Frequently Asked Questions

Click on the topic that best suits your question.

  1.  Qualifications for Bankruptcy 
  2.  Is Bankruptcy Right for Me ?
  3.  Will I lose my property  ?
  4.  Bankruptcy –  Chapter 7 & Chapter 13   
  5.  Bankruptcy and Foreclosure 
  6.  Your Life After Bankruptcy 
  7.  Discharge of Debt 
  8.  Stopping Creditor Harassment 
  9.  Wage Garnishment 

Qualifications for Bankruptcy

The majority of clients are interested in a chapter 7. This is the type of bankruptcy where your debts get discharged so you are no longer obligated to pay them. One of the main factors in qualifying requires calculating your gross income for six months prior to the filing month and comparing it to the median income for the State for your household size. Most clients will qualify based on this test. Even if a debtor is over the median income, they may still qualify based on the means test which factors in various monthly expenses of the debtor. There are other factors such as your net monthly income and expenses that can affect whether you qualify for a chapter 7.

In most cases I have found that the client will qualify for a chapter 7 bankruptcy. However, In some cases a chapter 13 may be an appropriate option. As an experienced bankruptcy attorney, I will review your options and financial situation to determine whether you qualify for a chapter 7, and help you decide whether it is a beneficial choice for you.

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Is Bankruptcy Right for Me?

Every case is unique, and most situations involve a combination of many personal and financial concerns.  However some warning signs that things may be getting out of control include: lawsuits, wage garnishments, leftover debts from past marriage or relationship, unpaid medical bills, falling behind on car or house payments, not enough money left over at the end of the month to get caught up or get ahead, falling behind on credit card bills, stress, worry, and stress on marriage or relationship because of money.

If you are experiencing some of these situations, or are facing other circumstances that are causing financial hardship, a bankruptcy may be an appropriate way to get you a fresh start.  By consulting with an experienced bankrupty attorney, you can get advice on whether a bankruptcy is right for you and how it can help.

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Will I lose my property?

Bankruptcy allows for the trustee in some chapter 7 cases, to take the debtors property and sell it for the benefit of creditors. However, in most cases this is not going to happen. There are numerous exemptions that will cover most or all the of the property that debtors commonly own.

Creditors can repossess or foreclose on property when someone fails to make payments. The filing of the bankruptcy puts a stay on collection activities, however the creditor can make a motion to the court to lift the stay if payments are not being made. In some cases payment plan arrangements can be made with the creditor after filing so that the property is not taken.

An experienced bankruptcy attorney can help you minimize, or in many cases completely avoid losing property if you file for bankruptcy.

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Bankruptcy – Chapter 7 & 13

If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, you probably have many questions and concerns about how the process works. I am a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney who can explain the process to you . For a brief summary about what is involved in a bankruptcy, I am providing you with the following information for a chapter 7 and a chapter 13.

Chapter 7

Before filing, you must gather your financial information to provide to the attorney. This includes such information as income and expenses, and assets and liabilities. I use a software program to automatically download your creditor information into the bankruptcy forms after I am retained. You are also required to take a brief credit counseling course before filing. Most debtors do this online and receive a certificate which is provided to the bankruptcy attorney. Once you file your bankruptcy, creditors can no longer contact you.

About 30 to 45 days after you file, a procedure called the 341 hearing is scheduled. This involves a meeting with the trustee who will have an opportunity to ask you questions about your finances and property under oath. Creditors also have the legal right to be present at the hearing and ask you questions, however this rarely happens. My services include being present with you at the hearing to represent you.

After you file for bankruptcy you must also complete a financial management course which again is usually done online. If you want to keep property such as a car for which you owe money, in some cases you can work out a payment plan with the creditor and reaffirm the debt. After a 60 day period to allow for objections to discharge, if all other requirements are completed, your notice of discharge will be mailed to you within 4 to 6 weeks. The discharge will eliminate your nonexempt debts.

