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5 Things to Do Before Filing for Bankruptcy

plank-dennis-Lancaster-County-PennsylvaniaBy Dennis Plank, Attorney

For Lancaster County residents who are struggling with debt, filing for bankruptcy may be a wise choice that can put them back on solid financial footing. Here are five things to do before making that decision:

1. Identify Debts and Determine if Bankruptcy Will Help

Bankruptcy can be a wise option for debt relief, but it’s not for everyone. For those who are struggling with unsecured debt, such as credit card debt, medical bills, personal loans, and unpaid utility bills, filing for bankruptcy can offer total debt forgiveness. Bankruptcy can also help those who have fallen behind on secured debt, like mortgage payments and car loans. However, there are certain debts that bankruptcy typically will not eliminate, except in rare cases, including child support and alimony obligations, student loans, and tax debt. If the bulk of debt falls under one of those categories, then filing for bankruptcy probably doesn’t make sense.

2. Make Sure Pennsylvania’s Residency Requirements are Met

Although bankruptcy is governed by federal law, each state has its own set of rules and exemptions regarding what property is legally protected and how bankruptcy laws are interpreted. Although a debtor might find it more beneficial to file bankruptcy in one state rather than another, they must meet certain residency requirements.

If a Pennsylvania resident has lived in the state for fewer than two years, then they must file bankruptcy in the state where they have lived at least 91 out of the 180 days preceding the filing date. Lancaster County residents are in the jurisdiction of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

3. Understand Credit Counseling Requirements

Before filing for bankruptcy in Pennsylvania, debtors must prove that they have completed credit counseling within the previous 180 days.

Credit counseling is a federal requirement designed to review the type of debt and other debt management options for relief to determine if filing for bankruptcy is the right choice. Additional debtor education is required later in the bankruptcy process. Failure to meet counseling requirements can result in the dismissal of a bankruptcy case.

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4. Learn Bankruptcy Filing Requirements and Benefits

In addition to the certificate verifying credit counseling, filing for bankruptcy requires numerous other documents outlining financial information, debts, and assets. Gathering that information will also help determine whether Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy is the best option and, in the case of couples, whether they should file a joint bankruptcy or individual bankruptcies.

Chapter 7 makes more sense for Pennsylvania residents with lower incomes and substantial unsecured debt, such as credit card debt. For those with higher incomes who have fallen behind on secured debt, such as a mortgage, Chapter 13 can prioritize debt and design a repayment plan based on income.

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Married couples can double their exemptions when filing jointly in Pennsylvania. Joint filing can also result in significant savings in court filing fees and attorney fees. However, in cases where one spouse holds the majority of the debt or separately owns a large number of unprotected assets, it may make more sense to file individually.

5. Hire an Experienced Bankruptcy Attorney

An experienced bankruptcy lawyer can help clients determine if bankruptcy is the right choice or if alternative forms of debt relief make more sense. If bankruptcy is the best option, an attorney can activate an automatic stay that will stop collections and prohibit creditors from pursuing any collection activity, including telephone calls, attachments, and the filing of lawsuits.

A bankruptcy lawyer can also handle the complicated filing process, protect important assets, create structured payment plans to pay off any remaining debt, and map out an improved financial future. For more information about filing for bankruptcy, contact Going and Plank in downtown Lancaster.

The Law Offices of Going and Plank are a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy under the bankruptcy code.

Want to find out more about Bankruptcy in Lancaster County? Read these articles and blogs:

When is Bankruptcy a Good Option?

The Pros and Cons of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

7 Ways to Deal With Debt

5 Questions to Ask When You’re Considering Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Pennsylvania

Or click here to discover an even wider range of legal topics in our legal blog.

When is Bankruptcy a Good Option?

plank-dennis-Lancaster-County-PennsylvaniaBy Dennis Plank, Attorney

Consumers in Lancaster County and beyond are taking on more and more debt these days, much of it in credit cards and student loans. Outstanding U.S. consumer debt has surpassed $4 trillion, with total credit card debt at an all-time high of $1 trillion.

