BANKRUPTCY SERVICES

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Experience. We Can Get You Through This.

Thompson Law Group has been helping people through the emotional and intimidating process of bankruptcy since 2001.

Thompson Law Group, P.C. is dedicated to providing comprehensive bankruptcy advice and quality legal service at reasonable rates. When possible, we provide our services at a flat rate so that attorney’s fees and costs are certain and not an additional stress.

Our business is getting you back to your business.

Are You Overwhelmed by Debt?

Nobody wants to file for bankruptcy, but nobody plans to be hurt by a tough economy. Thompson Law Group, P.C. is dedicated to providing comprehensive bankruptcy advice and quality legal service. Thompson Law Group prides itself on having a friendly, knowledgeable, and experienced staff that is able to handle all aspects of a client’s bankruptcy case. Thompson Law Group attorneys and staff work with every client to reach the appropriate and best financial decision for each client’s specific situation.

Bankruptcy is NOT designed to devastate you or your business financially. It is designed to help those who have found themselves in financial distress, for whatever reason, create a better financial future. Sometimes circumstances are beyond our control. Bankruptcy is designed to help those in financial crisis, by eliminating credit card debt and medical bills or by helping to reorganize a person’s financial situation.

There are many myths about debt consolidation or “secret” government programs, but no one can guarantee to resolve financial hardship for pennies on the dollar. It is simply not a guarantee that can be made. Bankruptcy CAN guarantee a resolution. Bankruptcy is designed to allow you or your business to move forward to a better financial future. No matter what your circumstances or type of debt, bankruptcy is always an option. You owe to yourself and your family to learn ALL of the facts about bankruptcy and other options when you are in financial distress or even anticipate that you may be in financial distress in the future. We urge every person or business that is in financial hardship or anticipating financial hardship to seek the advice of an attorney before taking any action. Many times bankruptcy is not the optimal solution to a financial problem, but it is important to get the facts about your particular circumstances from a knowledgeable professional. In some case, bankruptcy may be the best option as in certain circumstances it allows you to eliminate a second mortgage or revalue the debt owed for personal property (like a car). In addition, bankruptcy eliminates most if not all of your unsecured debt (i.e. credit card debt and medical bills).

Thompson Law Group, P.C. provides consultations with an attorney so that you can learn ALL of the facts about your financial options before deciding what is best for you, your family and your business. At that time of the consultation, clients discuss their particular financial circumstances. The attorney will answer questions and explain the bankruptcy process and other non-bankruptcy options. Thompson Law Group strives to keep clients informed of the status of their case, but at the same time tries to relieve clients of as much stress and anxiety as possible. Please call or email us for an appointment. We look forward to working with you towards resolving your debt problems. Together we will find the best solution and help you find peace of mind.

The Thompson Law Group, P.C. is a Congressionally-designated debt relief agency that provides legal assistance to consumers and small businesses seeking relief under the United States Bankruptcy Code. © 2019, Thompson Law Group, P.C.

THE BIG PICTURE

 

  • History
  • Fresh Start
  • Stay on Collections
  • Keep Property
  • Eligibility
  • File Without Spouse

Bankruptcy is Not Dead!

On October 17, 2005, the federal bankruptcy code was drastically changed and a myth was created that “bankruptcy is dead”. However, the changes to the bankruptcy code only created more requirements for filing bankruptcy and made the system more complicated. For example, individuals must now attend a credit counseling class prior to filing a bankruptcy case and they must attend a financial management class after they have filed for bankruptcy. These classes may be completed via the Internet or by phone. In addition, the amount of income that individuals earn in the six months prior to filing bankruptcy determines what type of bankruptcy case they can file. Individuals may always file for bankruptcy relief, it just depends what type of bankruptcy case they qualify for under the new guidelines. Filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is more limited than before the changes, but individuals may still file a Chapter 13 if they do not meet the requirements of a Chapter 7. In addition, the changes to the bankruptcy code increased the amount of documentation relating to financial affairs that individuals must provide to their attorneys and the bankruptcy trustees. Bankruptcy is not dead, just more complicated.