Chapter 13

Similar to a Chapter 7, Credit Counseling must be completed before filing, and income and expenses are needed for your documents. A Chapter 13 will restructure your debt and set up a 3-5 year monthly payment schedule according to a plan you file with the Court. You will be required to pay all of your disposable income to pay for the debts. Certain creditors must receive full payment, and other debts can be negotiated or reduced. A meeting with the trustee happens about a month after filing to review your documents and your plan. Creditors have a certain amount of time to object. At a later time a Confirmation hearing is held to discuss any objections or changes to the plan. When the Plan is approved the first payments are due within 30 days. When you complete the 3-5 year plan most of your debts that have not been paid off are discharged.

Most people prefer to file a Chapter 7. It is a simpler, shorter process and there is no mandatory payment. Some of the reasons a debtor might choose a Chapter 13 include setting up a payment plan for loans if this can’t be done in a Chapter 7, keeping non exempt property that you don’t want to give up, and getting your driver’s license reinstated if you have too many unpaid tickets . A bankruptcy attorney can review your options and advise you on which option is best for your needs.

 

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Bankruptcy and Foreclosure

Although the economy is showing some signs of recovery, numerous Americans are falling behind on their mortgage payments and millions of families have lost their homes to foreclosure.
There are a number of ways to avoid foreclosures.  In some cases you can keep your home if you work out a reaffirmation or payment agreement with your lender.  Depending on your circumstances a Chapter 13 can be an appropriate remedy if you wish to keep your home.  With hard work and aggressive negotiating, the attorney can work with your lender to seek a payment plan that will work for you.    Call today to discuss your options with regard to your home.

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Your Life After Bankruptcy

Getting through your bankruptcy can be a rewarding experience. Once the bankruptcy is completed you can take steps to make your life better.  In a Chapter 7 the majority or all of your debts will be discharged.  With a Chapter 13 you will have set up an organized payment plan to get your debts under control.  You won’t have anymore contacts or stress from creditors or lawsuits.
A bankruptcy filing will affect your credit record initially.  However the reality is that by the time someone files for bankruptcy their credit is usually bad anyway.  If you are careful about establishing a reasonable amount of credit and pay it off steadily, your credit history will slowly improve.
As part of the bankruptcy you  are required to complete a financial management class.  You should pay close attention and use what you learned to budget your finances.  By being cautious about your spending, and keeping track of your finances you should be able to get your financial situation in order and use any credit very conservatively.

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Discharge of Debt

Discharging debts is the final goal of any bankruptcy. When debts are discharged you no longer have a legal obligation to pay them, and creditors cannot attempt to collect. With a Chapter 7 most debts are discharged within about 4 months of filing. For a Chapter 13 debts are discharged at the end of the payment plan.

Some debts are not dischargeable including: child support, certain taxes, student loans in most cases, court fines, criminal restitution.

Call for a free consultation about whether a bankruptcy can help you get out of debt.

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Stopping Creditor Harassment

When you fall behind on your debts it is very understandable that someone would feel overwhelmed.  On top of that having creditors contacting you with harassing phone calls or letters can further add to an already stressful situation.

Once you retain and attorney, the creditors who are contacting you can be informed that you have an attorney and that they should direct their calls to the attorney.  Once you have an attorney the federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act prohibits a collection agency from contacting you directly.

Once you file for bankruptcy, the automatic stay will stop most or all of your creditors from continuing with collection activities.

If you are facing collection actions and creditor harassment, it is advisable to consult with a bankruptcy attorney about how a bankruptcy can help you.

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Wage Garnishment

When you owe money to a creditor for unpaid bills, they can sue you and obtain a judgment against you and then garnish your wages. Most creditors have to get a judgment to garnish wages. However, there are exceptions such as when someone conceals themselves, or is not a resident of the State or is about to move out of State, or where property has been moved or is about to be moved out of state. In some other cases such as unpaid incomes taxes, court ordered child support and defaulted student loans a creditor can garnish your wages without a court judgment.

When you file for bankruptcy the wage garnishment is stopped as long as the automatic stay is in effect. The automatic stay does not apply to domestic support obligations such as child support.

I have handled numerous situations where the client is being garnished or about to be garnished. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy and need assistance responding

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Appointments available by video or phone. 
Mark S. Lee
Attorney at Law
40 Lake Bellevue Drive
Suite 100
Bellevue WA 98005
Phone: (206) 250-4249
Fax: (206) 452-2030