Bankruptcy in Bellingham, Washington is a court proceeding which allows an individual or business who is drowning in debt to be discharged of their legal requirement to pay off some or all of their debt. Hopefully, this will allow both the debtor and creditors to move on with their lives. However, bankruptcy is not a free ride, allowing someone who simply doesn't feel like paying their debts to get out of that legal requirement. It is designed to prevent debt which has slight chance of ever being paid back from ruining the life and finances of the debtor. It also carries significant long-term consequences, which must be carefully weighed against the potential benefits. For example, bankruptcy makes it very difficult for the debtor to obtain credit in the near future.
For that reason, it would be advisable to speak with a good Bellingham, Washington bankruptcy attorney. This attorney will be able to advise you as to whether or not filing for bankruptcy is a good idea, given your specific situation. This determination is highly dependent on the details of each individual case, so a Bellingham attorney's advice is really indispensable.
Types of Bankruptcy in Bellingham, Washington
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, Washington will be roughly the same as it would be anywhere else in the U.S. Chapter 7 bankruptcy involves liquidation of part of the debtor's assets to pay off as much of his or her debt as possible. Once the liquidation is done, and the proceeds given to the creditors, the rest of the debt is discharged. Liquidation is essentially selling assets to the highest bidder. Only some of the debtor's assets have to be sold, and numerous classes of property are exempt, meaning that the debtor can keep them, including homes, cars, insurance policies, and retirement accounts. It should be noted that certain types of debt cannot be discharged through Chapter 7 bankruptcy, including student loans, child support payments, criminal fines, and recent taxes.
The other form of bankruptcy most frequently used in Bellingham 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.
One advantage of Chapter 11 bankruptcy is that it allows a business going through it to continue operating, and to trade its stock.
How Can a Bellingham Bankruptcy Lawyer Help?
The decision to file for bankruptcy in Bellingham is not one to be made easily, and it definitely should not be made without first obtaining the advice of an efficient Bellingham bankruptcy attorney.