Oklahoma City Bankruptcy Lawyer
Looking for a bankruptcy attorney in Oklahoma (OKC)? We can help.
Financial strain makes life difficult. It affects both personal and professional relationships. When it happens to you, you want to find a way out. In some cases, bankruptcy might be the best answer. There are different types of bankruptcies depending on your individual circumstances. If you find yourself in need of assistance in a troubling financial situation, you are not alone.
We understand that sometimes good people find themselves in tough situations. The bankruptcy attorneys of Hasbrook & Hasbrook are well-versed in Oklahoma law and will guide you through the process from start to finish. Our team’s primary focus is always on providing our clients with consistent and compassionate support and excellent legal guidance. We will handle your bankruptcy and set you on a path for future success.
10 Reasons People File Bankruptcy in OKC
Below are 10 reasons people find it necessary to file bankruptcy. In many cases, people end up in a financial situation that is not there fault. In others, poor or often no financial plan result in the need for relief. Despite the factors that lead you to consider filing bankruptcy, we can help.
1. Medical Expenses
These may result from a catastrophic accident or a long term illness. Regardless of the reason, past medical expenses can be daunting and sometime too much to overcome.
2. Job Loss
Millions of Americans are out of work. Whether a job loss if caused by an economic downturn or something specific to you, it often results in your getting behind on debt to the point that you can’t ever dig yourself out.
3. Poor or no financial planning
Massive credit card debt, large mortgages or car notes often lead to the need to consider bankruptcy.
4. Lawsuits and Garnishments
It is one thing to have past due unsecured debts that you can no longer afford to pay. However, when they reach this stage, the only way to stop the harassment and protect your wages and property is bankruptcy.
5. Stop Creditor Calls
Bankruptcy immediately stops all creditor activity against you and can give you piece of mind.
In addition to the added expenses that often accompany a divorce, suddenly finding yourself in a one income household can lead to an inability to sustain your debt.
7. Saving your Home
Bankruptcy can often stop or prevent foreclosure and provide you time to save your home.
8. Saving your Car
Bankruptcy can often stop or prevent repossessions and provide you time to save your vehicle.
9. Student Loans
While student loans are not generally discharged in bankruptcy, it can provide you with breathing space from payments, while at the same time reduced (discharge) other unsecured debt which may enable you to pay your student loans.
10. Fresh Start
Finally, it is usually a combination of some of the above that leads a person to consider bankruptcy. As a result, most bankruptcy filers discharge a large amount, if not all, of their unsecured debt (medical expenses, credit cards, even past due taxes if they are old enough), stop harassing phone calls and put themselves in position to hopefully afford their remaining debt.
If your circumstances have left you awake all night and worrying all day, please contact our Oklahoma bankruptcy lawyers today.
The Bankruptcy Process in Oklahoma
Filing a bankruptcy in OKC is a lengthy and complicated process. The best way to ensure your case in handled properly is to hire a qualified and experienced OKC bankruptcy attorney. Having an attorney on your side will give you peace of mind and allow you to focus on getting your finances under control.
Preparation is key in bankruptcy proceedings. If you are considering bankruptcy, learning what you can about the process is crucial. Let’s start my taking a look at Oklahoma bankruptcy law.
2005 Bankruptcy Act
A 2005 change to bankruptcy laws might affect your case in one of two ways:
If you are considering bankruptcy, you should be aware of the credit counseling and debtor education requirements of the Bankruptcy Code. These requirements were added to the Code in 2005. Their purpose was to help individuals determine if there were any meaningful alternatives before filing bankruptcy.
Who Must Comply?
All individual debtors (including jointly filing spouses) must comply with these requirements. Legal entities (corporation, llc, etc.) are exempt.
What is Required?
Two separate classes. Pre-filing credit counseling and post filing debtor education.
Credit Counseling Class
Within 180 days before filing, you must take a credit counseling course approved by the U.S. Trustee Program. A list of approved providers in the Western District of Oklahoma can be found here. Many providers offer online and/or telephone counseling.
