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Written by Canterbury Law Group

How Bankruptcy Can Help With Foreclosure

How Much Does It Cost To File For Bankruptcy

When confronted with foreclosure, many debtors file for bankruptcy—and with reason. By filing for bankruptcy, a debtor can obtain what is known as an automatic stay. During the bankruptcy case, the stay serves as an injunction, or bar, prohibiting creditors from attempting to collect debts or enforce liens.

In some instances, a debtor is not entitled to the automatic stay, or the lender successfully petitions the court to lift the automatic stay. Whether you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy determines whether the foreclosure process is halted temporarily or permanently.

The Process of Foreclosure

When you purchase a home, you agree that if you fall behind on your monthly payments (default on the loan), the lender has the right to sell the property at auction and apply the proceeds to your loan balance. Prior to the house being auctioned, the lender must follow the foreclosure procedures outlined in federal and state law.

After the federal and state waiting periods for homeowners to catch up on arrearages or apply for a loss mitigation program (such as a mortgage modification) have expired, the lender may proceed with foreclosure in accordance with state foreclosure laws.

A lender may foreclose in one of two ways, depending on state law:

Foreclosure through the courts. All states permit lenders to foreclose through a “judicial” process that begins with the bank filing a court lawsuit. The homeowner has the option of responding to and defending the suit. The case will be litigated, and if the bank prevails, the court will order the home sold at auction.

Foreclosure without judicial intervention. Certain states permit lenders to use a streamlined “nonjudicial” foreclosure procedure that entails following state-mandated steps. The bank is frequently required to allow the homeowner time to bring the account current. Additionally, the lender must notify the owner of the sale date and, in some cases, publish the sale date via newspaper advertisement or public posting. Following completion of the steps, the lender may sell the home at auction without first obtaining court approval.

As long as the foreclosure sale has not occurred, filing for bankruptcy will halt either type of foreclosure process.

Can Bankruptcy Help With Foreclosure?

Yes, bankruptcy can help with foreclosure. In fact, it’s one of the most effective ways to stop a foreclosure and save your home.

When you file for bankruptcy, an automatic stay goes into effect immediately. This stay stops all creditors from taking any collection action against you, including foreclosure proceedings. This means that your lender cannot continue with the foreclosure process until the bankruptcy case is resolved.

There are two main types of bankruptcy that homeowners can file for: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy: Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a liquidation bankruptcy, which means that your non-exempt assets will be sold to repay your creditors. However, your home is exempt from liquidation in most states, so you may be able to keep your home even if you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy: Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a reorganization bankruptcy, which means that you will create a repayment plan to pay back your creditors over a period of 3-5 years. If you are able to successfully complete your Chapter 13 repayment plan, you will be able to keep your home and eliminate any remaining debt.

Whether Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy is the best option for you will depend on your individual circumstances. It is important to speak with a bankruptcy attorney to discuss your options and get advice on how to best proceed.

Here are some of the benefits of filing for bankruptcy to stop foreclosure:

  • It can stop the foreclosure process immediately.
  • It can give you time to get on your feet financially and catch up on your mortgage payments.
  • It may allow you to keep your home, even if you are behind on your mortgage payments.
  • It can eliminate other debt, such as credit card debt and medical debt, which can make it easier to afford your mortgage payments.

However, it is important to note that bankruptcy is a serious financial decision and should not be taken lightly. Filing for bankruptcy will have a negative impact on your credit score and can make it difficult to obtain new loans in the future.

When the Automatic Stay Is Inapplicable

The stay is automatically triggered upon filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. There is no additional action required to bring the automatic stay into effect. (For more information, see Bankruptcy’s Automatic Stay.)

There are, however, two exceptions to the automatic stay that prohibit debtors from interfering with a creditor’s right to foreclose by filing and dismissing successive bankruptcy cases. The following are the rules.

Within the last year, one previous bankruptcy case was dismissed. The automatic stay is only in effect for 30 days following your bankruptcy filing.

Two or more previously dismissed bankruptcy cases within the last year. The automatic stay is not invoked at all.

Debtors who qualify for the automatic stay exceptions may petition the bankruptcy court to impose the automatic stay and halt the foreclosure. To prevail, the debtor must establish beyond a reasonable doubt (a relatively high standard) that the previous bankruptcy cases were not filed in bad faith.

The automatic stay exceptions for repeat or serial filers do not apply if you initially filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 but then converted to Chapter 13 after the means test determined that your income was too high to qualify for Chapter 7.

How the Automatic Stay Can Aid in Foreclosure Prevention

The automatic stay extends the time period available to attempt to resolve a pending foreclosure. The options for dealing with an impending foreclosure are largely dependent on whether you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy under Chapter 7

Chapter 7 bankruptcy does not include a mechanism to assist you in catching up on payments and retaining your home. Therefore, if you’re falling behind and wish to remain in your home, this is probably not the chapter for you. However, there are additional advantages.

When you file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7, all of your property becomes part of the bankruptcy estate. The Chapter 7 trustee appointed to your case will liquidate (sell) your assets and make any necessary payments to creditors. The automatic stay allows the trustee to sell property that would have been foreclosed on otherwise if there is a potential benefit to the estate (the property must have sufficient equity).

Depending on your circumstances, the stay may also be beneficial to you:

If the property is your primary residence, the stay may provide you with additional time to secure alternative housing or negotiate a loan modification with the lender.

You may be entitled to a portion of the proceeds if the trustee sells the property for a sufficient price. After resolving any mortgages or other valid liens, the trustee must reimburse you for your homestead exemption before resolving any other creditors. Additionally, you are entitled to excess proceeds if the property sells for a price sufficient to pay off all of your creditors.

Bankruptcy under Chapter 13

The automatic stay in Chapter 13 bankruptcy may provide you with time to catch up on any mortgage arrears and remain in your home. You’ll repay debts (some in full, some in part) over a three- to five-year period—including delinquent mortgage payments.

To make Chapter 13 restructuring effective, you must have sufficient income to cover current mortgage payments and make payments on arrearages that accrued prior to filing bankruptcy. Once the court approves a Chapter 13 repayment plan that includes mortgage arrears, the lender is prohibited from foreclosing. However, if you fall behind on mortgage or arrearage payments following the approval of your plan, the lender will be able to proceed with the foreclosure.

Removal of the Automatic Stay

A lender may file a motion with the bankruptcy court requesting that the automatic stay be lifted (terminated) and the lender be permitted to proceed with foreclosure. You have the right to respond, and if you do, the bankruptcy court will hold a hearing before deciding whether to lift the stay. If the court lifts the stay, the lender may resume foreclosure efforts, unless the bankruptcy court orders otherwise.

Speak With Our Bankruptcy Lawyers In Phoenix & Scottsdale

Canterbury Law Group should be your first choice for any bankruptcy evaluation. Our experienced professionals will work with you to obtain the best possible outcome. You can on the firm to represent you well so you can move on with your life. Call today for an initial consultation. We can assist with all types of bankruptcies including Business BankruptcyChapter 7 BankruptcyCreditor RepresentationChapter 5 ClaimsChapter 13 Bankruptcy, Business RestructuringChapter 11 Bankruptcy, and more.

*This information is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your personal legal needs.

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Written by Canterbury Law Group

Understanding Bankruptcy Reorganization Plans

Creditor Objection to Chapter 13 Plan

Discover the four chapters that enable debt restructuring for bankruptcy filers.

There are two bankruptcy systems available to assist people and businesses with astronomical debt. The first option, Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy, is for people who lack the resources to pay their debts. The second system offers a way for people and companies with some disposable income—but not enough—to manageably restructure their debt. In essence, a reorganization plan is the budget that a debtor who files for bankruptcy (debtor) proposes to use to pay creditors.

