Answers to Questions on Bankruptcy and Social Security Disability

Should I appeal my Social Security disability denial right away? What’s the difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy? Our FAQ offers answers to the most common questions we have received about bankruptcy and Social Security disability claims. It also covers estate planning, family law, and criminal law topics.
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  • Will the filing of a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy erase all of my debts?

    A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is a readjustment of all of a person's debts thereby establishing a repayment plan. This repayment period can be anywhere from three to five years.  In any event, the ultimate goal of filing a Chapter 13 is to obtain a discharge. A discharge is to be issued upon the completion of all payments into the Chapter 13 Plan.  

    The whole idea behind filing a bankruptcy is to eliminate a person's debts. A bankruptcy wipes out most unsecured debts. These can include medical bills, personal loans, past due utility bills, business debts, charge accounts, collection agency debts and late fees. The discharge in a Chapter 13 case is oftentimes broader that that recived in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. The discharge in a Chapter 13 wipes out all debts that were provided for in the Chapter 13 Plan, except:

    a. domestic support obligations, or (This generally refers to any child support, spousal or alimony owed to a spouse, former spouse or child of the debtor)

    b. most student loans, or (There is a rare exception to discharging student loans. A hardship discharge can be sought. This does not include a financial hardship by itself, but usually must be of the type that is a long-term health condition that will prevent the debtor from being able to make payments on the loan) 

    c. debts for restitution or damages awarded in a civil action that were the result of the willful or malicious injury by the debtor that caused personal injury or death

    d. certain criminal fines or restitution that were included in the sentence of the debtor's criminal conviction, or

    e. certain drunk driving debts, or (These are for debts that the debtor has incurred due to the unlawful operation of a motor vehicle, vessel or aircraft while intoxicated and that resulted in the personal injury or death. It may still be possible to discharge damages to property)

    f. long term debts in which the final payment falls due after the completion of the plan; or (This most often refers to a mortgage debt, whereby the mortgage arrears have been cured upon the completion of the Chapter 13 Plan, but the final payment does not fall due until several years later)

    g. tax debts, or (Benjamin Franklin once said that two things are certain in life, death and taxes. There are limited situations where some old taxes can be discharged. Even under those circumstances if a tax return is unfiled or late or a fraudulent return is filed, then those taxes would not be dischargeable)

    h. debts that have been incurred by false pretenses or fraud; or (In order for a debt of this type to be nondischargeable, the creditor has to file a timely motion objecting to the discharge of this particular debt and the Court must rule that the debt is in fact nondischargeable)

    i. debts not listed in the bankruptcy, or (All of the debts that you are wanting to discharge in your Chapter 13 needs to be listed in your bankruptcy forms. A Chapter 13 is considered to be an asset case and therefore a creditor is entitled to notice of the bankruptcy filing and to be provided with the opportunity to file a proof of claim. This is simply a breakdown or an itemization of the amount that the creditor claims that is owed. This to allow the creditor to be able to possibly share in any monies that are to be distributed from the bankruptcy estate)

    j. debts for fraud while acting as a fiduciary, or (This is similar to the type of debts incurred through false pretenses. The creditor must file a timely motion objecting to the discharge of this particular debt and the Court must in fact agree that the debt is nondischargeable).

    The Chapter 13 Bankruptcy discharge may eliminate or wipe out certain debts that are not dischargeable in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.  Those debts that are dischargeable in a Chapter 13 include:

    a. willful and malicious injury to property, or (Debts owed to an individual that arose from the debtor's willful and malicious acts that have not been awarded restitution or damages are dischargeable)

    b. marital settlement agreements, or (Debts that you owe to an ex-spouse that are part of a divorce or separation agreement that are not in the nature of support are dischargeable)

    c. certain fines and penalties, or

    d. debts incurred to pay nondischargeable taxes

    Before a debtor can receive the full benefits of a discharge it is necessary to determine whether any creditor has secured its' claim by placing a lien on your property. The most common way that a creditor gets a lien on your property is by obtaining a judgment. It will be necessary to avoid that lien or the creditor will retain the right to collect on that judgment. Any personal liability on your part will be wiped out, but the creditor can file an action to collect against the particular property. 

