At Phoenix Fresh Start Bankruptcy Attorneys, we hear questions about Chapter 7 bankruptcy every day. Over the course of my next few posts, we will be addressing some of those questions.

What is Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

Chapter 7 eliminates most unsecured debt and gives you a second chance to reset your finances and give you a meaningful fresh start. The whole Chapter 7 process normally lasts about 90 to 120 days from filing to discharge. The attorneys at Phoenix Fresh Start Bankruptcy Attorneys, LLP have substantial experience handling both simple and complex Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases.

In Chapter 7, you are able to maintain possession of certain “exempt” assets, up to a specific value amount. Prior to filing a real review of your assets and the exemptions available to you is part of our filing process. Phoenix Fresh Start Bankruptcy Attorneys, LLP always offers “exemption planning” to help you retain as much property as possible.

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a Trustee is appointed to review your financial affairs and assets. The Trustee has the ability to sell assets not fully covered by allowed exemptions. If the Trustee decides that there aren’t any assets to sell, the case is reported as a “no asset” case and it is closed. The Bankruptcy Court will issue your discharge about 60-90 days later. Normally, the debts listed in your bankruptcy petition are discharged and the creditors are barred from attempting to collect from you again.

Will I be able to Keep My Stuff if I File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

You can keep your assets to the extent the equity in the assets is within the exemption allowances available under the law to debtors. In most cases, clients are able to retain their personal belongings, including their homes, cars, and all household goods. It’s really not the value of the asset but the amount of equity in it. For example, If you own a $50,000 car but you $48,500 on it, the bankruptcy Trustee isn’t going to sell it because there is only $1500 in equity in the car and the Arizona vehicle exemption protects that amount in full.

Can I Sell or Transfer My Stuff before I File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

Don’t do it. If you give away, sell for less than fair value, or transfer an asset to someone before you file for bankruptcy, the bankruptcy Trustee may be able to undo that transfer, take away any exemption that might have protected it and sell it off. For example, you own a car worth $8,000 and give it away to a family member before filing. If you hadn’t transferred it, the trustee could have sold it off, but he would have had to write you a check for $1500, the amount of your exemption. Because you tried to give it away, the Trustee can now sell it off and give you nothing.

If you have already transferred property you should speak with an attorney at Phoenix Fresh Start Bankruptcy Attorneys, LLP to figure out whether any steps can be taken to undo the harm you may suffer because of an improper transfer. Sometimes these transfers can be undone. Call us today.