Financial hardship takes a tremendous toll on our well-being. It not only prevents us from building the lives we want and deserve, but also interferes with our mental and physical health. For many, financial adversity is the result of circumstances and events beyond their control, such as a medical emergency, the loss of a loved one, an economic downturn, a natural disaster, and more.
No matter what causes a financial crisis, no one deserves a life of endless debt. At Sabatini Freeman, LLC, our Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyers have decades of experience helping people use this process to obtain freedom from debt. When you contact our team, we can determine whether this is the right option for you. We can then guide you through every step of the process, helping you avoid obstacles and achieve relief in as little time as possible.
How to Qualify for Chapter 7
In order to qualify for Chapter 7, you must first pass the means test. The means test determines whether or not your income is enough to qualify for filing. Even if your disposable income is enough to repay your debt, the bankruptcy court requires that you have a specific amount of income leftover as well, otherwise your filing may be dismissed. If this is the case, Chapter 13 might work for you instead.
To qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must:
- Pass the means test.
You haven’t had debt discharged from a previous bankruptcy filing.
You don’t have a previous bankruptcy case that was dismissed in the last 6 months (180 days).
You did not defraud any creditors.
You completed a credit counseling course that is approved by the U.S. Trustee Program.
“Attorney Sabatini listened to my concerns and helped me to understand how it worked and explained everything to help me make my decision. He was very kind and was understanding of the way I felt and he really put me at ease.”- Kit
“From experience with my own situation, they have offered wonderful services and good advice/referrals along the way making things from a confusing legal standing very understandable.”- Gabriella
“Carlo and his staff are the best!!”- Katy
The Chapter 7 Process
Chapter 7 is the easiest and fastest type of bankruptcy. Debtors typically receive a debt discharge (i.e. court-ordered elimination of debt) within six months. Once your debt is discharged, you shouldn’t hear from debt collectors, as they will no longer be allowed to collect what you once owed.
Here are some of the most important things to understand about Chapter 7 bankruptcy:
- Like all forms of bankruptcy, Chapter 7 triggers the automatic stay. This court order keeps all debt collectors at bay for the duration of your case. You will be safe, therefore, from calls, lawsuits, repossession, and more.
- To qualify, you will need to pass the means test. The means test compares your monthly income to the median income of your state. Generally, you must make less than the median income to qualify for Chapter 7, but this isn’t always the case.
- Chapter 7 is often called a “liquidation bankruptcy” because the trustee can sometimes sell certain property and use the proceeds to repay creditors. However, almost everyone who files a Chapter 7 case with our office keeps everything that they own. We can help you understand and utilize the state and federal exemptions to make sure that you keep the property that you are entitled to.
- Chapter 7, like other forms of bankruptcy, can discharge unsecured debt (e.g. medical bills, credit card debt, utility bills, etc.). It will not discharge your mortgage, auto loan, or other types of secured or non-dischargeable debts. We can help determine whether the court can eliminate your liability for what you owe (and what to do if it can’t).
- Most people who file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy do not see any drop in their credit score. This information is surprising to most of our clients, and we will be happy to explain it to you in more detail at your free consultation.
Chapter 7 affects everyone differently, which is why you will need a personalized assessment from one of our attorneys at Sabatini Freeman, LLC. Our goal is to help you use the most appropriate debt-relief strategy for your situation, which is why we will only recommend Chapter 7 if we believe it is right for you.
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Are There Chapter 7 Exemptions?
Yes, there are exemptions when it comes to filing for Chapter 7. Bankruptcy law allows debtors to keep a certain amount of property after going through bankruptcy proceedings -- this applies to businesses and individuals. Generally, exempt property includes a list of items that are necessary for work and life.
Below are some examples of exempt property:
- Motor vehicles (up to a certain value)
- Necessary household appliances, goods, and furnishings
- If applicable, tools of debtor’s trade or profession (up to a certain value)
- Necessary clothing and jewelry (up to a certain value)
- Public benefits, even public assistance (welfare), social security and unemployment compensation that has been accumulated
- Compensation awarded from a personal injury case
Benefits of Filing for Chapter 7
A good way to overcome your debt and regain financial freedom is by filing for Chapter 13 or Chapter 7. Below we highlighted some of the advantages to filing for Chapter 7.
- When Chapter 7 is complete, all of your unsecured debt will be discharged.
- There is no repayment plan involved.
- When you file, the “automatic stay” is immediately triggered, meaning that creditors and collectors will not be allowed to contact you.
- There is no limit to how much debt you can have. This is different from Chapter 13, which has a limit for unsecured and secured debt.
- Any property you acquire after filing is not included in the liquidation.
- After your debt is discharged, your credit will begin to recover over time and soon your credit score will rise and you will be able to qualify for loans.
Our Chapter 7 Guarantee
When you retain our services for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, we guarantee that we will do our best to evaluate your case and properly represent you. We will refund the attorney’s fees you pay to our firm if you file a Chapter 7 case that is dismissed without receiving a discharge.
This guarantee is limited to clients who:
- Provide all documents requested by our office or the trustee on time.
- Make all payments scheduled in the fee agreement on time.
- Follow our advice regarding the filing and processing of the bankruptcy case.
- Complete their bankruptcy representation with our office.
- Make full and accurate disclosure of all information related to the preparation of their bankruptcy papers.
- Attend all required meetings and hearings.
Your first conversation with an attorney to understand and evaluate your case is 100% complimentary.
With the combined experience of over 40 years between the attorneys of Sabatini Freeman LLC, we leverage our knowledge and experience with the local trustees to get you optimal results.
You should never be left in the dark when it comes to your legal matter. From start to finish, we will keep you updated on the status of your case.
Board Certified in Consumer Bankruptcy Law, Attorney Sabatini is the only attorney with this certification with an office within 50 miles of Wilkes-Barre or Scranton.