Michael J. Cox Home Making Home Affordable
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What kind of relief can I expect if I file for bankruptcy protection?
The immediate relief comes when creditors, their lawyers, and collection agencies are notified that they must cease all communication with you and may not take any further action to collect a debt from you. Creditors cannot collect on judgments or lawsuits already filed against you and cannot file or pursue new lawsuits. They cannot garnish your wages or take, repossess, or foreclose on any of your property. All court hearings for existing lawsuits will be stopped, and most civil court judgments entered against you prior to your filing will be null and void upon the conclusion of your bankruptcy proceeding.

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What can bankruptcy protection do for me?
Bankruptcy may make it possible for you to achieve the following:

  • Eliminate the legal obligation to pay most or all of your debts. This is called the “discharge” of debts. It is designed to give you a fresh financial start.
  • Stop a foreclosure on your home and allow you to catch up on missed payments.
  • Prevent repossession of a car, mobile home, or other property.
  • Force the creditor to return property even after it has been repossessed.
  • Stop harassment and similar actions by debt collectors.
  • Restore or prevent termination of utility services.

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How do I decide which chapter to file?
There are many different types of bankruptcies. Most people file for relief under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code. The choice of which chapter to file depends entirely on your unique situation and objectives.

Chapter 7: A trustee is appointed to take over your property. Any property of value can be sold or turned into money to pay your creditors. You may be able to keep your home and your automobile if the loan payments are all current.

Chapter 11: Used mostly by businesses, this chapter is designed for the reorganization of a business but is also available to consumer debtors. However, its provisions are quite complicated, and any decision for an individual to file a Chapter 11 petition should be reviewed by a certified bankruptcy law specialist. In Chapter 11, you may continue to operate your business, but your creditors and the Court must approve a plan for you to repay your debts. There is no trustee unless the Judge decides that one is necessary. If a trustee is appointed, the trustee takes control of your business and property.

Chapter 12: Similar to Chapter 13, this method is designed to permit family farmers and fishermen to repay their debts over a period of time from future earnings. The eligibility requirements are restrictive, limiting its use to those whose income arises primarily from a family-owned farm or commercial fishing operation.

Chapter 13: Designed for individuals with regular income, this method allows debtors to pay all or part of their debts in installments over a period of time. You are eligible for Chapter 13 only if your debts do not exceed certain dollar amounts set forth in the Bankruptcy Code.

Under Chapter 13, you will file a plan with the Court to repay your creditors all or part of the money you owe them, using your future income or earnings. The period allowed by the court to repay your debts is usually between three and five years, depending on your income and other factors. The court must approve your plan before it takes effect.

After completing the payments under your plan, your debts are generally discharged except for child support, alimony, and other support obligations; most student loans; certain taxes; most criminal fines and restitution obligations; certain debts that were not properly listed in your bankruptcy papers; certain debts for acts that caused death or personal injury; and certain long-term secured obligations.

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Can I move while my case is open?
Yes, but your certified bankruptcy law specialist and the Bankruptcy Clerk must know your exact mailing address as long as you are under Chapter 13. You will be getting mailings from the court and your certified bankruptcy law specialist. If you ever move, it is your responsibility to notify both the Bankruptcy Clerk and your certified bankruptcy law specialist of your new mailing address. Your lawyer must prepare final documents for you to sign to obtain your discharge. You will not receive a discharge until this step has been taken.

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Can I change jobs while my case is open?
Yes.

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Can my employer fire me for filing for bankruptcy protection?
No. 11 U.S.C. Sec. 525 prohibits any employer from discriminating against you because you filed a bankruptcy petition or because you failed to pay a dischargeable debt.

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Do I have to attend hearings?
You do have to appear at the first meeting of the creditors, no matter which chapter you file under. This hearing is conducted by the trustee appointed to your case. The bankruptcy judge will not attend this meeting. This meeting is usually scheduled about a month after your case is filed. These meetings are usually short in nature, and your testimony will not be lengthy. You should be familiar with the papers you filed and always give honest answers to any questions that you are asked. The trustee will be speaking directly to you and not to your certified bankruptcy law specialist, but your certified bankruptcy law specialist will be there with you.

Your certified bankruptcy law specialist will also brief you beforehand on what questions you might expect to be asked based on your specific case.

