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Bankruptcy & Debt Relief

Our office can offer you the advice, guidance, and the immediate answers you need now to relieve your financial pressures. We can help you preserve and protect your assets. We are a debt relief agency and offer bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code. Our office has experienced and knowledgeable legal professionals who have helped thousands of people deal successfully with their financial issues.

Debt collection tactics are stressful and unpredictable. Normally, collection activity progresses from notices and telephone calls to lawsuits, judgments, repossessions, and wage garnishments. Most collection activities, even those for past due credit card payments and medical expenses, can be stopped immediately with bankruptcy protection!  Allow us to explore the many financial options that may be available to you for your current financial situation.

There are many misconceptions about bankruptcy, including the following:

  • If you file bankruptcy, you will lose your house.
  • Taxes cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.
  • A person can lose their job if they file bankruptcy.
  • A person who files for bankruptcy will not qualify for credit in the future.
  • An individual who files for bankruptcy cannot buy a house.

HoganWillig can help clarify these misconceptions and offer you the assistance, and relief, you need when experiencing financial difficulties. As WNY's largest suburban law firm whose practice areas are as diverse as they are specialized, we can offer you the legal support, credibility and professional experience that a law firm of our size can provide. Finding someone that you feel comfortable with to assist you at this time is an important decision and we would welcome the opportunity to help you.  Please call Paul Pochepan at 636-7600 to schedule a free initial consultation right away!  

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Bankruptcy Frequently Asked Questions

What is Chapter 7 bankruptcy?
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a process whereby a debtor can eliminate a significant portion of their total debt through the liquidation/sale of certain assets. Contrary to popular belief, many people that file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy are able to keep their home, car and other necessary items and also obtain credit.

What is Chapter 13 bankruptcy?
Chapter 13 bankruptcy involves working with an attorney to create a structured payment plan to pay off a reduced amount of the total debt over a 3-5 year period. The payments are made using the debtor's disposable income, meaning the money they have left after all necessary expenses have been paid.

How can I re-establish my credit rating after bankruptcy?
The best way is to obtain new credit and make the payments on time. Sometimes an existing creditor may continue to grant you credit based upon a reaffirmation agreement made during the bankruptcy. You may also be able to obtain a secured credit card, where the credit limit is based on the amount of security given, or obtain credit using a co-signer.

How long does a typical bankruptcy case take?
The life of a typical Chapter 7 case is normally 4-6 months. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy case takes anywhere to 3-5 years to complete.

Will I have to go to court?
In a Chapter 7 proceeding, the only Court appearance that is required is your appearance before the Court appointed Trustee at your Meeting of Creditors. This meeting usually takes place between 20-45 days after a petition is filed.

In a Chapter 13 case, you are also required to appear at a Meeting of Creditors with your Chapter 13 trustee. In addition, your appearance may also be required at the hearing in which the Bankruptcy Court considers final approval of your plan of repayment. This hearing, called a Confirmation Hearing, usually takes place approximately 3-6 months after a Chapter 13 petition is filed.

What is a meeting of creditors?
Section 341 of the United States Bankruptcy Code affords creditors the right to meet with the debtor to determine if a discharge or a reorganization of debt is appropriate based upon the facts and circumstances presented by a debtor in their bankruptcy petition. While creditors do technically have the right to attend these proceedings and to question the debtor, creditors rarely appear at these proceedings.

In Chapter 7 proceedings, the Meeting of Creditors serves two important purposes: (A) the Court, through examination by the Court appointed Trustee, verifies that all of the representations contained in your bankruptcy petition are true and correct to your best of your belief and knowledge. In addition, the Bankruptcy Court Trustee also utilizes this meeting to verify on behalf of the Court that there are no assets that may be considered non-exempt, which could be sold by the Trustee to repay part, or all, of your debt. A typical meeting of creditors in a Chapter 7 proceeding takes approximately 5-10 minutes to complete.

In Chapter 13 proceedings, a debtor is also required to appear before the Chapter 13 trustee. In a Chapter 13 case, the meeting of creditors serves a slightly different purpose. In addition to verifying that all of the representations made by a debtor are true and correct, the Chapter 13 trustee will also verify that the debtor has the financial ability with which to make the payments proposed in the proposed Chapter 13 plan.

Verification of a debtor's ability to make payments in a Chapter 13 case is based upon both the debtor testimony at the meeting and various documentation, usually, tax returns and/or pay statements that must be presented to the Chapter 13 trustee to verify the representations made in your Chapter 13 petition. As in a Chapter 7 case, a typical meeting of creditors in Chapter 13 case takes between 5-10 minutes to complete.

How often can I file for protection under Chapter 7?
An individual debtor can obtain relief under Chapter 7 every eight years. Please note however that the 8-year period does not run from the date of the filing of the first petition, but rather from the date the court issues the bankruptcy discharge. If you have filed for Chapter 7 protection in the past, you can file a second Chapter 7 petition so long the applicable time period have passed since the issuance of the discharge in your prior case.

Can utility bills be discharged in a bankruptcy proceeding, and if so, will my utility services be terminated?
Obligations to utility services can be listed in a bankruptcy petition. In addition, it is a violation of Public Service Commission regulations for a utility service to terminate the service to a bankrupt on a basis of their filing a bankruptcy petition. However, a utility may, and in most cases, will require that you pay a security deposit to that utility to guarantee that post-petition obligations shall be paid in a timely fashion.

Can my employer discriminate against me because I have filed for a bankruptcy?
Absolutely not. Federal law prohibits governmental units and private employers from discriminating against you because you file a bankruptcy petition or because you have failed to pay a dischargeable debt.

Are student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy?
Generally, student loans are not dischargeable in a bankruptcy proceeding. 11 U.S.C. Section 523(a)(8) cites two exceptions to this general rule:

The student loan may be discharged if it is neither insured or guaranteed by a governmental unit nor made under any program funded in whole or in part by a governmental unit or nonprofit institution. 
The student loan may be discharged if paying the loan will "impose an undue hardship on the debtor and debtor's dependents."

The Big Question: Will I lose my house?
The answer is: Possibly. The Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005 actually makes that possibility more likely than before. (Another one of those so-called "consumer protections.") Also, depending upon the state in which you reside, you may have more or fewer legal protections about whether your house will be forfeit. Up to a certain amount, your house is exempt. Over a particular value, and it possibly could be sold to satisfy your creditors.

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