In Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, bankruptcy is a judicial process in which the debts of a person or business can be eliminated or restructured. This allows the debtor to climb out of a financial hole, and move on with a clean slate, which is sometimes more economically efficient than requiring the debtor to pay off everything they owe. Of course, one should never view bankruptcy as a "get out of debt free" card, allowing someone to be absolved of their obligation to pay their debts just because they don't want to. It is meant to serve as a lifeline, preventing unmanageable debt from resulting in complete financial ruin. Accordingly, it is best treated as an option of last resort, because it can carry with it significant negative consequences, which must be weighed against the possible benefits. For example, filing for bankruptcy can severely damage a person's credit rating.
Therefore, it is prudent to consult with an experienced Lehigh County, Pennsylvania 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 Lehigh County bankruptcy attorney cannot be substituted.
Types of Bankruptcy in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania
In Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, 3 types of bankruptcy procedures are in common use: Chapter 7, Chapter 11, and Chapter 13. Being governed by federal law, the procedures involved in filing for bankruptcy in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania will be about the same as anywhere else in America. 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.
Under Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Lehigh County, 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.
One advantage of Chapter 11 bankruptcy is that it allows a business going through it to continue operations, and to trade its stock.
How Can a Lehigh County Bankruptcy Lawyer Help?
One should not make the decision to file for bankruptcy in Lehigh County lightly. Before making any such decision, it would be highly advisable to contact an accomplished Lehigh County bankruptcy attorney.