The session normally lasts 60 to 90 minutes and includes an evaluation of your financial situation, a budget plan, and alternatives to bankruptcy. The provider may prepare a proposed repayment plan for your debts. While you must participate in the counseling, you are not required to accept the proposed plan. You should note, however, that if such a plan is prepared, it much accompany your other bankruptcy documents at the time of filing. If the proposed plan clearly shows that you have the ability to repay your debts, this could serve as a basis for the court to question why you filed a Chapter 7 instead of a Chapter 13.
Once your session is concluded, you will receive a certificate of completion. This document must accompany your bankruptcy petition at the time your case is filed.
Debtor Education Class
In a Chapter 7 case, you must take the debtor education class within 45 days of the date first scheduled for your meeting of creditors. In a Chapter 13 case, you must take the debtor education class no later than the date you make your last plan payment. However, it can be taken earlier.
Unlike the credit counseling class, this class is about financial management going forward. This serves as an effort to prevent you from the financial pitfalls which led to bankruptcy.
Once your session is concluded, you will receive a certificate of completion which must be filed, along with a certification by you that you have taken the course.
If you have questions about these requirements, or otherwise wish to discuss your financial options, we are here to help!
(We are a debt relief agency and we help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code.)
The Means Test is a way to evaluate whether you can file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The Court will look into your income for the 6-month period prior to filing and compare it to the median income for Oklahoma. You may file Chapter 7 Bankruptcy only if your income is below the mean.
Chapter 7 vs Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Chapter 7 and 13 are the two most common types of bankruptcies that can be filed by an individual. Eligibility for filing is based on the Means Test, and there are several key differences between the two types:
In a bankruptcy case under chapter 7, you file a petition asking the court to discharge your debts. The basic idea in a chapter 7 bankruptcy is to wipe out (discharge) your debts in exchange for your giving up property, except for “exempt” property which the law allows you to keep. In many cases, all of your property will be exempt. However, property which is not exempt is sold, with the money distributed to creditors. If you want to keep property like a home or a car and are behind on the payments on a mortgage or car loan, a chapter 7 case probably will not be the right choice for you. That is because chapter 7 bankruptcy does not eliminate the right of mortgage holders or car loan creditors to take your property to apply to the debt. In order to qualify for a Chapter 7, a consumer debtor must pass the means test. Individual debtors whose debts are primarily business debts do not have to pass the means test to qualify for Chapter 7.
Chapter 13 (Adjustment of Debts)
In a chapter 13 case you file a “plan” showing how you will pay off some of your past-due and current debts over three to five years. The most important thing about a chapter 13 case is that it will allow you to keep property–especially your home and car–which may otherwise be lost, if you make the payments which the bankruptcy law requires to be made to your creditors. In most cases, these payments will be at least as much as your regular monthly payments on your mortgage or car loan, with some extra payment to get caught up on the amount you have fallen behind.
You should consider a Chapter 13 if:
- Your income is too high to qualify for Chapter 7.
- You have non-exempt property that you wish to keep.
- You are behind on your mortgage or car loan and wish to keep the property.
In order to qualify for Chapter 13, you must be an individual (including a married couple) with regular income.
The amount of paperwork required is one of the reasons a bankruptcy case is so time-consuming. You must take several key steps in order to prepare for your bankruptcy, including:
- Itemize Current Income Sources
- Detail Major Financial Transactions Over the Previous Two Years
- Itemize Monthly Living Expenses
- List All Debts, Secured and Unsecured
- List All Assets and Possessions
- Prepared Tax Documents for Previous Two Years
- Gather Deeds to Any Real Estate Owned
- Gather Car Titles
- Gather Documents for Any Outstanding Loans
A bankruptcy attorney will be a huge help during this process. They will make sure you have all the required documents and paperwork. This will allow you to prevent your case to the Court in a clear and organized manner.
Filing for Bankruptcy
After the paperwork has been collected, it is time to file your case. Your attorney will file a two-page petition along with several other forms at your local bankruptcy court. The forms filed will give the Court a picture of your current financial status.
It is imperative to be truthful on any all documentation filed with the Court. If it is discovered that you have not been entirely truthful, your case could be negatively affected.