The Four Reorganization Bankruptcy Chapters Depending on the specific situation, debtors may elect to reorganize under Chapter 9, 11, 12, or 13. According to filing frequency, a summary of each is displayed.

Individuals and Couples in Chapter 13

This chapter permits individuals who are single or married to contribute their discretionary income—the sum left over after covering living expenses—to a plan for a period of three to five years, but not businesses other than sole proprietorships.

Your plan will last 60 months if your family’s income is higher than the median income for your state. When income is below the median, 36 payments are necessary; however, if necessary, you can propose a plan that spreads out the required payments over 60 months. (Click on Means Testing Information on the U.S. Trustee website to view the median income for your state.)

What Happens to Debts During the Plan Period?

Some debts are given a higher priority under bankruptcy law, and the debtor is required to pay them in full over the course of a three- to five-year plan. These are some examples of priority claims:

Recent income tax debts, past-due alimony and child support obligations, as well as overdue payments on secured debts like house notes (you don’t have to pay off the entire mortgage within the plan, but you must make progress toward it).

The majority of your other debts, including credit cards and medical expenses, will be classified as general unsecured debts and won’t necessarily receive any payment. Only if you have extra cash after paying all of your higher priority claims will they receive something. Even then, the unpaid claims may only receive pennies on the dollar. At the conclusion of the case, the outstanding debt is discharged.

Making a Secured Debt More Affordable Through the Plan

The ability of a Chapter 13 plan to cram down (reduce) a secured debt that isn’t a mortgage on your home or a recently bought car is another intriguing feature. You can propose to pay just the asset’s value plus interest that is one or two points above prime if the collateral (the asset used to secure the debt) is worth less than what you owe. This can help you save thousands of dollars if you have high-interest loans that are in default.

Regrettably, not all secured loans are crammed down. It is not available for home mortgages or auto loans that are less than 2.5 years old at the time your case is filed. Additionally, for high-value property like vacation rentals, you must be able to pay off the entire cram down sum over the course of the plan, which is something many people are unable to do.

Although you cannot cram down your home mortgage, you may be able to remove a junior mortgage through a Chapter 13 plan if the value of your property has fallen too low to pay off your primary mortgage. (This was frequently used during the housing crisis; however, due to rising property values, its availability is constrained.)

Chapter 11: Organizations and People

The best-known benefit of Chapter 11 bankruptcy is that it helps keep big businesses from going out of business. Due to the costs associated with filing a Chapter 11 case, small businesses use it less frequently, and occasionally, individuals whose debt balances exceed the Chapter 13 debt limitations will do so.

In many Chapter 11 cases, creditors actively collaborate with the debtor to assess the debtor’s financial situation and choose the most effective strategy for paying off the debt. Renegotiating loan terms is just one aspect of this collaboration, though it is a significant part of the overall strategy.

The parties carefully examine a number of aspects of the business during the initial months of a Chapter 11 case. Choosing to carry out one or more of the following actions is possible:

Change the leadership, sell off underperforming assets, or restructure the business to be more productive.
The debtor then suggests a strategy for repaying its obligations. Not only must the bankruptcy court approve a Chapter 11 plan, but also the creditors who are owed the most money. A creditor (or the trustee, if one has been appointed) may offer a plan that will be put to a vote by the creditor body in the absence of a confirmable plan from the debtor. Once a plan is approved, the debtor can take years to implement its provisions.

Operation of Farms and Fishing in Chapter 12

You’ll probably decide to file for Chapter 12 bankruptcy if farming or fishing is your main business. While Chapter 12 bankruptcy offers more flexibility due to its recognition of the seasonal nature of the farming and fishing industries, Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases follow a similar procedural framework.

A plan lasting between three and five years must be proposed by the Chapter 12 debtor within 90 days of filing the case. The Chapter 12 plan may permit one-time payments during certain seasons as opposed to the monthly payments mandated by Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Almost any secured debt, including mortgages on homes and farmland, may be crammed down under the plan, and the modified secured debt payments may go beyond the five-year plan limit.

Chapter 9: Local Government

Municipalities and other governmental entities like utilities and taxing districts are the only ones permitted to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 9. Chapter 9 bankruptcy plans and the procedure for approving them are comparable to Chapter 11 plans. In a Chapter 9 case, creditors cannot make a plan proposal; however, both taxpayers and creditors may object to a plan.

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Bankruptcy Exemptions:

How Do Bankruptcy Exemptions Work

Exemptions from bankruptcy play an important role in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Exemptions are used in Chapter 7 bankruptcy to determine how much of your property you get to keep. Exemptions in Chapter 13 bankruptcy help you keep your plan payments modest. Learn more about bankruptcy exemptions and how they work by reading on.

What Are the Different Types of Bankruptcy Exemptions?

Exemptions allow you to keep a specific amount of assets, such as a cheap car, professional tools, clothing, and a retirement account, safe in bankruptcy. You don’t have to worry about the bankruptcy trustee appointed to your case taking an asset and selling it for the benefit of your creditors if you can exclude it.

Many exclusions cover specific property kinds up to a certain dollar value, such as a car or furnishings. An exemption can sometimes protect the asset’s total worth. Some exemptions, known as “wildcard exemptions,” can be used on any of your properties.

Is it okay if I keep my baseball cards? Jewelry? Pets?

The goal of bankruptcy is to give you a fresh start, not to take away all of your possessions. You’ll probably be able to protect other items as well, such as religious literature, a seat in a building of worship, or a burial plot, in addition to the fundamentals. Chickens and feed are even exempt in some states. However, you should not make the mistake of assuming that everything will be well.

  • Items of high value. There are no exemptions for boats, collections, pricey artwork, or holiday homes. Instead of filing for bankruptcy, owners with such valuable assets often sell the property and pay off their debts.
  • Jewelry. Many states provide protection for wedding rings up to a certain value. Don’t expect to preserve your Rolex, diamond necklace, or antique broach collection, though.
  • Pets. The dog or cat you rescued from the shelter is unlikely to fall into the trustee’s hands. Why? It’s not that you’ll have a specific exemption to protect it; rather, the trustee would have to pay more to sell it than it’s worth in most circumstances. However, if you own a valuable show dog or a racehorse with high breeding costs, you may be forced to sell it or pay for it in bankruptcy.

Exemptions: What Are They and How Do They Work?

Whether you’re filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, exemptions play a significant role.

Bankruptcy under Chapter 7

A liquidation bankruptcy is one in which the appointed trustee sells your nonexempt assets to satisfy your creditors. Because the bankruptcy trustee cannot sell exempt property, exemptions assist you protect your assets in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If your state offers a $5,000 motor vehicle exemption and you only own one automobile worth $4,000, for example, you can keep it. See Exemptions in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy for more details.

Bankruptcy under Chapter 13

You can keep all of your property and rearrange your debts with a Chapter 13 bankruptcy (which can mean paying less on some of them). The amount you must pay specific creditors, however, is still determined by how much property you can exclude. Unsecured creditors who are not priority (such as credit card companies) must be paid an amount equal to your nonexempt assets. Exemptions assist keep your Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan payments modest by lowering the amount you must pay creditors. See Exemptions in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy for more details.

Bankruptcy Exemptions at the State and Federal Level

There are bankruptcy exemptions in each state. A series of exemptions is also provided by federal law. (See The Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions for further information.) Some states force you to use their exemptions, while others allow you to choose between their exemptions and the federal system (you cannot mix and match the two).

The state exemption rules you’ll be able to use will be determined by where you lived in the previous two years (called the “domicile requirements.”). Read Which Exemptions Can You Use In Bankruptcy? for more information on the distinctions between state and federal exemptions and domicile requirements.

