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Chapter 7 Bankruptcy filing and exemptions

Posted on: 08th Nov, 2005 10:12 pm
If you have no hope of repaying debts and are about to be sued by creditors/lenders, it's time you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. With this type of bankruptcy, the court sells your nonexempt property to repay as much of your debt as possible. To learn how Chapter 7 bankruptcy works and how it can help you, go through the information below:

When to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy

You can file Chapter 7 if you are in any of the situations given below:
  • You don't have any money to pay off the debts.
  • You don't have cosigners to repay debt.
  • Your creditors are about to sue you.
  • Some of your accounts are in collection.

How to qualify for chapter 7

You need to fulfill the following in order to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
  • Credit counseling: You must have attended a credit counseling session 6 months prior to filing chapter 7 bankruptcy.
  • Means Test: You must qualify under the Chapter 7 bankruptcy Means Test. Under the Means Test, if your income is less than the median income of another family of the same size in your state, you qualify to file Chapter 7. Find out how Means Test determines if you qualify for chapter 7. Check out how Means Test determines if you qualify for chapter 7 or 13.
  • Prior bankruptcy: You have received a Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge within the past 8 years or a Chapter 13 discharge within the past 6 years.
  • Bankruptcy dismissal: You have not had your bankruptcy dismissed within the past 6 months for failure to appear or contempt of court.

Chapter 7 Non-exempt Assets

Most of the assets that are sold during Chapter 7 are personal property, such as your electronics or clothes. You will have to list all your assets as well as your liabilities when you file Chapter 7. The trustee will review the list of assets and divide your property according to what state law has said you may keep. The Federal government has enacted an exemption scheme that a few states allow you to use as an alternative to a state scheme, or if you are ineligible for the state exemptions due to residency requirements.

Bankruptcy Chapter 7 exemptions

Each state allows you to keep different types of property when you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Every state allows you to keep a part of your interest in your home and car if you include them in the bankruptcy estate. Many states have exemptions that allow you to keep heirlooms and other personal property, as well as your retirement funds.

Every state has a residency requirement that you must meet when you file Chapter 7. You must have been living in the state for at least 2 years before filing bankruptcy in that state or if you have not lived in any other state within the previous 2 years, but have spent the majority of the 180 day period preceding the 2 year period in that state.

Exemptions on house and car:
Bankruptcy Chapter 7 exemptions apply only if you have equity (your current home value minus costs of sale less balance on mortgage or other liens) in the property. If your home equity exceeds the State or Federal exemption, you may lose the home. However, if you have no equity in the house, it cannot be used to pay off your debts. In this case, you can keep the home as long as you pay the mortgage.

The same is true for a car, if you have no equity, you can keep it. If your equity in the car exceeds the exemption, it can be sold off to repay your car loan. Learn more about bankruptcy Chapter 7 exemptions.

If you wish to reaffirm your car loan and/or mortgage, then the property will not be included in the bankruptcy estate and you will be able to keep them.

Other Exemptions:
Apart from your home and car, there are other assets which may qualify for exemptions under Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The Federal government and most states allow debtors to keep all or part of their pensions, IRAs, and social security during bankruptcy. You can also receive protection for certain business assets if you are involved in a partnership or are a sole business owner.

Pros and Cons of filing chapter 7 bankruptcy

Here are some of the pros and cons of filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
  • No Personal liability: Chapter 7 releases your personal liability towards any debts that are included in your bankruptcy estate and not repaid during Chapter 7. You receive a discharge order within 4 months of filing the petition.
  • Exemptions: You can retain certain assets under chapter 7.
  • Prevents legal actions: Once you file Chapter 7, it stops all lawsuits and collection actions being pursued by your creditors. Under Chapter 7 bankruptcy law, creditors cannot make harassing calls demanding payments from debtors until and unless the case has been dismissed.
  • Fresh financial start: Since Chapter 7 discharges your debts, you get the chance to organize and manage your finances better.
  • Lose assets: You lose assets if they are sold off to pay your creditors/lenders.
  • Retain property liens: Chapter 7 does not remove property liens due to secured debts (mortgage or car loan) unless you give up the house or car during Chapter 7. So, even if you get a discharge, you'll have to pay off the lien in order to save your property from foreclosure or repossession if you keep the house or car.
  • Effect on Credit Score: Your credit score decreases by 250 points or so when you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy remains on your credit report for 10 years.
  • New credit/mortgage: It's difficult to qualify for new credit or a mortgage after you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If the market isn't doing well, no lender would offer you a mortgage even at high interest rates. It'll take at least 2 years to qualify for an FHA loan and 4 years for a conventional mortgage at an affordable interest rate. Check out this forum discussion on getting mortgage after bankruptcy.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy helps you eliminate debts but there are negative aspects as well. You need to understand how bankruptcy can work in your favor. Only then you can use it to your benefit and lead a debt free life.

Related Forum Discussions
Hi anonymous,

As you have already filed bankruptcy, you will have to give away your tax refund to the bankruptcy trustee who will use it to pay off your creditors. Your bankruptcy attorney or trustee will be able to let you know as to how much money you will be able to keep.

Posted on: 26th Mar, 2013 08:51 pm
I am trying to sell half of an acre out of my 1.1 acre property, keeping the house to pay unsecured debts $30,000.00. can I do so before or during already filed chapter 7?
I am up to date on payments on 3 mortgages, car is paid for already, etc. Afraid the creditors will take my primary residence which has equity, other 2 mortgages have very minimal equity.Again, can I sell part of the property (0.5 acre lot after survey) after-during fiing chapter 7? Thank you
Posted on: 25th May, 2013 09:10 am
Hi franco,

Before or during a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you won't be able to sell off any portion of the property.

Posted on: 26th May, 2013 11:29 pm
filed bk 7 3 yrs ago bank has not did forclosure yet. should I now file chapter 13 to speed things up also they have attached my husband and my joint account for hoa fee we just got married .
will we have to pay property tax when this is over
Posted on: 13th Jun, 2013 06:46 pm
Hi katie,

Unless the property is sold off, you will be liable for the maintenance of the property. In such a situation, I will suggest you negotiate with your lender to sell off the property ASAP. Filing Chapter 13 may not be the right solution in this case.
Posted on: 16th Jun, 2013 11:03 pm
Wa state sent me a letter stateing they cant come after me for a claim, yet they are now using these companies of tax relief to attempt to collect on a unemployment benifit?
Posted on: 07th Oct, 2013 06:03 pm
Hi lbowman!

Welcome to the forums!

You should immediately speak to your bankruptcy attorney in this regard and he will be able to assist you as to what actions can be taken in this regard.

Feel free to ask if you've further queries.

Posted on: 07th Oct, 2013 11:06 pm
My ex spouse just filed chapter 7. He is 7,000 in the rears in alimony payments. My car and my daughters car are in both his and my names. Will I be responsible for car loans? Will he get out of alimony? Both are part of divorce decree. Do I need to get an attorney?
Posted on: 18th Nov, 2013 05:44 pm
Hi Guest!

Welcome to the forums!

Once he gets a discharge from his debts, you will become solely liable for the car payments. Alimony payments will not be discharged in bankruptcy filing.

Feel free to ask if you've further queries.

Posted on: 18th Nov, 2013 10:47 pm
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