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                   Here is what Chapter 7 can do for you...

In Chapter 7, a debtor surrenders his or her non-exempt property to a bankruptcy trustee who then liquidates the property and distributes the proceeds to the debtor's unsecured creditors. In exchange, the debtor is entitled to a discharge of some debt; however, the debtor will not be granted a discharge if he or she is guilty of certain types of inappropriate behavior (e.g., concealing records relating to financial condition) and certain debts (e.g., spousal and child support and most student loans). Some taxes will not be discharged even though the debtor is generally discharged from his or her debt. Many individuals in financial distress own only exempt property (e.g., clothes, household goods, an older car, or the tools of their trade or profession) and will not have to surrender any property to the trustee. The amount of property that a debtor may exempt varies from state to state (as noted above, Virginia and Maryland have a $1,000 difference.) Chapter 7 relief is available only once in any eight-year period. Generally, the rights of secured creditors to their collateral continues even though their debt is discharged. For example, absent some arrangement by a debtor to surrender a car or "reaffirm" a debt, the creditor with a security interest in the debtor's car may repossess the car even if the debt to the creditor is discharged.

The 2005 amendments to the Bankruptcy Code introduced the "means test" for eligibility for chapter 7. An individual who fails the means test will have his or her chapter 7 case dismissed or may have to convert his or her case to a case under chapter 13.

Generally, a trustee will sell most of the debtor's assets to pay off creditors. However, certain assets of the debtor are protected to some extent. For example, Social Security payments, unemployment compensation, and limited values of equity in a home, car, or truck, household goods and appliances, trade tools, and books are protected. However, these exemptions vary from state to state.

Chapter 7Among its many changes to consumer bankruptcy law, BAPCPA includes a "means test", which was intended to make it more difficult for a significant number of financially distressed individual debtors whose debts are primarily consumer debts to qualify for relief under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. The "means test" is employed in cases where an individual with primarily consumer debts has more than the average annual income for a household of equivalent size, computed over a 180-day period prior to filing. If the individual must "take" the "means test", their average monthly income over this 180-day period is reduced by a series of allowances for living expenses and secured debt payments in a very complex calculation that may or may not accurately reflect that individual's actual monthly budget. If the results of the means test show no disposable income (or in some cases a very small amount) then the individual qualifies for Chapter 7 relief. If a debtor does not qualify for relief under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code, either because of the Means Test or because Chapter 7 does not provide a permanent solution to delinquent payments for secured debts, such as mortgages or vehicle loans, the debtor may still seek relief under Chapter 13 of the Code.

When you file for bankruptcy, an automatic stay goes into effect that stops almost all collection actions by creditors including lawsuits. If you are being sued by your creditors, filing for bankruptcy relief may help you stop the lawsuit and eliminate the underlying debt.

One of the most important things to consider before filing for bankruptcy is the value of property you own.  Bankruptcy exemptions  allow you to keep a certain amount of property in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. But a Chapter 7  bankruptcy trustee  has the authority to sell any assets you can’t exempt to pay back your creditors.

If you have any debts that are secured by your property (such as a mortgage or car loan), your lender can foreclose on or repossess your property if you default on your obligation. In most cases, you can’t wipe out your lender’s lien on the property by filing for bankruptcy and obtaining a discharge.

BAPCPA also requires individuals seeking bankruptcy relief to undertake credit counselling with approved counseling agencies prior to filing a bankruptcy petition and to undertake education in personal financial management from approved agencies prior to being granted a discharge of debts under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Some studies of the operation of the credit counseling requirement suggest that it provides little benefit to debtors who receive the counseling because the only realistic option for many is to seek relief under the Bankruptcy Code.

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