Nonbankruptcy Exemptions in the United States

In addition to state and federal bankruptcy exemptions, there are a number of federal nonbankruptcy exemptions. These exemptions work in a similar way to bankruptcy exemptions in terms of preserving your assets. Nonbankruptcy exemptions from the federal government are only available if you use your state’s exemptions (you cannot combine the federal bankruptcy and nonbankruptcy exemptions). You can use nonbankruptcy exemptions in addition to state exemptions if you are using state exemptions. See The Federal Nonbankruptcy Exemptions for further details.

If You File for Bankruptcy, What Can You Keep?

The purpose of bankruptcy isn’t to strip you of all of your belongings—it’s to give you a fresh start. Most people can keep the basic items needed to work and live.

However, if you’re considering filing for bankruptcy, you might be wondering, “Can I keep my baseball cards? Jewelry? Pets? The simple answer is that it depends.

You’ll likely be able to protect other things, like religious texts, a seat in a house of worship, or a burial plot. Some states even exempt chickens and feed. But you shouldn’t assume that everything will be safe.

  • Luxury items. Exemptions for yachts, collections, expensive artwork, and vacation homes don’t exist. Owners of such valuable assets often sell the property and pay off debt instead of filing for bankruptcy.
  • Jewelry. Many states protect wedding rings up to a particular dollar amount. However, don’t count on keeping a Rolex, diamond necklace, or antique broach collection.
  • Pets. The dog or cat you rescued from the shelter is probably safe from the trustee’s clutches. Why? It’s not that you’ll have a specific exemption to protect it, but rather that in most cases, it would cost more for the trustee to sell it than what it would be worth. If, however, you own an expensive show dog or a racehorse that fetches sizeable breeding fees, you might have to turn it over—or pay for it—in bankruptcy.

Find out what you can protect by reviewing your state’s exemptions.

How Do Bankruptcy Exemptions Work?

Exemptions always protect the same amount of property regardless of the chapter filed. However, what happens to “nonexempt” property you can’t protect with a bankruptcy exemption will depend on whether you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Exempt Assets

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a liquidation bankruptcy where the appointed trustee sells your nonexempt assets to pay your creditors. Exemptions help you protect your assets in Chapter 7 bankruptcy because the bankruptcy trustee can’t sell exempt property.

For example, suppose your state has a $5,000 motor vehicle exemption, and you have one car worth $4,000. In that case, the exemption will cover all of the car’s equity, and you can keep it. For more information about keeping a car in Chapter 7 and other property, see Exemptions in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy and Exempt Assets

A Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to keep all your property while paying some or all of your debt in a three- to five-year Chapter 13 repayment plan. But this benefit comes at a cost. You’ll have to pay nonexempt creditors for the property you can’t protect with an exemption.

Nonpriority unsecured creditors, such as credit card issuers, must receive at least as much as the value of the property you can’t exempt. So in Chapter 13 bankruptcy, being able to exempt all or most of your property helps keep your monthly plan payment low.

Learn more about exemptions in Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

State and Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions

Each state has a set of bankruptcy exemptions, and federal law provides a federal bankruptcy exemption set, too. Some states require you to use the state exemptions, while others allow you to choose the state or the federal bankruptcy exemption set. But you must choose one or the other–you can’t mix and match exemptions from two sets.

The state’s exemption laws you’ll qualify to use will depend on where you lived during the last two years, called the “domicile requirements.” For more information about the differences between state and federal exemptions and domicile requirements, read Which Exemptions Can You Use In Bankruptcy?

Federal Nonbankruptcy Exemptions

A second set of federal exemptions called “federal nonbankruptcy exemptions” can be used along with your state’s exemptions. For more information, see The Federal Nonbankruptcy Exemptions.

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Written by Canterbury Law Group

Medical Bankruptcies

What Happens to Liens in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

Medical debt can be discharged in bankruptcy, but you should first look into nonbankruptcy options.

If you have decent credit and are having difficulties paying a significant medical bill, you might want to look into alternative possibilities before declaring bankruptcy.

It is true that declaring bankruptcy would probably result in a decline in your credit, albeit it might not last as long as you believe. However, you can be in an even worse situation if you can’t pay the medical expense and don’t declare bankruptcy.

Here is what to anticipate.

You’ll initially start getting reminders of late payments. The medical provider could eventually sue you and win a financial judgment. Then you might not be able to undo some of the effects of bankruptcy, such as wage garnishment, a bank levy, or the placement of a lien against your property.

Options Other Than Bankruptcy for Medical Debt

If you have strong credit, you might be able to use one of these methods to pay off your hefty medical cost.

Talk a Deal With the Health Care Provider

To begin with, confirm that all insurance payment difficulties have been resolved. Consider settling with the creditor after you have obtained all applicable insurance coverage. The medical provider may deduct a portion of the fee if it was for uninsured medical expenses. Many hospitals and other healthcare organizations often waive or reduce bills for patients without insurance.

Inquire Regarding Assistance Programs

Depending on your economic level, most hospitals have assistance programs that, if you qualify, will give you free or reduced hospital care. For instance, the Hospital Care Assurance Program (HCAP) will pay costs for procedures that are deemed medically necessary in several jurisdictions. Additionally, federally tax-exempt non-profit hospitals may have to be lenient with you and other patients who are in financial need when it comes to medical billing. This may be relevant to you. To learn more and apply for the necessary coverage, get in touch with the financial aid counselor at your hospital.

See Managing High Medical Debts for further information on these and other choices.

Bankruptcy for Medical Debt

Your good credit may suffer since a collection action will appear on your credit report if you are unable to pay the debt and it appears that the creditor may pursue you for payment. Additionally, if the provider sues you and wins, it may garnish your pay or pursue other forms of recoupment.

In addition to erasing your debt, filing for bankruptcy will put you back on the path to financial recovery as quickly as possible.

Medical debt and Chapter 7

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy may be the best option for you if you have low income and assets with little to no equity. You are not need to have a certain amount of debt. On a single, sizable debt, you may apply for Chapter 7. Medical debt will be eliminated in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, along with the majority of other unsecured debt (debt that isn’t secured by security).

Healthcare Debt and Chapter 13

You can file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy if you don’t meet the requirements for Chapter 7 bankruptcy or if you own assets that you might lose in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You will pay back the percentage of the medical debt you can afford through your repayment plan in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. At the conclusion of the case, the court will discharge (wipe out) the remainder.

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Written by Canterbury Law Group

The Differences Between a Charge Off and Repossession in Bankruptcy

What Happens to Liens in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

Learn the difference between a charge off and a repossession and how they’re handled in bankruptcy cases.

A charge off and a repossession are two very different things—although both could happen to one debt. In this article, you’ll learn what each term means, as well as how the bankruptcy court handles these events in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

What Is a Charge Off?

“Charge off” is an accounting term that simply means that the account has been removed from the company’s books because no payments have been made in 120 to 180 days (depending on the type of account.)

Most people come across the term “charge off” after reviewing a credit report. Because a charge off is associated with an unpaid debt, many assume that charged off means that the debt is no longer collectible and that you no longer owe the money. That’s not the case.

A notation of a charge off indicates that the lender is no longer showing the account as a bad debt on the bottom line. That usually doesn’t stop the lender’s collection efforts. The lender can continue trying to collect the debt. Often the lender will transfer or sell the debt to a collection agency. In turn, the collection agency either collects the debt for the lender or, if the collection agency purchased the debt, collects it for its own benefit. Either way, a charge off is merely an accounting term, and you still owe the debt.

The Federal Reserve requires a lender to charge off a credit card debt when it is 180 days late. A car loan or installment loan must be charged off when it is 120 days late.

Can a Charged Off Loan be Reinstated?

Once a loan is charged off, don’t count on the loan showing up on the company’s books again. Even if you offer to pay it, chances are it’s been transferred or sold and the original company no longer has an interest in it. If you pay the debt, the company that purchased the account should show that you paid it off, but unfortunately, the original lender can continue reporting the charge off for seven years.