Confirmation hearings are handled by your certified bankruptcy law specialist and the Chapter 13 trustee. Normally, you are not expected to attend these hearings unless there are outstanding matters that the bankruptcy judge needs to rule on. Your certified bankruptcy law specialist will give you guidance about which hearings you should attend. Under Chapter 13, there is a second hearing, called a confirmation hearing, which is usually scheduled two to six weeks after the first meeting of the creditors. Questions that are typically asked in consumer cases can be found under Forms.

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Will bankruptcy protection stop bill collectors from harassing me?
Yes. Once your petition is filed with the Bankruptcy Court and an automatic stay is granted, bill collectors are prevented from taking any further action to collect debts. Creditors cannot initiate or continue any lawsuits and must stop all contact to demand payments.

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If my spouse needs to file but I don't, do we both have to?
No. In cases where all or most of the debt belongs to only one spouse, it might be advisable for only that spouse to file.

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Can I keep any credit cards?
Under Chapter 13, you may not keep credit cards but you can continue to use your debit card. Under Chapter 7, the credit card companies determine whether or not your accounts can remain active.

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Can I keep my home and automobile?
Yes, if you can afford to pay for them. In a Chapter 7 proceeding, you usually are allowed to keep your home and automobile if all of your payments are current. You may lose either or both if you are behind in your payments, if a compromise cannot be reached with the creditor, or if the home or automobile has equity that exceeds the allowed exemption.

Under Chapter 13, you are allowed to pay past-due house payments in your plan, but all future payments must be paid outside the plan. Vehicle loan payments are typically part of the plan payment.

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Will bankruptcy protection stop a foreclosure proceeding?
Yes. A debtor will usually be advised to file a Chapter 13 plan if his or her home is in imminent danger of a foreclosure sale. The back payments can be caught up over a fixed period of time, and regular monthly payments will resume two to six weeks after the Chapter 13 filing. If the debtor cannot afford the monthly payments, the property is usually surrendered.

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Who notifies the creditors and bill collectors?
After the bankruptcy petition is filed, the court mails a notice to all the creditors listed in the schedules. This process usually takes seven to ten days.

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Who deals with my creditors and bill collectors during the bankruptcy protection process?
Creditors and bill collectors are not allowed to contact you once your automatic stay has been issued. If the creditor feels the need to contact someone about your debt, the creditor will deal with your lawyer.

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Who will know if I file for bankruptcy protection?
You, your creditors, and whomever you tell. Bankruptcy filings are matters of public record. However, in order for someone other than your creditors to find out that you have filed for bankruptcy protection, that person will have to go to the Bankruptcy Court or pay a fee to access the Court's records through the Internet and then search for your case specifically. Usually, the only bankruptcy cases that are newsworthy are those involving large business or high-profile, famous people.

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Are pension plans and 401(k) plans exempt?
Pension plans, 401(k) plans, and other “ERISA-qualified plans” are generally excluded from the bankruptcy estate in South Carolina and are therefore safe.

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Are IRA accounts exempt?
Yes, if the account balance is less than one million dollars.

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Is my other property safe?

  • Assets
    There should be no surprises here. If you provide your lawyer with accurate information, you should know which assets you are likely to lose if you file under either Chapter 13 or Chapter 7.

  • Your Home
    Possibly, but unlikely. The Bankruptcy Code provides homestead exemptions that protect some or all of the equity in a debtor's home. Each debtor is allowed $51,450 of equity exemptions.

  • Your Vehicles
    South Carolina allows each debtor to exempt $5,150 of equity in one motor vehicle.

    • If you file under Chapter 7: Whenever the equity in your car exceeds your total exemption, your trustee can sell the car and pay you the value of your exemption. Usually, however, you will be given the opportunity to keep the car by paying the net amount that the trustee would receive from selling the vehicle.
    • If you file under Chapter 13: The trustee cannot sell your car but you do have to pay the amount of the nonexempt equity. You can pay this amount over the life of the bankruptcy plan.
    • If your vehicle is a tool of the trade: You can claim an additional exemption for your motor vehicle if you use it in your trade. An example would be a specially modified pickup truck used by a carpenter.

  • Household goods
    The South Carolina exemption for household goods is $4,125 per debtor, regardless of which chapter you file under. Most household goods have little value used. If you have a house full of expensive possessions and the replacement value exceeds the exemptions, you may lose some of your household goods. It is rare, however, for the average debtor to fall into that category.

