How does bankruptcy work?

Issues with money are some of the most devastating ones we can face in a lifetime. No one purposely incurs debt, but when we do, it can have an impact on our relationships, our career, and prevent us from building the life that we’d hoped to achieve.

The common perception is that bankruptcy is a negative thing. The perception is that only irresponsible people file for bankruptcy. Both perceptions are simply not true.

While people may find themselves in negative financial situations, for many, bankruptcy is the answer. It’s an opportunity to reset your circumstances, re-assess your financial practices, and, ideally, come out stronger than you were previously.

If you have to consider bankruptcy, it’s important to know how the process works. Below, we describe the steps you must take in order to order to successfully file for bankruptcy. Having a good bankruptcy attorney is critical to your success. Contact our Tampa bankruptcy attorneys at 844-511-4800 if you need the trusted legal expertise of our team.

Step 1- Consult a Bankruptcy Attorney

The first and best action to take is to find and consult a qualified bankruptcy attorney. While it is possible to file for bankruptcy on your own or with a regular lawyer, a bankruptcy attorney has the experience and knowledge to ensure that your case is handled in a proper way. Bankruptcy cases are vitally important matters, as a bankruptcy attorney will assuredly have an acute understanding of the details of your case and will have dealt with creditors before.

Step 2- Take a Means Test

Initially, you will take an assessment known as a “means test” to determine if your income is low enough to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The means test compares your income to unsecured debts. If a significant portion of your income is going towards your debt, you will qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and can go forward with the proceedings.

Step 3- Attend the 341 Meeting

Once it is determined that you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will be ordered to attend a 341 meeting. In this meeting you will meet with your creditors and the trustee that is presiding over your case. The trustee will inquire about your income, property and debt. The meeting gives you the opportunity to give specific details about your financial situation and if you have any nonexempt property that can be sold. Your creditors will also have an opportunity to ask questions about your debt.

Step 4- Reaffirmation

If you have property that is classified as a secured debt that you would like to keep, reaffirmation is an option to consider. In reaffirmation, you agree to continue to maintain the debt on a property that you’d like to continue to own. For example, if you would like to maintain ownership of your car, in reaffirmation, you’d agree to continue maintain and pay the debt on it. You also assume all the risks of that debt. So if you were to default on your car loan, you would not be able to utilize bankruptcy to discharge the debt.

Step 5 Discharge

After 341 meeting, the trustee and your creditors have 60 days to dispute your right to discharge your debts. If no objection is made on a particular debt (contested debts don’t delay the process of discharging other debts), a court order will be filed to discharge your debt.

Step 6- Financial Education

To complete your discharge, you will be ordered to take a financial education class. It is important to note, you must take the class no later than 45 days after your 341 meeting is scheduled. If you miss your deadline, you may have to refile for bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy is not the end. It’s an adjustment that some people need to make in order to create a healthier financial life for themselves and their loved ones. If you are considering foreclosure, talk to the Tampa bankruptcy lawyers at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A. We can provide the guidance you need during this challenging time. Contact us today at 844-511-4800.