It Provides a Fresh Start

Bankruptcy is a way to get a fresh start. It is governed by federal law that allows individuals or businesses to liquidate their assets or reorganize their financial affairs so that they get a clean financial slate. People file bankruptcy because they can no longer pay their debts. This usually occurs when someone has lost a job, has been ill and unable to work, or had a business fail. Sometimes people must file for bankruptcy when the economy changes such that individuals can no longer pay their mortgages and cannot sell their property. The U.S. Congress has recognized that when individuals can no longer pay their debts there needs to be a way to give individuals a “fresh start”. No one plans to file bankruptcy, but the option is available when it is necessary. There is no shame in using the federal laws designed to assist individuals in these unfortunate circumstances.

Collection Activity Has Turned Into Harassment

Individuals who file for bankruptcy relief get to breathe again. Foreclosure, lawsuits, calls from creditors, garnishments and any other collection activity against the individual will end or be “stayed”. Harassment ends and creditors may no longer contact the individual who has filed for bankruptcy. Upon filing a bankruptcy case, the bankruptcy court imposes what is called an “automatic stay” which prohibits creditors from taking any further action against the debtor without express permission of the bankruptcy court. The stay is automatic and creditors that violate it may be sanctioned by the bankruptcy court. At the time of filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the individual will be appointed a “trustee” that will administer the bankruptcy estate. The “bankruptcy estate” is all the property that an individual owns at the time of filing. The trustee will require that individuals provide documentation of their financial situation to prove the accuracy of their statements regarding their financial affairs.

Do I Get to Keep Anything?

“Exemptions” are a list the real and personal property that individuals may keep no matter what type of bankruptcy they are filing. Exemptions are governed by Arizona state law. If an individual has not lived in Arizona for 2 years prior to filing for bankruptcy, the amounts and exemptions may be governed by another state’s laws. An attorney can advise as to what exemptions would be available in a particular bankruptcy case. Generally, for all states, individuals may keep (exempt) assets such as their residence, automobile, furnishings, clothing and tools of the trade up to a certain amount.

For example, in Arizona individuals may exempt their residence from the bankruptcy if they have less than $350,000 in equity in the property as long as they remain current on their mortgage payments.

In addition, in Arizona individuals may keep $1,000,000 in traditional and Roth IRAs and $12,000 in household furnishings.

Individuals may also exempt one vehicle if they have less than $15,000 in equity on the vehicle after paying any lienholders. This does not mean that individuals may not keep an additional vehicle, but the second vehicle will not be exempt.

Am I Eligible to File?

Individuals who have lived in Arizona for at least 91 days prior to filing their bankruptcy case may file in the State of Arizona.

If an individual filing for bankruptcy has not lived in the State of Arizona for the 2 years prior to filing bankruptcy, the individual will be required to use the exemptions for certain property from the state where the individual lived before moving to Arizona.

If an individual has lived in Arizona for the 2 years prior to filing for bankruptcy, the individual may use the exemptions allowed under Arizona state law to exempt the individual’s property listed in the bankruptcy case.

Can I File Without my Spouse?

In some cases, individuals may file bankruptcy without their spouses, but is generally unwise and will not fully resolve the couple’s financial issues. Arizona is a community property state which means that either spouse can sign a contract while married and both spouses are required to pay the debt regardless of whose name is specifically on the contract. If a spouse has operated a business as a sole proprietorship (not a corporation or LLC), it is considered to be the business of both spouses regardless of whether or not the other spouse had anything to do with the business. If one spouse files for bankruptcy, creditors may still proceed against the non-filing spouse for collection of debt. In addition, the spouse filing for bankruptcy will have to declare all income (including that of the non-filing spouse) and might end up in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case when if both spouses were filing for bankruptcy, they might qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

PLANNING FOR BANKRUPTCY

 

  • Types of Bankruptcy
  • Which is the Right Type?
  • What's Included
  • Pay Bills

What are the Different Types of Bankruptcy?

There are three types of bankruptcy that can be filed: Chapter 7, 11 and 13.
Chapter 7: Liquidation

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is available to individuals as well as businesses. Under the bankruptcy code a “person” for the purposes of filing bankruptcy is defined as an individual, partnership, and/or corporation. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy requires the collection of the debtor’s non-exempt property for sale or liquidation and the cash proceeds from the sale is paid on a pro rata basis to creditors with claims against the estate. Within 40 to 60 days after the filing of a Voluntary Petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a meeting of the creditors occurs. The debtor must be present at the meeting of the creditors, but creditors need not appear to protect their claims. Chapter 7 bankruptcy generally eliminates a debtor’s debt and unsecured creditors generally receive no or minimal payment for their claims. Secured creditors continue to be paid in full if the individual wishes to keep the secured property. If the individual does not want to keep the secured property, the individual may return the secured property/collateral (for example, a vehicle or house). Once the secured property is returned, the secured creditor may take no further action against the individual for collection. The return of the property is considered full and final payment no matter how much is owed and no matter how much the property is worth.