  • Jewelry
    South Carolina permits an exemption of $1,025 for personal, family or household jewelry of the debtor or a dependent.

  • Cash & liquid assets
    For debtors not claiming a homestead exemption, South Carolina allows for an exemption of cash and liquid assets of $5,150.

  • Tools of trade
    The South Carolina exemption for implements, books, or tools of trade of a debtor or a dependent is $1,550.

  • Wildcard
    The debtors interest in any property, not to exceed $5,150 of an unused exemption amount to which the debtor is
    entitled in any of the categories listed above is exempt and therefore protected.

  • Proceeds from a Bodily Injury Claim and Workers Compensation Benefits
    Totally protected

  • Cash Surrender Values in Life Insurance Policies
    $50,000 of Cash Surrender value, and possibly more, is exempt if the beneficiary is a spouse, children or dependants of the debtor.

  • Other Exempt and Protected Property
    There are other assets that can be protected.

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Why do I need a lawyer to file for bankruptcy protection?
You can file bankruptcy without a lawyer, but it is risky. The bankruptcy code is complex and requires a thorough knowledge of the bankruptcy code, federal law, South Carolina law, and the local practices, rules, and culture.

Doing it yourself or employing the services of an inexperienced lawyer can mean financial suicide and can result in drastic and irreversible consequences such as the loss of assets or the right to receive a bankruptcy discharge.

Your case is unique, and you are entitled to the very best counsel you can get. Make sure your case is handled by a certified bankruptcy law specialist. These lawyers have been certified by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

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How can I prevent further damage before I file?
Until you have met with a certified bankruptcy law specialist to discuss your financial situation, you need to take some precautions to keep your financial situation from getting worse:

  • Do not voluntarily leave your job.
  • Do not leave any money on deposit in an institution where you owe money.
  • Do not move out of your home or enter into a contract to sell it.
  • Do not make any unusual or large contributions to a pension fund.
  • Do not agree to pay joint debts if you are in the middle of a divorce matter.
  • Do not give any creditor a postdated check.
  • Do not make any gifts, other than normal charitable donations, or transfer property in an attempt to keep your assets away from creditors.
  • Do not get married or divorced.
  • Do not provide information about your income or expenses to any credit counseling or debt consolidation outfit. You may be contacted many times, but you should check out each caller thoroughly before you accept his or her advice.
  • Do not borrow any more money or sign up for any more credit cards. This includes balance transfers, bill consolidation loans, pension loans, home-equity loans, and (especially!) loans from friends or family.
  • Do not make debt payments to friends, business partners, or relatives.
  • Do not call or write to any creditor who does not already know how to contact you.
  • Do not continue to use your credit cards.
  • Do not sell any valuable assets.
  • Do not ignore lawsuits.
  • Do not tell your creditors that you are contemplating bankruptcy.
  • Do not file any past due income tax returns; however, do have them prepared and ready to file.
  • Do not withdraw any funds from your pension plan.
  • Do not allow a foreclosure sale to occur or give a creditor a deed in lieu of a foreclosure on your home.
  • Do not allow health insurance to lapse.
  • Do not ignore your financial situation and hope that your problems go away because they will not.

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Can I pick and choose what to disclose?
No. You must list all of your property and debts in your bankruptcy schedules. If you do not list a debt, it is possible that the debt will not be discharged.

The Judge can also deny your discharge if you do something dishonest in connection with your bankruptcy case, such as destroy or hide property, falsify records, lie, or disobey a court order.

You can receive a Chapter 7 discharge only once every seven years. No one can make you pay a debt that has been discharged, but you can voluntarily pay any debt you wish to pay. You do not have to sign a reaffirmation agreement or any other kind of document to do this.

You do not have to pay a secured claim if the debt is discharged, but the creditor can still take the property. An example of a secured claim would be the mortgage on your house or the loan on your car.

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What is a reaffirmation agreement?
Even if a debt can be discharged, you may have special reasons for wanting to pay it. For example, you may want to work out a plan with the bank to keep your car. To promise to pay that debt, you must sign and file a reaffirmation agreement with the Court. Reaffirmation agreements are under special rules and are voluntary. They are not required by bankruptcy law or by any other law. The impact of a reaffirmation agreement is that it makes you legally responsible for paying the debt that was reaffirmed.

