Randall and Waldner PLLC

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Attorney Vancouver, Washington

Schedule a Free
Bankruptcy Consultation

Schedule a Free
Bankruptcy Consultation

What is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a form of debt forgiveness intended to help individuals who are behind on payments, such as their car or mortgage payments. Unlike chapter 7 bankruptcy (which discharges debt) Chapter 13 bankruptcy restructures a person’s debt with a repayment plan, allowing them to repay a portion of their debt over a period of 3 to 7 years, and can also discharge or reduce unsecured debts. Once the plan payments are completed, the debtor will receive a discharge of almost all liabilities and will be able to keep his or her property. Chapter 13 is ideal for individuals or married couples who have a regular source of income and have substantial equity in secured assets such as their home or car. Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be ideal in several instances, such as preventing foreclosure, helping make up for missed payments (on a mortgage, rent, or a vehicle,) stopping interest from accruing on state or federal tax debt and helping people resolve delinquent taxes.

Why Should I File for Bankruptcy?

Chapter 13 may be a great solution if you have regular income but are still struggling to stay current with your debts. The best way to determine if chapter 13 is a good option for you is contact the Offices of Randall and Waldner, a reputable Washington State bankruptcy firm with vast experience in all areas of Bankruptcy. During your free consultation with William Waldner and Charles Randall, we can discuss if chapter 13 bankruptcy is the best strategy for you and formulate a plan that fits your situation and is most likely to be approved.

How does a Chapter 13 Repayment Plan Work?

During Chapter 13 bankruptcy a petitioner must submit a repayment plan to the Court. Chapter 13 plans are complex and require the expertise of a qualified Washington State bankruptcy attorney to ensure your repayment plan is accepted by the Court and that your plan provides you with the most strategic repayment arrangement available.
Typically, chapter 13 plans contemplate monthly payments made directly to a trustee. The trustee then disperses the money to creditors in accordance with the Bankruptcy Code. Depending on your circumstances, the repayment plan spans 3 to 7 years. Once a chapter 13 plan is completed, your debt is discharged.

What are the Costs for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

There are different fees required to be paid before you can file for chapter 13 bankruptcy but some of them may be waived such as filing fees, fees for court-mandated financial education courses, fees for acquiring the necessary information for filing (such as credit reports) and preparation/representation fees of a Washington State Bankruptcy Lawyer.
As of 2020 chapter 13 filing fees are $310. This fee is paid to the clerk of the court when filing.
A credit counseling course is required before filing for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Washington State. After the case is filed but before discharge in a Chapter 13 case there is a mandatory debtor education course that must be taken.
These courses will cost between $0 to $200, depending on where the courses are taken. Some chapter 13 filers get fee waivers for these courses, however some bankruptcy attorneys in Washington State are known to charge unsuspecting clients large fees for these courses by incorporating the course fees in their overall retainer fee. At Randall and Waldner, clients are offered several options for taking these courses, most of which will range between $15 to $25 per course.
A 3-bureau credit report is crucial when preparing a chapter 13 bankruptcy case. Some lawyers try and save money by using a basic 1-bureau or 2-bureau credit report. Our office does not believe in using anything but 3-bureau credit reports to make absolutely certain that no important debts are missed. Comprehensive credit reports are important and can be expensive but our job is to make sure that we provide you with our best efforts instead of trying to save a few dollars. Our office does not charge extra for credit reports from public record searches.

It is important to weigh the costs and risks associated with filing your case pro se (without an attorney but paying a petition preparer) instead.

While it may appear to be the cheapest way to file, in reality you get what you pay for and what you’re paying for is the burden of representing yourself. You may remember the old story about a man who stood before a judge representing himself in an important case like yours. When he was judged guilty, he retorted to the judge, “I’m innocent and in fact, a holiday should be named for people like me.”

The judge replied, “There is. It’s called “Fools Day.” Hence the saying, “A man representing himself has a fool for a client.”

Retaining a Washington State Bankruptcy Lawyer may save you thousands of dollars in the long run and certainly will save you the emotional burden that accompanies bankruptcies.

 

People who file for bankruptcy without an attorney may hire a paid “Bankruptcy Petition Preparer” and think they’re getting a deal. In truth, they usually discover unpredicted expenses and higher repayment plans that may cost you more money than it saved. Further, hiring later an attorney to straighten out the mess will inevitably mean that you’ll be spending more money than had you done the right thing in the first instance. For whatever reasons you now find yourself hopelessly in debt spend the little bit more by hiring a licensed bankruptcy lawyer in the first place and enjoy the peace of mind that you deserve.