How are Charge Offs Treated In Bankruptcy?

When you file for bankruptcy, you agree to disclose your entire financial situation in exchange for the benefits provided by the chapter that you file. (Find out which bankruptcy will be better for you in What Is the Difference Between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?)

You must list all debts when you fill out your bankruptcy paperwork—including charged off accounts. If you don’t list them, you risk the debts not being discharged (wiped out). All kinds of debt can be charged off, including car loans and other debt secured by collateral, and unsecured debt, like a credit card balance, medical bill, or personal loan. If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can expect the court to discharge the charged-off debt within three to four months (the average time it takes for a Chapter 7 case to end). In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you’ll pay any discretionary income—the amount remaining after paying allowed monthly expenses—to your unsecured creditors over the course of your Chapter 13 bankruptcy payment plan. All eligible unsecured debts get discharged when you complete your plan.

If the charge off is a secured debt—such as a car loan or mortgage—then you’ve likely already lost the collateral (the house or the car) through repossession (see below) or foreclosure. In that case, you’ll list the account as an unsecured debt in your bankruptcy paperwork.

If a debt has been charged off but you still have the collateral, and you’d like to keep it, you should speak with a bankruptcy attorney as soon as possible.

What Is a Repossession?

A repossession occurs when a creditor takes possession of the collateral—usually a car—that you put up when taking out a loan. Here’s how it works.

Before a lender agrees to lend you money for a car purchase, you must agree to guarantee payment of the loan with the vehicle. The contract creates a lien in favor of the lender. The lien allows the lender to take the car, sell it, and apply the sales proceeds to the loan if you default on your payment. If the auction price isn’t enough to pay off the loan, you’ll still owe the remainder called a “deficiency balance.” (The lender releases the lien on the car after you pay the loan balance.)

Can a Loan on a Repossessed Car be Reinstated?

If you lose the car to repossession, most state laws will give you some time to get the car back. The process is called “reinstating the loan.” Reinstatement requires you to pay any past-due amount, as well as the lender’s costs for the repossession.

Repossessions can occur with property other than cars as well. Furniture, jewelry, and other personal property pledged to secure a loan can be repossessed, as long as the lender follows the state laws.

Can a Car Loan be Charged Off Without a Repossession?

It’s possible to charge off a loan without having the dealer repossess the car. As stated earlier, car loans are supposed to be charged off if no payment has been made for 120 days. But, unsecured debt, like credit cards or medical accounts, can stay on the books until they’re 180 days old. Usually, a lender will repossess the collateral and sell it, long before 120 days pass. Almost always, the proceeds of the sale won’t be enough to cover what’s owed on the loan, and most lenders will need to charge off the remaining balance.

No law requires the lender to repossess the collateral before charging off the loan. The lender could choose to do it the other way around or could choose not to repossess the car at all. The lender might be forced to forgo repossession if the car can’t be located or if the car’s value is less than it would cost to sell at auction (for instance, if the car was totaled in an accident). The lack of a repossession doesn’t alter the need to charge off the loan or prevent the lender from selling the charged off loan to a debt buyer.

How are Repossessions Treated In Bankruptcy?

If your car is repossessed before the bankruptcy is filed, you might be able to reinstate the loan and regain possession of the car, but you have to work quickly. You’ll have to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case and propose a three to five-year repayment plan.

In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it’s possible to reinstate a loan by including it in your repayment plan. In fact, this is one of the key benefits of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case. Not only will it stop a repossession (or a foreclosure) in its tracks, but you can spread out your payment arrearages over the repayment plan rather than paying the entire overdue amount right away. You’ll have to continue paying your monthly payments, too, but by the end of the payment plan, you’ll own the car free and clear. If you don’t want to keep the car, the balance owed will get discharged (wiped out) with other qualifying debt at the end of your plan.

Filing a Chapter 7 case instead will not help you get your car back, because Chapter 7 has no mechanism for getting you caught up or reinstating the loan.

Which is Worse: Charge Off or Repossession?

If you default on your car loan, you could suffer a charge off, a repossession, or both. It’s hard to know whether the charge off or the repossession looks worse on your credit report. Credit scores are based on all the information in your credit report, good and bad, and the credit reporting agencies and companies that produce credit scores like the FICO score keep their scoring models a secret. Someone having trouble with one account like a car loan often has difficulty keeping other accounts in line. Your credit score can take a hit from late car payments, repossessions, past due credit card payments, judgments, tax liens, and other negative or derogatory entries.

Experience tells us that both a repossession and a charge off of the car loan can cause a significant hit, maybe as much as 100 points. Not only will both a repossession and a charge off have a profound effect on your score in the short run, but they will also continue to influence your credit score and the credit decisions of potential lenders for seven years (although the derogatory information has less effect on your credit score the older it gets.)

Source

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/the-differences-between-a-charge-off-and-repossession-in-bankruptcy.html

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Written by Canterbury Law Group

Difference Between Dischargeable and Nondischargeable Debts in Bankruptcy

What Happens to Liens in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

Most people seek bankruptcy relief to wipe out their debts and get a fresh start. While you can eliminate many debts in bankruptcy, certain obligations (called nondischargeable debts) survive your bankruptcy discharge. Read on to learn more about the difference between dischargeable and nondischargeable debts and how they are treated in bankruptcy.

What Are Dischargeable Debts?

Dischargeable debts are obligations that can be wiped out by your bankruptcy discharge. When you receive your discharge, you are no longer obligated to pay any of these debts and creditors cannot come after you to collect them.

A few examples of dischargeable debt include:

  • credit card debt
  • medical bills
  • personal loans made by friends, family, and others, and
  • past-due utility bills.

Timing and Debt Dischargeability

If a bill comes due after you file for bankruptcy, you might find yourself wondering whether the balance will go away. It’s common to be confused about whether ongoing accounts, such as utility bills, get completely wiped out at the end of the case, or whether the bankruptcy discharge is limited to the portion owed before the filing date.

Post-petition debts—the new bills that you incur after you file your initial bankruptcy paperwork—don’t qualify for discharge. You’ll remain responsible for paying for them. The only type of debt eligible for discharge is “pre-petition debt,” or, debt that existed before you filed your matter.

Example. Suppose that you file a Chapter 7 case. In your bankruptcy schedules, you list your overdue water, sewer, and garbage bill. The Chapter 7 discharge will wipe out any portion of the utility bill account balance that predated your filing. However, you’ll be required to pay any charges that accrued after your filing date.

The same holds true in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. All pre-petition debts get included in the Chapter 13 plan (the three- to five-year payment plan that you must complete before receiving a discharge). All of your post-petition debts, such as a monthly cell phone bill or a new gym membership, remain your responsibility to pay.

Be aware, however, that when you’re in a Chapter 13 case, unexpected obligations can come up. Not only is this understood, but the court might be willing to adjust your plan payments to accommodate you. To learn about your options, read Post-Petition Debts in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

How Are Dischargeable Debts Treated in Bankruptcy?

In most cases, you can eliminate dischargeable debts in bankruptcy without any repayment. However, whether your creditors will receive anything in your bankruptcy will depend on whether you are filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Dischargeable Debts in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Most Chapter 7 bankruptcies are no asset cases—there’s nothing for the trustee to sell to pay creditors with. As a result, dischargeable debts are typically wiped out without receiving anything in Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Further, if there are any proceeds to distribute, general unsecured debts (such as credit card obligations) are the last to get paid and receive a pro-rata share of any money left over after all priority debts (such as alimony, child support, and some taxes) get paid.

However, keep in mind that your discharge only eliminates your liability for these debts. It does not affect liens on your property (such as a mortgage or car lien). As a result, if you stop paying your mortgage or car loan, your lender can still foreclose on or repossess your property even if it cannot sue you personally to collect the debt.

