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.
In Chapter 7, a debtor surrenders non-exempt property to a bankruptcy trustee, who then liquidates the property and distributes the proceeds to the debtor's unsecured creditors. In exchange, the debtor is entitled to a discharge of some debt. However, the debtor is not granted a discharge if guilty of certain types of inappropriate behavior (e.g., concealing records relating to financial condition) and certain debts (e.g., spousal and child support and most student loans). Some taxes are not discharged even though the debtor is generally discharged from debt. Many individuals in financial distress own only exempt property (e.g., clothes, household goods, an older car, or the tools of their trade or profession) and do not have to surrender any property to the trustee. The amount of property that a debtor may exempt varies from state to state (as noted above, Virginia and Maryland have a $1,000 difference.) Chapter 7 relief is available only once in any eight-year period. Generally, the rights of secured creditors to their collateral continues, even though their debt is discharged. For example, absent some arrangement by a debtor to surrender a car or "reaffirm" a debt, the creditor with a security interest in the debtor's car may repossess the car even if the debt to the creditor is discharged.
Individuals who make too much money to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy may file under Chapter 13, also known as a wage earner's plan. The chapter allows individuals and businesses with consistent income to create workable debt repayment plans. The repayment plans are commonly in installments over the course of a three- to five-year period. In exchange for repaying their creditors, the courts allow these debtors to keep all of their property including nonexempt property.
The latest edition of The New Bankruptcy includes updated lists of assets you can keep (exemptions) when you file bankruptcy, plus the latest rules handed down by the Supreme Court as it interprets the federal bankruptcy law. You'll also get worksheets to help you determine whether you can file for bankruptcy, helpful checklists, and easy-to-understand information for all 50 states.
For the duration of their bankruptcy, all bankrupts have certain restrictions placed upon them. For example, a bankrupt must obtain the permission of their trustee to travel overseas. Failure to do so may result in the bankrupt being stopped at the airport by the Australian Federal Police. Additionally, a bankrupt is required to provide their trustee with details of income and assets. If the bankrupt does not comply with the Trustee's request to provide details of income, the trustee may have grounds to lodge an Objection to Discharge, which has the effect of extending the bankruptcy for a further five years.
Chapter 13 means the court approves a plan for you to repay some or all of your debts over three to five years. You get to keep your assets (stuff you own) and you’re given time to bring your mortgage up to date. You agree to a monthly payment plan and must follow a strict budget monitored by the court. This kind of bankruptcy stays on your credit report for seven years.
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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. 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. After a dismissal, creditors may resume pursuit of state law remedies to recover the unpaid debt.