For some, debt is necessary but manageable. For others, it can snowball until it is out of control. Sometimes, it’s due to poor spending habits and financial decisions. Other times, circumstances such as job loss or illness make it difficult to stay financially afloat.

When people start feeling overwhelmed by debt, despite their best efforts to improve their financial situation, it’s smart to take action. If you know someone struggling with debt, contacting the Law Offices of Going and Plank in downtown Lancaster is the first step to initiating debt relief options. The sooner the person in debt is willing to act, the easier it will be to manage debt more effectively.

While some may think of bankruptcy as a sign of failure, it can actually be a wise decision that provides a fresh financial start. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can review the situation and help them decide on the best debt relief option. Here are some signs to watch for when considering bankruptcy:

Debt Collectors Are Calling or Threatening to Sue

Once bankruptcy is filed, a bankruptcy lawyer will activate an automatic “stay,” which stops collections and prohibits creditors from pursuing any collection activity, including telephone calls, attachments and the filing of lawsuits against their client. Contact Going and Plank to find out more about how we stop harassment from creditors.

In Danger of Losing the Home

Filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be a good option if the person is in danger of losing their home to foreclosure because it allows filers to make up late payments through a court-approved repayment plan. However, if saving the home is the only reason for filing for bankruptcy, that person may have other options, such as negotiating directly with their lender for a repayment plan or modified loan terms. Contact us to find how out we help clients assess the suitability of bankruptcy vs. renegotiating loans.

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Using Loans to Pay Bills

Borrowing to pay off debts is rarely a good idea since it involves incurring more debt. Although getting a lower-interest personal loan to pay off all higher-interest debts may seem like a money-saving idea, it’s not always that simple. Additional fees and higher monthly payments add to the debt load, often increasing the overall debt. For people with lower credit scores, these types of loan may need to be tied to collateral, such as a car, which could be confiscated if they can’t keep up with payments.

Liquidating Retirement Assets to Pay Debts

Retirement assets are intended to provide security for the future. When people use those assets to pay debts now, they are setting themselves up for financial hardship down the road. Filing for bankruptcy can protect retirement accounts from creditors. Additionally, for people who are withdrawing retirement funds before age 59.5, they not only face a hefty penalty, but they also have to pay income taxes – leaving themselves with just one more debt they are unable to pay off.

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When considering bankruptcy, there are two options: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. People who want to evaluate the appropriateness of each type of bankruptcy should contact Going and Plank before making decisions.

What is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows the forgiveness of debt without repayment, offering the possibility of substantial debt relief. To qualify for Chapter 7, the applicant must take a means test to determine if their income is less than the median income in Pennsylvania or if they have enough disposable income to pay back all or at least part of their debt. If their income is too high, they will not qualify for Chapter 7.

Under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, they can eliminate the most unsecured debt that is not tied to an asset, such as a home. Unsecured debt includes things like credit card debt, medical bills, personal loans, and unpaid utility bills. Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy may require the applicant to liquidate nonexempt assets such as property, investments, artwork or jewelry to pay off creditors. Pennsylvania allows applicants to choose whether to use the state or federal exemption system. Federal exemptions typically allow people to keep their primary vehicle and some of the equity in their home. Because state law and federal law often differ on which assets are considered nonexempt, an experienced bankruptcy attorney usually helps applicants decide whether to file state or federal bankruptcy, and help inventory the assets they will need to liquidate, and which they can keep

What is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

While Chapter 7 bankruptcy focuses on debt forgiveness, Chapter 13 bankruptcy focuses on debt repayment. For people who have fallen behind on a secured debt, such as a mortgage or car loan, Chapter 13 bankruptcy can renegotiate and reorganize the debt and permit people to file a three- to five-year plan for repayment. While Chapter 13 bankruptcy does not forgive the unsecured debt, it prioritizes debt and designs a repayment plan based on the applicant’s income. That means that people may end up paying back only a percentage of their unsecured debt.