Dischargeable Debts in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, most dischargeable debts are considered nonpriority general unsecured claims. Depending on your income, assets, and expenses, they typically receive little or nothing through your Chapter 13 repayment plan. And they are discharged upon completion of your plan payments.

However, if a dischargeable debt is secured (such as your car loan), you have two choices. If you want to keep the car, you must continue making payments on it during your Chapter 13 bankruptcy (if you meet certain conditions, you might be able to reduce your principal balance through a Chapter 13 cramdown). Alternatively, you can surrender the car, and discharge your liability for the car loan.

Source: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/what-is-the-difference-between-dischargeable-nondischargeable-debts-bankruptcy.html

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Written by Canterbury Law Group

What Happens to Liens and Secured Debts in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

What Happens to Liens in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

In bankruptcy, your personal obligation to pay a secured debt may be discharged, but the lien remains in place.

A creditor’s lien typically endures Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If the debtor doesn’t make the agreed-upon payments while the lien is active, the creditor may seize the property once the bankruptcy process is over.

How Do Liens Work?

Nobody hates to lose money, not even lenders, and when a loan is required to make a large purchase like a house or car, the danger of loss is greater still. By forcing the borrower to acknowledge that the creditor may seize the collateralized property if the debt is not paid as agreed, lenders reduce this risk. This contract grants the creditor a “lien,” or ownership stake in the property.

When a lender recovers property, they often auction it off and apply the money to the outstanding loan sum. In most situations, the borrower will still be liable for the remaining sum, or “deficiency balance,” if the auction price is less than what is owing.

Remember that in some states, shortfall balances on particular transactions are not permitted. A deficit balance will also be eliminated in Chapter 7 bankruptcy; see more below.

“Secured Debt” is created via Liens in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

You must classify your debts as either secured or unsecured if you have already begun putting together your bankruptcy petition. A loan with a charge against it? It is locked. No liens? It’s unprotected.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: Voluntary and Involuntary Liens

If the lien is voluntary, it was put on your property with your consent; if it is involuntary, it was done so against your will. Why is this important? because you might be unaware that a creditor has a secured debt against you and that you have a lien on your property.

Liberties Liens

In the course of a mortgage or vehicle note transaction, it’s typical to consent to granting a lien to a creditor. You are probably aware that the creditor’s lien could cause you to lose your home to foreclosure or your car to repossession because you agreed to those terms when you financed the property.

But when buying items like jewelry, furniture, electronics, beds, equipment, and computers on credit, many people are unaware that they are agreeing to a lien. Check your agreement or invoice.

Statutory Liens Without Consent

It’s common to have liens placed against your property without being aware of them because certain creditors have the legal authority to do so without your knowledge.

For instance, if you don’t pay your tax due, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may place a lien on your property. If you don’t pay your dues, your homeowners’ association may place a lien on your home. Or, if you don’t pay for repairs, a contractor could put a lien on your house.

Liens for Involuntary Judgments

By filing a lawsuit against the borrower and utilizing the money judgment to put a lien on your property, some creditors can convert an unsecured debt into a secured debt.

Medical bills, credit card balances, and other unsecured debt are all considered judicial liens.
After an unsecured creditor obtains a judicial lien and transforms into a secured creditor, many people apply for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

By filing a lawsuit against a borrower, succeeding, and obtaining a “money judgment” against the borrower for the amount owing plus fees and costs, a creditor can establish a “judicial” or “judgment” lien. A money judgment holder may register it against the borrower’s real estate.

Any property owned by the borrower that is not real estate is considered personal property, and in some states, the money judgment immediately grants the creditor a lien on that property.

How to Obtain a Money Judgment as an Unsecured Creditor

The procedure begins when the debtor is unable to make a payment on an unsecured obligation, like an outstanding credit card amount or overdue rent. You do not provide the creditor with collateral to secure these debts, thus the creditor cannot compel payment absent a judicial ruling.

A creditor will initiate a civil lawsuit if they feel that the debt is significant enough to warrant the expense of legal action. The court will issue a “default” money judgment and the creditor will be declared the winner if the borrower doesn’t reply.

If the borrower loses after submitting an answer to the complaint in the litigation, the court will also issue a money judgment. read about litigation that bankruptcy averted.

How a Money Judgment Becomes a Lien in the Mind of the Creditor

After receiving a monetary judgment, a creditor is deemed a “judgment creditor” and is required to “perfect” or establish an enforceable lien. Perfecting the lien often happens after the money judgment has been recorded at the recorder’s office or after adhering to other state legal requirements.

Advantages of a Perfected Lien

Once perfected, the lien will be paid out of the sale proceeds if the borrower sells real estate within the recorder’s authority (often the county). Before distributing money to the house seller, the title firm managing the transaction examines whether any recorded liens exist and pays them.

Personal property may also be encumbered by judicial liens. However, the majority of people have exemptions that allow them to defend their vehicles and home goods, therefore these targets are rarely used. Most states allow persons to use the same exemptions that are available in bankruptcy to safeguard property from creditors.

Use of Money Judgments by Creditors in Other Ways

A money judgment can be used by a judgment creditor for purposes other than creating liens. Most take use of money judgements to take money from the borrower’s bank account (bank levy) or take money out of their paycheck (wage garnishment).

How Are Liens Affected by Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

This topic can be challenging to understand, but it can be summed up as follows:

Your need to pay a secured debt, such as a mortgage or car payment, will probably be eliminated if you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
If you don’t pay what you owe, the creditor can still seize the collateral (the house, car, or other property) because Chapter 7 bankruptcy won’t remove a voluntary lien.
When a judgment lien prohibits you from benefiting from an exemption, you can seek the court to set it aside. For instance, you may seek the court to remove the lien on up to $15,000 of your property equity if an exemption allowed you to keep the remaining $15,000 of equity.

Why Liens Are Not Automatically Eliminated by Chapter 7

After Chapter 7, a creditor cannot pursue you for a debt that has been discharged by your bankruptcy since filing for bankruptcy releases you from the obligation to pay. When a lien is in place and you don’t make the agreed-upon payments, Chapter 7 does not affect your obligation to return the property.

Therefore, even if the creditor cannot physically force you to pay your debt, if you refuse to do so voluntarily, the creditor may seize your property. This outcome results from the fact that a secured transaction includes two main components:

Your duty to reimburse the creditor. You are liable for paying the total debt. In the event that the debt is eligible for the bankruptcy discharge, filing for bankruptcy will discharge your personal duty for it. This implies that the creditor is prevented from subsequently filing a lawsuit against you to recover the debt and from using the judicial lien (discussed above) to garnish your earnings or deduct funds from your bank account.

The ability of the creditor to reclaim the collateral through the lien. Your creditor has the right to use the proceeds from the sale of the collateral used to secure the loan to offset any amounts you owe. If you don’t pay the loan, the lien enables the creditor to seize the property and force its sale. The lender has the right to sue you for the value of the collateral if it isn’t available. Even if you transfer ownership of the property to another party, a lien remains on it. A lien is not removed by bankruptcy on its own.
Example. Mary purchases a couch from a furniture retailer using credit. She agrees to pay for the couch over the following year by signing a contract. According to the contract, the couch has a security interest in favor of the creditor (the store), who has the right to reclaim it if any payment is more than 15 days overdue. In a secured debt of this kind, the lien is the store’s right to take back the couch, and Mary’s responsibility to pay the loan is her personal liability. She is no longer obligated to pay for the couch after filing for bankruptcy, but the creditor still has a lien on it and has the right to take it back if she doesn’t.

You might be able to take extra actions during bankruptcy to get rid of or at least lessen liens on collateral for security interests. See Avoiding Liens in Bankruptcy for further information.

