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What debts are dischargeable?
11 U.S.C. § 523 lists exceptions to discharge. In general, all other debts are dischargeable.
Some debts listed in 11 U.S.C. § 523, such as those based on fraudulent conduct, embezzlement or willful and malicious injury to another, are discharged unless a complaint to deny discharge of that debt is timely filed with the bankruptcy court. Ordinarily, these complaints must be filed within sixty (60) days of the first date set for the meeting of creditors.
Additionally, debts that were not listed on your bankruptcy schedules or that were incurred after you filed bankruptcy are generally not discharged.
What is the difference between a denial of discharge and a debt being non-dischargeable?
Denial of a discharge goes to the debtor's entire proceeding, while determination of non-dischargeability goes to a particular debt only. A request for denial of discharge is usually granted because the debtor has defrauded a creditor, concealed property of the estate, made a false oath, presented or used a false claim, refused to obey any lawful order of the court and other reasons contained in the Bankruptcy Code.
On the other hand, non-dischargeability of a debt excepts a particular debt from the discharge. This means that if the debt is determined non-dischargeable the debtor is still obligated to that creditor.
What does it mean if a case is dismissed?
A dismissal order ends the case. Upon dismissal the "automatic stay" ends and creditors may start to collect debts, unless a discharge is entered before the dismissal and is not revoked. An order of dismissal itself will not free the debtor from any debt. Often, a case is dismissed when the debtor fails to do something he/she must do (such as show up for the creditors' meeting, answer the trustee's questions honestly, produce books and records the trustee requests), or if it is in the best interests of the creditors. Unless the debtor appeals the order or seeks reconsideration of the order within fourteen (14) days after entry of the order, the Clerk will automatically close the case.
What is a reaffirmation agreement?
A reaffirmation agreement is an agreement by which a bankruptcy debtor becomes legally obligated to pay all or a portion of an otherwise dischargeable debt. Such an agreement must generally be filed within sixty (60) days after the first date set for the meeting of creditors.
An original and executed reaffirmation agreement filed with the Clerk no later than sixty(60) days after the first date set for the meeting of creditors is enforceable without hearing or court order, if the agreement is accompanied by a declaration or an affidavit of the debtor's attorney. The reaffirmation agreement must be filed on form B2400A along with the reaffirmation agreement cover sheet form B427. If a reaffirmation agreement is filed without an attorney's declaration or affidavit, or creates a presumption of undue hardship, a hearing is required. You must appear in person at the hearing. The judge will ask you questions to determine whether the reaffirmation agreement imposes an undue burden on you or your dependents and whether it is in your best interests. Since reaffirmed debts are not discharged, the bankruptcy court will normally only reaffirm secured debts where the collateral is important to your daily activities.
Reaffirmation agreements are strictly voluntary. They are not required by the Bankruptcy Code or other state or federal law. You can voluntarily repay any debt instead of signing a reaffirmation agreement, but there may be valid reasons for wanting to reaffirm a particular debt.
Since a reaffirmation agreement takes away some of the effectiveness of your discharge, legal counsel is advisable before agreeing to a reaffirmation. Even if you sign a reaffirmation agreement, you have a minimum of sixty (60) days after the agreement is filed with the court to change your mind. If your discharge date is more than sixty (60) days after the agreement is filed with the court, you have until your discharge date to change your mind. If you reaffirm a debt and fail to make the payments as agreed, the creditor can take action against you to recover any property that was given as security for the loan and you may remain personally liable for any remaining debt.
What is redemption?
Redemption allows an individual debtor (not a partnership or a corporation) to keep tangible, personal property intended primarily for personal, family, or household use by paying the holder of a lien on the property the amount of the allowed secured claim on the property, which typically means the value of the property. Otherwise, in order to retain the property, the debtor would have to pay the entire amount of the secured creditor's debt, do a reaffirmation agreement and become legally obligated on the debt again. The property redeemed must be claimed as exempt or abandoned.
With redemption, a debtor can often get liens released on personal household possessions for much less than the underlying debt on those secured possessions. Unless the creditor consents to periodic payments, redemption must generally be made in one lump sum payment to the creditor.
