In Benton Harbor, Michigan, 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 start 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 severely damaged credit rating for many years afterward), it should be viewed as an option of last resort.
Accordingly, it might be a good idea to consult with a Benton Harbor, Michigan bankruptcy attorney. Your lawyer will be able to counsel you about your options, including alternatives to bankruptcy, if such alternatives exist in your case. Whatever the result, it is often hard to predict the long-term consequences of any bankruptcy-related decisions, so the advice of a bankruptcy in Benton Harbor could prove invaluable.
Types of Bankruptcy in Benton Harbor, Michigan
There are three basic bankruptcy schemes that are most commonly used in Benton Harbor: Chapters 7, 13, and 11. Bankruptcy is a creation of federal law, so the procedure for filing for bankruptcy in Benton Harbor, Michigan will be roughly the same as it would be anywhere else in the U.S. Chapter 7 bankruptcy, or "liquidation," requires the debtor to sell some of his or her property to the highest bidder, and using the proceeds from the sale to pay down as much debt as possible. Once the sale is fulfilled, all dischargeable debt is deemed paid in full, whether or not the sale was able to raise the entire amount owed. You should note that some property (usually the types of property deemed essential) is fully or partially exempt from liquidation, meaning that the debtor gets to keep it. This includes houses, cars, and retirement accounts, among others. Some types of debts, however, cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, including taxes, child support, and student loans.
Under Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Benton Harbor, most of the debtor's debt is not discharged. Instead, the bankruptcy court, working with the debtor and participating creditors, work out a payment plan that allows the debtor to pay off most of his or her debts over a prolonged period of time, thus theoretically making the debt far more manageable. Once a payment plan is approved by the court, creditors are prohibited from attempting to collect payment under their original agreements that gave rise to the debt in the first place. Though Chapter 11 bankruptcy can be used by individuals, it is almost exclusively used by businesses. Similar to Chapter 13, Chapter 11 involves restructuring of debts, rather than complete discharge. The debtor is required to come up with a restructuring plan that lays out how it plans to cut costs, streamline operations, and pay its debts. The plan must then be approved by a vote of participating creditors.
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 Benton Harbor Bankruptcy Lawyer Help?
The decision to file for bankruptcy in Benton Harbor is not one to be made lightly, and it certainly should not be made without first obtaining the advice of an accomplished Benton Harbor bankruptcy attorney.