Lenders Must Make Their Liens Perfect

A security interest agreement only counts as a secured debt for bankruptcy purposes if the creditor reports the lien with the proper municipal or state records office to “perfect” the lien. In order to establish a lien on real estate, for instance, the mortgage holder (the bank or another lender) normally needs to record the lien with the county’s recorder’s office.

The holder of a security interest must typically record it with the state or municipal agency that handles UCC recordings (also known as “UCC recordings”) in order to perfect a security interest in a vehicle or commercial asset. Typically, this is the secretary of state.

Why File for Bankruptcy Under Chapter 7?

Why then may declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy be preferable than allowing the property or automobile to go through a foreclosure or repossession? It eliminates your need to repay the full loan, including any outstanding shortfall sum, is the solution.

Due to the fact that forgiven debt is treated as income, it may also occasionally preclude the assessment of a tax liability. For instance, if you permit the foreclosure of your home and the lender forgives the unpaid sum, you can be hit with a big tax payment at the end of the year.

In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, secured debts are handled differently than other debt types.

The majority of people have a loan that is backed by real estate, like a mortgage or a car loan. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, these obligations, often known as secured debts, can be challenging. Even while the secured debt itself can be eliminated (discharged) and frequently is, the creditor will still retain the power to repossess the property if you fall behind on your payments (default).Your options in Chapter 7 bankruptcy will depend on whether you’re current on your loan payments and whether you wish to maintain any collateral for the loan, such as a house or a car.

A Secured Debt: What Is It?

Almost always, if you’re making payments on a piece of property, you’ve agreed that the asset will be used as security for the debt’s repayment. If you stop making payments, the creditor (or lender) may seize the home, sell it, and file a lawsuit against you (a deficiency judgment) to recover the difference between what you owe and what the home sells for at the auction (however, some states have laws against deficiency judgments).

A secured loan includes two components:

Personal responsibility Just like with any other obligation, you are personally liable for secured debt. You have a duty to make the required payment to the creditor. If this personal liability falls among the categories of debt that bankruptcy allows for discharge, Chapter 7 bankruptcy eliminates it. The creditor cannot file a lawsuit against you to recoup the debt once your personal liability has ended.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy options

If you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can do the following with property used to secure debts:

Let the bank receive the property back. By giving up the property and paying off the underlying loan, you can go with no further obligation. All filers have access to this choice.
Keep the house and keep paying the mortgage. As long as your payments are up to date and you have an exemption in place to safeguard your equity, you may continue to be bound by the terms of your contract. The debt is reaffirmed throughout this procedure.
Pay the property’s fair market value. If you can safeguard your equity with an exemption and the property satisfies other restrictions (for example, you cannot redeem real estate), you may keep the property by redeeming it (paying what it is worth in one lump sum payment).

Can You Exempt (Keep) The Equity In Your Property?

When you declare bankruptcy, you can protect some assets, but there are restrictions. The exemptions that your state permits will also determine whether you are eligible to maintain a certain asset. The bankruptcy trustee appointed to your case will sell the asset for the benefit of your creditors if you are unable to preserve all of the equity.

Example. Consider the scenario where you owe $3,000 on a car that is worth $6,000 and have $3,000 in equity, and your state’s vehicle exemption will allow you to save $1,000. Most likely, you wouldn’t be permitted to keep the vehicle. Instead, the trustee would sell it, give you your $1,000 exemption in cash, pay your secured creditor the remaining $3,000 you still owe on it, and then divide the remaining $2,000 (minus the costs of selling and the trustee’s compensation) among creditors.

Even still, borrowers of secured loans frequently owe more than the asset used to secure the loan is worth, which implies that they have no equity in the asset. The trustee won’t be able to sell the property if you don’t own any equity in it or if it is entirely protected by an exemption. By redeeming the item or reaffirming the debt, you might keep the asset.

What Is a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Reaffirmation?

When you reaffirm a debt, you agree that you will still owe it after your bankruptcy case ends. Both the creditor’s lien on the collateral (which gives the creditor the right to take the property if you fail to pay as agreed) and your liability to pay the debt will survive bankruptcy intact.

 

In most cases, it will be as if you never filed for bankruptcy for that debt.

 

Advantages to Reaffirmation in Chapter 7

Reaffirmation provides a sure way to keep collateral as long as you abide by the terms of the reaffirmation agreement and keep up your payments. If you stay current on the payment, the lender won’t be able to take back the property.

 

Reaffirmation also provides an opportunity to negotiate new terms to reduce your payments, your interest rate, or the total amount you will have to pay over time. However, the lender doesn’t have to agree to new terms and most reaffirmation agreements are on the original contract terms.

How Reaffirmation Affects Your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Because reaffirmation leaves you personally liable for the debt, you can’t walk away from the debt after bankruptcy. You’ll still be legally bound to pay the deficiency balance even if the property is damaged or destroyed. And because you have to wait eight years before filing another Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, you’ll be stuck with that debt for a long time.

For instance, if you reaffirm your car note and then default on your payments after bankruptcy, the creditor can (and probably will) repossess the car, auction it off, and bill you for the difference between what you owe and what the trustee received at auction.

Example 1. Suppose you owe $25,000 on your car before filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You most likely will continue to owe $25,000 on your car after you file for bankruptcy (unless you negotiate a lower amount in your reaffirmation agreement). If you can’t keep up your payments and the car is repossessed, you’ll owe the difference between the $25,000 reaffirmation amount and the amount the lender sells the car for at auction, or “deficiency balance,” which will be considerably less than you owe, in most cases). Nearly all states permit a creditor to sue for a deficiency balance. However, about half of the states don’t allow deficiency balances on repossessed personal property if the original purchase price was less than a few thousand dollars.

Example 2. Tasha owes $1,500 on a computer worth $900 and reaffirms the debt for the full $1,500. Two months after bankruptcy, she spills a soft drink ruining the computer. Because she reaffirmed the obligation, she still must pay the creditor the remaining balance.

Restrictions on Reaffirmation

The first step is ensuring the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee won’t sell your property. If you can’t protect all of the equity with a bankruptcy exemption, the trustee will sell it, pay the lender, give you the exemption amount, and use the remaining proceeds to pay unsecured creditors.

However, if you can protect all of the property equity, you can use a reaffirmation agreement and continue paying on “secured” property that’s encumbered by a lien. You and the creditor must agree to any change in terms.

Also, you or the lender must file the agreement in court as part of the bankruptcy case. The bankruptcy court must review the agreement in a reaffirmation hearing if an attorney does not represent you. If you have a lawyer, the lawyer must sign the agreement and attest that you can afford the payment and that it won’t cause undue financial hardship.

At the hearing, the judge will consider how the reaffirmation might affect your post-bankruptcy budget and whether you can afford the payments. The judge can reject the agreement if it isn’t in your best interest or would create an undue hardship for you or your family.

Reaffirmation agreement rejections occur when it appears that you can’t afford the payments after paying your basic living expenses or if you owe much more on the debt than the property is worth. The bankruptcy judge will make this determination after reviewing the income and expense forms filed with the bankruptcy petition in your case.

When to Enter Into a Reaffirmation Agreement

Sometimes a lender will let you keep a car or other property without filing a reaffirmation agreement as long as you continue making your payment. This is a good way to go because if the lender repossesses the property because you can’t make your payments, or you let the car go back to the lender after an accident, you won’t be responsible for paying anything further.

That won’t be the case if you enter into a reaffirmation agreement. Because reaffirming a debt comes with the disadvantage of leaving you in debt after your bankruptcy case ends, you should consider it only if:

 

  • the creditor insists on it
  • it’s the only way to keep property you need, and
  • you have good reason to believe you’ll be able to pay off the balance.

