Randall and Waldner PLLC

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Attorney Vancouver, Washington

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Bankruptcy Consultation

Schedule a Free
Bankruptcy Consultation

What is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a form of debt relief intended to help honest individuals get a fresh start by discharging most debt. It is the most common form of bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is sometimes called “liquidation bankruptcy” because certain assets may be liquidated to repay creditors. However, chapter 7 bankruptcy is more commonly known as “fresh start bankruptcy” because the majority of debt discharged when filing chapter 7 is wiped clean without repayment or the liquidation of assets.

Should I file for bankruptcy?

If you are burdened with extensive debt, filing chapter 7 bankruptcy may be an ideal form of debt relief. With chapter 7 bankruptcy your unsecured debt, such as personal loans, medical bills, or credit card debt is discharged, or wiped clean, giving you a fresh start towards a bright financial future. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is especially helpful if you are being harassed by collections agencies, having your wages garnished, or have a judgment issued against you.

Is filing for Bankruptcy a Bad Idea?

Emphatically – No! In fact, for most people it is the best thing to do or even the only thing to do. Bankruptcy protection is an important tool for the stability of our economy and the well-being of hard-working individuals who become overwhelmed with debt. When clients file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, they are taking productive steps to overcome difficult times with the eye of returning them back into a productive member of the US workforce.
Unfortunately, if there is still a lingering feeling of shame attached to the filing of a bankruptcy petition, which we don’t believe, that misconception is simply not warranted given the pandemic and the world-wide economic collapse that has engulfed us all. In fact, Congress has recognized the need for the widespread application of bankruptcy relief in its recently expanded debtors’ rights addressed in the CARES Act legislation as an integral part of processing the trillions of dollars in forgivable loans to individuals and small businesses.
Whether it is for better or worse, the filing of bankruptcy by those individuals buried in unsustainable debt may be one of the most important factors that reignites our economy. Whether chapter 7 relief is your best option depends upon your individual circumstances. But historically, chapter 7 relief has been the best option for the vast numbers of people filing.

Will filing for Bankruptcy get rid of all my debt?

Chapter 7 discharges (get rid of) most unsecured debt. This is why its commonly referred to as a “fresh start” bankruptcy. Once you have filed for bankruptcy, the courts will discharge your unsecured debt freeing you to move forward with your life.
A chapter 7 filing relieves a person from having to pay for most unsecured debts, such as credit card balances, medical bills, and most court judgments.
Certain types of debt such as student loans, some government fines, some taxes, and child or spousal support usually cannot be discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing.

Will I lose my assets if I file Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

Filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy will cause the liquidation of nonexempt assets by the United States Trustee. The bankruptcy trustee will evaluate and sell off the debtor’s nonexempt assets to pay off creditors. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can help you claim exemptions on the majority, if not all, of your assets during the liquidation process. This can protect a person’s car, home and other important possessions.

There are several more state exemptions that may be available and some valuables can be exempted using multiple exemptions, increasing the amount of protection. One example would be a married couple filing jointly could potentially protect $32,800 of equity in a car. Just because something is not completely protected does not mean that you will lose it. You can often buy items back from a trustee and in many cases a trustee will abandon items that are not worth selling.

How much does bankruptcy cost?

How much your Bankruptcy costs depends on several factors: filing fees, fees for mandated education courses, fees for acquiring the necessary information for filing (such as credit reports) and preparation/representation fees.

Filing Fees:
Currently, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy costs $500 and up.

Credit counseling and Debtor Education courses:
Debtor Education and Credit Counseling courses cost between $0 and upwards for $150, depending on where the course is taken. Some Chapter 7 filers take free online courses; however, some bankruptcy attorneys will add a charge as part of their overall fees. At the law firm of Randall & Waldner, clients are offered various options for taking these courses, most of which range between $0 to $20 per course.

Credit report with public records search.
An extensive credit report is critical when preparing a consumer bankruptcy petition. Many attorneys try and save money by using a basic 2-bureau credit report. This is risky because simple credit reports leave out important debts that must be included in the paperwork for filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy. To ensure that clients receive the most helpful credit report for filing bankruptcy, the Randall & Waldner Firm provides an ultra-comprehensive 3-bureau credit report as well as a thorough public records search. This report is undoubtedly one of the absolute best when filing for Chapter 7, however, it can be very expensive. The Firm does not charge clients for this service, and individuals who are represented by it receive this extensive credit report free of charge.