    If your circumstances are such that you are in need of filing for bankruptcy, then call Pittsburgh Bankruptcy Attorney Rodney Shepherd at 412 471-9670 or fill out our online client contact information form to schedule an apppointment for a free consultation.  Attorney Shepherd will explain the differences between a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy and which option is best for you.

     

     

     

     

     

  • Are there any type of restrictions on the use of my credit cards or incurring other debt prior to my filing bankruptcy?

             CREDIT CARD USE OR OBTAINING A CASH ADVANCE PRIOR TO FILING BANKRUPTCY  MAY CREATE A PRESUMPTION

    A debtor who has incurred consumer debts in excess of $675.00 owed to a single creditor for luxury goods or services within 90 days prior to filing bankruptcy or who has taken out a cash advance on an open ended credit plan that totals more than $950.00 within 70 days prior to filing bankruptcy, then such debts are presumed to be nondischargeable. This means that those debts are presumed to have been incurred through false pretenses, false representation or actual fraud. Otherwords, it is presumed that the debtor had no intent to repay those debts at the time they were incurred.

                                            PRESUMPTION IS ONLY REBUTABLE AND MAY BE OVERCOME

    However, this is simply a presumption and the debtor may rebut the presumption by showing evidence that there was in fact an honest intent to repay the debt at the time it was incurred or that the debt was not for luxury goods or services, as defined by the statute or that the cash advance that was taken out does not fall within the covered definition. This presumption can also be overcome if the debtor can show that there has been a change in circumstances from the time the debt was incurred. Also, the presumption would be rebutted if the debtor can show that the credit card was used without his or her knowledge or permission. Many courts have held that such a presumption can be implied, as opposed to simply being expressed. This is basically to prevent the debtor from going on a spending spree shortly before filing bankruptcy. Once the debtor rebuts the presumption, the burden of proof shifts to the creditor to prove fraudulent intent. It is not sufficient to simply show that a debt was incurred and not paid because this is true of all debts. Usually, unless the debtor makes an admission, it is very difficult to produce any evidence that would be able to prove a fraudulent intent. Keep in mind, that unless the creditor files a timely objection to the dischargeability of the debt, then the presumption does not even come about. If you are facing such a factual situation where the presumption could arise, then you might want to delay the filing of the bankruptcy in order to get past the relevant time periods. It is important to keep in mind that the time periods are only relevant with respect to the automatic presumption. Any debts that are incurred prior to those time periods can still be found to be nondischargeable if fraud or false pretenses can be proven.

                                        CREDIT CARD USE MUST BE BE FOR LUXURY GOODS OR SERVICES

    The discussion of credit card use would not be complete without a more thorough definition of luxury goods or services. Just what are luxury goods or services depends on the particular facts and circumstances of each case. Such items that constitute luxury goods or services include expensive jewelry, Christmas gifts, expensive floral arrangements, high-end clothing, expensive cosmetics, but such list is not exclusive and can include many more items. Luxury goods or services do not include items that were reasonably acquired for the support or maintenance of the debtor or the debtor's dependents. Items that would be excluded would be moderately priced clothing, Barbie dolls and accessories and even a new Chevrolet Lumina. 

                         CASH ADAVANCES PRIOR TO THE FILING OF BANKRUPTCY CAN CAUSE PROBLEMS  

    Taking out a cash advance of more than $950.00 within 70 days prior to filing bankuptcy can cause problems. A cash advance must be an extension of consumer credit under an open end credit plan. This basically means that the cash advance must be under a plan where the creditor expects repeated tranactions and the terms of the transaction have been spelled out and there is a finance charge on the unpaid balance.  

    If you are thinking about filing bankruptcy, but are not certain about when would be the best time to file.  Call Pittsburgh Bankruptcy Attorney Rodney Shepherd at 412-471-9670 or complete one of our client contact forms for a free consultation.

     

  • Can my employer discriminate against me if I file for bankruptcy?

