If you’re considering filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, it’s important to know the steps in the process and how long does chapter 7 bankruptcy take. This can help you to be better prepared as you take steps to improve your financial situation. Generally speaking, the length of time it takes for a bankruptcy case to finish will depend on how complicated the case is.
We’re going to take a closer look at what filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy involves as well as what you can expect during the process.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is often the more preferred type of bankruptcy because it can be quicker and less expensive. But, if you have more assets than essential items, you may end up losing them in the process. During a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, people are generally allowed to keep their house, car, and other necessary assets as long as said assets are properly claimed as exempt based on available exemptions, and they stay current on the payments. If you are majorly behind on any regular payments, there is a chance you can lose them when you file.
Also to the extent of available exemptions, any home furnishings or tools needed to work, and another essential property is generally protected when someone files for bankruptcy. Second homes, hobby cars, and luxury items are among those that are not protected during a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. Chapter 7 can’t be used to discharge most tax debt, alimony, child support, or federal student loans.
Before you can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you have to pass a “means test”. This proves that you don’t have the means to pay any unsecured debts. Credit cards, medical bills, and any debt that is not linked to a home or car are considered unsecured debts. If a person does not pass the means test and is unable to overcome the presumption of abuse, the case generally will not be accepted.
Typically, Chapter 7 bankruptcy takes 4-6 months from the time the case is filed to the final discharge of debts. Cases not involving any assets can usually be discharged in just a little over 90 days. It’s the more complicated case with many assets that can drag on.
Every state has a bankruptcy court where the case will take place. Once the person filing passes the means test, the case can be filed. There is typically a lot of paperwork that needs to be completed. It’s important to not only fill forms out accurately but also on time. If these things don’t happen, you run the risk of your case being delayed.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Timeline:
Before Filing Bankruptcy: Complete Credit Counseling Course. You must complete the course from an agency within 180 days Before filing
Day 1: File Bankruptcy Petition with Court and Pay Filing Fees – You will receive a Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case containing the name of your Trustee and the time and place of your 341 Meeting of Creditors.
Day 1 to 14: File Certificate of Credit Counseling
Day 1 to 14: File Lists, Schedules, and Payment Advices. Please refer to this link for more information on all the forms required to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida.
Day 13 to 33: Deadline to Provide Tax Returns to the Trustee. This is 7 days before your Meeting of Creditors.
Day 20 to 30: Deadline to File Statement of Intention. This is 30 days after filing or before the first date set for the Meeting of Creditors, whichever comes first.
Day 20 to 40: Your 341 Meeting of Creditors. The Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case will contain the time and place.
Day 50 to 70: Deadline to Perform Statement of Intention. This is 30 days after the original Meeting of Creditors date.
Day 80 to 100: Deadline to Complete Financial Management Training Course and file Form B423.
Day 80 to 100: Reaffirmation Agreements
When you’re asking how long it takes to file bankruptcy, it’s important to have a clear idea of the timeline you’re about to face. Here’s a look at how it typically goes:
The court will require certain documents as part of the process. Typically items include:
You’ll also need to determine what you own and how much it is worth. Information like how much you spend and where your money goes will also need to be documented.
If you are planning to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you’ll need to take a credit counseling course 180 days or less before filing. You will need to show your certificate that the program was completed to file your case. The objective is to make sure that filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is your best and only option.
This is where the majority of your work is going to happen. There will be several forms to fill out including ones where you’ll have to describe why you’re filing, and what you’ve done to improve your situation. Hiring a bankruptcy attorney is extremely helpful during this step because they can help you fill out the paperwork and make sure it is done properly and on time.
Besides any attorney fees, you will have to pay a filing fee. As of this writing that fee is $338 and is broken down like this:
If you can’t pay this fee in full, the judge may allow you to pay in installments. But the total fee must be paid within 60 days from when you file your case.
You can also apply for a fee waiver. To be eligible, your income must fall below 150% of the poverty line for your state and household size. If your request is denied, the bankruptcy court will typically give you a chance to pay the filing fee in a payment plan.
Once the case is filed the court appoints a bankruptcy trustee to oversee and administer the case. Their responsibilities include:
The trustee will meet with the person filing in a 341 Hearing that is also referred to as a “meeting of creditors”. Despite the name, creditors typically don’t show up. The trustee will go over any paperwork and determine how much creditors will be paid. You will also have 45 days to determine what will happen to any secured debt like a mortgage or car payments.
You will also have 60 days after this meeting to take a debtor education course. This is different from the required course before filing. This course focuses on making better financial decisions and avoiding any future bankruptcies. If you fail to do this, your case will be closed without receiving a discharge of your debts.
To review, this is the general Chapter 7 discharge timeline:
That snapshot is the general course that Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases take. When you’re considering a Chapter 7 discharge timeline remember that all cases are different. The more assets involved, the longer the case can take.
As you consider all of the steps for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, many people often wonder how long a Chapter 7 trustee can keep a case open. A case is generally kept open 4-6 months after filing. This is typically how long it takes for bankruptcy to discharge. But, this can also change depending on the circumstances of the case.
Once all of the deadlines have passed and all of the proper paperwork has been filed, the judge will issue a discharge. This notification will be mailed to you.
When you’re looking at how long it takes to file bankruptcy and for a discharge to occur, it’s important to note that the timeline will fluctuate depending on the complexity of your case. Those with more assets will take longer compared to those with little to no assets.
As you go through the process, you want to make sure all paperwork is filled out correctly and on time. When it’s not, it can delay the case and the time it takes for debts to discharge. This is why many people choose to work with a bankruptcy attorney. This gives them peace of mind that everything is being taken care of correctly.
If you are considering filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the team at Stiberman Law can help. Let our 13 years of experience in bankruptcy law guide you in the process. Call us today at (954) 922-2283 or fill out the form below to schedule a free consultation with a Florida bankruptcy attorney.
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