Reaffirmation agreements

  • must be voluntary,
  • must not place too heavy a burden on you or your family,
  • must be in your best interest, and
  • can be canceled any time before the Court issues your discharge or within sixty days after the agreement is filed with the Court, whichever gives you the most time.

If you are not represented by a lawyer, the Court must hold a hearing to decide whether to approve the reaffirmation agreement. The agreement will not be legally binding until the Court approves it.

If you reaffirm a debt and then fail to pay it, you will owe the amount of debt prior to bankruptcy. The debt will not be discharged, and the creditor can take action to recover any property on which it has a lien or mortgage. The creditor can also take legal action to recover a judgment against you.

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What is a discharge?
A discharge is a court order stating that you do not have to pay back a portion of your debts. Almost all debts are discharged. Some debts are not. For example, you cannot discharge debts for

  • recent income taxes,
  • child support,
  • alimony,
  • most student loans,
  • court fines and criminal restrictions,
  • personal injury claims caused by driving drunk or under the influence of drugs,
  • debts that arise after the date you file, or
  • any debt that is the result of fraud.

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What happens in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing?
Under Chapter 7, you file a petition asking the court to discharge your debts. The idea is to wipe out your unsecured debts. In most cases, you keep all of your property. Property that is valuable but not necessary for a fresh start can be sold and the money distributed to creditors. Usually, all of your property is exempt from sale. Before you file, you should determine whether any of your property is at risk of sale.

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What happens in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing?
Under Chapter 13, you file a plan showing that you will pay the following in an even, affordable monthly plan payment:

  • Past-due mortgage payments.
  • Either the value of the property, such as a car, securing a loan or the unpaid balance.
  • Past-due income taxes and some property taxes (interest and penalties are tolled).
  • A portion of your obligation to unsecured creditors. How much you pay is based on two factors: your ability to pay, which is determined by a fair analysis of your income and expenses, and the amount of excess equity you have in your property after taking your exemptions into account. It is not unusual for creditors to receive only pennies on the dollar.

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How long does a Chapter 13 plan last?
A Chapter 13 plan will last between thirty-six and sixty months. The balance of the money you owe to creditors is discharged upon completion of your Chapter 13 plan, and your creditors cannot demand any further payment from you for that debt.

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Who is eligible for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection?
To be eligible, a debtor must meet the following criteria:

  • Have a steady source of income from which to make pre-established payments to the bankruptcy trustee to benefit creditors. Social Security or retirement is considered income.
  • Have adequate income for these payments after covering necessary living expenses.
  • Fall between the acceptable limits established for secured and unsecured debts. These limits are periodically updated, and a certified bankruptcy law specialist can inform you about the current limits.

If you do not qualify for Chapter 13 protection, you may still be eligible to file under Chapter 7.

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How much of my credit card debt do I pay back under Chapter 13?
The amount of money you pay to your credit card and other unsecured creditors depends primarily on your ability to pay and the amount of non-exempt property you wish to keep. It is very common for unsecured creditors to receive only a few cents on a dollar. The balance of the unsecured debt is discharged and will not ever need to be repaid.

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What are the specific benefits of filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection?
Although there still is no “cure-all” for financial difficulties, many people find Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection beneficial in the following situations:

  • They have fallen behind on payments for secured property they want to keep. Many Chapter 13 bankruptcy petitions are filed specifically to stop vehicle repossession or foreclosure, but Chapter 13 can also be used to catch up on secured debts while keeping the property that secures those debts.
  • They are facing tax debts that are not dischargeable through Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Some tax debts cannot be discharged, but can be included in a Chapter 13 repayment plan to be paid off over time.
  • They have non-exempt property they wish to keep. Non-exempt property can be sold or liquidated to benefit creditors in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but Chapter 13 allows debtors to maintain ownership of their property while making scheduled payments.
  • They have already filed for Chapter 7 in the past eight years and so are ineligible to file under Chapter 7.

