And gossip columns never tire of dishing on the latest celebrity inches from bankruptcy whether it's Gary Coleman or Mike Tyson having to part with his pet tigers. You might even fear that you're a few steps from going under. After all, we live in an economy in which credit card offers clutter our mailboxes. And living in debt is an accepted norm. But, just how can you tell when it's time to throw in the towel and declare bankruptcy?
In 2004, the number of insolvencies reached record highs in many European countries. In France, company insolvencies rose by more than 4%, in Austria by more than 10%, and in Greece by more than 20%. The increase in the number of insolvencies, however, does not indicate the total financial impact of insolvencies in each country because there is no indication of the size of each case. An increase in the number of bankruptcy cases does not necessarily entail an increase in bad debt write-off rates for the economy as a whole.

The formal bankruptcy process is rarely carried out for individuals.[30] Creditors can claim money through the Enforcement Administration anyway, and creditors do not usually benefit from the bankruptcy of individuals because there are costs of a bankruptcy manager which has priority. Unpaid debts remain after bankruptcy for individuals. People who are deeply in debt can obtain a debt arrangement procedure (Swedish: skuldsanering). On application, they obtain a payment plan under which they pay as much as they can for five years, and then all remaining debts are cancelled. Debts that derive from a ban on business operations (issued by court, commonly for tax fraud or fraudulent business practices) or owed to a crime victim as compensation for damages, are exempted from this—and, as before this process was introduced in 2006, remain lifelong.[31] Debts that have not been claimed during a 3-10 year period are cancelled. Often crime victims stop their claims after a few years since criminals often do not have job incomes and might be hard to locate, while banks make sure their claims are not cancelled. The most common reasons for personal insolvency in Sweden are illness, unemployment, divorce or company bankruptcy.


Generally, a trustee sells most of the debtor's assets to pay off creditors. However, certain debtor assets will be protected to some extent by bankruptcy exemptions. These include Social Security payments, unemployment compensation, limited equity in a home, car, or truck, household goods and appliances, trade tools, and books. However, these exemptions vary from state to state.
After the bankruptcy is annulled or the bankrupt has been automatically discharged, the bankrupt's credit report status is shown as "discharged bankrupt" for some years. The maximum number of years this information can be held is subject to the retention limits under the Privacy Act. How long such information is on a credit report may be shorter, depending on the issuing company, but the report must cease to record that information based on the criteria in the Privacy Act. 

A trustee in bankruptcy must be either an Official Receiver (a civil servant) or a licensed insolvency practitioner. Current law in England and Wales derives in large part from the Insolvency Act 1986. Following the introduction of the Enterprise Act 2002, a UK bankruptcy now normally last no longer than 12 months, and may be less if the Official Receiver files in court a certificate that investigations are complete. It was expected that the UK Government's liberalization of the UK bankruptcy regime would increase the number of bankruptcy cases; initially, cases increased, as the Insolvency Service statistics appear to bear out. Since 2009, the introduction of the Debt Relief Order has resulted in a dramatic fall in bankruptcies, the latest estimates for year 2014/15 being significantly less than 30,000 cases.
Generally, I start with an initial telephone consultation. Then if you want to move forward, we schedule an in-person conference at my office to go over the legal services agreement and your documents and for you to make the first payment. After that I represent you against your creditors until you are paid in full and then about two weeks after that I file your case. 
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.

Bankruptcy is the legal proceeding involving a person or business that is unable to repay outstanding debts. The bankruptcy process begins with a petition filed by the debtor, which is most common, or on behalf of creditors, which is less common. All of the debtor's assets are measured and evaluated, and the assets may be used to repay a portion of outstanding debt. 

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]
If you file for personal bankruptcy under Chapter 7 a so-called “automatic stay” is placed on all your creditors, including the foreclosing lender, by the court. In fact, Chapter 13 bankruptcy is actually designed to stop foreclosure and may provide you with the protection and relief you need to stay in your home while you catch up on your mortgage. 

Chapter 11:This is designed for businesses. Chapter 11 is often referred to as “reorganization bankruptcy” because it gives businesses a chance to stay open while they restructure the business’ debts and assets so it can pay back creditors. This is used primarily by large corporations like General Motors, Circuit City and United Airlines, but can be used by any size business, including partnerships and in some rare cases, individuals. Though the business continues to operate during bankruptcy proceedings, most of the decisions are made with permission from the courts.


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.
For companies, formal bankruptcy is a normal effect of insolvency, even if there is a reconstruction mechanism where the company can be given time to solve its situation, e.g. by finding an investor. The formal bankruptcy involves contracting a bankruptcy manager, who makes certain that assets are sold and money divided by the priority the law claims, and no other way. Banks have such a priority. After a finished bankruptcy for a company, it is terminated. The activities might continue in a new company which has bought important assets from the bankrupted company.
When the debtor completes payments pursuant to the terms of the plan, the court formally grant the debtor a discharge of the debts provided for in the plan.[54] However, if the debtor fails to make the agreed upon payments or fails to seek or gain court approval of a modified plan, a bankruptcy court will normally dismiss the case on the motion of the trustee.[57] After a dismissal, creditors may resume pursuit of state law remedies to recover the unpaid debt.
Bankruptcy in the United Kingdom (in a strict legal sense) relates only to individuals (including sole proprietors) and partnerships. Companies and other corporations enter into differently named legal insolvency procedures: liquidation and administration (administration order and administrative receivership). However, the term 'bankruptcy' is often used when referring to companies in the media and in general conversation. Bankruptcy in Scotland is referred to as sequestration. To apply for bankruptcy in Scotland, an individual must have more than £1,500 of debt.
Chapter 9: This applies only to cities or towns. It protects municipalities from creditors while the city develops a plan for handling its debts. This typically happens when industries close and people leave to find work elsewhere. There were 20 Chapter 9 filings in 2012, the most since 1980. Detroit was among those filing in 2012, and is the largest city ever to file Chapter 9. Detroit’s GDP shrunk by 12.2% in the 10 years prior to declaring bankruptcy. The average major metro growth in that time was 13.1%.
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