Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Attorney
The primary role of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney is to represent debtors who have regular incomes from which to pay creditors in compliance with a court-ordered repayment plan. Also known as wage earners, these debtors choose to file Chapter 13 petitions, rather than liquidate assets through Chapter 7. Unlike a Chapter 7 petition in which a U.S. Trustee is appointed to collect, liquidate and distribute debtor assets to satisfy creditors; Chapter 13 allows individuals to develop a repayment plan which gradually relieves them of outstanding debts over a maximum 5-year period. Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorneys consult with wage earners to help them accurately identify and retain exempt assets, which should not be liquidated. In addition to easing the process of filing, attorneys stop garnishments, repossessions, and foreclosures and help wage earners keep personal property such as real estate holdings, automobiles, and employee paychecks. However, wage earners who owe federal, state, and local taxes; alimony; child support; and student loans are still liable for these debts, which cannot be discharged. Without the knowledge of proceedings, schedules and laws, debtors may run the risk of losing valuable assets to creditors. The debtor's attorney will thoroughly review the petition to ensure that non-exempt and exempt assets are handled properly. During the course of proceedings, the Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney will become the wage earner's most valuable aide in resolving personal indebtedness, while satisfying federal requirements.
Personal bankruptcy lawyers provide expert legal counsel from the moment a consumer walks into the office for an initial consultation to the time that the case is discharged. A good lawyer will spend a considerable amount of time ensuring that the debtor's case is well prepared and well represented. Most individuals are at a complete loss when filing for consumer debt protection; but a competent, experienced attorney knows the ropes and can suggest legal ways to help debtors successfully file without breaking or compromising the law. Initially, personal bankruptcy lawyers will help debtors decide which chapter of the federal code best suits their situation. With slight variations, procedures for filing Chapter 7, 11, and 13 petitions are very similar. Personal bankruptcy lawyers assist debtors in filing official notices of bankruptcy to the court and creditors, represent debtors at creditor and confirmation hearings, and correspond with creditors regarding secured and unsecured claims. While consumers are not prohibited from preparing and filing petitions on their own, a qualified attorney can accurately interpret the law to the client and prevent debtors from making poor judgments and filing inaccurate reports, which may cost them dearly down the road.
Just having expert legal counsel serves to diffuse the pressure and emotional stress of filing. Once the debtor's lawyer serves notice to creditors, all debt collection tactics must cease by law. Creditors are prohibited from writing, calling, text-messaging, emailing, or contacting debtors in any way. From the moment creditors receive notice, all communication between the debtor and creditor must cease. The Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney communicates directly with the creditor, or a legal representative, and can enforce cessation of collection efforts through the courts. The wage earner is then free to concentrate on working to pay off creditors.
Bankruptcy can be intimidating; and a debtor needs all the legal muscle possible to prepare and defend the legal right to consumer debt protection. Testifying in front of a room full of angry creditors is like going into a den of hungry lions with the debtor as the main course! Personal bankruptcy lawyers can skillfully shut the mouths of the "lions" and hopefully, walk away with a judgment in favor of the client. A qualified lawyer is a debtor's advocate in the courtroom, negotiating with creditors and legal representatives and pleading the debtor's case before the judge. While an attorney is an invaluable asset, the Bible speaks about an advocate far more invaluable than any earthly lawyer: "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:" (I John 2:1). Whenever we fall short of God's expectations and sin, Jesus Christ pleads our case and reconciles us back to a right standing with God.
