There are many contributing factors that are associated with financial troubles. Some common reasons include personal debt, serious illness, divorce, home foreclosure, or sudden unemployment.
In fact, the average credit card debt in West Virginia is a whopping $4,718 per person. In addition, foreclosure rates are also as staggering, one out of every 10,524 WV homes is currently in foreclosure.
If you have found yourself in similar situations, then you are probably battling other personal problems that come with being in debt. The fear of losing your car, house or your income can drain a person physically. You may have even considered Claiming Bankruptcy .
If you are thinking “Should I File Bankruptcy?” you are definitely not alone. Almost 1 million people file bankruptcy each year in the US. Bankruptcy is a means provided by the US Government to help struggling Americans find relief from unpayable debt. You may want to think about bankruptcy relief if it’s best for you.
What Is Bankruptcy?
Bankruptcy offers people the chance to resolve their debt while still working with lenders in a legal capacity. It is initiated by an individual filing a Petition with their nearest bankruptcy court. The Petition can be filed by a person or by spouses jointly. When the bankruptcy is settled, the filer will ‘exit’ and will have a chance for a fresh start on their finances.
During a bankruptcy, a trustee is appointed to oversee the deatils of the case. His or her responsibilities differ and depend on whether the individual has filed for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Did you know that West Virginia ranks #36 in the nation for bankruptcy filings. In 2017 the number of personal bankruptcies was approximately 179 out of every 100,000 residents.
What Is The Difference Between Chapter 7 And Chapter 13?
Individuals or couples in West Virginia, who claim bankruptcy, can choose to file under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Want to know the difference? Look 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.
Debtors that were listed on the bankruptcy filing will be repaid with the proceeds collected during liquidation
If you have the means to pay some of your debts, a chapter 13 bankruptcy plan may work for you. The individual will be allowed to keep his or her valuable assets over a 3- to 5-year time frame.
In order to decide which chapter a person can file, they will have to determine their ability to repay using the Bankruptcy Means Test.
What Is A Bankruptcy Means Test?
The ultimate goal 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?
The federal bankruptcy exemptions are a list of exclusions by Congress that are available to filers in specific states. 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 or personal property used as a residence up to $25,000. Unused portion may be applied to any other property. (Amount increased to $250,000 for doctors with a medical malpractice judgment as long as liability insurance existed at the time of the incident.)
- Motor vehicle up to $2,400; clothing, household goods, furnishings, appliances, books, musical instruments, animals and crops up to $400 per item and $8,000 total; jewelry up to $1,000; health aids; lost earnings payments needed for support; personal injury recoveries up to $15,000 (pain and suffering and pecuniary awards excluded); prepaid higher education trust fund and savings plan payments; and wrongful death recoveries for a person you depended upon for support.
- Burial plot up to $25,000, (must be used instead of the homestead exemption).
- Minimum of 30 times the federal hourly minimum wage per week. Judge may approve more for low-income debtor.
- 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.
- Public employees.
- ERISA-qualified benefits and IRAs needed for support.
- Crime victims’ compensation; unemployment compensation; public assistance; Social Security; disability; and Veterans’ benefits.
Tools of Trade
- Tools, books and implements of trade up to $1,500.
Alimony and Child Support
- Alimony and child support needed for support.
- Group life insurance policy and proceeds.
- Unmatured life insurance contract (except for credit life insurance contract); life insurance dividends, interest, loan, cash, or surrender value for person you depended; and unmatured life insurance contracts’ accrued loan value, interest, or dividend up to $8,000 as long as the debtor owns the contract and the insured is either the debtor or a person the debtor is dependant upon.
- $800 plus unused portion of homestead or burial exemption, of any property.
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 allowed 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 recommended.
Filing Bankruptcy without an Attorney
A simple Chapter 7 proceeding 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
For most people, 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 keenly familiar with exemption laws. Plus, 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 WV, 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 West Virginia
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 West VirginiaThe Edel Building
324 West Main Street
West Virginia Northern Bankruptcy Court
Additional West Virginia Resources
Foreclosure Help Program
Disability SSDI Benefits