Bankruptcy was created to help individuals who have been suffering from overwhelming financial debt, desire a fresh start, and need an orderly way to eliminate their debt. Pursuing bankruptcy isn’t something to be ashamed of. It means you’re availing yourself of a legal process that can ultimately assist in rebuilding your credit and receiving relief from harassing creditors and debt collectors.
Who Can Benefit from Filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
Chapter 7 is one of the most common categories for filing bankruptcy. It’s often referred to as “liquidation bankruptcy.” You may be eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy if you meet the following criteria:
- Your average income over the past six months is lower than the median income of West Virginia.
- You have no nonexempt assets that you can sell to pay off your debt.
What Are Nonexempt Assets?
Nonexempt assets are assets that can be sold to the bankruptcy court. This is handled by the trustee assigned to your case. A trustee oversees many aspects of your case and carries the responsibilities of reviewing your documentation, verifying that your information is accurate, presenting your case to the court, and answering any questions your creditors may have.
Examples of nonexempt assets include:
- Collectibles such as stamps, coins, and family heirlooms
- Designer clothing and accessories
- High-value musical instruments (unless you rely on your instrument to make a living)
- Investments other than your retirement funds, such as stocks and bonds
- Luxury vehicles and artwork
- Vacation home (property apart from your principal residence)
What Are Exempt Assets?
Exempt assets are items considered necessities or of negligible value. Examples of exempt assets include:
- Benefits you received through the government such as food stamps, social security, unemployment, and welfare
- Benefits you received for an injury
- Inexpensive jewelry
- Necessary clothing, furniture, and household items
- Your primary vehicle
What Is Considered Dischargeable Debt Under Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
Most individuals who file Chapter 7 bankruptcy can have most (or all) of their debts discharged (forgiven). The beauty of having your debts discharged is that you’re no longer expected to pay them, and you get a reprieve from the incessant phone calls of creditors and debt collectors.
Examples of dischargeable debt include:
- Credit card bills
- Medical bills
- Personal loans
- Unpaid utility bills
Examples of nondischargeable debt include:
- Child support obligation
- Fines you’ve been ordered to pay by the court
- Some taxes
- Spousal support or alimony
Many individuals wonder if student loans can be discharged. Student loans are very rarely considered dischargeable debt.
What Is the Process for Filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in West Virginia?
As a general overview, the process for filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy consists of retaining the representation of a skilled attorney, collecting pertinent documentation, completing required credit counseling courses, filing your petition, and meeting with your trustee and creditors.
- Choose an attorney – Finding yourself in a state of unmanageable debt then embarking on the process of filing for bankruptcy can be overwhelming. It’s important that you retain the representation of a lawyer with significant experience in bankruptcy law. Your lawyer can guide you through the copious amounts of paperwork required during the bankruptcy process and make sure you don’t miss any critical steps.
- Collect documentation – You’ll need certain documents to build your case such as proof of your income and living expenses, assets you own, and bills you’re unable to pay.
- Complete credit counseling – You must complete mandatory credit counseling 180 days before you file bankruptcy. Your completion of this counseling serves as evidence to the courts that you’ve looked at all alternatives to bankruptcy before choosing it as the best path for your financial wellbeing. You can find approved credit counseling agencies in West Virginia through the U.S. Justice Department’s official website.
- File bankruptcy petition – Your attorney can help ensure that you don’t forget any necessary documentation when it comes time to file.
- Meet with your trustee and creditors – A trustee will be assigned to your case once your bankruptcy petition is accepted. This meeting is an opportunity for you and your trustee to answer questions your creditors may have. Though your creditors are invited to attend, they rarely attend these meetings in person.
How Much Does It Cost to File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in West Virginia?
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court requires you to pay certain fees when filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in West Virginia. These fees amount to $338 in total. This total can be broken down as follows:
- $245 filing fee
- $78 administrative fee
- $15 trustee surcharge fee
What Are the Pros and Cons of Filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
There are significant benefits to filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Some of the most notable benefits are:
- You receive an automatic stay – Once you file for bankruptcy, a court order is immediately put in place that stops creditors and debt collectors from harassing you.
- You have the chance to rebuild your credit – You can rebuild your credit after filing bankruptcy by paying your bills on time, sticking to a budget, and checking your credit score regularly.
Some of the cons to filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy are:
- You may have difficulty securing a loan – The public records section of your credit report can show that you filed bankruptcy for as long as a decade which may make lenders hesitant to grant you a loan. Therefore, it’s crucial that you work toward responsibly building your credit as soon as possible after filing bankruptcy.
- Your cosigners may not benefit from your automatic stay – In some cases, your cosigners can still receive harassing calls from your debt collectors and creditors, even if you’ve stopped receiving these calls.
How Long Must I Wait to File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Again?
Once you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you’re required to wait another eight years before filing it again.
How Our Attorneys Can Help You File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
You don’t want to risk filing the wrong chapter of bankruptcy, filing at the wrong time, or missing steps that can be crucial to the success of your case. Bankruptcy law is complicated, and our attorneys have the knowledge and resources to support you.
We can help you determine if your income is below the median income of the state, obtain any documentation you may be missing, and evaluate which of your personal property is nonexempt and exempt according to West Virginia law. We can also help you achieve freedom from debt collectors.
Call Us Today
At Katz, Kantor, Stonestreet, & Buckner, our bankruptcy attorneys have an impressive history of representing West Virginia clients for more than 88 years. We use our extensive knowledge and experience to evaluate our clients’ cases and build them a plan to pursue fair solutions. We offer flexible appointment times, including in the evenings and on weekends.
Call us today at (304) 713-2014 or submit your information here to schedule your free consultation.