Reaffirmation might be the only practical way to keep some property types, such as automobiles or your home. Also, reaffirmation can be a sensible way to keep property that is worth significantly more than what you owe on it.

If you decide to reaffirm a debt, it’s usually worth asking the creditor to accept less than you owe as full payment. For most people, it’s not a good idea to reaffirm a debt for more than what it would cost you to replace the property.

Keep Current on Payments You Wish to Reaffirm

If you need the collateral, you’ll want to be current on your payments before filing for bankruptcy to stay on the creditor’s good side. If you fall behind, the creditor can demand that you bring your account current before agreeing to a reaffirmation contract.

Differences Between Collateral and Secured Debt

It’s common to wonder how secured and unsecured debts differ. The answer is simpler than you might think.

When applying for a credit account or taking out a loan, the lender might ask you to put up collateral (valuable property) that it can sell if you fail to pay your bill—especially when borrowing a large sum of money. The collateral assures or guarantees the lender that it will get paid if you stop making your payment as agreed.

Securing a loan with collateral creates a “lien” on the property, a type of ownership interest that remains until the borrower pays off the debt. The lien interest gives a creditor the right to repossess your vehicle if you fail to make your payment. Likewise, if you fall behind on your mortgage, the lien will allow the lender to foreclose on your home.

A bank or creditor who owns a collateralized debt has what is called a “secured debt.” If the bank seeks reimbursement in a bankruptcy case, it will file a “secured claim.” If the bankruptcy trustee sells the property, the trustee must pay the secured lender first before distributing funds to unsecured creditors.

However, not all creditors require a borrower to provide security when making a loan or providing a credit service. An “unsecured” creditor doesn’t have a lien interest in collateral, so it can’t sell the borrower’s property to pay off the debt without doing more.

Credit cards, medical bills, and personal loans, such as payday loans are all examples of unsecured debt. An unsecured creditor can gain a security interest by winning a debt collection lawsuit and recording the money judgment with the local recorder’s office or the appropriate state agency.

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Written by Canterbury Law Group

What Happens to Liens in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

What Happens to Liens in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

In bankruptcy, your personal obligation to pay a secured debt may be discharged, but the lien remains in place.

A creditor’s lien typically endures Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If the debtor doesn’t make the agreed-upon payments while the lien is active, the creditor may seize the property once the bankruptcy process is over.

How Do Liens Work?

Nobody hates to lose money, not even lenders, and when a loan is required to make a large purchase like a house or car, the danger of loss is greater still. By forcing the borrower to acknowledge that the creditor may seize the collateralized property if the debt is not paid as agreed, lenders reduce this risk. This contract grants the creditor a “lien,” or ownership stake in the property.

When a lender recovers property, they often auction it off and apply the money to the outstanding loan sum. In most situations, the borrower will still be liable for the remaining sum, or “deficiency balance,” if the auction price is less than what is owing.

Remember that in some states, shortfall balances on particular transactions are not permitted. A deficit balance will also be eliminated in Chapter 7 bankruptcy; see more below.

“Secured Debt” is created via Liens in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

You must classify your debts as either secured or unsecured if you have already begun putting together your bankruptcy petition. A loan with a charge against it? It is locked. No liens? It’s unprotected.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: Voluntary and Involuntary Liens

If the lien is voluntary, it was put on your property with your consent; if it is involuntary, it was done so against your will. Why is this important? because you might be unaware that a creditor has a secured debt against you and that you have a lien on your property.

Liberties Liens

In the course of a mortgage or vehicle note transaction, it’s typical to consent to granting a lien to a creditor. You are probably aware that the creditor’s lien could cause you to lose your home to foreclosure or your car to repossession because you agreed to those terms when you financed the property.

But when buying items like jewelry, furniture, electronics, beds, equipment, and computers on credit, many people are unaware that they are agreeing to a lien. Check your agreement or invoice.

Statutory Liens Without Consent

It’s common to have liens placed against your property without being aware of them because certain creditors have the legal authority to do so without your knowledge.

For instance, if you don’t pay your tax due, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may place a lien on your property. If you don’t pay your dues, your homeowners’ association may place a lien on your home. Or, if you don’t pay for repairs, a contractor could put a lien on your house.

Liens for Involuntary Judgments

By filing a lawsuit against the borrower and utilizing the money judgment to put a lien on your property, some creditors can convert an unsecured debt into a secured debt.

Medical bills, credit card balances, and other unsecured debt are all considered judicial liens.
After an unsecured creditor obtains a judicial lien and transforms into a secured creditor, many people apply for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

By filing a lawsuit against a borrower, succeeding, and obtaining a “money judgment” against the borrower for the amount owing plus fees and costs, a creditor can establish a “judicial” or “judgment” lien. A money judgment holder may register it against the borrower’s real estate.

Any property owned by the borrower that is not real estate is considered personal property, and in some states, the money judgment immediately grants the creditor a lien on that property.

How to Obtain a Money Judgment as an Unsecured Creditor

The procedure begins when the debtor is unable to make a payment on an unsecured obligation, like an outstanding credit card amount or overdue rent. You do not provide the creditor with collateral to secure these debts, thus the creditor cannot compel payment absent a judicial ruling.

A creditor will initiate a civil lawsuit if they feel that the debt is significant enough to warrant the expense of legal action. The court will issue a “default” money judgment and the creditor will be declared the winner if the borrower doesn’t reply.

If the borrower loses after submitting an answer to the complaint in the litigation, the court will also issue a money judgment. read about litigation that bankruptcy averted.

How a Money Judgment Becomes a Lien in the Mind of the Creditor

After receiving a monetary judgment, a creditor is deemed a “judgment creditor” and is required to “perfect” or establish an enforceable lien. Perfecting the lien often happens after the money judgment has been recorded at the recorder’s office or after adhering to other state legal requirements.

Advantages of a Perfected Lien

Once perfected, the lien will be paid out of the sale proceeds if the borrower sells real estate within the recorder’s authority (often the county). Before distributing money to the house seller, the title firm managing the transaction examines whether any recorded liens exist and pays them.

Personal property may also be encumbered by judicial liens. However, the majority of people have exemptions that allow them to defend their vehicles and home goods, therefore these targets are rarely used. Most states allow persons to use the same exemptions that are available in bankruptcy to safeguard property from creditors.

Use of Money Judgments by Creditors in Other Ways

A money judgment can be used by a judgment creditor for purposes other than creating liens. Most take use of money judgements to take money from the borrower’s bank account (bank levy) or take money out of their paycheck (wage garnishment).

How Are Liens Affected by Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

This topic can be challenging to understand, but it can be summed up as follows:

Your need to pay a secured debt, such as a mortgage or car payment, will probably be eliminated if you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
If you don’t pay what you owe, the creditor can still seize the collateral (the house, car, or other property) because Chapter 7 bankruptcy won’t remove a voluntary lien.
When a judgment lien prohibits you from benefiting from an exemption, you can seek the court to set it aside. For instance, you may seek the court to remove the lien on up to $15,000 of your property equity if an exemption allowed you to keep the remaining $15,000 of equity.

Why Liens Are Not Automatically Eliminated by Chapter 7

After Chapter 7, a creditor cannot pursue you for a debt that has been discharged by your bankruptcy since filing for bankruptcy releases you from the obligation to pay. When a lien is in place and you don’t make the agreed-upon payments, Chapter 7 does not affect your obligation to return the property.

Therefore, even if the creditor cannot physically force you to pay your debt, if you refuse to do so voluntarily, the creditor may seize your property. This outcome results from the fact that a secured transaction includes two main components:

Your duty to reimburse the creditor. You are liable for paying the total debt. In the event that the debt is eligible for the bankruptcy discharge, filing for bankruptcy will discharge your personal duty for it. This implies that the creditor is prevented from subsequently filing a lawsuit against you to recover the debt and from using the judicial lien (discussed above) to garnish your earnings or deduct funds from your bank account.

