BANKRUPTCY AN OPTION FOR SOUTH CAROLINIANS STRUGGLING WITH DEBT

Nearly one million people filed for personal bankruptcy in the United States during the first three quarters of 2012. Many people in South Carolina go through bankruptcy in order to make ends meet and relieve themselves of demanding debts.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy

The purpose of bankruptcy is to give a person struggling with debt a fresh start by discharging certain debts. Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows people struggling with debt to liquidate their assets and pay off creditors. The assigned bankruptcy trustee will put together all of the person's assets, sell all of the assets that are considered nonexempt and use the proceeds to pay creditors.

This discharge is only for individuals. After bankruptcy, the individual is no longer liable for the debts that were discharged. Once a bankruptcy petition is filed, an automatic stay is issued, which means that creditors must stop all collection efforts until a court order is issued or the bankruptcy case is resolved.

A person filing for bankruptcy must provide the court with a wealth of information regarding their finances, including a schedule of assets and debts, information about current income and current expenses as well as a financial affairs statement. If people are filing for bankruptcy individually, they still must provide the same information for their spouses. Some types of property are exempt from creditors; state law varies as to what types of property are exempt.

The bankruptcy case trustee

Each bankruptcy case will be assigned a trustee whose role is to liquidate the assets in order to maximize the payoffs to the creditors. The trustee holds a meeting within 21 to 40 days after the filing of the petition is filed. The meeting will include the trustee, the person filing for bankruptcy and the creditors that wish to attend. The debtor is put under oath and asked questioned by the trustee and the creditors about the assets, debts and other financial issues. The trustee will also request financial documents from the debtor. The debtor will also be questioned by the trustee to make sure that the implications of going through bankruptcy are understood.

Approval or disapproval of discharge

After the meeting is completed and all the necessary documents are gathered, the court will make its decision. The grounds for disallowing discharge are quite narrow. For example, if the debtor provided the court with inaccurate information or refused to cooperate with the trustee, the discharge may not be approved.

Individuals struggling with financial hardship should contact an experienced bankruptcy attorney to help them through the process. A bankruptcy attorney will help an applicant gather necessary information for the bankruptcy petition, help create schedules and report expenses and petition the court for discharge of debt at the conclusion of a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.