Whether I am in my office in Willingboro New Jersey or in Northeast Philadelphia I often hear the same statement when a client comes in to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy- "I don't want to include my car in the bankruptcy ". While keeping a car is generally not a problem, the car is required to be included in the bankruptcy since a debtor is required to list everything owned and all debts, including car loans. However, in addition to listing the car, a Statement of Intentions regarding the car must also be filed. In it the debtor states whether they intend to surrender the vehicle, reaffirm the debt on the vehicle, or redeem the vehicle. Reaffirm means a form is completed and filed with the court which has the effect of taking the car out of the bankruptcy. The good part is it helps rebuild credit. The bad part is if you default and the car is repossessed you will be liable for any deficiency claim. Redemption is when you have a car worth, for example, $10,000.00 and you owe $15,000 there are companies that will lend you the $10,000 and you are basically saying if I gave you the car back you would only get $10,000 even though I owe you $15,000 so I am giving you $10,000 and that is what you get. The bottom line is keeping your car in a bankruptcy is generally not a problem.
The increase in exemptions available in New Jersey to protect the equity in your home has made it easier to keep your home in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. As of April 1, 2019 the exemption a home owner is allowed under federal exemptions, which are used in New Jersey, increased to $25,150.00 per home owner. For example, if you and your spouse own a home in, say, Cherry Hill, NJ or Voorhees, NJ and the home is worth $200,000.00 and there is a mortgage of $130,000.00 you would be able to file a chapter 7 and keep your home as long as you are able to continue making your mortgage payments and as long as you meet the other chapter 7 eligibility requirements such as those relating to income. That is because there would be no reason for a trustee to sell your home since there would be no benefit to your creditors. If a trustee sold the home in this example, the trustee would have realtor and other fees of about $20,000.00, the mortgage of $130,000.00 and you and your spouse could protect from creditors a total of $50,300.00. Consequently, if you are in need of a bankruptcy but are concerned you will lose your home, you should immediately consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney
Bankruptcy trustee suing college to recover tuition. What happens when you pay your child's college tuition and then file a chapter 7 bankruptcy within the next couple of years? Some bankruptcy trustees are suing the colleges to get the money back to pay the creditors in the bankruptcy. The theory is the parent did not have a legal obligation to pay the tuition and received no benefit so the payment was a fraudulent conveyance and therefore must be returned. Some courts have agreed with this argument and required the college to return the money. In that case the student now owes the unpaid tuition. Some courts more recently have determined that the college does not need to return the money because the parent is receiving a benefit such as making child independent so parent does not have to support. However, there is certainly a risk at this point when a bankruptcy is filed after tuition payments were made.
At one time or another, most people have been asked to cosign a loan. The request is made because the credit of the borrower prevents that borrower from getting credit on their own. When someone agrees to cosign a loan, they are doing more then just lending their credit. They are putting themselves at financial risk in the event the borrower does not pay. For example, if you cosign on a credit card and the borrower files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and eliminates their own liability, the cosigner remains responsible for the entire debt. In certain circumstances, such as the cosigning of a car loan, if the borrower files bankruptcy but decides to keep vehicle and continue to pay, the cosigner is ok as long as payments are made. However, if payments are not made and the car is repossessed, you are liable for the deficiency. Before you cosign a debt for anyone, know the risks.
Whether you can keep your home depends on various factors including the amount of equity in the property. The amount of equity you can protect in your residence depends on the exemptions available. If you live in, for example, Pennsauken New Jersey, you can protect approximately $24,000 each in your home. If you live in Philadelphia Pennsylvania you have the same Federal exemption of about $24,000. In Pennsylvania in the situation where property is owned by a husband and wife and there are no joint debts and only one spouse files the equity can be protected. Some states provide significantly more protection. Most times when a chapter 7 is filed the debtors can keep their home as long as they are able to make their mortgage payments
The bankruptcy means test is a significant factor in determining who can file for debt forgiveness through Chapter 7 bankruptcy. See http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Saving-Money/2016/0718/Why-the-bankruptcy-means-test-matters. It takes into account your income, expenses and family size as well as the state you live in to determine whether you can eliminate the debt or whether you have enough disposable income to repay some or all of your debts. Regarding the relevance of the state you live in, as an example, a family of four residing in Northeast Philadelphia Pennsylvania will need to have less income than a family of four residing in Pennsauken New Jersey because the statewide income is less in Pennsylvania then in New Jersey.
Pro: Bankruptcy can often be used to eliminate or significantly reduce unsecured debt.
Eliminating credit card debt is one reason many people file for chapter 7 personal bankruptcy. A drop in income, a divorce, or illness can cause credit card debt to accumulate. Bankruptcy is a good option in eliminating this credit card debt. A trustee compares your income to expenses and reviews the equity to your assets. A trustee will order the liquidation of your assets to repay your debt only if the equity in assets exceeds allowed exemptions. In most chapter 7 individuals keep all of their assets. Bankruptcy exemptions vary by state. If a married couple owns a home in Cherry Hill New Jersey or Voorhees New Jersey and the home is worth $300,000 and there is a mortgage of $260,000, because each can exempt approximately $24,000 worth of equity in their home for bankruptcy purposes they would be able to protect the equity in their home and they would be in a position to file a Chapter 7. They could eliminate their credit card debt. If there is disposable income this would be used to repay creditors. Chapter 7 is often a good option to help get a fresh start. If you are struggling financial, you should consult with an experienced attorney about your options.
Credit card debt can be eliminated in chapter 7 personal bankruptcy in many instances. Often credit card debt can become overwhelming because of a drop in income, because of a divorce, because of an illness or other reasons. Bankruptcy is often the best option in eliminating this credit card debt. In a bankruptcy, the court is going to consider your income compared to your expenses as well as the equity in your assets. However, even if you have some equity under bankruptcy law there are exemptions that are allowed. The exemptions in New Jersey and Pennsylvania may differ from states where various state exemptions are added to the Federal exemptions. By way of example, if a married couple owns a home in, say, Cherry Hill New Jersey or Voorhees New Jersey and the home is worth $300,000 and there is a mortgage of $260,000, because they can each exempt approximately $24,000 worth of equity in their home for bankruptcy purposes they would be able to protect the equity in their home and they would be in a position to file a Chapter 7 and eliminate their credit card debt. As indicated, income and expenses would also be taken into account to determine whether there is disposable income. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can assist in determining whether Chapter 7 is the best option.
What do you do if you filed a Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy and received your discharge and then realized you forgot to include a creditor. Prior to 1996 the debtor was required to file a motion to reopen the bankruptcy, pay a court fee, then file an amendment to add the creditor. There was also a court fee involved in filing the amendment. However, in 1996, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Judd v. Wolff, in the appeal of a New Jersey case, concluded that in a no asset Chapter 7 bankruptcy case it would be a waste of the court's time to reopen a case to add a creditor when there is not going to be a distribution anyway. As a result, as long as the creditor has not been intentionally omitted from the bankruptcy schedules, the debt is eliminated even if the creditor was forgotten. Often a debtor will have their attorney write a letter to the creditor, citing Judd v. Wolf and advise of the impact of the case and the fact that the debt is discharged. Of course it is always better to list all creditors when the initial bankruptcy is filed. A credit report is a helpful tool in making sure all creditors are listed. However, if a creditor is forgotten, it can still be addressed.