Under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, filers can also save their home and other possessions, while stopping foreclosure, creditor harassment, and lawsuits.

What’s the Difference Between Chapter 7 or Chapter 13?

Deciding which bankruptcy filing to pursue depends on many factors, such as the type of debt incurred, income, and the importance of certain nonexempt property.

For instance, Chapter 7 might not be right for people who are primarily behind on your mortgage or car loan, or other debt that can’t be discharged under Chapter 7, such as tax obligations, child support, and student loans.

For people who have property or other nonexempt assets that they want to keep, Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be a better choice. Also, since Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires at least partial repayment of debts, it will not stay on a credit report as long as Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Sometimes, the filer can’t choose between the two types of bankruptcy. If income isn’t low enough, or the courts determine the filer has enough disposable income to help pay off debts, then they won’t be considered a candidate for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be the only option.

An experienced bankruptcy attorney helps people review the advantages and disadvantages of filing for bankruptcy. Contact Going and Plank today if you know someone who is ready for a free consultation to find out if bankruptcy is right for them.

The Pros and Cons of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

dennis-plank-Lancaster-County-PennsylvaniaBy Dennis Plank, Attorney

Debt is a fact of life for many in Lancaster County, and perhaps for you, too. And sometimes that debt can become overwhelming.

Maybe years of poor spending habits, mounting credit card balances and rising interest rates have finally caught up with you. Or perhaps a major life event that is out of your control, such as job loss, illness or a death in the family, has made it impossible to keep up with the rent, mortgage, medical bills and a host of other financial obligations.

There are a number of ways to find financial relief, from eliminating unnecessary expenses to selling off assets such as a car or even your home. But if those options are not practical, or they are not sufficient to resolve your debt, you may want to consult the attorneys at Going and Plank in downtown Lancaster to find out if filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is an option for you.

While you may think of filing for bankruptcy as a failure, it can actually be a wise financial decision. Chapter 7 bankruptcy offers a fresh financial start by eliminating much of your existing debt without the need for repayment.

If you are considering Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you are not alone. In the 12-year period from 2005 to 2017,  8.7 million petitions for Chapter 7 bankruptcy were filed in federal courts, accounting for 68 percent of all non-business bankruptcy filings.

Like any financial decision, Chapter 7 bankruptcy has its pros and cons. Contact a bankruptcy lawyer at Going and Plank to help you evaluate your situation.

Pros of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

You can Eliminate Most, if not all, of Your Unsecured Debts

Unsecured debt is debt that is not tied to an asset, such as your home. Credit card debt is the most common form of unsecured debt, but Chapter 7 bankruptcy can also wipe out other debts, like medical bills, personal loans, and overdue utility bills.

You can Keep Your Home and Your Primary Vehicle Under Exemptions Provided by the Federal Bankruptcy Law

Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy may mean you have to liquidate assets to pay your creditors; however, available Federal exemptions may permit you to retain your home and vehicle.

You Don’t Have to Make Payments to a Bankruptcy Trustee

When you file for bankruptcy, a court-appointed trustee will evaluate your assets and administer your case. The role of the trustee, and consequently their fee, varies depending on the type of bankruptcy case. While trustees in Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases receive a monthly payment, Chapter 7 trustees receive only a portion of the bankruptcy filing fee. If assets are liquidated, the trustee may also receive a commission paid out of the funds brought in by the sale of the assets.

You’ll Worry Less About how to pay Your Bills While Providing for Your Family

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Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy not only eliminates much of your debt but also makes your expenses more manageable. It also can protect you and your family from foreclosure, repossession, eviction, and garnishment of wages.

You’ll Stop Harassment From Creditors

Once you choose to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a bankruptcy lawyer at Going and Plank will activate an automatic “stay,” which stops collections and prohibits creditors from pursuing any collection activity, including telephone calls, attachments and the filing of lawsuits against you.

The First Consultation at Going and Plank is Free

Contact Going and Plank today for a free, no-obligation consultation with a bankruptcy lawyer to see if Chapter 7 bankruptcy is right for you.

