Virginia Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Financial challenges can arise through any number of unexpected circumstances. The loss of employment, a prolonged illness, divorce or separation, or other situations can leave you with more debt than you can handle. A consultation with one of the Hampton, Virginia, Chapter 13 bankruptcy lawyers at The Law Offices of John W. Lee, P.C., can show how this form of bankruptcy could provide a debtor with the relief they need to get back on track again.
When Does Someone Know if Chapter 13 Is Right for Their Situation?
As one of the premier Chapter 13 law firms in Virginia, the attorneys at The Law Offices of John W. Lee, P.C., understand that Chapter 13 might not be right for everyone. Chapter 13 could be helpful for individuals in any of the following situations:
- They own assets in which there is equity to preserve
- They need to prevent repossession of a car
- They are behind in payments on a car loan with a principle balance in excess of the vehicle's book value
- They owe back taxes and need help with penalties and interest
- They are behind in paying their mortgage and want to stop a foreclosure sale
- Their income is too high to qualify for a Chapter 7
- They own a home with no equity on which there is a second mortgage lien they need to remove
Virginia Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorneys can show people how filing for bankruptcy might help them to stop collection efforts by creditors while putting them into an affordable and manageable repayment plan.
How Chapter 13 Works
Experienced Attorneys from Chapter 13 law firms point out how the former name for this type of bankruptcy, wage earner's plan, aptly describes how it works. If a person has a regular income, he or she can receive the protection of the bankruptcy court's stay of collection and enforcement proceedings, including repossession and foreclosure, while developing a plan to repay part or all of the debts that are owed.
The repayment plan proposed by a person's Virginia Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorneys can extend payments over three to five years. Unless the bankruptcy court allows for a longer repayment period, if an individual's monthly income is more than the median income for the state in which person resides, the plan must be completed in five years. If the monthly income is less than the state median income, the plan can be as little as three years.
Payments under the plan are made to the Chapter 13 trustee appointed by the court. The trustee distributes the money to the creditors in accordance with the terms of the plan. This ensures that debtors do not have to be concerned about having contact with creditors during the plan.
Eligibility for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
A person cannot file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy without participating in credit counseling. There are agencies approved by the U.S. Trustee Program to provide counseling. The agencies can charge a fee for the counseling, but they are required to offer it for free or at a reduced cost if a person can prove that he or she cannot afford to pay the full cost. Other eligibility requirements for filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy include the following:
- The person must have a regular income
- Unsecured debt cannot be more than $383,175
- Secured debt cannot be more than $1,149,525
- The debtor cannot have filed a bankruptcy petition that was dismissed within the past 180 days due to the person's willful failure to appear in court or comply with court orders
The maximum amounts for unsecured and secured debt can change. The bankruptcy laws provide for periodic adjustments equal to changes in the consumer price index.
Distinction Between Secured and Unsecured Creditors in a Chapter 13
Secured creditors are those with liens on property that gives them the right to take the property on a default. Unsecured creditors are owed money, but they do not have collateral to seize. A third class of creditors has what the bankruptcy laws define as priority claims, including taxes and domestic support obligations. Priority claims usually get paid in full.
Secured creditors under a Chapter 13 plan must be paid an amount equal to the value of the collateral, but different rules applies if the debtor used the borrowed money to purchase the property – also known as purchase money security. In most cases a debtor cannot “cram-down” the debt on an automobile to the fair market value unless the loan is over 910 days old. Even if the debt is less than 910 days old, the debtor may be able to significantly reduce the interest rate on the secured auto loan.
Special rules also apply to secured creditors holding mortgage liens on real property. If a person is in arrears in making the payments on a mortgage, the individual can retain ownership of the home under a plan filed by Chapter 13 bankruptcy lawyers and continue to make payments under the terms of the original mortgage agreement. In other words, the individual does not have to pay the entire mortgage debt the three to five years of the plan. The debtor is obligated to pay the mortgage arrears and regular mortgage payments during the plan period. Once the chapter 13 bankruptcy plan is completed the debtor will continue making the regular monthly payment under the term of the mortgage note.
Individuals filing Chapter 13 are not required to pay unsecured creditors in full as long as their plan includes all of their disposable income over the plan period. Unsecured creditors are only entitled to receive as much under your Chapter 13 plan as they would have received had the debtor's assets been liquidated under a Chapter 7 and the funds applied toward the debt. The portion of the debt owed to an unsecured creditor that is not repaid under the Chapter 13 plan is subject to being discharged upon completion of the payments under the plan.
Making Your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Work
Once repayment plans have been approved by the court, individuals must make all their payments on time. Missing a chapter 13 plan payment can result in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy being dismissed or closed. Other things that can result in dismissal or closing of the case include:
* Not participating in required credit counseling classes or failing to file certain affidavits as required by the court
* Failing to cooperate with the trustee or failing to provide documents requested by the trustee
* Missing payments to secured creditors that are due outside of the bankruptcy plan, such as car loan and home mortgage payments
* Failing to pay taxes or child support obligations
* Refinancing your home mortgage or modifying home loans without first acquiring the approval of the court bankruptcy court.
* Not reporting changes in your employment or major changes to the debtor's finances to the trustee as they occur
Once a person is approved for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the individual cannot buy or sell a home or incur any debt more than $5,000 without first obtaining approval from the bankruptcy court. Failing to obtain court approval prior to incurring debt can jeopardize a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Contact Virginia Beach Chapter 13 Attorneys
The Chapter 13 bankruptcy lawyers at The Law Offices of John W. Lee, P.C., have more than 70 years of combined experience to put to work helping people to resolve their financial challenges. Individuals wondering if Chapter 13 bankruptcy is right for them should call 757-896-0868 to schedule an appointment.