Also known as “Wage Earners Bankruptcy”, Chapter 13 provides debt relief for individuals or consumers. Chapter 13 differs from Chapter 7 in the respect that it enables the debtor to keep valuable assets, like a house, while making payments to creditors (through the trustee) based on the debtor’s anticipated income over the life of the plan, usually three to five years. At a confirmation hearing, the court either approves or disapproves the plan, depending on whether the plan meets the Bankruptcy Code’s requirements for confirmation.
Chapter 7 is designed as an orderly, court-supervised procedure by which a trustee collects the assets of the debtor’s estate, reduces them to cash, and makes distributions to creditors, subject to the debtor’s right to retain certain exempt property and the rights of secured creditors. (Visit your state bankruptcy page listed below to learn your specific exemptions.) Because there is usually little or no nonexempt property in most chapter 7 cases, there may not be an actual liquidation of the debtor’s assets. These cases are called “no-asset cases.” Usually a debtors with assets that they wish to keep and that are not covered by exemptions file chapter 13 bankruptcy.
A creditor holding an unsecured claim will get a distribution from the bankruptcy estate only if the case is an asset case and the creditor files a proof of claim with the bankruptcy court. In most chapter 7 cases, the debtor receives a discharge that releases the debtor from personal liability for certain dischargeable debts. The debtor normally receives a discharge three to four months after the petition is filed.
Generally, chapter 13 is preferred by debtors who have a valuable asset, such as a home, that is not completely covered by exemptions and that they wish to keep. This is possible because under Chapter 13 a debtor proposes a plan to repay creditors over a three to five year period during which the debtor can make up overdue payments on any assets and pay into the plan the equivalent value of any assets not covered by exemptions. Since the debtors plan will require regular monthly or biweekly payments, Chapter 13 is usually only appropriate for an individual debtor who has a regular source of income.