In a chapter 7 Bankruptcy you wipe our your debts and get a “Fresh Start”. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a liquidation where the trustee collects all of your nonexempt assets and sells them. In most Chapter 7 cases the debtor does not have any assets that are not exempt and therefore the Trustee will not sell any of the debtors possessions. However, in the event nonexempt assets are found, the trustee sells the assets and pays you, the debtor, any amount exempted. The net proceeds of the liquidation are then distributed to your creditors with a commission taken by the trustee overseeing the distribution.
Certain debts cannot be discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, such as alimony, child support, fraudulent debts, certain taxes, student loans, and certain items charged. (see Pennsylvania Exemptions) Usually, large credit card debt and other unsecured bills coupled with few assets typify a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filer. In the vast majority of cases this type of bankruptcy is able to completely eliminate all of the filers debts.
You may keep certain secured debts such as your car or your furniture or house by reaffirming those debts. To do so, you must sign a voluntary “Reaffirmation Agreement”. However, you cannot wipe out that debt (or discharge the debt) for another six years. In other words, if you decide that you want to keep your house or your car or your furniture, and you reaffirm the debt, you cannot bankrupt (or wipe-out) that debt again for six years. You will still owe that debt and you must continue to pay it just as you were to continue to pay it before you filed the bankruptcy. In order to reaffirm the debt, you must also bring it current. In other words, if you are three or four months behind, then you must pay the back payments which are due in order to reaffirm it. You can selectively reaffirm your debts – you can state that you wish to keep the house and the furniture, but that you want the car and the jewelry to go back to the respective Creditors.
Reaffirmation agreements can be set aside during the earlier of 60 days after the agreement is filed with the Court, or upon the Court’s issuance of an Order of Discharge.
The primary reasons for filing personal bankruptcy are unforeseen medical expenses, excessive credit card debt, loss of employment, and divorce. Needless to say many of these events create not only financial difficulty but also a tremendous amount of disruption and distress in and of themselves. This makes it especially important that individuals consider all available options and bankruptcy alternatives to make sure whatever action they settle upon is in their long term interest.
If one determines that personal bankruptcy is the best option available then one should learn more about the federal bankruptcy law. Bankruptcy is an important decision and the law and it application to one’s particular situation can be very complicated. It is generally recommend that one consult with an attorney with experience in the personal bankruptcy field. If one feels comfortable with attempting the bankruptcy process without an attorney there are online bankruptcy services that can be of assistance. It is also possible to proceed by completing the bankruptcy forms on one’s own but this could be very confusing and one should proceed with caution.