In Washington, District of Columbia, bankruptcy is a court procedure in which a person or business has some or all of their debts absolved (or "discharged"), theoretically allowing them to commence 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). However, bankruptcy should not be treated as a way to avoid debt that one simply doesn't feel like paying. It is meant to be a safety net for people or businesses who are really unable to pay off their debts. Because bankruptcy is not without negative consequences (such as a heavily damaged credit rating for many years afterward), it should be viewed as an option of last resort.
Accordingly, you should speak with a good Washington, District of Columbia bankruptcy lawyer. Your Washington bankruptcy lawyer can inform you of the costs and benefits of filing for bankruptcy, and give his or her professional evaluation as to whether or not it's a good option, given your specific circumstances.
Types of Bankruptcy in Washington, District of Columbia
There are 3 bankruptcy tactics that are largely used in Washington: Chapter 7, Chapter 13, and Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is governed by federal law, so the procedures in Washington, District of Columbia 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 property, and use the funds to pay creditors. While this doesn't sound like much of a relief at first glance, the upshot is that once the appropriate property is sold, and the proceeds directed to the creditors, all of the debtor's eligible debts are deemed paid in full, regardless of how much the creditors actually ended up getting. Not all of the debtor's property has to be sold off - the debtor will typically be allowed to keep things like a house, at least one car, some types of personal property, retirement accounts, and insurance policies. It should be noted that some debts are not dischargeable, and will have to be paid in full even if the debtor files for bankruptcy. This includes student loans, taxes, and criminal fines.
The other form of bankruptcy most frequently used in Washington is Chapter 13. It allows a person to pay off their debt over an extended period of time, often consolidating it into one periodic payment. In this system, the amount of money the debtor owes is not actually reduced, but the payment of the debt is made far more manageable. This gives the debtor some breathing room, allowing him to continue to earn a living while slowly paying down his debts, and gives some security to creditors that they will eventually collect all or most of what they're owed. Chapter 11 bankruptcy is almost always used by businesses, but there is nothing that legally prevents it from being used by individuals, and its use by individuals is very rare. Chapter 11 bankruptcy requires the debtor to come up with a restructuring plan - telling the court how they propose to cut costs, fix their operations, and pay down their debts. The plan has to be approved by a majority vote of participating creditors.
While going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a business can continue operating, and its stock can continue to be traded.
How Can a Washington Bankruptcy Lawyer Help?
Filing for bankrtuptcy in Washington is an influential decision with costs and benefits that must be weighed carefully. Before filing, it would be a good idea to speak with a seasoned Washington bankruptcy attorney.