What is the cost to retain a Washington State Bankruptcy Lawyer?

The cost to retain a Washington State bankruptcy lawyer depends on the attorney. There are low-cost bankruptcy attorneys in Washington who offer excellent service at a reasonable price. So, take the time to be selective to make sure that you are getting the most out of your lawyer and not just someone who just charges you less in order to get the work. One additional benefit of allowing Randall & Waldner to design and implement a well thought out chapter 13 is that we can design a plan that allows you to pay a portion of your legal fees through your chapter 13 plan itself. This enables you to pay a small retainer up front before filing and receiving the debt relief you are entitled to quickly.

Randall and Waldner: Excellent, Affordable Chapter 13 Attorneys

During your free consultation, our Attorneys will give you an in-depth analysis of your case, your options and a quote for our legal fees. Our fees for filing a chapter 13 are sometimes lower than $1,000 depending on what is involved in the case. Some offices may charge over $9,000 up-front for a chapter 13 bankruptcy, distinguishing our office as one of the most affordable in Washington among those attorneys who are reputable and experienced.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process:

With a reputable bankruptcy lawyer, filing chapter 13 may be a perfect way to get out of debt while allowing you to keep your home, car, and other valuable assets while you simply repay a portion of your debt in an affordable repayment plan custom designed for you.
Filing for chapter 13 bankruptcy is a complex process. You must fully comply with the various requirements of the Bankruptcy Code or your case may be rejected. Hiring a competent bankruptcy attorney is crucial to successfully filing for this type of bankruptcy. Filing without an attorney or hiring a bankruptcy petition preparer can be extremely risky because the paid preparer will never represent you and can’t do what an attorney can do to make sure there are no obvious errors in your plan. At the very least, people who file for chapter 13 bankruptcy without a lawyer typically have higher payments in their chapter 13 plan, meaning that they will have to pay back more of their debt than they would have if represented by a knowledgeable attorney. Remember, this is a complicated legal procedure and those creditors who will be affected aren’t in the business of giving anything away. Based on our experience it is very rare for a chapter 13 case to get confirmed when filed without an attorney or a bankruptcy petition preparer.
One of the requirements to filing for Bankruptcy is to take a credit counseling course by a court-approved agency. Our office will provide you with some inexpensive and even free options.

This course is supposed to help inform you of your various financial options. Frequently, the course will help you evaluate your budget and debts and give you the best options when it comes time to form a realistic payment plan.

To file for chapter 13 bankruptcy your lawyer will need to prepare a petition and other important forms. The documents are typically 60 pages and often more. Along with the petition our offices submit:

1. A list of your assets and liabilities, a budget, list of your creditors and various other financial information.
2. A chapter 13 repayment plan
3. Your credit counseling certificate

Preparation of these documents is a complicated process. As you might guess, it takes a skilled attorney years to understand the law and the system and possess the experience to distinguish between what is realistic and what is wishful thinking.

  1. Rent Evictions – Stopped
  2. Mortgage Foreclosures – Stopped
  3. Phone, Electric and other Utility Shutoffs – Stopped
  4. Filing and continuing lawsuits – Stopped
  5. Wage Garnishments – Stopped
  6. Automobile Repossessions – Stopped 
  7. IRS enforcement actions – Stopped
  8. Almost all other collection efforts -Stopped
Once your case is filed with the Court a Bankruptcy Trustee is appointed. He or she is another attorney, like ourselves, who is in charge of distributing your chapter 13 monthly payments according to your Plan. A Trustee in a Chapter 13 keeps approximately 10 percent of whatever you give him or her through the case as their pay for enacting your Plan which can sometimes extend for a period of 7 years This is radically different than a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. In a Chapter 7 the trustee only makes money if they find someone to sue or are able to sell your possessions at a profit. A Chapter 13 Trustee’s yearly compensation is capped by statute. Any surplus money they make goes to the US Trustee to fund other things the US Trustee handles. For this reason, the Chapter 13 Trustees typically aren’t as aggressive as Chapter 7 Trustees and skillful attorney, like ourselves, can and do successfully negotiate the best deal possible in your situation.
Your Chapter 13 Plan will have a payment schedule that you need to follow. Payments go directly to the appointed trustee who will know if you miss a payment. Payments usually range between 36 to 60 months, depending on several factors that your attorney must present. In some cases, where a person has been impacted by COVID, the payments can be spread out for 6 or 7 years. This is helpful when someone needs to get caught up with a large mortgage arrearage or car payment. Of course, the monthly amount you pay would be lower over 7 years than it would be over 5. And, if you find yourself in a better position in the future than you were when the petition was filed, then you can pay off your plan early and be done. This decision is yours to make and you can always consult with us about the best course.
Until 2020 almost all meetings of creditors were held in person. Essentially, the Petitioner would bring his or her license and social security card to a designated building. A Trustee would meet several Petitioners at that location on a pre-planned date and time. The meetings take place in a room with the Trustee, Petitioners, their attorneys and the occasional Creditor. Creditors rarely show up for Chapter 13 hearings because they are getting paid back some or all of what they are owed in the case. Even if they aren’t, they really can’t do anything about a Chapter 13 case unless they can show there was ”bankruptcy fraud” which is a broad definition unique in the Bankruptcy Code and can sometimes include rather innocent mistakes made by a paid preparer. Remember, it is your name that swears under penalty of perjury to the accuracy of the facts stated in the Petition and not the preparer.