Cons of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

You Must Meet the Income Requirements of the Means Test

The means test compares your income to the median household income in Pennsylvania and can help determine if you have enough disposable income to pay back all, or at least some, of your debt. It is one of a number of requirements that determine your eligibility for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

A Chapter 7 Case Will Remain on Your Credit Report for 10 Years

Filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy may give you a fresh financial start, but it won’t do the same for your credit score, at least not in the short term. Depending on what your score was to begin with, it could drop by 100 points or more. But remember, by eliminating debt, Chapter 7 bankruptcy can give you the time and space necessary to improve your financial situation – and your credit.

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You Can’t Eliminate all Debt

While Chapter 7 bankruptcy can eliminate many of your unsecured debts, you will still be obligated to pay alimony and child support, most taxes, most student loans and any court restitution in full.

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Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a serious financial step, but it could end up putting you on the right financial footing in the long run. If you’re struggling with debt, contact the team at Going and Plank in Lancaster today for a free consultation to help you determine if you are a candidate for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and if it’s the right step for you.

7 Ways to Deal with Debt

plank-dennis-Lancaster-County-Pennsylvania

By Dennis Plank

Attorney

Debt can sneak up on you in a variety of ways. Some people don’t watch their spending carefully and wake up one day to find they’re buried in debt. Others take a lower paying job only to find they can no longer keep up with credit payments.

Still, others fall behind because of high medical costs. Some people find it difficult to manage finances after a divorce or the loss of a loved one. Others fall behind after an extended period of unemployment.

There are many reasons for the accumulation of staggering debt. While each person and each situation are different, there are some strategies you can use to get a better handle on your total debt and understand the best way to manage it and get a fresh financial start.

1. Inventory Your Debt and Expenses

The first step to getting debt under control to tally your total debt and expenses. If you don’t know your total debt, it’s smart to inventory your bills and nail it down. Sometimes, when you know your debt is large, you avoid tallying the actual number. Inventorying debit is not a fun task, and for some people, it can be terrifying.

No matter If your debt is big or small, if you’re having trouble paying your bills, the first step is to make a list of what you owe. Add in recurring bills and expenses, including mortgages, cable and phone expenses, transportation costs, medical and prescription costs, food, clothing, utilities, eating out, trips, vacations, and entertainment costs.

2. Tally Your Take-Home Income

Many people don’t add up their household’s total income. They may know how much they make in salary, or how much gross income their spouse makes in a year. But you must also know the monthly and annual total of your take-home pay after things like taxes, insurance, and benefits are deducted. If you have outside income sources, such as child support, alimony, or other regular payments, factor those in as well.

3. Assess the Debt Gap

Now that you know how much you spend each month, and how much you take home each month, you can do some simple math to see if you are making enough money to pay your bills and pay down your debt. If your income is larger than your expenses, you’re in good shape and should be able to work on reducing your debt with regular and timely payments.

If your income just barely covers your expenses, you may want to reduce costs or increase your income with a new job, or even a second job. This will give you a bit of cushion that allows you to pay down debt more quickly.

If your expenses are larger than your income, you’ll need to do some real work to make the kind of changes necessary to get your finances back on track.

4. Pay Your Bills on Time Each Month

As you work on creating a workable budget, it’s also important to calendar payment due dates. Late payments make it harder to pay off your debt because you’re often charged a late fee. If you miss two payments in a row, your interest rates and finance charges may increase. While it may be hard to juggle your debt, try to create a calendar of due dates, and stick to it. Many people find it helpful to generate an alert for the bill several days before it’s due.

5. Get Rid of Extras

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To pay down your debt, you’ll need to divert money away from expenses and funnel that into paying off credit cards, medical bills, or other ongoing expenses. While it may seem difficult to give up some extras, it will help you get into better financial shape. How can you trim costs?

