Your lawyer will probably have you fill in a questionnaire about your property, debts, expenses and income. A good lawyer will be able to determine quickly what kinds of debts will be dischargeable in bankruptcy. The lawyer should advise you to get credit counseling before you file, and will may even have a computer terminal in their office where you can do the counseling right there, online. Many lawyers have preferred credit counselors that they work with.

After meeting with a bankruptcy lawyer, you can expect to feel a great sense of relief (it’s wonderful knowing that a solution is in sight) and want to get the process started. Many people who don’t have the funds turn to friends and family—and sometimes even employers—and find most understanding when it comes to a request for help with bankruptcy fees. It’s likely because it’s cheaper to help someone fix a financial problem once and for all, rather than to help out on an ongoing basis.
Use the forms that are numbered in the 100 series to file bankruptcy for individuals or married couples. Use the forms that are numbered in the 200 series if you are preparing a bankruptcy on behalf of a nonindividual, such as a corporation, partnership, or limited liability company (LLC). Sole proprietors must use the forms that are numbered in the 100 series. 
There are two alternative systems that can be used to "exempt" property from a bankruptcy estate, federal exemptions[38] (available in some states but not all), and state exemptions (which vary widely between states). For example, Maryland and Virginia, which are adjoining states, have different personal exemption amounts that cannot be seized for payment of debts. This amount is the first $6,000 in property or cash in Maryland,[39] but normally only the first $5,000 in Virginia.[40] State law therefore plays a major role in many bankruptcy cases, such that there may be significant differences in the outcome of a bankruptcy case depending upon the state in which it is filed.
Chapter 7 means the court sells all your assets—with some exemptions—so you can pay back as much debt as possible. The remaining unpaid debt is erased. You could lose your home (or the equity you’ve put into it) and your car in the process, depending on what the court decides. You can only file Chapter 7 bankruptcy if the court decides your income is too low to pay back your debt. This type of bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years.
Before a consumer may obtain bankruptcy relief under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, the debtor is to undertake credit counselling with approved counseling agencies prior to filing a bankruptcy petition and to undertake education in personal financial management from approved agencies prior to being granted a discharge of debts under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Some studies of the operation of the credit counseling requirement suggest that it provides little benefit to debtors who receive the counseling because the only realistic option for many is to seek relief under the Bankruptcy Code.[45]
While bankruptcy cases are always filed in United States Bankruptcy Court (an adjunct to the U.S. District Courts), bankruptcy cases, particularly with respect to the validity of claims and exemptions, are often dependent upon State law.[35] A Bankruptcy Exemption defines the property a debtor may retain and preserve through bankruptcy. Certain real and personal property can be exempted on "Schedule C"[36] of a debtor's bankruptcy forms, and effectively be taken outside the debtor's bankruptcy estate. Bankruptcy exemptions are available only to individuals filing bankruptcy.[37]
A bankruptcy attorney can help you manage personal or business debts you are unable to pay. Bankruptcy laws allow people and businesses to (1) get a “fresh start” by relieving most debts; and (2) repay the money owed to all creditors as fairly as possible. When you file for bankruptcy protection, all other legal actions against you are put on hold. Creditors cannot sue you, garnish your wages, repossess your car or home entertainment system, or start or continue with a foreclosure action against your home. There are different types of bankruptcy filings and each has its own advantages. Since bankruptcy can significantly impact your future purchasing power and credit rating, you should see a bankruptcy attorney to make sure the benefits of filling bankruptcy outweigh the consequences.
How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy provides clear, user-friendly information and all the forms you need to get through the entire bankruptcy process. The book and the local resources you'll find on LegalConsumer.com are a perfect combination. The book is designed to work with LegalConsumer.com's means test calculator and lists of Pennsylvania exemption laws, which determine what property you'd get to keep in bankruptcy.

All bankruptcy cases in the United States are handled through federal courts. Any decisions over federal bankruptcy cases are made by a bankruptcy judge, including whether a debtor is eligible to file or whether he should be discharged of his debts. Administration over bankruptcy cases is often handled by a trustee, an officer appointed by the United States Trustee Program of the Department of Justice, to represent the debtor's estate in the proceeding. There is usually very little direct contact between the debtor and the judge unless there is some objection made in the case by a creditor.


If you're trying to figure out if you should file, your credit is probably already damaged. A Chapter 7 filing will stay on your credit report for ten years, while a Chapter 13 will remain there for seven. Any creditors you solicit for debt (a loan, credit card, line of credit, or mortgage) will see the discharge on your report, which will prevent you from getting any credit. 

Financially distressed municipalities, including cities, towns, villages, counties, and school districts, may file for bankruptcy under Chapter 9. Under Chapter 9, there is no liquidation of assets to repay the municipality's debts. Chapter 12 bankruptcy provides relief to "family farmers" or "family fishermen" with regular annual income. Both Chapters 9 and 12 make use of an extended debt repayment plan. Chapter 15 was added in 2005 to deal with cross-border cases which involve debtors, assets, creditors and other parties who may be in more than one country. This type of petition is usually filed in the debtor's home country.
In contrast to Chapter 7, the debtor in Chapter 13 may keep all property, whether or not exempt. If the plan appears feasible and if the debtor complies with all the other requirements, the bankruptcy court typically confirms the plan and the debtor and creditors are bound by its terms. Creditors have no say in the formulation of the plan, other than to object to it, if appropriate, on the grounds that it does not comply with one of the Code's statutory requirements.[56] Generally, the debtor makes payments to a trustee who disburses the funds in accordance with the terms of the confirmed plan.
The most common types of personal bankruptcy for individuals are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Chapter 7, known as a "straight bankruptcy" involves the discharge of certain debts without repayment. Chapter 13, involves a plan of repayment of debts over a period of years. Whether a person qualifies for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is in part determined by income.[43][44] As many as 65% of all U.S. consumer bankruptcy filings are Chapter 7 cases.
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