Because of the Covid pandemic the process has remained similar but the hearings have been conducted by phone or Zoom sessions. Typically, if you hire a good attorney, your meeting of creditors should be a stress-free and quick experience.
Typically, a confirmation hearing is scheduled from 2 to 3 months after the case is filed. During this hearing a real federal Bankruptcy Judge will ask questions of the Petitioner’s attorney and the Trustee. If everything is in Order the Judge will “confirm” the Chapter 13 Plan. Confirming means that it becomes a Court ordered judgment. If the Petitioner makes all of the payments specified under the Plan he or she gets a discharge of those debts listed in the case.
The law states that a Petitioner in Bankruptcy must take a second online Debtor Education course before they can get a Discharge in Chapter 13. This is an important step because a Judge will not close the case or issue a discharge until that course is completed. We give our clients several options on where to take the course and only recommend a fully court-approved course will be accepted.
Once the mandatory steps have been taken in the 3 to 7 year Plan the Court issues a formal Order called a Bankruptcy Discharge. This Discharge is a Judgment excusing you from liability for the dischargeable debts listed in your case. There are a few items that a Chapter 13 discharge will provide that a Chapter 7 will not. For this reason, a Chapter 13 Discharge is often referred to as a “Super Discharge.”

Am I a candidate for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy ?

To file chapter 13 bankruptcy in Washington a person or couple must meet specific qualifications laid out by the State. Many individuals and couples file for chapter 13 bankruptcy when they do not qualify for a chapter 7 filing for one reason or another. Some reasons for recommending a person avoid filing of a Chapter 7 include:
• Having too many assets that must be liquidated in a Chapter 7 * If a person makes too much money to qualify for chapter 7 as there are debt limitations for filing for a Chapter 13 such as having too much unsecured debt (like credit cards and student loans) or too much secured debt (like a mortgage or car loan) that disqualifies them from filling a Chapter 13. As of September 2020 the debt limits are: • Unsecured debts more than $419,275 * Secured debts of more than $1,257,850.
If you are a married couple filing jointly you are not allowed to double these limits but you may be able to file two Chapter 13 cases to further protect assets. Finally, to succeed in chapter 13 bankruptcy you must have enough disposable income to make the plan payments called for in your case. You can get the help of family members to show that you have sufficient money to pay the plan payments. This is why it is so important to consult and plan with a competent attorney.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy FAQ

One myth surrounding bankruptcy is that your credit score will always drop after filling a case. Typically, about 12 months after filing your credit scores go up. The 3-bureau credit reports that we obtain show a projected post-filing score that usually goes up from those scores as tabulated prior to filing. For many of our clients we offer a free credit repair program designed to get their scores to a 720 shortly after filing for bankruptcy. But we must stress that the idea behind filing for Bankruptcy is not to build credit, but rather, to get out of Debt.

If you think about Bankruptcy and credit scores rationally it makes sense that the FICO scores go up. Someone has lots of debt before they file for Bankruptcy. No one, including credit card companies and other lenders are interested in standing in line to collect money from someone who owes many creditors. After someone gets a discharge in Bankruptcy they typically have no debt and can’t file another case for several years, making him or her a better credit risk.