The Hasbrook & Hasbrook Edge
Our team of Oklahoma bankruptcy attorneys have successfully represented clients in a variety of cases. We understand that each case is unique, and we listen carefully to learn the individual needs of each of our clients. A positive outcome from your bankruptcy proceeding is only part of what we seek to accomplish. We also want to make sure our clients are set for future success, so they can rebuild a life free from financial strain.
As always, a consultation with Hasbrook & Hasbrook is completely free of charge. We will sit down with you and listen to the facts of your case and then advise you on the best course of action. If you are considering bankruptcy and need to discuss your options, please reach out today. We are a debt relief agency because we help people file for bankruptcy.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bankruptcy in Oklahoma City
Bankruptcy is a legal proceeding in which an individual or couple can receive a fresh financial start. Bankruptcy is governed by federal law. Cases are filed in federal bankruptcy court. There is a federal bankruptcy court in each judicial district in the country. The bankruptcy court for the Western District of Oklahoma is located in Oklahoma City. If you live in any of these counties, you live in the Western District. Your bankruptcy case will be controlled by the bankruptcy judge. Debtors normally have limited to know involvement with the judge. Your case will be administered by the appointed trustee.
Benefits of Bankruptcy?
Bankruptcy may make it possible for you to:
- Immediately stop all of your creditors from seeking to collect debts from you during the pendency of your case including garnishments, harassing phone calls and letters and all similar actions to collect a debt.
- Prevent foreclosure on your house or mobile home and allow you an opportunity to catch up on missed payments. (Bankruptcy does not, however, automatically eliminate mortgages and other liens on your property without payment.)
- Prevent repossession of a car or other property, or force the creditor to return property even after it has been repossessed.
Eliminate the legal obligation to pay some or most of your debts. This is called a “discharge” and is intended to give you a fresh financial start.
What Bankruptcy Doesn’t Do?
Bankruptcy is not a magic wand that wipes out all of your financial obligations. In bankruptcy, it is usually not possible to:
- Eliminate certain rights of “secured” creditors. A “secured” creditor has taken a mortgage or other lien on property as collateral for the loan. Common examples are car loans and home mortgages. However, you can force secured creditors to take arrearage payments over time in the Chapter 13 bankruptcy process. Likewise, bankruptcy can eliminate your obligation to pay any additional money if your property is taken. However, if you keep the property, you generally must continue to pay the debt
- Discharge types of debts singled out by the bankruptcy law for special treatment, such as child support, alimony, certain other debts related to divorce, some student loans, court restitution orders, criminal fines, and some taxes.
- Protect cosigners on your debts. When a relative or friend has co-signed a loan, and you discharge the debt in bankruptcy, the cosigner will likely still have to repay all or part of the loan, whether you keep the property or not.
- Discharge debts that arise after bankruptcy has been filed.
What Chapter of Bankruptcy Should I Consider?
There are four types of bankruptcy cases provided under the law. However, most individuals or joint filers file under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.
- Chapter 7 is known as “liquidation”. It requires a debtor to give up property which exceeds certain limits called “exemptions”, so the property can be sold to pay creditors.
- Chapter 11, known as “reorganization”, is used by businesses and a few individual debtors.
- Chapter 12 is reserved for family farmers.
- Chapter 13 is called “adjustment of debts”. It requires a debtor to file a plan to pay debts (or parts of debts) from current income.
What Does Bankruptcy Cost with your firm?
In addition to the attorney fee, which will be based on your personal circumstances, you will also need to pay the court filing fee and take 2 online courses (the combined cost of these courses is approximately $25.00). The court filing fee for Chapter 7 is currently $335.00 and the court filing fee for Chapter 13 is currently $310.00. The court may allow you to pay this filing fee in installments if you cannot pay all at once.
In Oklahoma Will I Lose My Property?
