No one ever plans to experience the kind of financial hardship that would force them to file bankruptcy. But, the loss of a job, unexpected medical bills, and/or other financial setbacks, such as those caused by divorce, cause tens of thousands of people to file bankruptcy every year. The bankruptcy process can be confusing and overwhelming. As Salt Lake City bankruptcy attorneys, we can help you explore your options and decide whether you need to file bankruptcy in the first place. If you do need to file bankruptcy, we can then determine whether you qualify to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which focuses on liquidating existing non-exempt assets to pay, insofar as possible, your creditors, or whether you must file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, under which you must create a plan of financial reorganization to pay your creditors as much as you are able over the next 3 to 5 years. Sometimes, even if you qualify to file under Chapter 7, it may be in your best interest to file under Chapter 13, or even the less common Chapter 11, anyway so you can keep more of your current assets and/or receive a more complete discharge from your existing debts. As bankruptcy attorneys in Salt Lake City, Utah, we can help you make that decision as well.
You may be thinking that you should try representing yourself through the bankruptcy process, or perhaps get help from a source other than a qualified Salt Lake City bankruptcy lawyer, but this would be a mistake. The bankruptcy process is very complicated and you need someone on your team with the training and experience required to navigate these difficult waters quickly and efficiently and see you safely to the other side. As bankruptcy attorneys in Salt Lake City, Utah that’s who we are and what we do. We file and keep track of your case each step of the way, stand between you and your creditors, handle all correspondence with the court, appear by your side at all hearings and provide you with peace of mind knowing that your case is being properly handled so that you will get the fresh start you need to begin building your financial future once again. And, we are usually able to offer our clients competitive flat-rate fees, so they aren’t surprised by any hidden costs.
In addition to the bankruptcy petition, a debtor must also file: (1) schedules of assets and liabilities; (2) a schedule of current income and expenditures; (3) a statement of financial affairs; and (4) a schedule of executory contracts and unexpired leases. Individual debtors with primarily consumer debts must also file: (1) a certificate of credit counseling and a copy of any debt repayment plan developed through credit counseling; (2) evidence of payment from employers, if any, received within the 60 days prior to filing; (3) a statement of monthly net income and any anticipated increase in income or expenses after filing; and (4) a record of any interest the debtor has in federal or state qualified education or tuition accounts. As bankruptcy attorneys in Salt Lake City, Utah, we work hard to make sure that our client’s bankruptcy schedules, forms and certificates are properly completed and submitted.
Husbands and wives may file joint petitions or individual petitions. Just because one spouse files bankruptcy doesn’t mean that the other must also file. Regardless of whether one or both spouses file, they are still subject to all document filing requirements of individual debtors. In order to complete the Official Bankruptcy Forms that make up the petition, statement of financial affairs, and schedules, the debtor(s) must provide the following information: (a) a list of all creditors and the amount and nature of their claims; (b) the source, amount, and frequency of the debtor’s income; (c) a list of all of the debtor’s property; and (d) a detailed list of the debtor’s monthly living expenses, including for food, clothing, shelter, utilities, taxes, transportation, medicine, etc. Debtors are also generally required to provide the trustee assigned to their case copies of their tax returns for the three most recent tax years, including any tax returns filed during the pendency of their case. Where only one spouse files, the income and expenses of the non-filing spouse are also required to be reported so that the court, the trustee and creditors can evaluate the debtor’s household’s financial situation. As bankruptcy lawyers in Salt Lake City, Utah, we help you decide whether one or both spouses should file.
Also included in the schedules that an individual debtor will file is a schedule of “exempt” property. The Bankruptcy Code allows individual debtors to protect some of their property as exempt from the claims of their creditors under either federal bankruptcy law or the collections laws of the debtor’s home state. Utah has taken advantage of a provision in the Bankruptcy Code that permits each state to adopt its own exemption law in place of the federal exemptions. Thus, whether your property is exempt and may be kept depends on Utah’s laws. As Salt Lake City bankruptcy lawyers, we will help you take full advantage of the exemptions you are permitted under the law.
By virtue of the “automatic stay,” filing a bankruptcy petition immediately stops almost all collection activities against the debtor and the debtor’s property. But, there are some exceptions to the automatic stay, and it may be effective only for a short time in some situations. As long as the stay is in effect, creditors generally may not initiate or continue lawsuits, wage garnishments, or even telephone calls demanding payments. The bankruptcy clerk gives notice of the bankruptcy case to all creditors whose names and addresses are provided by the debtor. It is up to the debtor, however, to notify any other courts were cases are pending against them that the debtor has filed bankruptcy so that the other courts will know to stay their proceedings as well. As Salt Lake City, Utah bankruptcy lawyers, we will stand between you and your creditors to make sure they honor the automatic stay, and we will provide notice of your bankruptcy filing to any other courts where cases may be pending against you.