As a wage earner's advocate, the ultimate goal of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney is to protect debtor assets, help devise an acceptable repayment plan, and eventually help reconcile the debtor to financial soundness. But remember: the Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney is not working for free. The more time the lawyer takes with a debtor, the more it is going to cost. However, most attorneys charge a flat rate legal fee for consumer debt protection cases, which can usually be paid in installments. A familiar proverb says, "You can give a man a fish and he'll eat today, or teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime." Lawyers are there to guide and counsel debtors on supplying the courts accurate, timely and complete information; but they cannot be expected to hold debtors by the hand 24/7, unless they are willing to pay. In addition, new reforms hold lawyers accountable for inaccuracies and false information on debtor petitions. Reforms also sanction attorneys if Chapter 13 filers default on repayment plans, after assuring the court of an ability to pay. In order for cases to become satisfactorily discharged, debtors and personal bankruptcy lawyers must build a relationship of mutual trust, cooperation and honesty. Debtors must also comply with federal mandates to enroll in approved financial management courses before cases can be officially discharged. Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorneys and clients play important roles in submitting accurate, timely and truthful petitions which comply with U.S. bankruptcy code, satisfy creditors and ultimately, provide debt relief.
Chapter 13 AttorneyA chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney is the person to call for professional assistance in deciding to go bankrupt and how the whole process works. The attorney will work with clients so that filing will help them rehabilitate their credit through the restrictions and limitations of the court. When filing, debtors pay off some debts, but it is on much better terms, i.e., lower or no interest. Also, clients don't have to sell assets under a Chapter 13 if they are working and can make payments. The United States Code allows up to five years to pay off creditors, and the process is completely supervised by the court. The chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney will make sure the debtor's interests are protected.
"The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever" (Psalm 37:29). Despite the fact that our earthly possessions mean little in the long run, the debtor is allowed to keep all of his property under Chapter 13. Currently, a bankruptcy lawyer will take into account the debtor's regular monthly payments such as house and car notes, and utilities when deciding what the monthly payments will be. After the attorney has worked out a plan with the court, the client begins making payments 30 to 45 days after the case begins. Payments are made to the trustee who has been appointed by the court, and he disburses the funds to the creditors. The creditors are required by law to strictly follow the terms of the repayment plan. They can no longer look to the debtor directly for payment. After the payment plan is filed, there will be a confirmation hearing before a judge. Clients may appear at the hearing, and if they have a problem with the plan, objections are permitted. The judge will hear both sides before confirming the plan. Once the plan is confirmed, payments can begin.
The ability to make the monthly payments is a necessary part of a Chapter 13, so the client must be gainfully employed, or at least have prospects of future income. Those who need to file because of job loss and trouble finding employment may have to file under Chapter 7, or find some other way out of indebtedness, such as consolidation or an equity loan. When consulting a Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney, he will lay out the options and will know his client's ability to obtain new loans or credit without the court's permission. The debtor's bank may be one of those which offers "secured" credit cards, those with a certain amount of money put on it by the cardholder. Two years after going bankrupt, clients will once again be eligible for mortgage loans on the same terms as someone who never filed for bankruptcy with a bankruptcy lawyer.
When the new rules for filing are in place, the plan will be based on total income, without the payments mentioned above being a consideration. This is going to make it harder to file unless the debtor's income is below the local poverty level. It may require the client to sell their house and car, and move to a less expensive neighborhood in order to meet the debt payback requirements. Consultation with a Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney will provide the details about filing before the new rules go into effect, and what to expect if debtors wait.
Any bankruptcy lawyer will say that any of the chapters should be a last resort, because it is there to allow debtors to get out from under and make a fresh start. Although the record of going bankrupt stays on a credit report for ten years, it won't be that long before filers can get credit again. The more time that passes afterward, the better the chances for obtaining credit. It is expected that after filing, filers will be more careful with managing debt in the future. However, should filers find difficulty again, they are allowed to file for protection again in six years.
There are some important facts a good bankruptcy lawyer will point out concerning the process: Clients get legal protection from creditors; most of debt can be eliminated; financial ruin can be stopped, enabling a fresh start. The counselor will also say that debtors will still have some debt to pay, will have to go to court, and the disadvantages to not filing. Filers can find a local law firm either on the Internet or in the local telephone book. Asking around if friends and family can recommend one is also a good idea. Most options are reputable, but debtors need to be sure that the counselor is licensed and has a solid reputation. Before taking any action toward bankruptcy, filers should consult with a good Chapter 13 law office to determine if this is the best action for the particular situation.