Chapter 11

Like a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, any person (individual, corporation or partnership) may file a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition. In a Chapter 11 bankruptcy the debtor typically remains in control of the business and the property of the bankruptcy estate as the “debtor-in-possession”. The debtor-in possession is an official title with the bankruptcy court and requires the debtor to assume the duties, responsibilities and powers that a trustee would in the administration of an estate. In a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the Debtor is granted 120 days from the date of filing a Chapter 11 petition in which to propose a plan for reorganization of its debt and/or business. The plan details what the Creditors will be paid, how much they will be paid, and when. The creditors have the right to reject or accept the Plan.

Chapter 13: Reorganization

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is designed to restructure the debts of an individual. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, individuals file a Plan to repay some or all of their debts over a period of time (usually 60 months). The amount that must be paid to creditors is determined by an individual’s specific income and expenses. When individuals file a Chapter 13 case, they will begin to make one monthly payment to the Chapter 13 trustee as determined by their Plan. The trustee will distribute the payment to the creditors. Once all of the Plan payments are made, the individual will be granted a discharge.

How do I Know What Type of Bankruptcy to File?

The type of bankruptcy an individual may file is based on the individual’s income and expenses and how it compares to what is considered the “median” annual income for the individual’s state. It also depends on the size of the individual’s household and specific expenses. At the initial bankruptcy consultation, an attorney will discuss what type of bankruptcy is available for the particular situation. In some cases, it is necessary for an individual to provide your financial documentation before the attorney can accurately determine the type of bankruptcy that is appropriate.

What Does a Bankruptcy Include?

Individuals who file for bankruptcy relief get to breathe again. Foreclosure, lawsuits, calls from creditors, garnishments and any other collection activity against the individual will end or be “stayed”. Harassment ends and creditors may no longer contact the individual who has filed for bankruptcy. Upon filing a bankruptcy case, the bankruptcy court imposes what is called an “automatic stay” which prohibits creditors from taking any further action against the debtor without express permission of the bankruptcy court. The stay is automatic and creditors that violate it may be sanctioned by the bankruptcy court. At the time of filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the individual will be appointed a “trustee” that will administer the bankruptcy estate. The “bankruptcy estate” is all the property that an individual owns at the time of filing. The trustee will require that individuals provide documentation of their financial situation to prove the accuracy of their statements regarding their financial affairs.

What Bills Can I Keep Paying?

After an individual decides to file bankruptcy, the individual may not purposely incur additional debt. For example, an individual that is going to file for bankruptcy must not continue to use credit cards or takeout new loans. An individual that is going to file bankruptcy may also not treat any creditors preferentially. For example, the individual may not pay family members back for loans instead of paying a credit card debt. All unsecured creditors must be treated equally. Continuing to pay for living expenses and insurance is always appropriate.

THE PROCESS

 

  • Let's Start
  • Ready? Next...
  • Costs
  • After Bankruptcy

Where Do I Begin?

After your initial consultation with one of our attorneys, we will provide you with a comprehensive list of the documents you will need to provide to us prior to filing your bankruptcy case.

However, listed below are the main items we will need in order to determine whether or not you are able to file a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case:

  •  Tax returns for the past four years
  •   Six months of pay stubs for you and your spouse
  •   Documentation of any additional income you receive or have received from any source during the last 6 months
  •  

I'm Think I'm Ready to File. What Next?

Provide all of the documentation necessary to file your case. We will give you a list of documentation necessary and once we have received all of your documents that we will be able to prepare your case.

Once we have all of your documentation, we will provide you with the information necessary to complete the credit counseling class that is necessary prior to filing your bankruptcy case. It takes about an hour to complete and can be done on the Internet or by phone. You may not file a bankruptcy unless you have completed a credit counseling class within 180 days PRIOR to filing your bankruptcy case.

Once we have prepared the documents called “Schedules” that detail your assets and debts, you will meet with an attorney to review your case and make sure all of the Schedules are accurate.

