Georgia Bankruptcy Information
The Bankruptcy Process:
2005 Bankruptcy Act Credit Counseling-
The 2005 Bankruptcy Act requires all individual debtors who file bankruptcy on or after October 17, 2005, to undergo credit counseling within six months before filing for bankruptcy relief and to complete a financial management instructional course after filing bankruptcy.
2005 Bankruptcy Act Means Test-
Under the 2005 Bankruptcy Act your income and expenses will be analyzed to determine if you qualify to file a Chapter 7 or if you must file Chapter 13. To apply the means test, the courts will look at the your average income for the 6 months prior to filing and compare it to the median income for Georgia. If the income is below the median, then you may choose Chapter 7. If your income exceeds the median, the remaining parts of the means test will be applied to determine if you can file Chapter 7 or if you must file Chapter 13.
Georgia Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Georgia Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?-
There are several situations where a Chapter 13 is preferable to a Chapter 7. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is the only choice if you are behind on your mortgage or business payments and you want to keep your property, either in Georgia or another state, at the end of the bankruptcy process. A chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to make up their overdue payments over time and to reinstate the original mortgage agreement. In general, if you have valuable property not covered by your Georgia bankruptcy exemptions that you want to keep, a chapter 13 filing may be a better option. Also, people file Chapter 13 bankruptcy because they have too much income to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or have the kind of debt that is non- dischargeable in a Chapter 7 (e.g. certain taxes).
However, for the vast majority of Georgia residents who simply want to eliminate their heavy debt burden without paying any of it back, Chapter 7 provides the most attractive choice.
Georgia Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Information-
Under a chapter 13 bankruptcy, a debtor proposes a 3-5 year repayment plan to the creditors offering to pay off all or part of the debts from the debtor’s future income. You can use Chapter 13 to prevent a house foreclosure; make up missed car or mortgage payments; pay back taxes; stop interest from accruing on your tax debt (local, Georgia state, or federal); keep valuable non-exempt property (see Georgia exemptions); and more. If you can stick to the terms of your repayment agreement, all your remaining dischargeable debt will be released at the end of the plan (typically three to five years). The amount to be repaid is determined by several factors including the debtor’s disposable income as is usually determined as part of the Georgia Means Test. In addition, the total amount paid to creditors under the Chapter 13 plan must also be at least as much as creditors would have received if the debtor filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. To file Chapter 13 bankruptcy you must have a “regular source of income” and have some disposable income to apply towards your Chapter 13 payment plan.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is generally used by debtors who want to keep secured assets, such as a home or car, when they have more equity in the secured assets than they can protect with their Georgia bankruptcy exemptions. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a reorganization whereas Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a liquidation.
A chapter 13 bankruptcy allows them to make up their overdue payments over time and to reinstate the original agreement. Where a debtor has valuable nonexempt property and wants to keep it, a chapter 13 may be a better option. However, for the vast majority of individuals who simply want to eliminate their heavy debt burden without paying any of it back, Chapter 7 provides the most attractive choice.
Georgia Chapter 7 bankruptcy information-
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy you wipe out your debts and get a “Fresh Start”. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a liquidation where the trustee collects all of your assets and sells any assets which are not exempt. The trustee sells the assets and pays you, the debtor, any amount exempted. The net proceeds of the liquidation are then distributed to your creditors with a commission taken by the trustee overseeing the distribution.
Certain debts cannot be discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, such as alimony, child support, fraudulent debts, certain taxes, student loans, and certain items charged. In most Chapter 7 cases, the debtor has large credit card debt and other unsecured bills and very few assets. In the vast majority of cases a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is able to completely eliminate all of these debts.
You may keep certain secured debts such as your car or your furniture or house by reaffirming those debts. To do so, you must sign a voluntary “Reaffirmation Agreement”. If you decide that you want to keep your house or your car or your furniture, and you reaffirm the debt, you cannot bankrupt (or wipe-out) that debt again for eight years. You will still owe that debt and you must continue to pay it just as you were obligated to continue to pay it before you filed bankruptcy. In order to reaffirm the debt, you must also bring it current. In other words, if you are three or four months behind, then you must pay the back payments which are due in order to reaffirm it. You can selectively reaffirm your debts – you can state that you wish to keep the house and the furniture, but that you want the car and the jewelry to go back to the respective Creditors.
Reaffirmation agreements can be set aside during the earlier of 60 days after the agreement is filed with the Court, or upon the Court’s issuance of an Order of Discharge.
To begin the bankruptcy process you must itemize your current income sources; major financial transactions for the last two years; monthly living expenses; debts (secured and unsecured); and property (all assets and possessions, not just real estate). You should also collect your tax returns for the last two years, deeds to any real estate you own, your car(s) titles, and the documents for any loans you may have.
Once you have gathered this information, either on your own or with the help of an attorney, you should then determine which property you believe is exempt from seizure based on the Georgia exemptions. To actually file, either you or your attorney, will need to file a two-page petition and several other forms at your Georgia district bankruptcy court. These forms, collectively are referred to as the schedules and ask you to describe your current financial status and recent financial transactions (typically within the last two years). If your creditors or the judge feel or find out that you have not been entirely forthcoming in your bankruptcy filing, it could jeopardize the outcome of your petition.
Once you have filed your paperwork with the bankruptcy court, an automatic stay immediately goes into effect. This provision prevents creditors from making direct contact with you or staking a claim on any of your property from the day of filing forward. This will stop any foreclosure proceedings.
Upon filing, the court will assume legal control of your debts and any property not covered by your Georgia exemptions. A trustee will be appointed to your case by the court. The job of the trustee is to see that your creditors are paid as much as possible. This person will thoroughly review your paperwork, particularly the assets you have in your possession and the exemptions you wish to claim, and can challenge any element of your case.
341 Meeting of Creditors-
Approximately a month after filing, the trustee will call a first meeting of creditors, which the debtor must attend. This proceeding is also referred to as the § 341 meeting, named after the corresponding section of the bankruptcy code. Creditors rarely attend a Chapter 7 bankruptcy meeting; one or two creditors may attend a Chapter 13 meeting, especially if there is a question as to the legitimacy of some aspect of the plan. Objections are typically resolved by negotiation between the debtor or the debtor’s counsel and the creditor. If a compromise can not be reached, a judge will intervene.
The meeting of creditors typically lasts about five minutes. You will receive notice of the location of the meeting but you may contact the court to confirm the address and time. Most Chapter 7 filings involve no non-exempt assets, however, if you filed for Chapter 7 and do have non-exempt assets, you will have to turn over non-exempt property (or its fair market value in cash) to the trustee after the meeting. The trustee will sell this property and distribute the proceeds to your creditors. If the property isn’t worth a great deal or would be hard to sell, the trustee may decide to abandon the property (and return it to you). Trustees and creditors have 60 days to challenge the debtor’s right to a discharge. If there are no challenges, you will receive a notice from the court that your dischargeable debts have been discharged within three to six months.
Chapter 13 Plan Confirmation-
If you filed a Chapter 13 plan, you will need to attend a hearing before a bankruptcy judge who will either confirm or deny the repayment plan. If your plan is confirmed and you make good on it, the balance (if any) on the dischargeable debts you owe will be eliminated at the end of your term.
This is just a brief overview of information regarding filing for bankruptcy. This article is for informational purposes only. To get legal advice please consult with an attorney.
United States Bankruptcy Court - Northern District of Georgia- (External Links)