    EMPLOYERS CANNOT DISCRIMINATE AGAINST A PERSON SOLEY BECAUSE THEY FILED BANKRUPTCY

    The Bankruptcy Code prohibits conduct by a governmental or private employer that would discriminate against a person solely because they have filed bankruptcy, has been insolvent before the commencement of the case or has discharged a debt in bankruptcy. It is first necessary to determine whether an employment relationship does in fact exist. This generally means that you were in an employment position at the time the bankruptcy petition was filed. The prohibition does not extend to hiring or other types of decisions where the debtor was not yet an employee of the employer on the date the bankruptcy petition was filed. The definition of an employment relationship is quite broad and may include situations generally not thought to be included. 

     

    EMPLOYERS CAN STILL DISCRIMINATE FOR OTHER REASONS, BUT THE COURTS MAY STILL FIND A VIOLATION

    A governmental or private employer are clearly prohibited from discriminating against a debtor with regard to their employment. This prohibition extends to discrimination regarding any aspect of a debtor's employment. The debtor must prove the offense or act committed by the employer was due soley because of the debtor's bankruptcy filing, being insolvent before the commencement of the case or the non-payment of a dischargeable debt. If the employer can show that there were other reasons for its' conduct toward the employee, then there is no violation. If a debt is of the type that is nondischargeable, then any discrimination is not prohibited. A debtor can encounter problems in proving the actual motivation of the employer if the employer provides other reasons for its' actions. Even when the employer provides its' other reasons for the discrimination, the Court can still disregard those other reasons if they appear to be frivolous and deem that a violation has in fact taken place. If it is determined that a violation has taken place, then the debtor is entitled to injunctive and declaratory relief. Such relief could be in the nature of the actual reinstatement of the employment position, if the debtor had already been terminated or even the promotin of the debtor to a new position, if such promotion had been previously denied. Not only can the debtor be awarded injunctive or declaratory relief, but an award of monetary damages for lost wages is a possibility, excluding any punitive award. The Court generally will not award attorney fees either. The Bankruptcy Code gives the Court considerable leeway in fashioning remedies to allow the debtor to reap the benefits of a fresh start that the filing of bankruptcy is intended to provide. It should be pointed out that these awards are generally for actions that occur after the bankruptcy case is filed and are not property of the bankruptcy estate. This means that a debtor in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy can keep any award since it is not property of the estate.  However, since the duration of a Chapter 13 is normally for five years, any award may become property of the estate and require a payment to unsecured creditors. 

    If you have questions about just how the bankruptcy process can play out, then call Pittsburgh Bankruptcy Attorney Rodney Shepherd at 412 471-9670 or complete our cleint contact form.  Every effort will be made to answer your questions and to provide you with a more detailed explanation of the entire process.  

  • Will filing bankruptcy allow my driver's license to be restored if it has already been suspended?

    Chapter 7 Can Prevent Your Drivers License From Being Suspended

    The main objective behind allowing a person to file for bankruptcy is to provide that individual with a fresh start in life. The Bankruptcy Code clearly prevents the government from discriminating against a debtor by suspending, denying or revoking their driver's license soley because they failed to pay a motor vehicle related judgment that would be dischargeable in their bankruptcy. Otherwords, if the debt is dischargeable in bankruptcy, then the license cannot be denied. Likewise, the State is prohibited from creating any licensing or other type of requirements simply because a person filed for bankruptcy. The whole idea behind the prohibtion against discrimination is that a person with a discharged debt should be treated the same way as a person who never had any type of debt.

    However, it should be pointed out that if other reasons exists for the government's action, then such action may be permissable and not be a violation. An example of such a sitiation would be where a license has been suspensed or revoked due to a certain number of points being assessed after various traffic violations. If the law that is being applied to you is not designed to coerce the payment of a debt that would be dischargeable in bankruptcy and requires the same actions from debtors and non-debtors alike, then there is no violation. 

    In order to have your license restored there are certain documents that will need to be provided to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation:

    1. Proof that the Bankruptcy was filed (a certfied copy of the cover sheet to the bankruptcy petition),
    2. Copy of the bankruptcy schedule that list the motor vehicle judgment to be discharged,
    3. Affidavit stating that the judgment is not for personal injuries or death caused by the debtor's operation of a motor vehicle while  intoxicated, and
    4. Proof of current financial responsibility for any vehicle titled in the debtor's name, or an affidavit stating that the debtor does not have any vehicles titled in his or her name.

