In Bellingham, Massachusetts, bankruptcy is a legal proceeding in which a person or business has some or all of their debts legally absolved, when they are unable to pay them. This hopefully allows them to begin over with a clean slate and move on, after 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 honestly 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.
Therefore, it is advisable to consult with an experienced Bellingham, Massachusetts bankruptcy attorney, who can advise you of the costs and benefits of bankruptcy. Because the decision to file for bankruptcy depends very heavily on the facts of each individual case, the advice of a Bellingham bankruptcy attorney cannot be replaced.
Types of Bankruptcy in Bellingham, Massachusetts
There are three basic bankruptcy schemes that are most commonly used in Bellingham: Chapters 7, 13, and 11. Bankruptcy is a creation of federal law, so the process for filing for bankruptcy in Bellingham, Massachusetts will be roughly the same as it would be anywhere else in the U.S. Chapter 7 bankruptcy involves liquidation of many of the debtor's assets in order to pay off as much of the debt as possible. This sounds harsh, but there is an upside: once the liquidation is complete, the debts are legally viewed as having been paid in full, whether or not the full amount was covered by the liquidation. Liquidation involves selling some personal property, and using the funds to pay off debt. Varied types of property are exempt from liqudiation, and therefore may not need to be sold. They include homes, cars, and insurance policies, among others. You should know that some types of debt cannot be discharged in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, including taxes, student loans, and child support.
The other popular bankruptcy system in Bellingham is Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Under this system, the debtor's debts are restructured, instead of discharged. This involves creating a new repayment plan that the debtor will find manageable, given his or her income, and that will result in the creditors being paid in a decent amount of time. When a repayment plan is authorized by a court, creditors are legally barred from trying to collect under the original terms of their contract with the debtor. 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 authorized by the participating creditors through a simple majority vote.
One major advantage of Chapter 11 bankruptcy is that it allows businesses to continue their operations while the process plays out. Additionally, their stock can still be bought and sold.
How Can a Bellingham Bankruptcy Lawyer Help?
The need to consider all the options and consider the costs and benefits of applying for bankruptcy in Bellingham cannot be overstated. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, it would be a good idea to speak with a Bellingham bankruptcy attorney beforehand.