Before diving into converting a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, it’s crucial to understand the differences between the two.
A Chapter 13 bankruptcy, also known as a “wage earner’s plan,” allows individuals with regular income to develop a plan to repay all or part of their debts. This repayment plan typically lasts for three to five years. Under this plan, creditors cannot initiate or continue collection efforts.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy, on the other hand, is a process where a debtor’s non-exempt assets are liquidated to repay creditors. This is typically quicker than Chapter 13; a debtor can receive a discharge in three to four months. However, not all debts are dischargeable under Chapter 7, and it may not be the right choice for everyone.
Our team of dedicated chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyers are ready to help you navigate the complex legal process and find the best possible solution for your unique financial situation.
There are several reasons why a debtor might consider converting their bankruptcy from Chapter 13 to Chapter 7. Some of the most common reasons include the following:
Sometimes, a debtor may struggle to make monthly payments under the Chapter 13 repayment plan. Converting to Chapter 7 may be a better option, as it does not require a repayment plan.
A debtor’s financial situation might change significantly during the Chapter 13 repayment period. For example, a debtor might lose their job, making it challenging to maintain their Chapter 13 plan. In this case, converting to Chapter 7 can offer relief.
A debtor may become ineligible for Chapter 13 due to exceeding the debt limits or failing to file required documents. Converting to Chapter 7 may be the only viable option in these situations.
If you’re considering converting your bankruptcy from Chapter 13 to Chapter 7, follow these steps:
Because the Bankruptcy Code states that you convert a Chapter 13 case to a Chapter 7 at any time, instead of filing a Motion indicating a request from the Court, you file a Notice of Conversion to Chapter 7 and pay the conversion fee. Converting from Chapter 13 to Chapter 7 is primarily a right of the Debtor and usually will not require a hearing – hence the word “Notice of Conversion.” There are exceptions, including where you have filed a Notice of Conversion in the past, which may require court approval.
Upon conversion, the Chapter 13 trustee will be replaced by a Chapter 7 trustee. The new trustee will review your case, assess your assets, and determine which are eligible for liquidation. They will also ensure that you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
After the conversion, you’ll need to attend a new meeting of creditors, also known as a “341 meeting.” During this meeting, the trustee and your creditors can ask about your financial situation and the reasons for the conversion. It is essential to be honest, and transparent during this meeting.
Converting from Chapter 13 to Chapter 7 bankruptcy has several consequences you should be aware of before deciding.
One of the most significant consequences of converting to Chapter 7 is the potential liquidation of your non-exempt assets. Unlike Chapter 13, which allows you to retain your property while repaying your debts, Chapter 7 may require you to sell your assets to repay your creditors. However, certain exemptions may protect some of your property.
While both Chapter 13 and Chapter 7 bankruptcies hurt your credit score, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy may stay on your credit report for up to 10 years, compared to 7 years for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. This can make rebuilding your credit and obtaining new credit more challenging.
It’s essential to understand the difference between dischargeable and non-dischargeable debts when converting to Chapter 7.
Dischargeable debts are those that can be eliminated through Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Examples of dischargeable debts include credit card debt, medical bills, personal loans, and certain tax debts.
Non-dischargeable debts, on the other hand, cannot be eliminated through Chapter 7 bankruptcy. These debts will still need to be repaid after the bankruptcy process. Examples of non-dischargeable debts include student loans, child support, alimony, and some tax debts.
Converting a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy can be a viable option for those struggling to maintain their repayment plan or experiencing significant changes in their financial situation. However, it’s crucial to consider the consequences of conversion, such as the potential liquidation of assets and the impact on your credit score. Consulting with a bankruptcy attorney can help determine if converting to Chapter 7 is the best decision for your financial future.
1. Can I convert my Chapter 13 bankruptcy to Chapter 7 anytime?
Yes, you can generally convert your Chapter 13 bankruptcy to Chapter 7 at any time, as long as you haven’t previously converted your case and are eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
2. What happens to my Chapter 13 repayment plan after converting to Chapter 7?
Once your bankruptcy is converted to Chapter 7, your Chapter 13 repayment plan will end, and you will no longer be required to make monthly payments to the trustee.
3. How long does the conversion process take?
The conversion process can vary in length, but it typically takes less than one week from filing the Notice of Conversion until your case is officially converted to Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
4. Can I keep my home and car when converting to Chapter 7?
It depends on your circumstances and the exemptions available in your state. You can sometimes keep your home and car if exemptions protect them. However, if your assets exceed the exemption limits, you may be required to sell them to repay your creditors. You need to consult with a bankruptcy attorney to understand your specific situation.
5. How much does it cost to convert from Chapter 13 to Chapter 7?
The cost of converting from Chapter 13 to Chapter 7 in Florida is $25. This fee is separate from any attorney fees incurred during the process. Check with your local bankruptcy court for the most up-to-date fee information.
Robert Stiberman is a bankruptcy attorney with extensive experience in Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases. He has represented numerous clients in bankruptcy cases and is well-versed in the requirements of the Chapter 13 trustees. With his knowledge and experience, Robert Stiberman can provide his clients with the guidance and representation they need to navigate bankruptcy successfully.
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