When you file for bankruptcy, there are a few steps that you will go through. The process is not over quickly, so by being aware of the stages, you can be better prepared for how long it will take to settle your case. Also, certain factors in your bankruptcy case could influence whether it takes more or less time – which is why it is critical that you hire an attorney.
10 Stages of a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case
To make things simpler, we have broken down the stages of bankruptcy. These include:
- Analyzing Your Debts – There are some debts (such as taxes, student loans, and child support obligations), that cannot be discharged in Chapter 7. Collateral debts also become a factor with Chapter 7.
- Property Exemption Determinations – There are property exemption laws that will apply to personal property in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. In the state of Washington, things like cemetery grounds, public retirement benefits, insurance proceeds, homes, etc. are exempt. Title 6, Chapter 6.15 addresses all exemptions for the state.
- Determine Eligibility – Your average income over the last six months prior to filing will be considered. If it is more than the median income for a family of similar size in the state of Washington, you will not be able to file Chapter 7 – but that does not mean you are barred from filing for Chapter 13.
- Reaffirm Secured Debts – Property that was pledged as collateral for a loan will need to have something paid to the creditor if you plan to keep that property. When you file for bankruptcy, you can decide which debts you would like to reaffirm. This means that you will renegotiate the terms of the contract with the creditor. If not, you will need to decide which property you wish to surrender.
- Fill Out the Proper Forms – Your attorney will assist you with filling out the forms necessary to file your bankruptcy case. These forms are extensive and will tell the courts about your property, assets, debts, income, and expenses.
- File the Forms – Once they are complete, your attorney will file the forms and your case officially begins. As you can see, you go through a number of stages before your case actually becomes a case. Your attorney will typically file all of the forms at the same time, but if you are working on an emergency basis, they may only file the two-page form that is necessary to start.
- Meeting – You will have a meeting of the creditors when you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This involves a short meeting with the Trustee and a few creditors (if they choose to be present).
- Filing Objections – You may object to a creditor’s claim against you. If you do, these matters are addressed through an official objection.
- Clear Up Secured Debts – When you filed your forms, you listed how you would handle secured debts. Now is the time to clear those up before you can close out the case.
- Receive Your Discharge – At this stage, your debts will be successfully discharged, and you will receive a court order stating such. That means that you no longer are legally obligated to pay the creditor, and the creditor has no legal right to demand payment.
To Start, Contact a Bankruptcy Attorney
To start with the first stage of bankruptcy, you must first meet with a bankruptcy attorney. Contact Hames, Anderson, Whitlow & O’Leary today regarding your case. We offer no-obligation consultations, so schedule your appointment now by calling 509-586-7797 or by filling out our online contact form.