up to seven years, while a Chapter 7 bankruptcy will remain for ten years.
  • If during a Chapter 13 repayment plan you experience a sudden and significant financial hardship like losing your job or accumulating medical bills, your bankruptcy trustee can modify the repayment plan. The court may even allow a debt discharge due to hardship.

Cons:

  • You limit your Chapter 7 options. You cannot file for a Chapter 7 if you previously filed under Chapter 13 within the last eight years.
  • A Chapter 13 repayment plan can take a long time (up to five years in some cases).
  • Since you will be repaying your debts out of your post-bankruptcy disposable income, you will have cash tied up throughout the duration of the repayment plan.

Your debts could be too high to qualify for Chapter 13. If your secured debts exceed $1,184,200, you will be ineligible for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and the Means Test

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and the Means TestThe main hurdle you have to overcome when attempting to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the means test. The Chapter 7 means test is designed to look at your income and expenses and disqualify you for Chapter 7 if they don’t fit within certain guidelines. The means test will compare your average monthly income for the six-month period preceding your bankruptcy filing against the median income of a comparable household in your state of residence.

The means test is intended to prevent people with higher than average incomes from filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Often, the better bet for someone who cannot qualify under the mean test is to go the Chapter 13 route. The means test comes across as relatively straightforward, but it can be more complex than you think. A good bankruptcy attorney can be an invaluable resource in guiding you through this process. Here are three common mistakes people make when completing the means test form:

  • Listing the wrong household size. This can be more complicated than it would seem since courts don’t always agree on what constitutes household size. A minority of courts take the view that everyone living in the house should be counted. Other courts determine household size by including only those people who are financially dependent on the debtor. Household size is extremely important to the means test because it is used to calculate the median family income to balance against your income, and the standard deduction amounts for housing and certain other expenses.
  • Your income doesn’t match up to the documentation you provide. This is information you have to go over carefully. The number of weeks in a month, the issue date of paychecks, and the timing of the bankruptcy filing are all factors that can affect the average income figures.
  • Failing to take all allowable deductions. Don’t miss out on a deduction you are entitled to. Court ordered payments like those in a divorce or child custody case are allowable deductions, for example.

 

How Do I Get Credit After Filing for Bankruptcy?

How Do I Get Credit After Filing for BankruptcyOne of the fears many people have over filing for bankruptcy is that they won’t be able to get credit afterwards. This is simply not the case. While declaring bankruptcy will hurt your credit score, there are strategies for rebuilding your credit immediately after filing.  Most chapter 7 clients begin receiving credit offers within 30 days of filing the case!

Right from the start you might be a more attractive prospect to a lender, since you have just dramatically reduced your debt-to-income ratio (at least in the case of Chapter 7; in a Chapter 13 this process will take longer, but it will happen). Those who have filed for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy will benefit from the discipline of being on a repayment plan. This will also help in the long-term process of rebuilding credit.

It is important after filing for bankruptcy that you closely monitor your credit reports and credit score. Make sure you get a copy of your credit report from the three main credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Go over the reports and look for errors and omissions regarding your current residence, employment and contact information. Some experts recommending avoiding credit repair agencies. Not all of them are above board, and even the reputable ones may not be able to do much that you cannot do yourself.

Another way to immediately begin rebuilding your credit score following a bankruptcy is to open a secured credit card account. A secured card is a credit card that requires a cash collateral deposit which then becomes the credit line for that account. After a period of timely payments, the bank will sometimes reward you by increasing your credit line without you having to make an additional deposit. The best way to utilize a secured credit card is to make a few purchases every month and then pay them off in a timely manner. Don’t carry a balance around on the card. OlsenDaines provides all our clients with a free credit rebuilding program, an invaluable resource in helping you make a plan for rebuilding your credit.