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Common Answers To Your Questions

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  • How does bankruptcy work?
    There are two different types of bankruptcy that are practically available for individual debtors—Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.
  • How does Chapter 7 work?

    In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, debtors give up certain property that they own at the time they file the bankruptcy case. This property is sold by a trustee, who uses the proceeds to pay the creditors. The debtors receive their discharge shortly after the case is filed. Chapter 7 debtors are allowed to keep the money that they earn after filing the bankruptcy case, as well as most other property that they obtain after the filing. You can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy if your current monthly income is at or below the state’s “family median income” for a family of your size. If your current monthly income is more than the median income and your debts are primarily consumer debts, you will have to pass the “means test” in order to qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The “means test” is essentially a series of questions where you calculate your monthly “disposable income” (income less allowable expenses). If your monthly disposable income is enough to either pay more than $10,950.00 towards your unsecured, nonpriority debt over a five-year period or pay more than 25% of your unsecured, nonpriority debt over a five-year period then you did not pass the “means test” and will not be able to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. However, you may still be eligible to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

  • What property do debtors have to give up in Chapter 7? What about tax refunds and lawsuits?
    Debtors in Chapter 7 are required to give up "nonexempt" property that they own at the time of the filing; they are allowed to keep both "exempt" property that they own at the time of filing and any property that they receive a right to own after the bankruptcy filing (except windfalls received in the first 6 months). Exempt property is property that, according to the law, is necessary for the debtors' support and the support of their dependents. If you have lived in Texas for two years or more, you can generally choose from one of two exemption systems, either the federal exemptions or the state exemptions. If all of a debtor's property is exempt, then the debtor does not have to give up any property in Chapter 7, but may still obtain a discharge. As long a debtor has a right to payment at the time of the bankruptcy filing—from a tax refund, a lawsuit, inheritance, or some other source—that right to payment is property that must be given to the Chapter 7 trustee unless it is exempt, even though the debtor has not yet received any money. Thus, a debtor may have to turn over a tax refund to the trustee that is received after the bankruptcy is filed, and a debtor may not be entitled to the settlement of a personal injury action that is entered into after the bankruptcy is filed.