Pro Se filings or bankruptcy petition preparers.

The costs associated with representation and preparation depends on whether you file pro se (without an attorney), with an attorney, or pay a petition preparer to put your petition together.

If you are looking for the cheapest way to file for bankruptcy, you can file pro se or without an attorney. If you prepare your own paperwork the process is free. If you have a petition preparer prep your case it will not be free. Ironically, individuals who try to save money by filing for bankruptcy by themselves or by hiring a “Bankruptcy Petition Preparer” to do the paperwork often encounter unforeseen fees, lost assets, and debts that are not discharged by the Courts which cost far more than what you would have spent in an attorney’s fee. Additionally, the paid Preparer will not be able to represent your interests should you desire to correct some error.

How much will it cost to hire an attorney?

Most attorneys charge a flat fee or offer flexible payment plans. However, the cost of hiring an attorney depends on the lawyer. There are low-cost bankruptcy attorneys in your state that offer exceptional service at affordable prices so shop around and see whether you relate to any particular attorney who you would entrust this important service to. Please provide to all competitive pricing to see if we are able to match or otherwise reduce your ultimate out- of-pocket costs. Just remember that usually you get what you pay for and, when it comes to our brand of bankruptcy services, you’re paying for that measure of mental stress relief that perhaps isn’t included in the cheapest price.

Randall & Waldner: High Quality, Low Cost Bankruptcy Services. During your free consultation, the Randall & Waldner Attorneys will discuss your case and estimate your fee. Our typical fees for Chapter 7 usually range from $900 to $2000 depending upon the complexity of the case.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy FAQ

When you file for bankruptcy, it will become a public record. A letter declaring your bankruptcy from the courts will be sent to your creditors, and the discharge will go on your credit report, but other than your creditors and future creditors, typically the only people wo will find out are the ones you choose to tell. You may feel embarrassed if you have to file bankruptcy but you shouldn’t. In actuality, filing for bankruptcy is the responsible step in solving your financial problems and restoring your worth to society. A competent and hard-working person should feel that it is his/her duty to eliminate their disabilities to the extent possible and drowning in debt is one disability that can and should be eliminated.

If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, your credit score is probably not so great to begin with. It is a myth that filing for bankruptcy will ruin your credit score and make you unable to secure any loans in the future. In fact, the average credit score after Chapter 7 discharge is better than the credit score before filing for bankruptcy. Before filing it is unlikely that any creditor would lend you money with all of your outstanding debt owed to other creditors. After filing you are a better bet to future creditors because there is no one else you owe money to and that you are precluded from again filing for bankruptcy for ___ years after discharge.

Because of the financial recession that started in 2008, many financially responsible people were forced into filing for bankruptcy. With Chapter 7 being more common, lenders are not as wary of lending to someone with a Chapter 7 discharge as they may have been in the past.

Some debts cannot be discharged by filing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Typically these types of debt include child support or alimony, government fines, student loans and most taxes.

One of the biggest benefits of hiring a bankruptcy lawyer is in the protection of your property and other assets like your home and car. Randall & Waldner will help you use legal exemptions to keep your property exempt to the fullest extent available under the law. We will also inform you in advance of any property or possessions that may be at risk of liquidation by the trustee.

This type of situation is the reason to let a competent bankruptcy lawyer review your case and advise you of your rights. So, while there are some people that cannot qualify for a Chapter 7 discharge, we are versed in other Chapters of the Bankruptcy code that you might qualify for.

Not necessarily but the possibility of a liquidation by the trustee is a reasonable concern. Under both state and federal law there exists exemptions from liquidation when filing for Chapter 7 relief. This highlights one of the biggest advantages of hiring a reputable bankruptcy lawyer. Having a knowledgeable attorney in your corner will ensure that you will be able to protect your property to the fullest extent of the law and most of your property is typically protected from liquidation. Historically, most people who are represented when filing for Chapter 7 hold on to their house, car, family heirlooms, and other valued items. Learn more by reading: Do I Get to Keep My House and Other Assets in Bankruptcy?