In a chapter 7 case, you can keep all property which is “exempt” from the claims of creditors. Oklahoma law provides for many exemptions which are available. In determining whether property is exempt, you must keep a few things in mind. The value of property is not the amount you paid for it, but what it is worth now. Especially for furniture and cars, this may be a lot less than what you paid or what it would cost to buy a replacement. You also only need to look at your actual equity in any property. This means that you count your exemptions against the full value minus any money that you owe on mortgages or liens. For example, if you own a $50,000 house with a $40,000 mortgage, you count your exemptions against the $10,000 which is your equity if you sell it. While your exemptions allow you to keep property even in a chapter 7 case, your exemptions do not make any difference to the right of a mortgage holder or car loan creditor to take the property to cover the debt if you are behind on payments. The determination of which states exemptions apply is based on the length of time you have lived in Oklahoma. In a chapter 13 case, you can keep all of your property if your plan meets the requirements of the bankruptcy law. In most cases you will have to pay the mortgages or liens as you would if you didn’t file bankruptcy.
What Will Happen to My Home and Car If I File Bankruptcy in Oklahoma?
In most cases you will not lose your home or car during your bankruptcy case as long as your equity in the property is fully exempt. Even if your property is not fully exempt, you will be able to keep it, if you pay its non-exempt value to creditors in chapter 13. However, some of your creditors may have a “security interest” in your home, automobile or other personal property. This means that you gave that creditor a mortgage on the home or put your other property up as collateral for the debt. Bankruptcy does not make erase these security interests. You must generally continue to pay the debt or your creditor may be able to take and sell the home or the property, during or after the bankruptcy case. There are several ways that you can keep collateral or mortgaged property after you file bankruptcy. You can agree to keep making your payments on the debt until it is paid in full (“reaffirmation” of the debt) or you can pay the creditor the amount that the property you want to keep is worth (“redemption”). In some cases involving fraud or other improper conduct by the creditor, you may be able to challenge the debt. If you put up your household goods as collateral for a loan (other than a loan to purchase the goods), you can usually keep your property without making any more payments on that debt.
Will Bankruptcy Discharge All My Debts?
Bankruptcy does not normally discharge:
- Money owed for child support or alimony, fines, and some taxes
- Debts not listed on your bankruptcy petition
- Loans you got by knowingly giving false information to a creditor, who reasonably relied on it in making you the loan
- Debts resulting from “willful and malicious” harm
- Student loans owed to a school or government body, except if:– the court decides that payment would be an undue hardship
- Mortgages and other liens which are not paid in the bankruptcy case (but bankruptcy will wipe out your obligation to pay any additional money if the property is sold by the creditor).
Do I Go to Court?
In most bankruptcy cases, you only have to go to a proceeding called the “meeting of creditors”. Most of the time, this meeting is short with questions by your attorney and your case trustee, primarily about your petition, schedules and financial situation. Your creditors also have the right to attend this meeting and ask you questions, normally about your intention to pay on a secured debt. If your circumstances suggest that a creditor may appear for other reasons, you and your attorney should discuss the issue before the meeting.
There are a few instances where you may need to actually appear before the bankruptcy judge. For instance, if you wish to reaffirm a debt but don’t have sufficient income, or if you dispute a debt, a hearing with the court may be required. If so, your attorney will notify you.
Will Bankruptcy Affect My Credit?
A discharge may stay on your credit report for up to 10 years. However, if you are behind on your bills, your credit may already be bad. In addition, since bankruptcy wipes out your old debts, you are likely to be in a better position to pay your current bills, and you may be able to get new credit.
Can I Obtain Credit After Discharge?
Most likely. You will have just discharged debt and you will be unable to do so again in a Chapter 7 for 8 years from the date your case was filed.
Can Bankruptcy Help Get My Oklahoma Driver’s License Back?
If you lost your license solely because you couldn’t pay court-ordered damages sustained in an accident (financial responsibility), bankruptcy will allow you the chance to get your license back. However, Chapter 7 does not normally discharge fines owed to a governmental unit.
I’m Married, Can I File by Myself?
Yes, but your spouse will still be liable for any joint debts. If you file together you will likely be able to double your exemptions as most exemptions apply “per debtor”. You will likely need to report your non-filing spouses income (and expenses) on the means test and Schedule I, which my impact your ability to file under Chapter 7.
Can filing bankruptcy stop bill collectors from calling?
