We put together this page to help you understand a lot of what is involved in filing bankruptcy. We always encourage questions, so please let us know if you have any.
Bankruptcy is not the end. It's a fresh start. An opportunity to do a financial reboot
Our initial consultation is our opportunity to meet and familiarize yourself with our law office. We will assess your situation to see whether or not bankruptcy is a good solution for you.
Before your appointment, you will need to complete intake information online and a bankruptcy questionnaire. If you have already made your appointment, you will need the "client privacy number" to complete the questionnaire online. It is 11 digits in the format 000-0000-0000.
Please remember to bring your driver's license and social security card to the consultation.
If you want to print the paperwork instead and you have access to a printer, please complete this packet and bring it with you if your appointment is in-office. Having this information done before the consultation will save you time at your appointment and enable us to provide a more informed opinion of your situation.
For the initial consultation, you don't have to bring much paperwork to start, but here is a checklist of the documents that you will have to get together and provide if you do file for bankruptcy.
Take some time to review the information on this site if at all possible before the consultation. Mr. Lewis has answered literally thousands of questions on bankruptcy and other legal issues and put together extensive information for you to review to help you better understand the process. We also have videos on a number of bankruptcy-related issues that you may find helpful.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the most widely employed means of seeking bankruptcy protection. One who files bankruptcy is asking for a court-ordered "discharge" of personal liability on debt - eliminating debts when you do not have the ability to make any meaningful dent into your existing liabilities. Bankruptcy allows one to:
If any of the above items describe your life, then Chapter 7 bankruptcy may be a good solution to get you back on financial track. Bankruptcy eliminates those dischargable debts that you cannot afford to pay.
Bankruptcy is the legitimate means of getting a fresh financial start from overwhelming debt. Bankruptcy may be a good solution if any of the following apply and you are:
WHO QUALIFIES FOR CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY?
Single individuals, a spouse, married couples and corporations may all file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief. For debtors whose debts are primarily consumer, to qualify for Chapter 7, you must pass the "means test" which measures ones ability, or "means," to pay back debt. If you make too much money and have measurable disposable or discretionary income, you would not qualify for Chapter 7. Attorney Lewis will advise you whether you are eligible based on your income, family size and necessary living expenses.
KEEP YOUR HOME, CAR AND EVERYTHING YOU OWN
Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharges personal liability on debts and in turn, creditors receive any "non-exempt" assets that you have. For the majority of people who file Chapter 7, this means keeping everything as "exempt" from the creditors of the bankruptcy estate. Attorney Lewis analyzes every client's individual situation to determine if there is equity in property or assets of any type that would subject that property to liquidation. By far, the most common asset to be liquidated in Mr. Lewis' practice can, in circumstances, be all or part of a tax refund. Mr. Lewis advises clients appropriately in this situation with regard to timing of filing and what asset, if any, would be subject to liquidation.
Chapter 13 is a powerful tool used by individuals with a regular source of income to reorganize debt and in many cases, pay back only pennies on the dollar to unsecured creditors. Chapter 13 consists of a debt repayment plan that ranges anywhere from 36 to 60 months and allows one to:
Chapter 13 is similar to debt consolidation, but unlike debt consolidation programs that are voluntary for creditors to participate in and where high interest and fees continue to accrue, Chapter 13 permits one to pay down unsecured debt without accruing interest, fees, or creditors deciding to sue you and pursue judgments to take assets or money through liens and garnishments.
In Chapter 13, a single monthly, biweekly or weekly payment is made to the court-appointed bankruptcy Trustee who is responsible for paying all scheduled creditors who file claims to be paid.
WHO FILES CHAPTER 13 BANKRUPTCY?
A single individual, individual spouse or married couple can file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy relief so long as at least one person has a stable income of any type. Sometimes, one may file Chapter 13 for a specific purpose (i.e. stop a foreclosure). Often, one files Chapter 13 because he or she does not qualify for Chapter 7 because of income limitations or liquidation of assets. Chapter 13 allows you to keep everything you own and pay back only what you can afford to pay back based on your best efforts in paying all disposable income to creditors and doing so subject to the best interest of your creditors under the law.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be used to stop a foreclosure or sheriff's sale after a foreclosure judgment to save your home. Chapter 13 allows one to propose a repayment plan to continue regular monthly mortgage payments and catch up the missed payments (arrears) by making that arrearage payable over the length of the proscribed repayment period, which may run from 36 months to as long as 60 months.
