1 Chapter 13 Bankruptcy What You Need to Know What is Bankruptcy is the legal way to discharge debts. Discharge means once the bankruptcy is finished, creditors listed on the bankruptcy papers can t contact you or collect from you. Should you file You need a lawyer to tell you when bankruptcy will help you the most. In some cases, you should not file bankruptcy, even if you owe a lot of money. When you don t need bankruptcy Usually, you do NOT need bankruptcy in Tennessee if you answer NO to 4 questions. The 4 questions are: 1. Did you put anything up as security (collateral) that the creditor can take if you don't pay? 2. Do you earn more than $ per week? (This is after subtracting Social Security and taxes only.) 3. Do you own or are you buying a home or other real estate? 4. Do you have personal property (cars, furniture, cash, etc.) worth more than $4,000? Did you say No to all 4 questions? Then your creditors can t collect from you. They can still sue you, BUT you can stop them from collecting. You do this by giving the court a paper. You can do this yourself without a lawyer. You only have a few days to file the paper. So do it right after the court hearing. Call Legal Aid. Ask for our brochure called Have You Been Sued? Here s how to protect your bank account and belongings. DON T ignore it if you are sued! It is easy to protect your money or property IF you file the paper right away. Don t let creditors or collectors abuse you over the phone. You can hang up on them if you want. Don t make any promise to pay that you may not be able to keep. Are you being abused by a collection agency or lawyer? Ask for our brochure Bill Collectors Bugging You? Can you get rid of all your debts by No. Bankruptcy does NOT protect you from having to pay: Tax debts Alimony Child support Debts from doing something illegal. You must still pay student loans. This is true unless you prove that repaying them would cause undue hardship. Also, you must still pay some debts you run up just before you file bankruptcy.
2 How is Chapter 13 different from Chapter 7 People file bankruptcy to protect their income or property from their creditors. The two main kinds of bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. A Chapter 7 lets you get rid of (or discharge) debts you can t pay. A Chapter 13 plan might let you keep your property and pay your debts. A Chapter 13 sets up a payment plan OK d by the court. This lets you pay all or part of your debts over time. A Chapter 13 protects you from being sued or having your property taken. Is Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 better? Your lawyer will tell you what kind of bankruptcy is best for you. In some cases, only a Chapter 7 will work. But in many cases, a Chapter 13 is better. Do you have property that can be taken away (repossessed), if you don t pay? Then Chapter 13 usually works better than Chapter 7. In most cases, Chapter 13 lets you keep what you bought while you pay for it. It lets you pay your debts at a rate you can afford. In some cases, you can have lower payments or pay less than the full debt. With a Chapter 13 bankruptcy you make one payment each pay period. This way you pay all or part of your debts. While you pay, your creditors can t take your property or your pay check. Who can file a Chapter 13 Plan? Anyone with enough regular income to pay basic living expenses plus Chapter 13 payments. Your income does not have to come from a job. Basic living expenses are rent, food, lights, heating and cooling, insurance, clothing and transportation. Try adding up these costs. Don t count your monthly payments to creditors. See if you would have money left each month for a Chapter 13 Plan. You need a lawyer to tell you if Chapter 13 will work for you. Most lawyers won t make you pay their fee up front. The lawyer s fee and court filing fee will be in your Chapter 13 payments. What happens when you file 1. You must talk to an approved credit counselor 2 times. Your lawyer will give you a list of these approved credit counselors. The first time you talk to the counselor, they will give you a paper. The paper gives you an OK to file bankruptcy. The second time, they give you a paper that says you can get your bankruptcy discharge. 2. You must give your lawyer a list of ALL your debts. You must also give your lawyer a list of everything you own. You must tell your lawyer everything about your money situation. Bankruptcy protects you only from the debts listed on the bankruptcy paper. 3. Your lawyer will tell you about the two kinds of bankruptcy, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. (See our other booklet on Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.) 4. Before you file a Chapter 13, you and your lawyer work out a payment plan. 5. The lawyer writes your bankruptcy papers (the petition) and other papers.
