Fort Collins Bankruptcy Lawyers: How Does Filing Bankruptcy Work?
If you are considering filing bankruptcy, you likely want to know how bankruptcy works. Bankruptcy is a process that can discharge, or eliminate, your debt (in a Chapter 7) or reorganize your debt (in a Chapter 13). This process is best started by retaining one of our experienced Fort Collins bankruptcy lawyers who can reduce some of the stress you are facing by showing you how effective bankruptcy can be for you when the process is completed. The bankruptcy process can last three to five months in a Chapter 7 or three to five years in a Chapter 13.
STEP 1: Gathering of Information
Prior to your case being filed, your attorney will need to collect a substantial amount of information to ensure that you are filing the right bankruptcy chapter and that your assets are protected (if they exist). The majority of information necessary in a bankruptcy case can be found in the following documents:
- pay advices
- tax returns
- credit reports
- vehicle titles
- insurance cards
- monthly bills
- bank statements
STEP 2: Filling Out Paperwork
After all of this information is gathered, the petition, schedules and statements will all need to be completed. Our bankruptcy lawyers will explain how bankruptcy works when it comes to this process, and you should be given plenty of time to review the paperwork to ensure its accuracy and completeness. The petition will show all of your debt, monthly income, monthly expenses, assets, creditors and any potential financial interests (such as lawsuits or inheritances).
STEP 3: The Online Course
Each debtor is required to complete an online course prior to filing their bankruptcy. Your attorney will be able to tell you where the class can be found. Upon completing the class, you will receive a certificate that your attorney will file with the court.
STEP 4: Filing the Case
After the petition is completed and the online course taken, the next step is to file the case. The first benefit of filing a bankruptcy is immediately apparent here, as the filing imposes an automatic stay. How bankruptcy works is that the automatic stay freezes all of your creditors for the duration of your bankruptcy, outside of certain circumstances. Your creditors are not allowed to contact you or attempt any collections from you unless they are given direct permission by the bankruptcy court.
Many debtors feel a great deal of relief at this step, as it eliminates creditor harassment, which is a huge problem for debtors who have yet to file bankruptcy. When you file the case, your creditors are mailed notices of your filing. This notice explains the bankruptcy process to them and even allows them to file a proof of claim, which gives them a right to collect any money you might have to pay out to the bankruptcy estate (if such a situation exists). The notice lets creditors know of your bankruptcy and the automatic stay that accompanies it.
STEP 5: The Meeting Process
Upon filing your case, one of our bankruptcy lawyers will send you notice of your case’s meeting date. This notice will also include your case number, which you should keep for your records. The meeting of creditors, as it is called, usually occurs about 4-6 weeks after your case has been filed. Your attorney will normally attend the meeting with you.
You will meet with a trustee, who is appointed by the courts to represent the interests of your creditors. The trustee’s aggressiveness in collecting will depend on the chapter you filed. This is because there are differences between how a trustee acts in a Chapter 7 (where they must collect quickly) and in a Chapter 13 (where the process is much longer). The meeting itself, in both chapters, is normally relatively short (5 minutes or so) and should not be too stressful. An experienced attorney will have explained to you how bankruptcy works and what to expect at the meeting long beforehand.
After the meeting, your case normally stays open for sixty days. This gives creditors one last chance to object to their debts being discharged. On the 61st day in a Chapter 7, your debts will be discharged and your case should close.
In a Chapter 13, if your meeting goes well and your payment plan is confirmed by the court, you will make your monthly payments to the court over the next three to five years. You will still receive proof of your case’s completion at the end of it, much like in a Chapter 7.
Benefits of Filing for Bankruptcy
After your case is filed, the court imposes an automatic stay, as mentioned before. This freezes your creditors from attempting to collect their debts against you for the entire duration of your bankruptcy (in most circumstances). In addition, the automatic stay freezes any collection proceedings that are currently ongoing, such as foreclosures and repossessions. Many debtors use bankruptcy as a last resort when they are about to lose their homes or vehicle. The automatic stay is the reason they are able to do that.
The biggest benefit to filing a bankruptcy is it gives you the ability to eliminate your debt (or a good portion of it).
Many people who file bankruptcy do so believing their credit will never be the same. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as most debtors filing bankruptcy have horrible credit. How bankruptcy works is that bankruptcy acts as a reset button and allows the debtor to start anew. If you keep a mortgage or car loan, they can help rebuild your credit after your case closes if you reaffirm the debt (in a Chapter 7).
Renegotiate Your Debt
While Chapter 7 allows you to reaffirm your debts, Chapter 13 allows you in certain situations to renegotiate your debt. As a result, you can significantly lower the amount of money you are paying on your mortgages and car payments, or at least pay less on a monthly basis.
Save Your Home
Chapter 13 allows many debtors an opportunity to save their homes. The longer process of a Chapter 13 allows the debtor to catch up on their arrears owed to the mortgage company. In addition, they might be able to get a modification from the mortgage company in a mortgage modification mediation.
Peace of Mind
You might find yourself feeling stressed, depressed, or just overwhelmed with a feeling of hopelessness due to your debt situation. The thought of filing a bankruptcy may make you feel even worse. However, bankruptcy will ease, not worsen, your problems. Filing either chapter of bankruptcy can provide you with a relief you haven’t felt in years and gives you a chance to clean up your mess and get a fresh financial start.
Call Our Fort Collins Bankruptcy Lawyers Today
At Holland Law Office P.C., bankruptcy attorney Steve Holland is dedicated to showing clients how bankruptcy works and ensuring that you receive all the benefits bankruptcy has to offer. His years of experience have given him insight into the bankruptcy process that will benefit you both in and out of bankruptcy. Call to today to request a free consultation.
How Much Does it Cost to File Bankruptcy?
In bankruptcy, you’d pay pennies on the dollar toward that debt.
Consider that the average indebted household carries over $15,000 in credit card debt alone, not to mention medical debt, personal loans, second mortgages on underwater homes, and other types of unsecured debt.
Should I Use An Attorney?
With An Attorney
The success rate is over 95% for Chapter 7 cases filed with the help of an attorney and over 55% for Chapter 13 cases.
Compare that to the 60% success rate for Chapter 7 cases filed by yourself and the 0.04% success rate for Chapter 13 cases.
When it comes to bankruptcy bankruptcy lawyers, it pays to have a reliable one.
- If you file for yourself, then the costs add up to $350 – $450. But it is extremely likely that your case will be dismissed and you’ll have to face your creditors alone.
- With an attorney, an average Chapter 7 case can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000. An average Chapter 13 case will run you from $3,000 to $4,000.
Compared to the cost of your debt, bankruptcy lawyers can save you thousands of dollars.
*INFORMATION TAKEN FROM NATIONAL BANKRUPTCY WEBSITE