What Is Chapter 7? Who Can File?
A Chapter 7 case is commonly referred to as a “liquidation case” because if you have any assets that cannot be protected or exempted under the law, the property is sold by a Trustee acting on behalf of all of your creditors. This is one of the main reasons you need an experienced bankruptcy attorney. Fail to claim the right law and you lose your property. When you file any kind of bankruptcy case, you must list or disclose all of your assets and all of your debts. This does not mean you cannot keep certain debts, like debt for your home or your car. You merely have to list or disclose everything about your finances to your attorney.
A person must qualify to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The main test is a budget test. This means your income, less regular living expenses, cannot leave you with more than $100. If you do not have more than $100 left over at the end of the month, you are not required to make a payment to your unsecured creditors. If you have more than $100 left over after all of your regular monthly expenses are paid, you have to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
If you are not great with budgets, I can guide you through the process, which may help you manage your money better in the future. There is life after bankruptcy. I can help you see how.
CAN I KEEP DEBTS UNDER CHAPTER 7?
In order to keep a debt in Chapter 7, you will reaffirm the debt after the case is filed. If you want to keep your home or car and hire me to do Chapter 7, make sure to continue to pay on the things you want to keep. Once you come in for a consultation, I might suggest to stop paying on the other unsecured debt that you need relief from, like credit cards, medical, and payday loans, because that may not help your situation. You certainly do not want to incur or get new debt if you are going to file bankruptcy. Don’t dig one hole (i.e. get new debt) to fill another. Come see me first.
Please note: Chapter 7 will not discharge debts owed for student loans, any debt awarded in a divorce decree, criminal fines, and most taxes. Many times, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy will discharge debts that a Chapter 7 bankruptcy will not. That is why you need an experienced attorney like me who handles both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases.
EXEMPTIONS UNDER MISSOURI LAW
Exemptions allow you to protect property from your creditors. If you have moved here from another state within the past two years, you must have an attorney review your situation to determine the correct exemption law you can use.
When I claim the correct exemptions for you, you will be able to keep most or all of your property, if the value of that property is within the dollar limits of the law. Missouri law provides different provision of the law to protect different types of property. During the initial consultation, I will review your assets and advise you which provision under the law protects your property. Of course, this is an estimate, and when hired, I will ask you to verify all of the information on assets and their value.
Unlike Chapter 13, I cannot defer or finance your attorney fees in a Chapter 7 case. Each case is different, so I do not quote fees over the phone. However, my fees are reasonable, and for most regular individual cases where there are no business issues, fees may be under $1500 plus expenses. Many other bankruptcy attorneys charge over $1500. Before you pay $1500 or more for a Chapter 7, please see me! More complicated business cases can cost more, but Internet cloud-based firms offer you no more services than a local attorney. Also, don’t go cheap. If someone quotes a cheap fee over the phone, i.e. less than $1000… remember, you get what you pay for.
I pride myself on offering superior service at a reasonable fee. I do take payment arrangements and do not charge interest or late fees when you hire me to be your attorney. A written fee agreement will be presented to you at your free consultation if I think I can assist you. This is one reason I am a member of the BBB of Southwest Missouri.