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If I decide to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection, how will it work?
You probably will have many questions, and since every case is unique, a certified bankruptcy law specialist is best qualified to give you definitive answers about your concerns and your legal rights. However, here is some general information that may help:

  • Chapter 13 is a plan that, if approved, allows you to pay your creditors over a period of not less than thirty-six months (unless you are paying everyone back 100 percent) and not more than sixty months. The law prohibits your creditors from trying to collect from you during the time you are in your Chapter 13 plan. The monthly payments are usually payroll deducted and begin thirty days after you file your plan.
  • If you have agreed that your plan payments are to be deducted from your paycheck, you are responsible for making sure those payments are received by our office. Until you see that your employer is withholding payments from your check, you are responsible for making your plan payments directly to your trustee.
  • If you have not previously agreed to payroll deductions, the court may, at any time after confirmation, order your employer to deduct your payments directly from your paycheck. If the trustee does not receive your payments, you will risk having your case dismissed by the Court. Dismissal of your case results in your creditors' having the right to proceed with collection methods.
  • The money collected by the Chapter 13 trustee is disbursed according to your plan after it is confirmed by the Court.

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Where will my Chapter 13 case be filed?
Your Chapter 13 petition will be filed with the Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court in the federal district where you have lived, have had your principal place of business, or have had your principal assets located for the greater part of the previous 180 days prior to filing. If you use our firm, your case will usually be filed with the Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court located in Columbia, SC.

The Bankruptcy Court is a special part of the federal court system created by Congress to hear cases and make decisions about disputes between debtors and creditors involved in bankruptcy cases.

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Is there a fee to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection?
The Clerk of Court charges a filing fee when the case is filed. The Chapter 13 trustee receives a fee of up to 10 percent of the amount paid under the plan. Of course, your certified bankruptcy law specialist will also receive a fee for handling your case.

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Tell me why the Chapter 13 case number is important.
At the time your Chapter 13 petition is filed, the Bankruptcy Clerk will assign a number to your case. Your case number is very important. You will need to refer to it every time you call the trustee's office. You will need to note it when you send in your payments to the trustee or when you obtain information from the Clerk's office.

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My friend filed a Chapter 13. Can he help me file?
You probably have received a lot of advice from well-meaning friends and relatives who have experienced financial problems themselves. Just as no two people are alike, no two Chapter 13 Bankruptcy cases are alike. Bankruptcy law and statutes are complicated and change frequently. Rely on your certified bankruptcy law specialist to answer your questions and to file your petition.

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What will my certified bankruptcy law specialist do for me if I want to file for protection under Chapter 13?
Exactly what you may expect of your certified bankruptcy law specialist will be governed by whatever agreement the two of you have made. Be sure that you and your certified bankruptcy law specialist have discussed the cost of your filing and of additional legal services pertaining to your case.

Under the rules of the Bankruptcy Court, your certified bankruptcy law specialist will continue to appear and represent you until the judge permits your certified bankruptcy law specialist to withdraw from your case.

Your certified bankruptcy law specialist's function is to aid and assist you in completing your Chapter 13 filing. He or she will answer any questions or concerns regarding the proposal and legal consequences of your case. Your specialist will be your legal advisor but not your trustee. The trustee and his or her staff will not give you legal advice regarding your case.

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What may I expect from the Chapter 13 Trustee?
After your plan has been approved, the Chapter 13 trustee's main function will be to administer the funds received from you. You will receive periodic statements from your trustee that show the payments you have sent in and the disbursements that have been made on your case. Your trustee will answer questions about your plan's receipts and disbursements but cannot answer legal questions for you.

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What is required for court approval of my Chapter 13 plan?
The Court will confirm a Chapter 13 plan under the following circumstances:

  • The plan complies with the requirements of Chapter 13 generally.
  • All required fees, charges, deposits, and payments have been made.
  • The plan has been proposed in good faith.
  • Each secured creditor
    • has accepted the plan or is given back his or her collateral,
    • is allowed to retain his or her lien on the collateral, and
    • is paid the full amount of the secured claim under the plan.
  • Each unsecured creditor receives at least as much as the creditor would have received if you had filed a Chapter 7.
  • It appears that you will be able to make the required payments and comply with the plan.
  • You have committed your disposable income to the plan.

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What if the court does not approve my Chapter 13 plan?
If the Court does not confirm your plan, it will usually give the reasons for such disapproval so the plan can be appropriately modified, converted to a Chapter 7, or dismissed. Once a case is dismissed, your creditors may again pursue the payoff of your debts.

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What if I am unable to make my Chapter 13 payments?
Contact your certified bankruptcy law specialist immediately if you ever expect to miss a payment due to layoff, medical disability, or some other unforeseen event. If you are temporarily out of work, injured, or otherwise unable to make your payments for a period of time, the Court may, upon proper application, allow you to suspend payments.

