There are many contributing factors that are associated with financial troubles. Some common reasons include overwhelming debt, illness, divorce, foreclosure, or sudden unemployment.
In fact, the average credit card debt in Washington is a whopping $5,811 per person. In addition, foreclosure rates are also as staggering, one out of every 4,258 WA homes is currently in foreclosure.
If you have found yourself in similar situations, then you are more than likely dealing with other personal problems that come with living in debt. The fear of losing your vehicle, house or your money can drain a person physically. You may have even considered Claiming Bankruptcy .
If you are thinking “Can I File Bankruptcy?” you are undoubtedly not alone. Almost 1 million people file bankruptcy each year in America. Bankruptcy is a tool provided by the US Government to help struggling Americans find relief from uncontrollable debt. You may want to think about bankruptcy relief if it’s best for you.
What Is Bankruptcy?
Bankruptcy offers people the time to lift their financial burden while still working with lenders in a legal capacity. It is initiated by a person filing a Petition with their nearest bankruptcy court. The Petition can be filed by a person or by spouses jointly. When the bankruptcy is done, the filer will ‘exit’ with a fresh new start.
Throughout the bankruptcy process, a trustee is appointed to oversee the particulars of the matter. His or her duties differ and depend on whether the person has filed for Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Did you know that Washington ranks #20 in the nation for bankruptcy filings. In 2017 the number of personal bankruptcies was approximately 310 out of every 100,000 residents.
What Is The Difference Between Chapter 7 And Chapter 13?
People in Washington, who claim bankruptcy, can choose to file under Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Want to know the difference? Take a look at the descriptions below for more information:
The trustee of the bankruptcy will liquidate the assets, such as cars, homes, and other property of value in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy proceeding, In exchange for dissolving all past due debts.
The proceeds collected during liquidation will be used to repay debtors that were listed on the bankruptcy filing.
If you have the means to pay some of your debts, a chapter 13 bankruptcy plan may work for you. You will be allowed to retain your valuable assets over a 3- to 5-year period.
In order to decide which type of bankruptcy a person can file, he or she will have to determine their ability to repay under the Bankruptcy Means Test.
What Is A Bankruptcy Means Test?
The objective of the Bankruptcy Means Test is to determine who is eligible to apply for debt forgiveness through a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. It takes into account your:
- income and expenses
- household size and composition
- debt-to-income ratio
If you do not qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will be able to file for Chapter 13, as above-described.
What Are Bankruptcy Exemptions?
Specific states have certain exclusions that are enacted by congress as federal bankruptcy exemptions for filers. These exemptions will determine what you are able to retain throughout and after Chapter 7. In a Chapter 13 situation, the exemptions will determine what amount you will have to pay certain financial institutions in your repayment plan.
- Real property or mobile home up to $125,000. If property is unimproved but intended to be occupied at the time of filing bankruptcy up to $15,000. Spouses may not double. Before sale of home if the property is unoccupied or unimproved, a homestead declaration must be filed (6.15.040)
- Motor vehicle up to $3,250 if single or 2 vehicles up to $6,500 if community; clothing, but furs, jewelry & ornaments limited to $3,500; household goods, furniture, appliances, home and yard equipment up to $6,500 ($13,000 for husband and wife); pictures and keepsakes; books and electronic media to $3,500; food and fuel for comfortable maintenance; prepaid tuition; prescribed health aids; and personal injury awards up to $20,000.
- Health savings account and medical savings account deposits.
- Insurance proceeds for lost, stolen or destroyed exempt property.
- Burial ground.
- Spendthrift trusts. See In re Findley, 286 B.R. 163 (2002)
- The greater of the following: 30 times the federal hourly minimum wage or minimum of 75% of disposable earnings. Judge may approve more for low-income debtor.
- Earnings of work release prisoners.
- Tax exempt retirement accounts (including 401(k)s, 403(b)s, profit sharing and money purchase plans, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs, and defined benefit plans).
- IRAS and Roth IRAs to $1,283,025.
- ERISA-qualified benefits, including IRAs and Keoghs.
- Volunteer firefighters.
- Law enforcement officials and firefighters.
- City employees.
- State patrol officers.
Public and Charitable Benefits
- Charitable society benefits.
- Unemployment compensation.
- Industrial insurance (workers’ compensation).
- General assistance and public benefits.
Tools of Trade
- Tools and materials used in any trade up to $10,000; library, office furniture, equipment and supplies of a physician, surgeon, attorney, clergyman or other professional up to $10,000; farm trucks, tools, equipment, supplies, stock and seed of a farmer up to $10,000.
Alimony and Child Support
- Child support payments.
- Disability benefits, proceeds, dividends, interest, loan, cash, or surrender value.
- Life insurance proceeds, dividends, interest, loan, cash, or surrender value if the insured is not the beneficiary.
- Group life insurance policy or proceeds.
- Annuity contract proceeds up to $3,000 per month.
- $3,000 of any personal property, but not more than $1,500 of it in cash, bank deposits, stocks, bonds, or other securities.
Want to know if you can include Student Loans in Bankruptcy or Medical Bills in Bankruptcy? Check out our Bankruptcy FAQ’s section.
Filing Bankruptcy Alone vs. Filing With An Attorney
Current bankruptcy laws do not require individuals to hire an attorney to declare bankruptcy relief. People are permitted to represent him or herself as a pro se debtor. You will simply contact the local bankruptcy court and obtain all forms and requirements directly through them. Going it alone is not for the faint of heart.
Filing Bankruptcy without an Attorney
A basic Chapter 7 case that doesn’t have a lot of debtors or assets may be easy to manage on your own.
A basic bankruptcy that doesn’t involve an attorney might look like:.
- Your income is below the state median;
- You have no property;
- Your debts will be considered dis-chargeable.
Working With An Attorney
Generally speaking, it is usually in one’s best interest to work with a bankruptcy attorney. A bankruptcy lawyer is there to represent you and not in the interest of creditors.
An attorney is also accustomed with exemption laws. In addition, they can come up with creative strategies to keep your assets through practical repayment strategies that are fair to everyone involved.
While you may have the fight and ability to manage a Bankruptcy on your own, it tends to make things a lot easier on an already stressful situation, especially when there is so much at stake.
What Does Bankruptcy Include?
Once you file for bankruptcy in WA, the courts put in place an order called an Automatic Stay. This order will stop debt collection calls, wage garnishments, and additional claims. Keep in mind that payments regarding child support and criminal cases will still need to be made during this time.
In any event, Bankruptcy will be able to include:
- credit card debt
- protection from eviction
- avoidance of foreclosure
- utility bills
- medical expenses
Again, unless you are filing a complex Chapter 13 case, you will lose all assets associated with a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy protection. You will, however, be able to prevent any and all collections from occurring as long as they were incurred before the date of filing and discharge.
Final Thoughts And Considerations On Filing For Bankruptcy In Washington
As you can see, there a lot of information associated with successfully filing for bankruptcy and then exiting it unscathed or satisfied. Only a licensed bankruptcy attorney can guide you through this arduous process, particularly when it comes to complex cases. Be sure to hire someone you respect and trust.
Bankruptcy Courts In WashingtonUnited States Post Office Building
904 West Riverside Avenue
Washington Eastern Bankruptcy Court
The Chinook Tower Building
402 East Yakima Avenue
Washington Eastern Bankruptcy Court
Additional Washington Resources
Foreclosure Help Program
Disability SSDI Benefits