What are claims and claims objections? How are claims filed?
In the broadest sense, a claim is any right to payment held by a person or company against you and your bankruptcy estate. A claim does not have to be a past due amount but can include an
anticipated sum of money which will come due in the future. In filling out your Schedules, you should include any past, present or future debts as potential claims.
B. Claims Objections
You may be entitled to object to any claim filed in your bankruptcy case if you believe the debt is not owed or if you believe the claim misrepresents the amount or kind of debt (e.g. secured or priority) which you owe. In some circumstances, an objection to claim can be initiated by filing a motion in the bankruptcy court; in other circumstances, it must be initiated by filing an adversary proceeding (like a lawsuit in your bankruptcy case). If you anticipate objecting to claims, you should seek the advice of an attorney as soon as possible since the objection process can be complicated and time sensitive.
C. Filing of Claims
The written statement filed in a bankruptcy case setting forth a creditor's claim is called a proof of claim. The proof of claim should include a copy of the obligation giving rise to the claim as well as evidence of the secured status of the debt if the debt is secured. Under the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, with limited exceptions, claims filed by creditors, except governmental units, in chapter 7, 12 and 13 cases must be filed within seventy (70) days from the date the case is filed. If a creditor files a claim after the specified deadline, you may object to the claim as being untimely filed.
For purposes of obtaining your discharge, it may be important for you to file a claim on behalf of a creditor if that creditor should fail to do so. Under the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, you (or in chapter 7 and some 11 cases, the trustee) may file a proof of claim on behalf of a creditor within thirty (30) days after the last day for filing claims.
What can I do if a creditor keeps trying to collect money after I have filed bankruptcy?
If a creditor continues to attempt to collect a debt after the bankruptcy is filed in violation of the automatic stay, you should immediately notify the creditor in writing that you have filed bankruptcy, and provide them with either the case name, number and filing date, or a copy of the petition that shows it was filed. If the creditor still continues to try to collect, the debtor may be entitled to take legal action against the creditor to obtain a specific order from the court prohibiting the creditor from taking further collection action and, if the creditor is willfully violating the automatic stay, the court can hold the creditor in contempt of court and punish the creditor. Any such legal action brought against the creditor will be complex and will normally require representation by a qualified bankruptcy attorney.
How do I change or correct information in the petition, schedules and statements I have already filed with the Clerk's Office?
The information contained in your petition, schedules, and statement of affairs is submitted under penalty of perjury. Therefore, you must be certain that it is correct when you sign these documents. If, however, you later discover that something is inaccurate, the documents may be corrected by the filing of an amendment with the Clerk's Office. New schedules or statements must be filed showing the corrected information along with an amended Summary of Schedules. A fee of $31.00 must be paid to amend schedules of creditors or lists of creditors after notice to creditors. All amendments must be served upon the United States Trustee and case trustee, and certain amendments must be served upon the creditors affected by the amendment.
What should I do if I cannot make my chapter 13 payment?
If the debtor cannot make a chapter 13 payment on time according to the terms of the confirmed plan, the debtor should contact the trustee by phone and by letter advising the trustee of the problem and whether it is temporary or permanent. If it is a temporary problem and the payments can be made up, the debtor should advise the trustee of the time and manner in which the debtor will make up the payments. Significant changes in the debtor's circumstances may require that the plan be formally modified. If the problem is permanent and the debtor is no longer able to make payments to the plan, the trustee will request that the case be dismissed or converted to another chapter. The determination of whether to modify, dismiss or convert a case requires the same kind of analysis as is needed for the initial decision whether to file bankruptcy and under what chapter. Therefore, the debtor should seek counsel from a qualified bankruptcy attorney before attempting to make such a decision. If the debtor delays making a voluntary decision and cannot make the plan payments, the court may dismiss the case.
My ex-spouse has filed bankruptcy. He/she has listed me as a co-signer on a scheduled debt. What can I do? Does my divorce decree protect me?
If you are a co-obligor with your ex-spouse on a debt, you should seek legal advice for a thorough explanation of your rights and obligations in this area as soon as you find out that your ex-spouse has filed a bankruptcy.