Unfortunately, the majority of people who file for bankruptcy have lost their source of income or experienced a huge pile-up of debt due to circumstances beyond their control. In 2019, more than 60% of bankruptcy filers said that medical issues contributed to losing work, and 37% of filers said that medical bills were a factor in their need to file for bankruptcy.
If you have experienced a major loss of income while your bills continue to mount, bankruptcy might be your only option to avoid creditor harassment and get a fresh financial start. A bankruptcy attorney can explain the most common types of personal bankruptcy and help you identify which type is right for your situation.
Also known as liquidation bankruptcy, Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows debtors to get many types of debt completely discharged. However, it's important to note that you may need to have your assets sold to pay off creditors. For example, your home, vehicle, and other valuable assets might be sold to pay off as much debt as possible before the rest of your debts are eliminated. You may be able to apply for an exception, such as if you need your vehicle to get to work each day, but it's important to keep in mind that this type of bankruptcy might not be for you if you don't want to lose any of your assets during the process.
It's also vital to note that Chapter 7 is typically reserved for lower-income individuals. If your income is higher than a certain amount, typically the median income in your state, then you may not be eligible. You can ask your bankruptcy attorney about the eligibility requirements in your state and other questions you have about filing for Chapter 7.
Chapter 13 is also known as wage-earner's bankruptcy. Rather than selling your assets to pay off debts in a few months, this type of bankruptcy involves making a payment plan to pay off debts over three to five years. This may be a better fit for you if you still have a steady income but have trouble paying off unsecured debts like medical bills or past-due utilities. Your attorney will help you prepare a plan for paying off these debts, which the court will then need to approve. Should you make consistent payments over three to five years, it's likely that the remainder of your debts will be discharged at the end of that period.
The benefit to this type of bankruptcy is that it allows you to keep important assets like your home and vehicle. Unlike with Chapter 7, there is no limit to the income you can have, but there is a limit on the debt that you can have to be eligible for Chapter 13. You can't have more than $1,184,200 in secured debt or more than $394,725 in unsecured debt. These limits may change from year to year, so be sure to consult your attorney about your eligibility. Your bankruptcy attorney can help you throughout the filing process.