Yes. The automatic stay prevents bill collectors from taking any action to collect debts. This stay goes into effect when your case is filed. At that time, the court will mail notice to all listed creditors. In the interim, if you have not already done so, tell any creditors who contact you that you have hired an attorney and have filed bankruptcy. If they continue to contact you, they are violating the automatic stay and may be liable to you.
If I am getting a divorce, how will my ex-spouse filing bankruptcy affect our settlement or decree?
Alimony, maintenance, and/or support are protected from discharge. Divorce decrees and separation agreements are covered by 11 U.S.C. §523(a)(15). This section states that these debts are not dischargeable unless:
- The debtor does not have the ability to pay such debt from income or property of the debtor not reasonably necessary to be expended for the maintenance or support of the debtor or a dependent of the debtor and, if the debtor is engaged in a business, for the payment of expenditures necessary for the continuation, preservation, and operation of such business; or
- Discharging such debt would result in a benefit to the debtor that outweighs the detrimental consequences to a spouse, former spouse, or child of the debtor.
If I recently moved, where do I file my case?
If you haven’t lived in your current state for 91 days you must wait until you have lived there for 91 days and then file in your current state. If you lived in your current state for more than 91 days but less than two years, you will file in your current state but use the exemptions from where you lived for majority of the 180 day period immediately previous to the 2 year period before you filed. If you bought your home within the last 40 months and/or haven’t lived in your current state for the last 2 years then your homestead exemption may be limited so be sure to discuss this with your attorney.
Contact us today to discuss your circumstances.
Bankruptcy Do’s and Don’ts!
The following do’s and don’ts should considered by any person contemplating bankruptcy.
- Provide your attorney or other petition preparer ALL information and documentation required to complete your Schedules, including your assets, debts, income and recent transfers. Accurately and completely identifying the information on your Schedules is a necessity! Failure to do so could cause many results, none of which are good: (A) your case could be dismissed; (B) your discharge could be denied; (C) certain debts may not be discharged; (D) you could face charges of bankruptcy fraud.
- Complete your credit counseling class. You must provide your certificate at the time you file. Most classes can be taken online!
- Provide information and documents requested by your trustee. Failure to provide required documentation may result in the dismissal of your case.
- Attend your 341 Hearing! While a first failure to appear will likely result in the hearing be rescheduled, continuous failures will result in the dismissal of your case.
- Complete the debtor education class. You cannot receive your discharge until this requirement is completed. The failure to do so will eventually result in the dismissal of your case.
Following the above “do’s” may not ensure that your case goes smoothly from filing to discharge, there could, for instance, be issues of dischargeability related to alleged prior actions. However, it will help to ensure that if you obtain all the relief you are entitled to under the Bankruptcy Code.
- Take on new debt or transfer property while you are contemplating bankruptcy. Recent debt may not be dischargeable and transferring property could be prohibited by the bankruptcy code. If you must transfer property, talk to an experienced bankruptcy attorney first to determine if such a transfer would be impacted by a future bankruptcy filing.
- Omit any debt, income or assets from your Schedules. (See above). You don’t get to pick and choose which debts you file on. The loan you owe to your relatives must be listed. However, that does not prevent you from voluntarily paying the discharged debt after your bankruptcy.
- Sign your Petition and Schedules without carefully reviewing them. They are submitted under oath and you are verifying the truth and accuracy of them. It is well worth your time to review them and ensure that your and your representative prepared them fully and completely.
- Stop paying for property secured by a mortgage or lien (house or car) if you wish to keep the property after you file bankruptcy. Being current on such a payment after you file essentially ensures that the lender will reaffirm the debt which will allow you to keep the property and continue paying on it.
- Make large payments to a single creditor. This can be called a “preference” and the trustee can actually get the payment back from the creditor. If the creditor is a family member, the trustee can look back 1 year for such payments. If the creditor is not a family member, the trustee can look back 90 days.
The above is not exhaustive. It is important to understand the requirements of the bankruptcy code if you are considering filing a case.
Call us today. We are here to help!
(We are a debt relief agency, we help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code.)