9 Steps to Filing Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

steps-filing-bankruptcyStep 1: Your free phone call

It all starts with a phone call to set you up with a totally FREE debt consultation at one of our offices, located in MinneapolisSt PaulBlaine and Brooklyn Park. There is no charge or obligation for your free bankruptcy consultation.

Step 2: Your Free Debt Consultation

At your appointment, you will meet with an experienced Minnesota bankruptcy attorney to discuss your case. We gather from you the information necessary to understand your situation, including your goals, assets, debts, income and expenses. We analyze your situation and tell you about your options and answer your questions and concerns. We will tell you how bankruptcy works, what needs to be done before you file, what it does and does not do, and what it costs. Whether or not bankruptcy is an option for you….up to this point…..there is no obligation whatsoever. That is….you are free to find out about your options and to get your questions answered….for FREE …and then leave…..no strings attached.

Filling out these forms and bringing them with you, will help us and you to better understand your financial situation.

You might want to bring $50 with you, because that is all it takes to retain us in most cases. Retaining us means hiring us. After you hire us, you can refer the creditors to us and not talk to them. The $50 goes towards our fees, of course.

Step 3: Gather the papers we need to prepare your bankruptcy

Back at home, you will gather up for us all your bills, documents and other information necessary to get your case filed. Once you know that filing bankruptcy is right for you….this part of the process is fun. Why? Because…you know…likely this will be the last time you will have to deal with these bills. You see….after you make the decision to file bankruptcy….and as long as you follow through with your filing…..It’s like telling us: “Here are my bills….You deal with them.” Mail us all the bills, documents and other information you have put together.

Step 4: Your finish-up appointment and credit counselling

Three or four weeks after we receive your documents and papers, you come in for a finish-up conference in our offices. At the conference we finish up your bankruptcy petition, usually around 50 pages, and you review and sign it. Normally we also arrange for you to do the required credit counselling course.

Step 5: Filing your case with the Court

We file the final signed documents with the Court by electronic filing over the internet. When your case is filed with the Court, the Court issues a court order called the “automatic stay” that says nobody can do anything to collect a debt from you. They can’t sue you, they can’t garnish, repossess, foreclose or anything else. They can’t even talk to you, and they certainly can’t harass you.

If they violate the automatic stay, we can sue them for contempt of Court. The creditors will leave you alone after the case is filed. If they didn’t, the Court would fine them.

Step 6: The meeting of creditors (341 hearing)

About 30 days after we file your case, we will attend the Meeting of Creditors or the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy 341 Hearing. This meeting is the creditor’s opportunity to show up and ask you questions. Mostly…however…creditors do NOT show up. Why? Because bankruptcy protection is powerful and because the creditors know there is NOT much they can do. In most cases…this meeting would be more appropriately called “Meeting Your Trustee”. You can think of your Trustee as a sort of “bookkeeper/gatekeeper” for the Court. His job is to review the schedules filed in your case and to examine you to make sure you told the “truth, the truth, and the whole truth…so help you God”. In most cases, that’s all that happens at this meeting. It is usually over in less than 15 minutes.

Step 7: Financial Management course

In the month after our creditors meeting you need to complete a financial management course. This takes about a half hour and is usually arranged by our office. Most people find it gives them useful information and is usually interesting.

Step 8: Repayment plan
You will need to perform the financial repayment as directed by your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy plan.  Since the repayment takes place over 3-to-5 years, your circumstances may change and a modification to Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan may be needed.

Step 9: Discharge

After successful repayment of your debt, the Court issues your discharge. The discharge is the court order that says you don’t owe your bills. It goes further and is a court order that forbids creditors from trying to collect. There are some debts that Chapter 13 bankruptcy does not work on. These include child support, student loans and most taxes.

The foregoing steps assume that everything in your case proceeds as originally planned and anticipated, which is almost always the case.

Photo credit: © John Takai | Dreamstime.com

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