A medical emergency, loss of a job, or even a large repair bill can put a family so far behind that creditors threaten to take everything you own.
Depending on your circumstances, there may be several options for getting your finances back on track. Although it’s typically a last resort, bankruptcy is designed to give honest people a chance at a fresh start. However, many people worry about the consequences of filing for bankruptcy. Clients often ask us:
- Can I keep my home?
- Can I keep my car?
- Will I have to sell off my possessions?
- How much does it cost to file for bankruptcy?
- Will my credit be ruined?
At the Sasser Law Firm, our board-certified personal bankruptcy attorneys can meet with you for free to answer all your questions and map out a strategy for moving forward. For more than 20 years, our personal bankruptcy law firm has been focused on helping individuals and families find the financial relief they need. So far, we have helped more than 8,500 people and businesses start over with a clean slate.
Bankruptcy is not the right option for everyone, and it is not a decision to be taken lightly. Our compassionate attorneys want what’s best for you, and we will tell you if we think there’s a bankruptcy alternative that would make more sense for you. Contact us today to learn about your options for getting out of debt.
Types of Bankruptcies for Individuals
Individuals typically file either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases. There are many factors to consider when selecting which chapter to file, including your household income, assets, and the kind of debt you have. Here are some things you need to know when weighing Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13:
- Also known as liquidation, Chapter 7 bankruptcy involves selling off a person’s non-exempt assets to pay off creditors. However, North Carolina has a generous exemption scheme, which means you may be able to retain many of your assets.
- Chapter 7 bankruptcy can provide relief for debt involving credit cards, medical bills, deficiency balances after the sale of a repossessed car or foreclosed mortgage, unsecured personal loans, store accounts, certain tax obligations, and other debts.
- Chapter 7 cases typically take less time and allow for faster rebuilding of credit afterward.
- Chapter 7 cases cost less, but there are strict income requirements to qualify.
- In Chapter 7, debtors receive a discharge of general unsecured debts. You are not required to file a plan of repayment.
- Known as individual debt adjustment, Chapter 13 cases allow a person to make a plan to get caught up on mortgage payments, car payments, taxes, child support or alimony, and other obligations over a three- to five-year period. This may include renegotiating terms of debt, which can lower payments.
- Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows a debtor to protect against vehicle repossession and mortgage foreclosure.
- Our firm often files Chapter 13 cases on an expedited basis ─ sometimes on the same day a client comes in ─ to provide immediate relief and protection.
- Our firm does not charge anything upfront to prepare and file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. All fees and costs are rolled into the Chapter 13 payment plan.
- Chapter 13 may be a good option for people who own a business or are self-employed.
- Chapter 13 plans consolidate your debt into one payment (typically monthly or bi-weekly), which the designated trustee then distributes to creditors.
In addition to Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 filings, you may consider making out-of-court agreements with creditors or enlisting the help of a debt counseling service. When you schedule a free consultation with our North Carolina personal bankruptcy lawyers, we will walk you through all your options to determine the best path for you. Contact us today to get started.
Steps for Filing for Personal Bankruptcy
It is important to understand the steps for filing for personal bankruptcy so you know what to expect as you move forward with the process. In reality, much of the work is actually done before you file, as you work with your attorney to provide information about your income, assets, expenses, and debts. In general, you can expect:
- In your initial consultation with our attorneys, we will evaluate your situation to determine whether Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is the best option for you. This will depend on your income, your goals for keeping assets, and the amount of debt you have.
- Our attorneys will help you gather a list of your creditors and the amounts owed, information about your income, a list of your property, and a detailed accounting of your monthly living expenses.
- Based on North Carolina law, we will determine what of your property should be considered “exempt,” or protected from bankruptcy. This can include the homestead exemption, a motor vehicle exemption, and many other personal property exemptions allowed by law.
- We will work quickly to file a bankruptcy petition with the court, which will automatically “stay” (or stop) creditors from coming after you while you are making your way through the bankruptcy process.
- In addition to the bankruptcy petition, our firm will help you prepare and file with the court:
- Schedules of assets and liabilities
- A schedule of your current income and expenditures
- A statement of financial affairs
- A schedule of executory contracts and unexpired leases
- A copy of tax returns or transcripts from the most recent year (as well as returns filed during the case)
- A statement of monthly net income (and anticipated increases in income or expenses)
- Evidence of income from employers received 60 days before filing
- Information about any interest you have in federal or state qualified education or tuition accounts
- If you are filing for Chapter 13, our personal bankruptcy lawyers will work with you to create a proposed payment plan for your debts, sometimes referred to as a wage earner’s plan. This plan will propose payments to creditors in installments over the course of three to five years.
- You will also need to complete credit counseling and submit proof, as well as watch a financial management video.
- The Bankruptcy Court will appoint an impartial trustee to administer the case. If you are filing for Chapter 7, the bankruptcy trustee will be in charge of liquidating your nonexempt assets, if there are any, in order to pay creditors. If you are filing for Chapter 13, the trustee will evaluate your case, collect payments under your plan, and disburse money to creditors.
- About a month or so after your bankruptcy petition is filed, the trustee will hold a meeting with your creditors during which both the creditors and you may ask questions. (This is known as a 341 meeting.) You will be asked under oath about your finances and, if filing for Chapter 13, the proposed plan. Your attorney will be there with you.
- If there are any problems with the plan, the parties will work to resolve them during the meeting or soon after.
- Within 30 days of filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must begin making plan payments, even if your plan has not been approved.
- If you qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, much of your debt will likely be discharged. If you have filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will need to attend a hearing to confirm your repayment plan.
Although our dedicated North Carolina personal bankruptcy lawyers are able to resolve many cases smoothly, we are also committed to handling complex cases that require litigation. In addition, we work with people who have been involved in prior cases and need to refile. Contact us now to schedule a free consultation, and learn how we may be able to help you.
Talk to a Knowledgeable Personal Bankruptcy Attorney Today
At the Sasser Law Firm, you work directly with a knowledgeable attorney, not an inexperienced paralegal or a legal assistant. Our team acts quickly to handle emergency situations, but we never pressure you into making decisions you are not ready to make. We pride ourselves on giving straightforward and honest legal advice.
Schedule a free consultation with our compassionate consumer bankruptcy attorneys today to discuss your next steps. Our law firm serves individuals and businesses throughout North Carolina, including in Wake, Harnett, Johnston, Durham, Orange, Granville, Vance, Franklin, Warren, Nash, Lee, Chatham, and Moore counties.