  • Eliminate gym memberships
  • Cancel club memberships
  • Downgrade or eliminate cable TV
  • If you have a mobile phone, consider removing your landline
  • Consider downgrading your mobile plan
  • Sell an expensive car and trade it in for a reliable, used model
  • Eat out less, or stop eating out
  • Give yourself a weekly food budget and stick to it. Cooking at home can save you lots of money.
  • Spend time clipping coupons and comparing prices. The savings will add up quickly.
  • Stay away from expensive coffee shops. Make coffee at home.
  • If your job is more than a few miles from your home, try to find a carpooling buddy or two. You’ll save big on gas and reduce miles on your car.
  • Stop buying cans of soda; purchase 2-liter bottles instead. Better yet, switch to tap water.
  • Bring your lunch to work.
  • Cut back on, or eliminate, cigarettes, vapes, cigars, and alcohol. They’re all expensive habits.
  • If you have fine jewelry, consider selling it.
  • If you have a garage or basement full of used junk, hold a garage sale, or sell unneeded items online. Look around your house and sell the things you don’t need or want.
  • Embrace used clothing. Resale boutiques, Goodwill, and garage sales are all great places to find the clothes you need for pennies on the dollar. And you’re the only one who will know they are used.
  • Cut down on salon costs. Stretch out periods between haircuts. Use home hair coloring kits. Give yourself manicure or pedicures.
  • Stay away from bookstores; visit the public library instead.
  • Eliminate nights at the movies. The public library also lends videos, DVDs, and BlueRay movies.

6. Consider Getting a Second Job

While the thought of working nights the local fast food joint may not be your style, more and more people are making more money with the kinds of second jobs that offer flexibility and income. People bring in extra money doing things like dog sitting, gardening, or rideshare driving for someone like Uber or Lyft. If you have a computer and an internet connection, you may make money doing transcriptions, telemarketing, or by becoming a remote customer service agent.

You can also freelance the skills you use for your day job. For example, if you are a teacher, you can also work as a tutor. If you’re an accountant, you may want to hire out your services to small businesses or for tax returns.

Whatever path you choose, adding a second job, even if it’s only for a few months a year, can help you significantly reduce your debt.

For more ideas on second jobs, check out these articles from U.S. News, Career Builder, or Women’s Day.

7. Recognize the Signs That You Need Help

Sometimes even the most diligent budgeters find that their debt has grown beyond their control. Once you see that your debt is more extensive than you can handle, it’s time to move to the next step.

Considering bankruptcy is a scary process for many people. However, if you are facing foreclosure, repossession, eviction, garnishment of wages, or a lawsuit from creditors, it’s time to consider the benefits that bankruptcy offers. Going and Plank can help you identify your best options. Contact us today to set up a free consultation.

There are two types of bankruptcy. Chapter 7 helps you eliminate debt, but also requires you to sell many of your assets. Chapter 13 is a way to restructure debt and usually allows you to keep many or all of your assets. While bankruptcy is a step that should be considered carefully, it’s also a way to give you a fresh start. Schedule your free consultation today.

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Going and Plank offers free consultations to potential bankruptcy clients. We’ll help you assess your debt and figure out if bankruptcy is right for you. We also help you make decisions that help you save money long term, work through complicated paperwork, and avoid action or activities that would be considered fraudulent.  Contact us today.

The Law Offices of Going and Plank are proud to participate in the Hyatt Legal Plan. 

5 Questions to ask if You’re Considering Bankruptcy

Dennis-Plank-Lancaster-County-Attorney-PA By Dennis Plank, Attorney

If you’ve been struggling with a mountain of debt, you may be considering bankruptcy as one way to remedy your financial challenges. Bankruptcy is a good solution for many people in Lancaster County, but it is not right for everyone. Each person’s issues and needs vary, so you may want to consult a bankruptcy attorney before making your final decision.

As you consider your financial options, there are some questions many clients ask. If you wonder if bankruptcy is right for you, take some time to consider these questions, and see if they apply to your situation.

Will I Have to Liquidate my Assets if I Declare Bankruptcy?

