In Merced, California, bankruptcy is a court procedure in which a person or business has some or all of their debts cleared (or "discharged"), theoretically allowing them to begin with a clean slate, and move on with their lives no longer drowning in debt (and hopefully having learned to better manage their use of credit in the process). Remember, though, that bankruptcy should not be viewed as a proper way to get out of debt that you don't feel like paying back. It is meant to serve as an option of last resort for people and businesses faced with debt that they will probably never be able to pay back. The decision to file for bankruptcy can result in negative consequences, such as damaged credit ratings, which must be seriously weighed against the possible benefits.
For that reason, it would be prudent to speak with a good Merced, California bankruptcy attorney. This attorney will be able to advise you as to whether or not filing for bankruptcy is a good idea, given your individual situation. This determination is highly dependent on the details of each individual case, so a Merced attorney's advice is absolutely indispensable.
Types of Bankruptcy in Merced, California
There are 3 bankruptcy options that are normally used in Merced: Chapter 7, Chapter 13, and Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is governed by federal law, so the procedures in Merced, California are very similar to what they will be anywhere else in the United States. Chapter 7 bankruptcy requires the debtor to liquidate some of his or her assets in order to pay off as much debt as possible. Once the sale of the assets is complete, and the proceeds handed over to the creditors, the debt is viewed as discharged. Liquidation is basically selling assets to the highest bidder. Not all of the debtor's assets will need to be sold, and many types of property are completely or partially exempt, including homes, cars, retirement accounts, and insurance policies. This means that the debtor can keep them. It should be noted that some types of debts are not dischargeable in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, including student loans, criminal fines, taxes, and child support payments. Even when the bankruptcy process is complete, these debts will have to be paid in full.
The other normally used bankruptcy system in Merced is Chapter 13 bankruptcy. This allows a debtor to repay most or all of their debts in a structured manner. It reorganizes the debt into lower periodic payments that, with a bit of frugality, the debtor should find manageable. This allows the debtor to continue to earn a living, and allows the creditors to eventually collect what they are owed. Once a repayment plan is approved by the bankruptcy court, creditors are legally barred from seeking repayment under the terms of the contracts that gave rise to the debt in the first place, and will instead have to accept payment under the new plan. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is normally a better option for people who have a steady income. Chapter 11 bankruptcy is usually used by businesses, though it can be used by individuals (which is quite rare). Chapter 11 bankruptcy requires that the debtor come up with a reorganization plan - basically telling the court how they propose to cut costs, streamline their operations, and pay their debts. This plan must be approved by the participating creditors through a simple majority vote.
A main advantage of Chapter 11 bankruptcy is that businesses can continue their operations while going through the process. Also, they can continue to buy and sell their stock.
How Can a Merced Bankruptcy Lawyer Help?
One should not make the decision to file for bankruptcy in Merced lightly. Before making any such decision, it would be highly advisable to contact an accomplished Merced bankruptcy attorney.