Unlike voluntary workouts or loan modifications, a bank does not have the choice to not work with you through the court in a Chapter 13. Any foreclosure lawsuit or proceedings on a judgment must be "stayed" immediately upon the filing of a Chapter 13 petition with the bankruptcy court. A court-appointed Chapter 13 bankruptcy Trustee examines the petition and plan to make sure it is in compliance with applicable law and to ensure that all parties are being treated fairly under the proposed repayment plan. If you are behind on your mortgage payments when you file bankruptcy, your regular mortgage payment is part of the single monthly payment you make to the bankruptcy Trustee and the Trustee is the one who pays your mortgage over the course of the proscribed repayment period.
In a successful Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the debtor emerges at the end of the plan with all arrearage paid and, with the loan in good standing, the debtor resumes making the regular mortgage payment directly to the bank and in most cases, without unsecured debt that is subject to the bankruptcy discharge. In much the same way as Chapter 13 stops foreclosure, Chapter 13 also stops repossession of a vehicle.
Is your car underwater? Well, maybe not literally, but do you owe more than what it's worth? If it has been at least 910 days (approximately 2 1/2 years) since the car was purchased and financed, you may be able to "cram down" the payment on the loan to the current fair market value of the vehicle rather than what you currently owe on the loan.
For example, if you purchased your vehicle 3 years ago and have a balance owing of $15,000, but your vehicle is only worth $9,000, you may be able to "cram down" the payment through Chapter 13 and pay back only $9,000. As an added benefit to the cram down provision, a vehicle paid through Chapter 13 can be refinanced at prime rate plus 1-2% which is currently about 5.25%. Chapter 13 can save one a lot of money over the life of an installment loan and in many cases, get a much better deal on financing and repayment over the course of the Chapter 13 plan repayment period.
WHAT ARE THE DEBT LIMITATIONS IN CHAPTER 13?
There is no minimum amount of debt for one to be afforded relief under Chapter 13 but there is a maximum. At a minimum, Chapter 13 is a feasible option if any amount of debt has created a burden to pay back debts and existing liabilities. The law does limit the availability of Chapter 13 to those having less than $465,275 in unsecured debt and no more than $1,395,875 in secured debt(s).
Is your car loan "under water?"
Lewis Legal Services believes in fair, competitive pricing. We are not the cheapest bankruptcy firm - we don't cut corners or cut the quality of service your case requires. By the same token, you will find that many law firms are much more expensive. After all, you have to pay for their high overhead, high salaries and big advertising budgets. At Lewis Legal, you pay only for the work that is absolutely needed to complete your case - it's that simple!
So, why are there no prices listed? Well, we base all fees on the complexity of your given case. Some law firms quote super-low flat fees to draw you in, get you invested, and then hit you with the hidden fees and extra costs. Some "big box" firms flat out hit you with high fees, selling the false idea that bigger means better. At Lewis Legal Services, your fee is based on the work that is needed to have a successful case and it will be established after an informed consultation with no hidden fees or bogus ad-ons. At the end of our initial consultation, you will be given a flat fee
Chapter 7 cases require that all fees be paid in full before case will be filed. Upfront fees for Chapter 13 cases vary based on circumstances of the case.
Lewis Legal Services, in many cases, will meet and beat bankruptcy fee quotes from reputable attorneys and law firms. At Lewis Legal Services, competitive and fair fees make the difference.
In all consumer bankruptcy cases, a debtor must take and complete two mandatory classes. These courses are short (up to two hours each) and can be completed online, in person, or over the telephone from a court-approved counseling agency. We like to think of these classes as your "ticket in" and your "ticket out" of bankruptcy. Although you can take the class from any court-approved provider as listed here, we recommend the following:
CC Advising - Credit Counseling Class (your ticket in before you file bankruptcy)
BE Adviser - Personal Financial Management (your ticket out AFTER your case has been filed)
Be sure to reference our exclusive attorney access code 14312TE for delivery of your certificates of completion to our office. Also, it will ask you what federal district you live in. In Indiana, if you live anywhere south of, and including Kokomo (Howard County), then you are in the Southern District of Indiana federal court. North of Howard County, you would be in the Northern District of Indiana.
Creditors with judgments and delinquent government debts such as taxes or student loans can result in your account being frozen.
Unpaid judgments can result in wage garnishments of up to 25% of your paycheck until fully satisfied.
Learn about what collection agencies can and cannot legally do in the process of collecting debt on behalf of an original creditor
Bankruptcy Law Office of Eric C Lewis
Lewis Legal Services P.O. Box 40603 Indianapolis, IN 46240 USA