If you're considering bankruptcy, you're probably doing some research on your own to see what options you have. With bankruptcy, there's good news and bad news.
The good news is, if you qualify for a bankruptcy filing, you can legitimately discharge significant amounts of debt and create a clean start for yourself, financially speaking. The bad news is that if you enter into a bankruptcy procedure without fully understanding the process or without proper legal guidance, you may end up worse off than you were before.
For individuals, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies offer two distinctly different paths to discharging debt, but both also feature complicated deadlines and regulations. Understanding the differences between the two can help you create a path forward to financial freedom.
How are Chapter 13 and Chapter 7 different?
In broad strokes, Chapter 13 bankruptcy involves a court-approved repayment plan where the debtor follows the plan to repay some or all of their debt. In contrast, Chapter 7 bankruptcy involves liquidating your assets to pay off a portion of your debts and discharging other portions of your debt. These two different approaches to debt discharge have very different qualifications.
Each person's circumstances are different, and there is no one-size-fits all approach to bankruptcy.
Can I simply choose the plan I want?
Many people learn of the different options available in bankruptcy and assume that they can simply choose a bankruptcy plan and wake up on the other side, like a surgery. However, each type of bankruptcy involves meeting certain qualifications. For instance, only people who do not exceed a certain amount of debt qualify for a Chapter 13 repayment plan.
If you do qualify for both Chapter 13 and Chapter 7, then you may choose one. It is wise, however, to seek out professional counsel. A person with in-depth understanding of the process may identify advantages in one plan or the other that you may not have seen until it's too late to take advantage of them.
Can I keep any of my property?
Again, this is impossible to know without first comparing your circumstances to the specifics of the law. It is helpful to consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney to understand exactly what your options are once you have a handle on the broad strokes of bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy does usually offer some exemptions for various types of property. In some cases, people filing for bankruptcy may legitimately exempt retirement savings, a family home, a vehicle or even precious heirlooms or tools they use for work.
Whatever you choose to do, be sure to take action sooner than later. Your debt may soon be a thing of the past, but only if you take the steps toward bankruptcy that no one else can take for you.