    Once all of this documentation has been provided to the State, then your license will be restored. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will not mail your license to you. It will still be necessary to go to your local license branch to reapply and have the license reissued. Sometimes a person fails to provide this information to the State while their bankruptcy is still active. Even if you provide all of the above-mentioned documentation after your bankruptcy has been discharged and closed out your license can still be restored. 

    Chapter 13 Is Your Best Alternative, If The Debt Is Of The Type That Is Non-Dischargeable In A Chapter 7 

    The typical type of debt that causes a person's driving priviledges to be suspended is where a money judgment has been entered against them due to a motor vehicle accident. Upon filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy that type of debt can be discharged and you can have your license restored. However, there are times where an individual's driver's license is suspended due to the non-payment of traffic fines. Traffic fines are generally not dischargeable in a chapter 7. The filing of a chapter 13 bankruptcy may allow you to disharge certain debts that would not be dischargeable in a chapter 7 bankruptcy. For instance, traffic fines are generally dischargeable in a chapter 13. If the debt is of the type that will be discharged upon the successful completion of the chapter 13, then the debtor is entitled to have their license renewed during the pendency of the chapter 13. Should the debtor's chapter 13 bankruptcy get dismissed or it becomes necessary to convert their case to a chapter 7 bankruptcy, then the State would be able to again suspend or revoke their driver's license. Criminal fines are clearly not dischargeable in either a chapter 7 bankruptcy or a chapter 13 bankruptcy. However, a debtor may provide for these debts in their chapter 13. The automatic stay would prohibit any collection efforts, which could include the revocation of your driver's license. 

    If your driver's license has been revoked or suspended for the reasons listed above, then call Pittsburgh Bankruptcy Attorney Rodney Shepherd at 412-471-9670 or complete our client contact form to discuss the necessary steps to have your driver's licesne restored.

  • How are my utilities treated upon the filing of my bankruptcy?

    THE BANKRUPTCY CODE PROVIDES PROTECTION TO THE DEBTOR FROM BEING DISCRIMINATED AGAINST BY THE UTILITY COMPANY

    Having utility service is considered of utmost importance in society. If the service was ever terminated it could make a person's life somewhat miserable. In order to prevent a situation like this from occurring, the Bankruptcy Code tries to strike a middle ground between the person filing bankruptcy and the utility provider. Most people feel that a utility provider includes simply public providers of electric, gas, telephone, water and sewage services. The definition is much broader and includes suppliers of utilities such as landlords, condominium associations and other entities that may be responsible for having utilities supplied to debtors. 

     

    THE DEBTOR IS FULLY PROTECTED DURING THE FIRST 20 DAYS AND MAY EXTEND SUCH PROTECTION 

    A utility provider is prohibited from discontinuing or refusing services simply because a person has filed bankruptcy and has not paid a debt that existed prior to the bankruptcy filing. During the first 20 days a debtor is protected from their service being terminated. The utility company, however, can require a deposit or an adequate assurance of future payments. The amount of the deposit is based on a person's prior usage and varies. A good estimate is about two monthly budget payments. There are normally only two utility providers in this district that require a deposit, the electric and the gas. Upon receiving the deposit, any pre-bankruptcy debts would be wiped and a new account would be opened with a zero balance. During the 20 day period, the debtor may file an action in court seeking to have the amount of the deposit modified or allowing it to be paid in installments. The utility providers are not without options if a person does not pay the deposit within the 20 day period nor have the time period extended. The utility company may terminate or refuse service after the 20 day period. 

     

    YOUR UTILITY SERVICE MAY HAVE ALREADY BEEN TERMINATED BUT RESTORATION OF SUCH SERVICE IS REQUIRED 

    Sometimes a person's utility service has already been terminated prior to their filing for bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Code requires that the utility provider restore service upon the filing of the bankruptcy case. The utility company can require a deposit or some form of adequate assurance of future payments, within the 20 day period from the filing of the bankruptcy. The adequate assurance requirements may be somewhat different from a person who already has service, since restoring service basically makes a person a new customer and the adequate assuance requirments for this type of person could be different.