Every situation is different, but bankruptcies usually don’t require you to sell everything to pay off debts. Much depends on whether you will file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcies. Your income and personal situation will dictate whether you qualify for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, but in both types of bankruptcy, certain classes of property are exempt. Contact the team at Going and Plank and we’ll explain how property is treated in bankruptcy, and give you all the facts before you make a decision.

Is it Too Late to File Bankruptcy?

People often wait to file bankruptcy, hoping they may be able to convince creditors to hold off until they can repay their debt. That’s why some people are surprised by notices of foreclosure, repossession or lawsuits. Even if you’ve been served notice, it’s not too late to declare bankruptcy. In emergency situations, Going and Plank can often file an emergency bankruptcy, that allows us to stop actions like foreclosure, repossession, eviction, garnishment of wages, or lawsuits. An emergency bankruptcy stops legal actions against you and allows you time to get all the required filings and paperwork in order.

Emergency bankruptcies can help you if you are facing;

  • Foreclosure

  • Car repossessions

  • Eviction

  • Garnishment of wages

  • Lawsuits

Contact Going and Plank to discuss your options, and find out if an emergency bankruptcy makes sense for your situation.

Can Bankruptcy Help Eliminate Medical Bills?

Over 700,000 households declared bankruptcies last year, and many of those were due to the financial consequences of overwhelming medical expense and long-term illness. Having health insurance doesn’t mean you won’t be hit with huge medical bills. If a wage-earner is out of work or ill for long periods of time, financial hardships can be multiplied.

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That’s why, after a major or long-term illness, some people find they are facing insurmountable amounts of medical debt. While medical debt can be reduced or even eliminated in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, in Chapter 13, it may be restructured into more manageable payments.

If you feel overwhelmed by medical debt, Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 may be a smart way to manage or eliminate debt.

Do I Have to Take a Credit Counseling Course?

The short answer is yes. No matter what type of bankruptcy is filed, Pennsylvania state law requires you to complete a credit counseling course with an approved agency. These mandatory courses are designed to help you evaluate and reformat your finances in ways that help you understand ways to pay down debt and avoid bankruptcies in the future. Going and Plank can connect you with a course that meets the state requirements.

What Happens After Bankruptcy?

Many clients wonder if they will be able to refinance mortgages or get a mortgage after declaring bankruptcy. Other are concerned about bankruptcy’s effect on their credit rating. The answers to those inquiries depend on the type of bankruptcy filed and if debts were eliminated or if a repayment plan was formed.

Bankruptcies do affect your ability to refinance a  mortgage or get approved for a new mortgage. As of this writing, you should be able to refinance or obtain a new mortgage two years after declaring bankruptcy, but underwriting requirements and legislation change frequently so this timeframe may change.

Your bankruptcy will be reported to a credit agency and can stay on your credit report for up to ten years. You will find that it will take time to regain a good credit score. But for many people bankruptcy provide a fresh start for their personal finances. By relieving some types of debt, eliminating some debt, and restructuring other types of debt, bankruptcy can give you the time and space you need to change your financial outlook.

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While it may seem like a bankruptcy lawyer is just another expense, an experienced bankruptcy lawyer is dedicated to helping you find the financial solutions that make the most sense for your situation. In addition to helping you through a complicated, paper-intense process, a bankruptcy attorney can steer you away from activities that may be seen as deceitful or fraudulent.

The team at Going and Plank can also help you determine which type of bankruptcy is right for you, help you protect your most important assets, and help you map out an improved financial future. Contact us today for a free consultation, and find out if bankruptcy makes sense for you.

The Law Offices of Going and Plank are located in downtown Lancaster, PA. We are proud to participate in the Hyatt Legal Plan.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Pennsylvania

Is This Debt Relief Option Right for You?

When your finances get out of control, you might resist filing for bankruptcy. After all, many people and businesses can find the financial relief they need by selling off assets, downsizing cars and homes, eliminating memberships, rethinking budgets, and reducing expenses dramatically enough to find the funds they need to work their way out of crippling debt.

