Spokane Bankruptcy Attorney
Being over your head in debt can make you feel like you are drowning. No matter how much of it that you pay off, it seems like it only grows. Sometimes you have too much debt to ever pay off, but luckily there is another way.
If you need help getting out from under your debt, you need the help of a Spokane bankruptcy lawyer. When you need skilled bankruptcy attorneys, contact Symmes Law Group for a free consultation.
How Filing Bankruptcy Can Help You
Under federal law, there is a mechanism by which some or all of your debt can be wiped away and forgiven. It is called bankruptcy, and if you qualify, you may be able to escape from your debts without even having to pay them back. A good bankruptcy lawyer can help you through what can be a complicated but incredibly rewarding and helpful process.
There are two main types of bankruptcy that most individual debtors will file: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13, and both have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a “liquidation” bankruptcy. This means that when you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court will appoint a Chapter 7 Trustee, whose job is to sell some of your non-exempt assets and then distribute the proceeds from the sale to your creditors. There are certain requirements to qualify for Chapter 7, and your bankruptcy attorney can assist you to determine if you qualify.
While the Trustee’s job is to sell your assets, most of your assets are exempted from the sale. For example, in the State of Washington, your home will not be sold if it is worth less than either $125,000 or the median price of a home in the county where you live, whichever is greater, assuming you have owned the property for at least 1215 days and reside in the property as your homestead in Washington.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is beneficial because it allows you to, for the price of some of your things, erase all of your unsecured debt (which is debt that is not protected by collateral, such as credit card debt or medical bills). Also, many of your most important assets, such as your house and car, will be protected.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a “wage earner’s” bankruptcy. Chapter 13 bankruptcies are different in that you will have to repay some of your debt. However, you will not be forced to give up any of your assets in most cases.
Chapter 13 works by putting together all of your debt and dividing it into equal monthly payments that you will make over the course of 3 to 5 years. Most of the time, the total amount of debt that you will have to repay will be less than the amount that you actually owe. If you make all of your payments on time, all of your unsecured debts will be forgiven.
Chapter 13 plans are good if you make too much money to qualify for Chapter 7. While there are disadvantages of Chapter 13s, such as the fact that you have to make several years of payments, there are also benefits, like that you will keep all of your property. It is also easier to recover your credit after a Chapter 13. Your bankruptcy lawyers will help you determine which is best for you.
The Bankruptcy Process
Bankruptcy has a standard process that is set by federal law. This process can be illustrated as a 5-step process. After hiring a skilled Spokane Bankruptcy lawyer, your bankruptcy case will move through the following process:
- Credit Counseling– The first step in the bankruptcy process is to discuss your budget with a credit counselor that has been approved by the Department of Justice. This person will not be your bankruptcy lawyer but will discuss with you the pros and cons of bankruptcy. This requirement can typically be satisfied in an hour or less and a class can be completed online.
- Filing of your “Plan”– The next step is to file a chapter 13 bankruptcy case, involving a bankruptcy plan which is a statement of how and how much you intend to pay your creditors. Once you file this plan, the bankruptcy court will order all of your creditors to cease any collection efforts. This is called the automatic stay.
- Meeting of the Creditors– After choosing what type of bankruptcy case to file, you will appear before the Court, where both the Trustee and your creditors may ask you questions about your case. These days this meeting is happening over the phone or through zoom, so an actual meeting at the courthouse is not necessary.
- Debtor Financial Management Class– This is similar to the credit counseling session. This can normally be performed online.
- Debt Discharge– This is the end. Once your bankruptcy plan or filing is approved by the Court, and your plan completed your debts will be discharged, meaning that you simply do not owe them anymore. If you filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, plan payments are due within 30 days of filing and you would get your discharge in 3-5 years.
Your Spokane bankruptcy attorneys will be there to assist you at every step of the way. You need skilled bankruptcy attorneys on your side to help you through the complicated bankruptcy process.
The Automatic Stay
When you file bankruptcy, a process known as the Automatic Stay happens. The Automatic Stay is a legal process where the bankruptcy court, at the time you file for bankruptcy, orders all of your creditors to immediately stop all debt collection activity. The automatic stay can do things such as:
- Stop harassing calls by debt collectors
- Stop lawsuits that were filed against you by creditors
- Stop your home from being foreclosed upon
- Help you get back any recently repossessed property
- Stop wage garnishment
If your creditors violate the Automatic Stay, this is the same as violating an order of a Court, and your creditors can be held in contempt of court. This means that you and your Spokane bankruptcy lawyer can sue them in the bankruptcy court and possibly get financial compensation.
Bankruptcy Filing Fees
How much you need to pay the bankruptcy court to file bankruptcy is standard across the entire country. This fee also depends on the type of bankruptcy that is filed. For Chapter 7 bankruptcies, the filing fee is $338.00 (which is a $245 filing fee, plus a $78 administrative fee, plus a $15 US Trustee surcharge).
For Chapter 13 bankruptcies, the filing fee is $313.00 (which is a $235 filing fee plus a $78 administrative fee). If you cannot afford the fee, there is also a process by which you might be able to make your filing in forma pauperis, a process by which lower-income people are not required to pay filing fees and court costs.
In the State of Washington, you are eligible to have your bankruptcy fees waived if your yearly income is less than 150% of the Washington poverty line. This number depends on how large your family is, but for a family of 1, the limit is $13,590, and it increases for every member of your family at a rate of around $4,500 per person. With that said, if you hire an attorney, the court is not inclined to give you a filing fee waiver.
Location of the Bankruptcy Courts
Bankruptcy Courts are federal courts, so where you will file your claim will be based on which federal court division that you live in. For residents of Spokane, your bankruptcy petition will be filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Washington. This Court is located at 920 West Riverside Ave., Room 840, Spokane, Washington.
The Eastern District of Washington also has two other courthouses in Yakima and Richland. For residents of the western half of Washington, their bankruptcy claims will be filed in the Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Washington. This District has two courthouses, in Seattle and in Tacoma.
Warning Signs of Financial Trouble
Ernest Hemingway once wrote that people go bankrupt two ways, “gradually, then suddenly.” This rings true even today, where financial troubles can continue on for years, then all of a sudden cause financial ruin. It is a good idea not to let yourself get to this position, and there are certain warning signs that you can look out for.
- Getting behind on bills, especially mortgage or car payments
- Relying on credit cards in between pay periods
- Taking out payday loans
- Using one credit card to pay off another one
- Only making the minimum payments on your credit cards
- Suffering constant stress about your financial situation
- Considering taking out second mortgages or refinancing debts in order to pay off other debts
You do not need to feel bad about yourself if you are in serious debt. If you are in a situation where you feel like there is no end in sight, and you can only see your financial status getting worse, it might be time to consider filing for bankruptcy. Contact a skilled and experienced Spokane bankruptcy attorney to know your options to free yourself from debt.
Contact Spokane Bankruptcy Lawyers Today
Being in overwhelming debt can make you feel like you are drowning. Your situation is not hopeless, there are legal mechanisms for you to escape your debt. However, you need to do whatever you can sooner rather than later.
If you need to get out of debt, you need the help of knowledgeable Spokane bankruptcy attorneys. Contact Symmes Law Group for a free consultation and case review.