Probably no one that you don’t tell unless they have also filed for Bankruptcy and are at the same meeting of creditors as you are. Your creditors will all get a notice in the mail. Typically, discovering that someone has filed for Bankruptcy requires access to confidential information such as a social security number and an account with a Court supervised vendor named Pacer. Historically, most employers do not run credit checks and it is a rarity that you will cross paths with anyone that knows that you have filed for Bankruptcy.

Up to 10 years from the date of filing.

The means test was created in 2005 by congress to make it difficult for people to qualify for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Ironically, in 2005 when The Bankruptcy Abuse and Consumer Protection Act was enacted it did very little to protect consumers.

At Randall and Waldner we pride ourselves knowing all of the ins-n-outs of the Means Test. While, it can be a challenge, we can almost always get you through the Means Test.

You can try.  I certainly would not recommend it in the case of Chapter 13.  Similarly, in a chapter 7 you can lose your assets if you do not exempt them correctly by listing the correct sections of the Bankruptcy Code.  It just makes good sense that  at the end of the day  attorneys are the best  at practicing law, just as  engineers are experts at designing buildings and surgeons are experts at surgery.   If you are not an expert in those fields you do not attempt to do what these experts are trained to do.



For these same reasons we do  not recommend hiring a preparer to take a stab at completing your case.   These people are non-lawyers who often are called out  for the unauthorized practice of  law and for this reason can’t lawfully give you advice.   Further, their cases are  often red-flagged by the Courts  as well as the Department of Justice for  extra scrutiny because many a citizen has fallen victim to their errors.  And it is not at all unusual for a Trustee  to ask an unrepresented debtor  who had helped them prepare the paperwork.  This question will be asked under oath and the last thing you need when attempting to escape a debt owed to a creditor is to perjure yourself and risk criminal prosecution that includes jail.    Once a trustee finds out a non-attorney helped prepare a case usually everyone, including the Debtor, gets into trouble.

Chapter 13 plan payments are very complicated but here are a few things that need to be considered:

  1. Household income
  2. Disposable income on the means test
  3. Monthly living expenses for a household
  4. Certain debts that must be paid in the case such as some taxes, domestic support and arrears for a mortgage, car or rent.


Remember, in Chapter 13 most of your debt does not need to be repaid or is greatly discounted as a means of aiding you reorganize. In essence, your actual disposable income is the amount you are required to pay the trustee each month your plan remains in effect. If there is enough disposable income to fund a chapter 13 then it will likely be successful. And once the case is over virtually all of your debts get discharged regardless.

Absolutely, we help Debtors with this every day. Typically, court approval is required but we always look at the feasibility for a modification.

One thing unique to Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is called the “Co-Debtor Stay” Which is an automatic stoppage that applies to a co-signor of consumer debts while your case is open and before discharge.. That means that if you and a member of your family are jointly liable on a consumer credit card and one of you files for Bankruptcy then the creditor will not be allowed to go after the non-filing family member to collect on the debt but only while the case remains open. This stay will not apply to business debts.

Even most debts that are not Dischargeable are actually paid out in a chapter 13 case. So, creditors cannot try on collecting on debt, with a few exceptions, while in chapter 13. Some debts that are not discharged (but usually paid off by the Trustee anyway) are:

  1. Mortgages on assumed property
  2. Rental arrears on assumed leases
  3. Domestic support that is not paid in the case
  4. Student Loans
  5. Criminal Restitution

It’s complicated but a Chapter 13 discharge will eliminate credit card, medical and most other unsecured debts. Student loans are almost never forgiven. And should there exist a second or third mortgage on a home or other property that is under-secured (meaning that there is no equity left in the property securing them) then they can often be wiped out completely.

The answer is almost always yes. A Chapter 13 trustee will try to get you to pay back as much as possible without destroying the feasibility of your Plan. They do this by trying to persuade the Court and the Debtor to increase the plan payments. But our job as your bankruptcy attorney is to show the Court and trustee why the payments should be lower and not higher. Having the right attorney can save you many thousands, or tens of thousands , over the life of a Chapter 13 case. Many of the Chapter 13 cases we have worked on have payments of less than $200 per month.

Absolutely. Chapter 13 can help with your taxes, domestic support obligations, and even with student loans if you know how to structure it properly and you also have the option of using Chapter 13 to create a long term repayment plan for certain debts that are not dischargeable in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. But this is serious business that you’ll need serious attorneys in order to take advantage of the full range of options available to you. So don’t delay and call Randall & Waldner for a free no obligation evaluation of your situation.

Schedule a Free
Bankruptcy Consultation

Call Today For A Free Consultation