     

    WAIVER OF THE REQUIREMENT OF THE DEPOSIT MAY BE A REAL POSSIBILITY

    There are situations where a person has always paid their utilities. Even under these type of circumstances the utility company still expects that a person pay a deposit. However, if the debtor has a past payment history showing that payments have always been made on a timely basis, then it is possible that the utility company will waive this requirement. The payment history should serve as a type of adequate assurance. Debtor's counsel should contact the attorney for the utility company and bring to his or her attention the debtor's past payment history to see whether the waiver requirements are met.      

     

    If you have many unanswered questions about bankruptcy and would feel more comfortable by having a free consultation, then call Pittsburgh Bankruptcy Attorney Rodney Shepherd at 412-471-9670 or complete our client contact form.  He will make every effort to answer your questions and to put you fully at ease.   

  • Are alimony, maintenance and support and property settlement agreements dischargeable in bankruptcy?

    DOMESTIC SUPPORT AND PROPERTY SETTLEMENT AGREEMENTS ARE NOT DISCHARGEABLE IN A CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY

     

    In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the Bankruptcy Code excepts from discharge domestic support obligations. This definition includes any debt that is owed to a spouse, former spouse, child of the debtor, such child's parent, legal guardian or governmental unit that is for alimony, maintenance or support or is in the nature of alimony, maintenance or support. For instance, if the paying spouse agreed to pay certain expenses of the other spouse for a lower support obligation, then this would be in the nature of support and not dischargeable. The definition also includes both pre-petition and post-petition obligations, as well as any interest on those debts. A rare instance in which support is dischargeable is when it has been assigned to another entity for other than collection purposes. The obligation to pay alimony, maintenance and support has always been considered of utmost importance, and the obligations under a marital property settlement agreement has evolved into becoming a top priority in a chapter 7 bankruptcy and also is not dischargeable.

     

    CHAPTER 13 BANKRUPTCY CAN BE USED TO CURE DELINQUENT SUPPORT ARREARS

     

    As in Chapter 7, domestic support obligations are excepted from discharge in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Otherwords, debts for alimony, maintenace or support or that are in the nature of alimony, maintenace or support will survive bankruptcy. However, one of the benefits of a Chapter 13 is that you are permitted to pay back your delinquent support obligations over the life of the Chapter 13 Plan, which can be up to five years. Assuming that you make all of your plan payments, upon the completion of the plan all of your delinquent support payments will now be paid off. In order to receive a discharge, it also necessary that you continued making all of your ongoing support payments. In fact, upon the completion of your case, you must certify that all ongoing support payments, as well as any support payments paid through your plan have been paid.

     

    MARITAL PROPERTY SETTLEMENT AGREEMENTS MAY BE DISCHARGEABLE IN A CHAPTER 13 BANKRUPTCY

     

    Another benefit to a Chapter 13 is that you can discharge a marital property settlement agreement. Confusion sometimes arises in determining the definition of a property settlement agreement. The main factors that courts consider in determining whether the debt is in the nature of support or a property settlement agreement are: 1) whether the payments terminate upon the death or remarriage of the spouse who receives the payments; 2) whether the payments are paid over a period of time, as opposed to some type of lump-sum payment; 3) whether the payments are based on the receiving spouse's future earning capacity; and 4) whether the payments are for such items as medical care, mortgage or other basic necessities of life of the receiving spouse. If these factors were contemplated in determining the payment, then the payment will most likely be considered to be in the nature of support rather than a property settlement agreement and therefore not dischargeable. However, debts that you owe to a former spouse that were agreed to in a divorce or separation agreement and are not in the nature of support are dischargeable in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. In a Chapter 13, it is necessary that you list all of the creditors that you are wanting to discharge. That list would include your former spouse. Also, in order to get a discharge you must complete the terms of your Chapter 13 Plan that was previously confirmed. 