However, others struggle to stay afloat when life events severely impact their finances. Perhaps you or someone in your family or business has experienced a serious drop in income, a job loss, got divorced, became ill, or passed away. Sometimes the economy, new regulations, changes in interest rates, or industry shifts also challenge your ability to make ends meet. When life events surprise you, it can become hard to pay leases, rents, mortgages, car payments, installment payments, major medical expenses, or other ongoing financial responsibilities.

Bankruptcy Offers a Chance to Reboot Your Finances.

While declaring bankruptcy feels like a failure to some people, legal and financial professionals know that can actually be a good way to rebuild your life. Numerous successful people have declared bankruptcy during their lives, including Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Milton Hershey, and H.J. Heinz.

What is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

Chapter 7 is the most common form of bankruptcy. Once a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is completed, the debtor is usually free of major debt, and is provided a fresh start with smaller, more manageable expenses. However, in exchange for the forgiveness of debts, a trustee will evaluate your assets and may require you to sell possessions to subsidize your debt. Depending on your situation, you may be able to keep your home and essential vehicles. If you have no possessions, your debt will be dissolved without selling off assets. Contact us to discuss your situation.

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How do I Know if I can Declare Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Pennsylvania?

Before you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth mandates that you must meet these requirements.

1. You’re a Pennsylvania Resident

You must be a resident in Pennsylvania for at least 91 of the past 180 days preceding your bankruptcy filing date. Bankruptcy courts in Pennsylvania have jurisdictions. If you live in Lancaster, Berks, or Bucks counties, you’re in the jurisdiction of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Residents of York, Dauphin, and Cumberland Counties fall under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Middle District Bankruptcy Court.

2. You Meet Chapter 7 Income Requirements

To qualify for a bankruptcy discharge in Pennsylvania, you’ll have to submit a variety of forms and records, which will be compared to federal IRS and Social Security documents. Honestly is required, and dishonesty or hiding assets may result in criminal prosecution.

The income means test compares your adjusted monthly income to the median state income for a household of your size. If your income falls below the mean, or average, of a Pennsylvania household like yours, you may be a good candidate for Chapter 7. However, if your income ranks about the mean, or is higher than an average Pennsylvania household like yours, you may be asked to switch to a Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing. Chapter 13 bankruptcies focus on reorganization and repayment, not elimination, of debt. It’s important to remember that each case is different. A qualified legal expert on bankruptcy can help you walk you through this process, and identify exceptions in your favor when they exist.

3. You Have Fulfilled Credit Counseling Requirements

Anyone who wishes to file any type of bankruptcy in Pennsylvania must complete a designated pre-bankruptcy credit counseling course. In fact, this is a federal law. The course requirements and fees may vary slightly among bankruptcy court jurisdictions. A Going and Plank bankruptcy expert can talk you through this process.

Is Chapter 7 Right for You or Should You Pursue Other Options?

Once you decide to explore bankruptcy seriously, you should schedule a free consultation with a bankruptcy expert from Going and Plank. We’ll help you evaluate your current situation in many ways, including assessing your eligibility and identifying which debts can be discharged. Our team will help you check your credit report, identify all your debts, and gather the paperwork needed to file.

Before you commit to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, we’ll help you explore all your options. Even if you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, other types of bankruptcies might be more helpful to you or your business. We’ll be understanding but honest, and our experienced legal team will help you explore all your choices.

Bankruptcies Will Change Your Life. Make Sure You Have Experienced Support.

Bankruptcies are complex and time-consuming. Mistakes in the process can significantly affect your ability to file bankruptcy and discharge debt. That’s why it’s so important to get the right legal help from Going and Plank. Like Abraham Lincoln and Milton Hershey, you can make bankruptcy the first step to launching the next phase of your life. Contact us today to schedule your free bankruptcy consultation.

The Law Offices of Going and Plank are a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy under the bankruptcy code.

The Law Offices of Going and Plank are located in downtown Lancaster, PA. We are proud to participate in the Hyatt Legal Plan.

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