If it appears that your inability to pay will continue over an extended period of time, you may be permitted to amend your plan, or the case may be dismissed or converted to a Chapter 7.

Remember, however, that the trustee's office has no authority to allow you to miss a payment or pay less than you agreed to pay in your bankruptcy plan. Only the judge can make such a decision. That is why it is important to keep your certified bankruptcy law specialist informed when your ability to make the payments your plan calls for changes.

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Once I file for protection under Chapter 13, can I get out from under it?
You can either dismiss a Chapter 13 case or convert it to a Chapter 7 at any time, unless your case has previously converted from another chapter of the bankruptcy code. No one can force you to remain under a Chapter 13 plan if you do not wish to remain. If you desire to stop your case, contact your certified bankruptcy law specialist to help you determine possible consequences of this action.

If you simply stop making payments, your trustee will ask the Court to dismiss your case. The trustee will ask the Court to dismiss your case or place you on payroll deductions under any one of the following circumstances:

  • You fail to make your first payment within thirty days of filing your bankruptcy plan.
  • You fail to make your required payments regularly during any months of your plan.
  • You fall two months behind in your plan payments.

It is important for you to understand that a dismissal will reactivate all unpaid or disputed debts, all interest, all finance charges, all late charges not allowed by the Bankruptcy Court, and all debts of creditors who did not file their claims. Consider also that you will be forced to deal with those creditors on their terms, not yours or the Court's.

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Can I incur new debt after I file my Chapter 13 plan?
Yes, but you must adhere to the guidelines provided by the Bankruptcy Code before doing so. Sometimes, it is necessary for a person to buy a vehicle or a house. These events occur regularly but the Bankruptcy Court must approve these transactions before they occur.

  • The Trustee does not have the authority to approve or deny additional credit that is secured by real estate.
  • If you wish to purchase, sell or refinance your real property, you must contact your certified bankruptcy law specialist, who will seek approval of this request after notice.
  • The Trustee does not authorize extensions of credit. All requests for additional credit must be made through the Court.

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Will a Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing affect my credit rating?
Personal opinion and perception of the credit grantor will determine whether that creditor will extend you credit after your Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing or discharge. The creditor can get a copy of your credit report. Your bankruptcy will remain on your credit report between seven and ten years, depending on the credit reporting agency's policy.

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I have completed my plan. What now?
You must apply for a Chapter 13 discharge.

  • Your case file is audited to make sure that the plan was executed according to plan.
  • If your payments were made by payroll deduction, your employer will be directed to stop making the payroll deductions.
  • You will be asked to sign and return a declaration indicating that you are either current with or have not incurred any Domestic Support Obligations and have filed all applicable tax returns during the time you were in your Chapter 13 case.
  • An Order of Discharge will be issued if you have completed the required debtor financial management course and you have signed and returned the Post Confirmation Support and Tax Return Declaration.
  • After all documents have been received, your case will be stamped complete.
  • If there is still money in your case after all your creditors have received their final payment, you will receive a refund upon approval of your Trustee.
  • A Discharge Order will be executed and mailed to you.
  • Once you have obtained copies of your discharge papers, you should make several copies and then send copies to the three major credit bureaus:
    • Experian National Consumer Assistance Center
    • Transunion Corporation Consumer Disclosure Center
    • Equifax

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How do I get the titles to my property after the completion of my Chapter 13 plan?
Usually, your creditor will mail the “paid in full” papers to you. If you do not get your paperwork from the creditor within eight weeks after your successful discharge, contact the creditor directly and request it.

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My finances are already in a mess, so how do I find the money to file for bankruptcy?

Experienced bankruptcy attorneys usually do not quote fees over the telephone. This is because both you and your financial situation are unique. Fees are typically set after your financial situation has been discussed at the initial visit.

Be creative when thinking about sources of funds for attorney and filing fees. Discuss your available options with your attorney.

Here are some possible options for funding sources:

  • Use your income tax refund.
  • Borrow from your IRA or 401k retirement account.
  • Stop making payments on some or all of your current unsecured debt.
  • Canvas family and friends to see if a loan is possible.
  • Ask your employer about a payroll advance.
  • Check with your church to see if they have assistance programs for members in need.
  • Check out charitable organizations that offer funding for qualified persons.
  • Apply to the SC Bar for free legal services through the Pro Bono program.
  • Sell property.

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