    If you are faced with similar circumstances or are contemplating filing bankruptcy, then give Pittsburgh Bankruptcy Attorney Rodney Shepherd a call at 412 471-9670 or just fill out our client contact form.  You will be immediately called and a free consultation will be scheduled today.

     

     

     

     

      

  • What happens if my Bankruptcy is over with and I forgot to list a debt?

    DEBTS NOT LISTED MAY STILL BE DISCHARGED IN A CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY

    When a person files bankruptcy it is very important that they list all of their debts. It is not only a good idea to gather all of your bills, but also to supplement those bills with a credit report. You can get a free credit report through www.annualcreditreport.com. In fact, this link can be found on my website. Oftentimes after a case has been filed, but before it is finished, a debtor may decide that they have a debt that they failed to list on their Bankruptcy Petition. As long as the debt was one that was owed at the time of the filing of the Bankruptcy Petition, it can be added to the list of creditors. An amendment of schedules should be filed adding this additional creditor to the Petition. This will provide that particular creditor with notice of the bankruptcy filing and avoid any claims by the creditor alleging failure of service. This creditor has been added to the Petition and the bankruptcy has proceeded forward and is now closed. Occasionally, a debtor will find another creditor that was inadvertently omitted from the Bankruptcy Petition or even one that they were completely unaware of. The Bankruptcy Code addresses two categories of unscheduled debts. The first type of debts are those that arise from intentional torts, such as debts incurred by false pretenses, fraud or willful and malicious injury. These type of debts clearly are not dischargeable. The other type of unlisted debt that is not dischargeable is where the particular creditor by not being listed was not provided with a sufficient amount of time to file a proof of claim. This is what a creditor would file in an asset case itemizing the amount owed on its' claim. Most Chapter 7 Bankruptcies are considered no-asset cases. That means that all of the assets that have been listed on the petition have been fully exempted, so the trustee will not be able to take any of the property and sale it in order to distribute the proceeds to creditors. These unlisted or unscheduled debts are considered to be discharged just the same as if they had been originally listed on your Petition. The reason is that these creditors are not being prejudiced because they would not have received anything even had they been listed. This goes in  keeping with the notion of allowing the debtor to have a fresh start on the road to financial recovery. 

     

      DEBTS NOT LISTED DO NOT GET DISCHARGED IN A CHAPTER 13 BANKRUPTCY

    A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is somewhat different as it is considered an asset case. Each creditor listed on the Bankruptcy Petition is provided with a notice of the bankruptcy filing and a bar date in which to file a proof of claim. A creditor can be added during the bankruptcy and is provided with the opportunity to file a proof of claim. Once the case is closed, the debtor's bankruptcy is not considered effective against any unlisted or unscheduled debt. That particular creditor is considered to have been denied the right to participate in any assets of that particular bankruptcy estate. As you can see, it is very important to make sure that you file a complete list of your creditors at the time of the bankruptcy filing.  

    If you find yourself overwhelmed with debt, then give Pittsburgh Bankruptcy Attorney Rodney Shepherd a call at 412 471-9670 to schedule an appointment. Attorney Shepherd will help you obtain that fresh start in life, so that you will no longer be a slave to your creditors.  

  • Will I eliminate all of my debts when I file bankruptcy?

    Generally, yes. Bankruptcy is a court process that can wipe out your debt and put you on the path to financial freedom. However, bankruptcy only discharges a debtor’s personal liability on the debt. Bankruptcy does not eliminate liens—notices that a creditor can attach to your property to proclaim to the world that you owe them money. These liens can be a real headache because they will prevent you from selling the property without paying the debt.

    There are different types of liens, but a judicial lien is the kind that we are primarily concerned with in bankruptcy. A judicial lien occurs when a creditor files suit against you and obtains a judgment. The lien is then indexed in the court docket. 

    Avoiding Liens Is a Crucial Step in the Bankruptcy Process

    As part of the bankruptcy process, an experienced bankruptcy attorney will help you take additional steps to avoid liens. Following are two conditions under which you can avoid liens in bankruptcy court:

    • If you have a house, the lien may be avoided based on a calculation that takes into consideration the value of the property, the amount of any secured loans, the amount of the available exemptions, and the lien attached to the property.
    • If a judgment is obtained against you within 90 days prior to the filing date of your bankruptcy, then the lien can be avoided. 

