Bankruptcy FAQs

Chapter 7 — An Overview

Both individuals and small businesses can find themselves with more debts than they can pay when due. In such cases, filing bankruptcy may provide a solution to what seems like an insurmountable problem. Bankruptcy law provides two basic forms of relief: (1) liquidation; and (2) rehabilitation, also known as reorganization. Most bankruptcies filed in the United States involve liquidation, which is governed by Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. A skillful attorney can advise individuals and businesses alike on whether Chapter 7 may be the right choice for them. The bankruptcy lawyer's goals are to help debtors make a fresh start and ensure that creditors get paid.

Because bankruptcy law is primarily federal in origin, it varies little from state to state. The individual states do, however, retain jurisdiction over certain debtor-creditor issues that are not addressed by and do not conflict with federal bankruptcy law, such as which property remains exempt from creditors' claims.

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Debts That Remain After A Chapter 7 Discharge

The rules on which debts are discharged, or eliminated, are different depending on which type of bankruptcy is filed. A lawyer experienced in bankruptcy law can advise his or her clients on whether and how particular debts will be affected by a bankruptcy discharge. Generally speaking, in a Chapter 7 proceeding, the following debts are not discharged.

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What Is A 'Discharge' Under Chapter 7?

"Discharge" in the bankruptcy sense refers to clearing the debtor's slate of all, or most, past debts. Although many people expect that filing bankruptcy will wipe out all of their debts, that is not always the case. Bankruptcy only discharges certain debtors of certain debts. The availability of discharge depends on the type of bankruptcy proceeding involved, who the debtor is, and what type of debts the debtor has. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can advise his or her clients as to which debts will be discharged by a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and which debts will remain.

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Exempt Vs. Nonexempt Property Under Chapter 7

In a Chapter 7 liquidation case, the debtor has to turn certain property over to the bankruptcy trustee so that the property can be sold and the proceeds used to pay off debts. Debtors, whether they are businesses or individuals, are often justifiably concerned about what property they will be allowed to keep and what they must give up. Experienced bankruptcy lawyers can answer these and other questions, allay fears, and keep the process moving forward as painlessly as possible.

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Nonbankruptcy Workouts

The term "workout" is used to describe a non-bankruptcy negotiated modification of debt. More simply stated, a workout is an agreement worked out between a debtor and his or her creditors for repayment of the debts between them, which is negotiated without all the procedural complications-and perhaps the stigma-of the bankruptcy process. Lawyers experienced in bankruptcy and debtor-creditor law can advise both debtors and creditors on whether a non-bankruptcy workout may be their best course of action.

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Chapter 7 Resource Links

American Bankruptcy Institute Consumer Corner
General information regarding debt and bankruptcy

Chapter 7
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