Once your case is filed with the bankruptcy court, you will be appointed a trustee and given a date for a “Creditor’s Meeting” approximately 45 days after filing your bankruptcy. You must attend the meeting. It is scheduled for approximately an hour, but usually only takes 10 minutes depending on how many other meetings are scheduled at the same time. We will let you know where and when you will need to appear. An attorney will attend the meeting with you and you will need to show your government-issued photo identification (driver’s license or passport is fine) and your social security card (if you do not have one, you can provide an original pay stub). The trustee will ask you any questions he or she has about your financial affairs as of the date of filing your bankruptcy case.

After filing your bankruptcy, you will need to complete a financial management course. It will take approximately one hour of time to complete and can be done via Internet or phone.

If you have filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and there are no assets for the trustee to sell to pay your creditors, you will obtain a discharge from the bankruptcy court within 6 months.

If you have filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will need to make your Plan payments from the date you file bankruptcy until you have completed your Plan (typically 60 months).

If you have filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, another hearing will be set to confirm/approve your Plan. You need not attend this hearing. Once the Chapter 13 Plan is confirmed/approved, you will continue to make your Plan payments for the duration of the Plan and after you have made all of your payments, you will be granted a discharge by the court.

What Costs Are There?

During your free initial consultation, we will be able to determine if bankruptcy is an alternative for you. Sometimes filing bankruptcy is not the right solution for a particular client or the client needs to wait a period of time prior to filing bankruptcy. During that time, we will create a plan for you to pay your attorney’s fees.

The filing fee for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is $299, and the filing fee for filing a Chapter 13 case is $274.

Why do I need an attorney?

Bankruptcy is a complicated process. There are many document preparation services that will provide individuals with the necessary documents to file their own bankruptcy case, and these services will charge a fee to help individuals fill out the forms. However, document preparers may not provide any legal advice as they are not attorneys licensed to practice law. Even telling individuals whether or not they should file a certain chapter bankruptcy case is giving legal advice.

In addition, any mistakes that are made are considered the individual filing the bankruptcy case and individuals may lose their property or be dismissed from bankruptcy because they did something wrong.

If individuals choose to represent themselves and/or use a document preparer to prepare your bankruptcy documents, they are responsible for acting as an attorney which means they must make sure that all of the filings of your case are made correctly and in a timely fashion. They will not be excused for mistakes because they did not “know”. The law requires that individuals acting as an attorney on their own behalf know the law and if they do not know the law there is not any excuse or “do-over”. Many individuals file their own case only to have it dismissed because it was not filed properly and then the individual must hire an attorney to fix the problem. Ultimately, the individual will end up paying more in fees and costs than he or she would have had an attorney been hired in the first place.

In addition, because of a bankruptcy dismissal the individual may have lost property that could have been saved or may not be able to file another bankruptcy case.

What Should I Expect After Bankruptcy?

What is a “discharge” from bankruptcy?

A “discharge” from bankruptcy is the Court order stating that the debtor has met all of the requirements of the debtor’s bankruptcy and all the debts subject to the bankruptcy are considered eliminated. Any debt that is discharged no longer needs to be paid, and the creditor may never take any action against an individual for collection of a discharged debt.

In all bankruptcies, there is some debt that is not dischargeable, and the individual will continue to have to pay it even after a discharge. These debts are debts for payment of child support, alimony, criminal restitution and fines, student loans (depending on the type) and most taxes (sometimes can be discharged, but is rare). In addition, if a creditor believes that the individual has committed fraud by transferring property prior to filing bankruptcy or hidden assets, the creditor may ask the bankruptcy court to make the creditor’s debt non-dischargeable which means that the individual would have to pay that debt no matter what the outcome of the bankruptcy.

How does bankruptcy affect my credit report?

Bankruptcy will be on an individual’s credit report for 10 years after the date of the bankruptcy discharge. However, if individuals are in a situation where bankruptcy is appropriate, chances are their credit is not good anyway.

Bankruptcy affords individuals a way to get a clean slate and re-establish their credit. All creditors are aware of the bankruptcy code. Many Creditors extend credit to individuals that have filed bankruptcy because the creditor knows that a person discharged from bankruptcy may not file a Chapter 7 case for 8 years after discharge and may only file a Chapter 13 (which would allow for the Creditor to be potentially re-paid some amount) in certain other circumstances. An individual that is discharged from bankruptcy has less debt than those who are struggling to pay their bills under high interest rates, late fees and overlimit fees.