    Lien avoidance can be the key to any fresh start, and it is important to tell your bankruptcy attorney about any outstanding judicial liens that you know of so that he can assess the impact on your specific situation.

    Hiring a Bankruptcy Attorney May Be the Smartest Money You Ever Spent

    Are you looking for help with your bankruptcy case? Attorney Rodney Shepherd has helped countless people eliminate debt and avoid liens. Contact him today at the number at the top of this page or fill out his handy contact form to learn how he can help you.

  • How long is the process and is anything else required of me?

           The whole process takes about  4 1/2 months from the date that you filed your petition.  You first have your meeting of creditors usually within 30 days.  Creditors are provided with a 60 day time line to review your case from the first date set for your meeting of creditors.  After that deadline has paseed, then the case is normally closed out in about a month to a month and a half.  There are ocassions where your case may fall through the cracks and it will be necessary for me to call the clerk's office to have it closed out.  You will receive a discharge order and final decree in the mail officially discharging your debts and closing out your case.

         During the 60 day time period that creditors have to review your case, it is necessary that you obtain a debtor education certificate.  This is the second course that you are required to take and is oftentimes called a pre-discharge course.  It is basically a budget class.  You must be certain to obtain it before that 60 day deadline or your case will be closed out without discahrge.  That means that it will be necessary for you to refile.  You can oftentimes obtain your ceritificate from the same place that you obtained your certificate of credit counseling from.  Here are just a few of the places that you can contact:  www.summitfe.org , www.beadviser.com , www.PreBK.com , www.advantageccs.com , www.bothcourses.com , www.AccessBK.org .  If you do not have a computer, then you can call Advantage Credit Counseling at 1-866-409-2227, which is the only local office that is located at 2403 Sidney Street, Pittsburgh, PA  15203 and do it in person or over the telephone.

  • What is the $341 Bankruptcy Meeting of Creditors?

    The majority of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy cases are rather simple and routine.  The entire bankruptcy process takes approximately 4 to 4 1/2 months.

    Once the petition is filed, the court will send out an official notice informing your creditors that you have filed bankruptcy and appointining a trustee. This notice will also schedule a meeting of creditors, which is held approximately 30 days after you file. You are required to attend the meeting. These meetings are held on the hour between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. They are quite brief and last only about five to ten minutes. There are about eight to ten cases per hour, so you generally will not be there more than an hour. Occasionally, a person may have a conflict and so it would be somewhat difficult to attend the meeting. There is no need to worrry, as the court permits everyone to miss at least one meeting and  allows the Trustee to reschedule a new one. Also, an option available to a person who suffers from an illness or some other exceptional hardship is to file a motion and to be excused from attending the meeting of creditors and to participate by telephone.  

    As I previously stated, a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee is appointed to your case. At least 7 days prior to your meeting of creditors, there are certain types of documentation that you are required to submit to the trustee.  Such items include copies of your tax returns for the past two years and paystubs for the past 3 months or current income information. The purpose of the meeting is to obtain additional information about your case. At the meeting, the trustee will ask the debtor a series of questions to verify the accuracy of the information on the bankruptcy petition, particularly regarding the debtor's assets and liabilities. The questions are rather routine, but include the following:

    Please show me your social security number (You will need your original social security card or some other type of original document that shows you social security number, such as an original W-2, medicare card, etc.)

    Please show me your picutre I.D. (This can be your driver's license or State photo identification or some other information to establish your identity.)

    Did you sign the petition, schedules, statements and related documents and is the signature your own? Did you read the petition, schedules, statements and related documents before you signed them.

    Are you personally familiar with the information contained in the petition? Is the information contained in the petition and related documents true and correct? Are there any errors or omissions?

    Are all of your assets identified on the schedules? Have you listed all of your creditors on the schedules?

    Have you previously filed bankruptcy? (In order to be eligible for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy discharge, a petition can only be filed every eight years. Otherwise, it will be necessary to file a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy).