3 6. You read and sign the bankruptcy papers. 7. Your lawyer files the papers with the court. 8. The court tells everyone listed in your papers that you have filed bankruptcy. The Court also tells them when to come to the creditors meeting. 9. You and your lawyer must go to the creditors meeting. There, the bankruptcy trustee will ask you questions to make sure your bankruptcy papers are complete and correct. Your creditors may also ask about your debts and what you own. 10. If the court OKs your payment plan, you make payments to the Trustee. The Trustee makes sure the money goes to your creditors each month. Usually the payments are taken out of your pay check and sent to the Trustee. 11. You must make all your Chapter 13 payments in full and on time. How often can I take Chapter 13 After a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you can t take Chapter 13 again for 2 years. After a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can t take Chapter 13 for 4 years. Talk to a lawyer if you need to get a Chapter 13 sooner. There will be problems to work out. Will I lose everything if I file No. Bankruptcy is set up to give you a fresh start, not to totally wipe you out. You can keep: $4,000 worth of personal property (cars, furniture, bank accounts, cash, etc.). If a husband and wife file a joint bankruptcy, each of them can keep $4,000 in personal property; Your clothes; Burial plot; and Other things your lawyer will tell you about. How big would my Chapter 13 payments be? It depends on: 1. How much you owe 2. How long the Plan will last, and 3. How much you can pay each month. You and your lawyer together come up with an amount that works for you. Should I put all my debts into my Chapter 13 Plan? You must list ALL your debts in your Chapter 13 papers. Will I lose my home if I file Chapter 13? Not if your Chapter 13 Plan includes house payments and any back payments. Many people file Chapter 13 to keep their homes. What if you are renting? You may be able to stop an eviction with a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. It works very well if you live in Section 8 or public housing. You pay your back rent in your Chapter 13 payments. This may work even if you broke the lease. If you are being evicted, tell your lawyer right away. Can I keep what I put up as collateral (security) on a loan? In most cases, yes. Ask your lawyer how it will work in your case.
4 Can I be sued after filing Not for the debts listed in your bankruptcy that you can discharge. The minute the bankruptcy papers are filed, creditors must stop trying to collect. While the court is deciding your bankruptcy, creditors can t sue you or garnish your paycheck. They can t take your property or your home without the court s OK. After the bankruptcy is final, you have no legal duty to pay the debts. Tell your lawyer if anyone later tries to collect those debts. Are there other ways to handle debt problems? Yes. Bankruptcy is not always the best way. You may be able to set up a plan to pay your debts in small payments. A consumer debt counseling service may help you set this up. A Slow Pay Motion can help if you are sued over just one or two debts. This lets you make small payments through the court. (Ask for our booklet on garnishment.) Your lawyer may tell you about other ways to handle your bill problems. Can I list a debt in my bankruptcy papers even if I have already been sued on it? Yes, you must list ALL your debts, including court costs, in the bankruptcy papers. Can I list only the debts I don t want to pay? No. You must list ALL the money you owe. This includes debts to relatives. It includes debts not put in writing. It includes debts you plan to pay later. You must even list debts that can t be discharged by bankruptcy. Should my husband or wife also file Not always. Your lawyer will tell you what to do on this. Is bankruptcy the best way to stop bill collectors from bothering me? Not always. Just being bothered by bill collectors is not a good reason to file bankruptcy. There are other ways to stop collectors who bother you. (Ask for our booklet on bill collectors.) What if my car was repossessed? If they haven t sold it yet, a Chapter 13 Plan may help you get it back. But, you must have enough income to pay for your car in your Chapter 13 payments. And you will have to keep insurance on the car. If you don t, you will have to give up the car. What happens to my credit rating after I file a Chapter 13? That depends. If you need a Chapter 13, you probably have a poor credit rating already. When you finish your Chapter 13 plan, tell the credit bureau. Ask that your credit report show that you paid off your Chapter 13 plan. Can you get credit after you file Maybe. A bankruptcy does not make your credit look better. Some creditors will say you are a bad risk and won t give you credit. Others will be glad to give you credit but will charge you high interest. It s not a good idea to get more credit and pay high interest.
5 For more information on bankruptcy, see our booklet on Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You may also want to ask for our booklets on: Bill collectors Garnishment, and Protecting your property after you have been sued. Tennessee Legal Aid/ Legal Services Offices Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands Offices in Clarksville, Columbia, Cookeville, Gallatin, Murfreesboro, Nashville, Oak Ridge, and Tullahoma Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands It's a free call. On the internet at West Tennessee Legal Services Jackson Office Dyersburg Office (731) Huntingdon Office (731) Selmer Office (731) Memphis Area Legal Services Memphis Office Covington Office (901) NOTE: This information cannot take the place of advice from a lawyer. Each case is different and needs individual legal advice. Legal Aid of East Tennessee Knoxville Office (865) Johnson City Office Kingsport Office Chattanooga Office Cleveland Office Page 5 of 5
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