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.
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?

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?
It can be hard to admit you need help getting out of debt, or that you can't do it alone. But that's why our government has bankruptcy laws to protect not only the creditors, but you! If you have a nerve-racking debt-load, it may be time to face financial facts. Perhaps you've been trying to ignore the ringing phone and the pile of unpaid bills that won't go away.
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.
Bankruptcy filings in the United States fall under one of several chapters of the Bankruptcy Code: Chapter 7, which involves liquidation of assets; Chapter 11, which deals with company or individual reorganizations, and Chapter 13, which is debt repayment with lowered debt covenants or specific payment plans. Bankruptcy filing specifications vary among states, leading to higher or lower filing fees depending on how easily a person or company can complete the process.
Tax refunds you are entitled to receive are considered property in bankruptcy just like money in your bank account. You must disclose any anticipated tax refunds as an asset on your bankruptcy schedules. This means that if you want to keep your refund, you must be able to exempt it. If you can exempt your tax refund in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can keep it. 
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.
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