    What is the address of your current employer? (This information is also required to be listed on Schedules I.)

    Is the tax return you provided a true and correct copy of the most recent tax return you filed? Are all tax returns that are due been filed? (If you are not required to file tax returns, then you should provide an affidavit to that effect and provide it to the Trustee at or prior to the meeting.)

    Do you have a domestic support obligation? (This is normally an obligation in the nature of child support, spousal support or alimony. If you do have such an obligation, it will be necessary for you to provide the Trustee with the name and address of the person to whom you pay support.)

    Do you expect to receive anything of value within the next six months? (This would include such things as an inheritance, gambling winnings or any other thing of value).

    Does anyone owe you any money? (If you are owed money, then the question comes down to whether it is collectible.)

    Do you have a claim or potential claim against anyone? (This would include such items as a personal injury claim or any other lawsuit.)

    Do you own or have any interest in any real estate? (If you have a home you will need to substantiate why you think it is worth the amount that you listed on the schedules and how you arrived at that amount.)

    Have you made a transfer of any real or personal property? (The Bankruptcy Code prohibits the transfer of any property not in the ordinary course of business. This means that you are not allowed to transfer any property to someone for less tha the fair market value, such as for $1.00 or a nominal amount shortly before filing bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Code restricts the transfer within two years prior to filing and State law restrict the filing within five years.) 

    Have you read the Bankruptcy Information Sheet? (This is an information sheet that provides various information about the types of bankruptcy, the bankruptcy discharge and the entering into a reaffirmation agreement. Normally, this will be mailed to you prior to the meeting or you can obtain a copy of it at the meeting of creditors.)

    What was the reason for you filing bankruptcy? (There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Almost any answer is satisfactory. You might want to say that your income was reduced due to a job loss, you overextended yourself on your financial obligations, you had a serious medical condition. etc.)

    These are probably the majority of the questions that will be asked. However, based upon a person's responses, the Trustee may want to ask some additional questions. Also, the Trustee may want to see some additional documentation to support some of the figures that you have listed on your schedules. The meeting may be continued to another date to give you the opportunity to get this information. Assuming that you are able to provide this information prior to the meeting, then there is generally no need to attend this newly scheduled meeting. After the Trustee has reviewed your information and if he or she has detertmined that there are some inconsistencies, then an amendment to the schedules can be filed that will generally cure or resolve the problem. 

    The Trustee is normally the only person to question you during the meeting. However, any one of your creditors are free to show up and examine you. This rarely occurs. If anyone  does show, all they can do is ask you some questions. From their standpoint, the meeting is a time engage in discovery and determine your ability to pay anything toward their debt. In order for them to do anything some action has to be filed in court. This is seldom done, so it is not likely that you will be required to appear in court.  

    Upon the conclusion of the meeting of creditors, the trustee can either close out the meeting or continue it to another date, as was previously discussed. Most of the time the meetings are closed out and no further proceedings are required. If it is determined that the debtor is unable to exempt his or her assets or has more than nominal assets, then it is required that such assets be turned over to the Chapter7 Trustee, who will then liquidate them and turnover any proceed received to pay creditors.

    The scheduling and the rules regarding the meeting of creditors are about the same for a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. These meeting are also on the hour and may last about ten to fifteen minutes. Unlike a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, these meeting are usually held in a closed room, with just you and your attorney present. On occasion, a representative from your mortgage company, car lender or taxing authority may also be present. The Chapter 13 Trustee will examine you to determine whether the Chapter 13 Plan that you have proposed is feasible and whether you have the ability to make plan payments and whether there are any grounds to obect to the plan. Upon the conclusion of the meeting, the trustee will normally enter an interim distribution order, so that your creditors can start getting paid. A date for a conciliation is provided that may be four months later. It is not necessary for you to attend this conciliation. At this meeting, your attorney will normally get your Chapter 13 Plan confirmed on a final basis.

    If you are interested in filing for bankruptcy or you simply have some questions about filing, then call Pittsburgh Bankruptcy Attorney Rodney Shepherd at 412 471-9670 or fill out our content infromation form. You will be immediately contacted and scheduled for a free consultation.