In order to qualify for Chapter 7, a debtor must pass the means test. The test is a two-step income and expense analysis that is very complicated to calculate. Our office will evaluate your situation to determine if you can qualify for a Chapter 7 or any other alternative (like a Chapter 13) to get the help you need. Just call us for that free consultation and you won’t be sorry.

Absolutely. Once you retain Randall & Waldner, we’ll timely file your Petition and deal with your creditors so that you won’t have to do so yourself. Once collection agencies are informed that our office represents you, they are no longer allowed to harass or even contact you. Other collections, such as wage garnishments, are also halted once your case if filed. Furthermore, Bankruptcy can stop foreclosures and repossessions of your property.

Certainly, but it may not be a good idea for you to do so. It might be a devasting mistake for you to represent yourself, hire a petition preparer, or even retain an inadequate attorney. Remember the very old saying that “A man who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Or to put it another way “Don’t try to step out of one mess by stepping into another.”

How Does Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Work?

In order to file Chapter 7, an individual must meet specific qualifications laid out in both Federal and State statutes. Before filing for bankruptcy, you should determine if you are eligible for filing under Chapter 7. This is best done during a free consultation with Randall & Waldner, but in general the ideal candidate for a Chapter 7 should be:

1. Pass the Means Test

A Means Test, which determines your average monthly income, must prove you are at, or under, the median income for your state. Because of the high costs of living, most individuals will financially qualify for a Chapter 7.

2. Have Debt

A Chapter 7 is ideal for individuals struggling with unsecured debt, such as credit cards, medical bills, or personal loans.

3. Have No Substantial Property

Filing for Chapter 7 will cause the liquidation of nonexempt assets by the United States Trustee. The bankruptcy trustee will evaluate and sell off the debtor’s nonexempt assets to pay off creditors. However, there are exemptions and an knowledgeable attorney can help a client filing for Chapter 7 protect their home, car, and other valuable items from being liquidated.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Process From Start To Finish

With a competent bankruptcy attorney, filing a Chapter 7 is a relatively simple process that typically lasts between 3 to 6 months. A Chapter 7, however, is not available to everyone. But here are the 8 steps that you’ll likely encounter.
Bankruptcy is a very rigidly defined legal process that sometimes has immovable time limits and strict requirements for compliance. More importantly, Bankruptcy may be unforgiving for those who fail to “walk-the-walk.” That’s why you hire an attorney in the first place – to get you through a complicated process. And even though retaining an attorney is not a legal necessity, it is the best way to get you through the system with minimal wear and tear. Every successful bankruptcy requires the complete disclosure of your property and debt. Not making these disclosures can imperil your chances of becoming discharged. Historically, most people who are represented by attorneys lose only their debt and seldom will they lose all of their property.

Before an individual files for Chapter 7 they must complete a credit counseling session from a court approved agency. If you retain Randall & Waldner you will be connected with a suitable credit counseling agency.

This is the most complicated step when filing for Chapter 7 and the part where having a good bankruptcy lawyer becomes most appreciated. In order to file for Chapter 7 you must prepare a Voluntary Petition, schedules, and numerous other forms that detail your income and expenses, debts, exempt property, creditors, and other information. Those forms must then be filed with the bankruptcy court clerk.

Once you have filed a voluntary petition with the court an automatic stay is imposed upon your creditors that immediately halts their efforts from trying to collect from you. This stay on collection efforts include:

  • Evictions
  • Foreclosures
  • Utility shutoffs
  • Lawsuit judgments
  • Wage garnishments
  • Other types of collection efforts

The Court will appoint a trustee to oversee your case. The trustee takes control of your nonexempt property and could potentially liquidate it to compensate your creditors as much as possible. The trustee will also examine your forms to make sure everything is correct.

The trustee will schedule a creditors’ meeting that you will need to attend. You may be asked questions about your financial situation. Typically creditors don’t bother to attend these meetings.

Before your debts are discharged you will be required to complete a course on financial management.

The Court issues a discharge order, eliminating your unsecured debt. You are no longer responsible for them and creditors can no longer seek repayment or to take any of your property.

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