A typical proposal would involve a debtor making monthly payments for a maximum of five years, with the funds distributed to their creditors. Even though most proposals call for payments of less than the full amount of the debt owing, in most cases, the creditors accept the deal—because if they do not, the next alternative may be personal bankruptcy, in which the creditors get even less money. The creditors have 45 days to accept or reject the consumer proposal. Once the proposal is accepted by both the creditors and the Court, the debtor makes the payments to the Proposal Administrator each month (or as otherwise stipulated in their proposal), and the general creditors are prevented from taking any further legal or collection action. If the proposal is rejected, the debtor is returned to his prior insolvent state and may have no alternative but to declare personal bankruptcy.
A good way to approach the decision of whether to hire a lawyer is to buy (and read) Nolo's book How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. It will give you a good idea of what issues may arise when you file, and flags specific situations when a lawyer's help is called for. It will also give you a good idea of whether the filing process seems to complicated for you.
The realisation of funds usually comes from two main sources: the bankrupt's assets and the bankrupt's wages. There are certain assets that are protected, referred to as protected assets. These include household furniture and appliances, tools of the trade and vehicles up to a certain value. All other assets of value are sold. If a house or car is above a certain value, a third party can buy the interest from the estate in order for the bankrupt to utilise the asset. If this is not done, the interest vests in the estate and the trustee is able to take possession of the asset and sell it.
To be eligible to file a consumer bankruptcy under Chapter 7, a debtor must qualify under a statutory "means test". The means test was intended to make it more difficult for a significant number of financially distressed individual debtors whose debts are primarily consumer debts to qualify for relief under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. The "means test" is employed in cases where an individual with primarily consumer debts has more than the average annual income for a household of equivalent size, computed over a 180-day period prior to filing. If the individual must "take" the "means test", their average monthly income over this 180-day period is reduced by a series of allowances for living expenses and secured debt payments in a very complex calculation that may or may not accurately reflect that individual's actual monthly budget. If the results of the means test show no disposable income (or in some cases a very small amount) then the individual qualifies for Chapter 7 relief. An individual who fails the means test will have their Chapter 7 case dismissed, or may have to convert the case to a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
In Chapter 13, debtors retain ownership and possession of all their assets, but must devote some portion of future income to repaying creditors, generally over three to five years. The amount of payment and period of the repayment plan depend upon a variety of factors, including the value of the debtor's property and the amount of a debtor's income and expenses. Under this chapter, the debtor can propose a repayment plan in which to pay creditors over three to five years. If the monthly income is less than the state's median income, the plan is for three years, unless the court finds "just cause" to extend the plan for a longer period. If the debtor's monthly income is greater than the median income for individuals in the debtor's state, the plan must generally be for five years. A plan cannot exceed the five-year limit.
A failure of a nation to meet bond repayments has been seen on many occasions. Philip II of Spain had to declare four state bankruptcies in 1557, 1560, 1575 and 1596. According to Kenneth S. Rogoff, "Although the development of international capital markets was quite limited prior to 1800, we nevertheless catalog the various defaults of France, Portugal, Prussia, Spain, and the early Italian city-states. At the edge of Europe, Egypt, Russia, and Turkey have histories of chronic default as well."
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. As many as 65% of all U.S. consumer bankruptcy filings are Chapter 7 cases.
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.
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. Generally, the debtor makes payments to a trustee who disburses the funds in accordance with the terms of the confirmed plan.
A Bankruptcy Trustee (in most cases, the Official Receiver) is appointed to deal with all matters regarding the administration of the bankrupt estate. The Trustee's job includes notifying creditors of the estate and dealing with creditor inquiries; ensuring that the bankrupt complies with their obligations under the Bankruptcy Act; investigating the bankrupt's financial affairs; realising funds to which the estate is entitled under the Bankruptcy Act and distributing dividends to creditors if sufficient funds become available.
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.
The alternatives to hiring a bankruptcy lawyer are scary. Although you should be careful of attorneys fees, your goal should never be to do a cheap bankruptcy. A cheap bankruptcy would consist of you either filing for bankruptcy alone, or hiring a “document preparation” company. Filing bankruptcy alone is not an option. A typical bankruptcy petition is over 50 pages long and requires intimate knowledge of the Federal Bankruptcy Code. You may apply an exemption erroneously and may possibly lose property that could have been protected.
Clients who typically choose this type of debt relief have fallen behind on their mortgage, car payments, income taxes or other obligations. Or they may not qualify for Chapter 7 relief. They want to keep their property, but need additional time to catch up. Chapter 13 provides a means of paying tax and other non-dischargeable debt over time, often without interest or penalties.