The ability of the creditor to reclaim the collateral through the lien. Your creditor has the right to use the proceeds from the sale of the collateral used to secure the loan to offset any amounts you owe. If you don’t pay the loan, the lien enables the creditor to seize the property and force its sale. The lender has the right to sue you for the value of the collateral if it isn’t available. Even if you transfer ownership of the property to another party, a lien remains on it. A lien is not removed by bankruptcy on its own.
Example. Mary purchases a couch from a furniture retailer using credit. She agrees to pay for the couch over the following year by signing a contract. According to the contract, the couch has a security interest in favor of the creditor (the store), who has the right to reclaim it if any payment is more than 15 days overdue. In a secured debt of this kind, the lien is the store’s right to take back the couch, and Mary’s responsibility to pay the loan is her personal liability. She is no longer obligated to pay for the couch after filing for bankruptcy, but the creditor still has a lien on it and has the right to take it back if she doesn’t.

You might be able to take extra actions during bankruptcy to get rid of or at least lessen liens on collateral for security interests. See Avoiding Liens in Bankruptcy for further information.

Lenders Must Make Their Liens Perfect

A security interest agreement only counts as a secured debt for bankruptcy purposes if the creditor reports the lien with the proper municipal or state records office to “perfect” the lien. In order to establish a lien on real estate, for instance, the mortgage holder (the bank or another lender) normally needs to record the lien with the county’s recorder’s office.

The holder of a security interest must typically record it with the state or municipal agency that handles UCC recordings (also known as “UCC recordings”) in order to perfect a security interest in a vehicle or commercial asset. Typically, this is the secretary of state.

Why File for Bankruptcy Under Chapter 7?

Why then may declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy be preferable than allowing the property or automobile to go through a foreclosure or repossession? It eliminates your need to repay the full loan, including any outstanding shortfall sum, is the solution.

Due to the fact that forgiven debt is treated as income, it may also occasionally preclude the assessment of a tax liability. For instance, if you permit the foreclosure of your home and the lender forgives the unpaid sum, you can be hit with a big tax payment at the end of the year.

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Written by Canterbury Law Group

What Is Credit and Debt Counseling in Bankruptcy?

What Is Credit and Debt Counseling in Bankruptcy?

Credit Counseling: The “First” Course

Before filing for bankruptcy, you must be certain that it is the best option, as it can have serious and long-lasting effects on your credit, possessions, and income. The first course, pre-filing credit counseling, helps you determine whether bankruptcy is the best option. In this course, you will evaluate your financial situation and investigate alternative repayment options. If, after completing the course, it still makes sense to file for bankruptcy, you will submit a certificate of course completion along with your petition and schedules to demonstrate that you fulfilled the education requirement (the official paperwork that initiates the case). You can take the course online or over the phone and most people complete it in an hour or two.

Educating Debtors: The “Second” Course

You’ll take the post-filing debtor education course (or “second” class) after you file your bankruptcy. The second course will provide you with financial management tools that you’ll be able to rely on after your bankruptcy is over.

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must file your completion certificate with the court no later than 60 days after the date first set for the 341 meeting of creditors (the hearing that all bankruptcy filers must attend) (the hearing that all bankruptcy filers must attend). The court will remind you by sending a notice entitled “Notice of Requirement to File a Certification of Completion of Course in Personal Financial Management.” Chapter 11, 12, and 13 filers can submit the completion certificate anytime before making the final payment under the repayment plan.

Not only is it easy to forget to complete the coursework, but failure to submit the certificate will result in a fine. The court will dismiss your lawsuit without discharging (wiping out) your qualifying debt, and you’ll have to refund the filing fee to reopen it. Worse yet, in many courts, you won’t be able to file the certificate until you file a motion asking the court to accept the late-filed certificate and the judge grants your request (and you might have to file an additional motion asking for your discharge) (and you might have to file an additional motion asking for your discharge).

Who Must Complete the Courses?

All individuals who file a Chapter 7, 11, 12, or 13 bankruptcy must complete a credit counseling class and a debtor education training course before receiving debt relief—even if the individual’s debts are primarily business debts.

This regulation involves a husband and wife filing jointly (together) (together). Each must satisfy the condition. In contrast, business entities are exempt, including partnerships, limited liability companies, and corporations.

You might be exempt from the requirement if you must file an emergency case, or you’re in a military zone. Nevertheless, such exceptions are uncommon.

To find a course that fits the requirements of the courts in your bankruptcy jurisdiction, visit the U.S. Trustee’s website and select from a list of recognized providers.

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Written by Canterbury Law Group

Emergency Bankruptcy Filing

Emergency Bankruptcy Filing

A swift bankruptcy petition can prevent imminent creditor action. Find out how quickly you may file an emergency bankruptcy filing online.

Sometimes it is necessary to quickly halt a creditor’s action. Filing for bankruptcy is beneficial. When you file a case, the court automatically issues a stay prohibiting most creditors from pursuing collection efforts (exceptions exist).

However, filling all the bankruptcy forms is not an easy task. If time is of the essence, you can use an expedient online bankruptcy filing process known as an emergency bankruptcy filing (or skeleton file) to obtain the automatic stay and submit the remaining documentation later.

Online Filing of Emergency Bankruptcy Forms

Upon completion, the average bankruptcy petition can easily exceed fifty pages. When facing a foreclosure auction, repossession, wage garnishment, collection action, or another time-sensitive issue, however, it may not be possible to complete all of the paperwork.

You have alternative options.

When you need to file bankruptcy quickly, you can file your forms online quickly. In addition, you can access online filing 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and you can begin the online filing procedure by uploading a small fraction of the required forms:

  • The petition for bankruptcy (the principal document containing identifying information, the chapter you’re filing under, and other general information)
  • the names and addresses of the creditors that will be mentioned in the bankruptcy schedules (commonly referred to as a creditor mailing list or mailing matrix; verify format requirements with your court).
  • a certificate indicating that you fulfilled the credit counseling requirement or a waiver request, and
  • Statement Regarding Your Social Security Numbers on Form B121.

You should also be prepared to pay a filing fee, submit a request for a fee waiver, or submit a request to pay the filing charge in installments.

Finalizing a Skeleton Bankruptcy Filing

Your skeleton bankruptcy case will be dismissed if you do not provide the extra documents within 14 days. Also, be aware that certain courts may request alternative forms. The prerequisites are outlined in the local rules posted on your court’s website.

Emergency Bankruptcy Filing Procedures

For an urgent filing, you need take the following steps:

  • Step 1: Contact the court clerk or visit the court’s website to determine which forms are required for an emergency filing.
  • Step 2: Complete the Individual Voluntary Petition for Bankruptcy.
  • Step 3: On the list of creditors, you will include the names and addresses of everyone you owe money to, along with collection agencies, sheriffs, attorneys, and anybody else attempting to collect debts from you. Use the address that appears on the most recent billing statement or court filing.
  • Step 4: Complete the form Your Statement Regarding Your Social Security Numbers.
  • Step 5: Complete any other paperwork required by the court (for instance, in some jurisdictions you must file a cover sheet and an order of dismissal that will be executed if you fail to submit the remaining documents).
  • Step 6: Submit the originals and the requisite number of copies with your fee, a fee waiver application, or a request to pay the fee in installments, along with a self-addressed envelope, to the court clerk. Save duplicates for your records.
  • Step 7: Submit the remaining forms within 14 days to prevent case dismissal.

Obtaining and Filling Out the Bankruptcy Forms

See Forms You Must File in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy for a complete list of Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms. See Completing the Bankruptcy Forms for information on each of these forms, as well as basic instructions on how to complete them.

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