If you have filed for bankruptcy or you're thinking about it, it's a good idea to obtain the services of a bankruptcy attorney. A bankruptcy attorney can help you wend your way through the legal ramifications of a bankruptcy because he or she will have knowledge you may not have.
You can do some of your bankruptcy work yourself, it still helps significantly to have a bankruptcy attorney look over your documentation and make sure everything is in order before you file. You also need to know your rights as someone who is filing for bankruptcy, and an attorney can help you make sure that you get all of your rights met and keep whatever you're entitled to as well.
In addition, a qualified, experienced and knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney is going to have many insights you do not have. For example, they can make suggestions or recommendations as to what other options you may have which may be much better for you than facing the long-term negative effects of bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy laws have changed in the last few years, so that today, it's harder to file for what's called "Chapter 7" or liquidation bankruptcy than it used to be. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is basically what used to be called "straight bankruptcy." With this, those who file for bankruptcy turn over any nonexempt assets for liquidation to creditors, and then debts are paid off with these liquidated assets. When the proceedings are over, the debtor is completely exempt from further pursuit by creditors and the debt is completely discharged. A bankruptcy attorney can tell you whether or not you qualify for this particular type of bankruptcy. If you do, it's generally advised that you take advantage of this type of bankruptcy, since it will exempt you from any further responsibility for these debts once the bankruptcy is complete. However, be advised that you will lose nonexempt assets for liquidation, including perhaps your house. Therefore, the pros are that you are completely "forgiven" your debts, but you may have to start from scratch.
Also you need to be aware that there are certain types of debts such as tax liens, student loans, child support and others that cannot be discharged by any form of bankruptcy, so if this type of debt makes up a major portion of your indebtedness, declaring bankruptcy is not going to help you in the least.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is the other major type of bankruptcy that most debtors look to file for today. With new bankruptcy laws, most states will not let you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy if you have a regular income. What this type of bankruptcy says is that you're not going to be forgiven your debts. Instead, Chapter 13 bankruptcy is what is known as "reorganization" bankruptcy for debtors with an income. With this, you are allowed to keep most assets, including your house in most cases. However, you're going to have to make payments to your creditors through a trustee over a period of several years, usually, until the debt is paid off. A plan is drawn up for the repayment and then a court approves or disapproves of it, based upon whether or not it meets bankruptcy code requirements for confirmation.
Again, obtaining a bankruptcy attorney is a good idea to help you determine what type of bankruptcy you qualify for and which is best for you. Be advised, though, that bankruptcy attorneys aren't free and even if you are facing financial hardship, you're still going to have to come up with attorneys' fees of roughly several hundred dollars to have a bankruptcy attorney handle your matter for you. Still, it's money well spent so that you know you've done everything you can to make your bankruptcy proceedings go as smoothly as possible. After that, of course, you can get on with your life. Most people who file discover that they have saved much more than the amount of the attorney's fees in terms of the money and assets they were able to retain, based on the attorney's intimate knowledge of the new bankruptcy laws.
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