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A Fresh Start is Possible. Speak With a Lancaster Bankruptcy Attorney at WPH Law for Free Today

Experiencing financial difficulties can disrupt lives, causing immense stress and uncertainty. However, filing for bankruptcy, particularly Chapter 7, can eliminate debt while safeguarding your hard-earned assets. If you are contemplating this route in Pennsylvania, WPH Law's team of experienced bankruptcy attorneys is here to offer compassionate support and guidance.

Navigating Chapter 7 bankruptcy can be overwhelming on your own. But, with our dedicated legal team by your side, you can feel confident in facing the process head-on. We understand that every financial situation is unique, so we take the time to listen to your concerns, assess your circumstances, and develop personalized strategies tailored to your needs.

Our attorneys will walk you through each bankruptcy process step, explaining your rights, responsibilities, and options along the way. Whether you're unsure if Chapter 7 is the right choice or have questions about how it will impact your assets, we provide the information and support you need to make well-informed decisions about your financial future.

What is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition allows a debtor to "discharge," or eliminate, most – if not all – of their unsecured debts. A bankruptcy reduces balances to zero for certain debts owed, like credit cards, unsecured personal loans, and back utility bills. You may have heard this described as a "fresh start," and in many cases, it could be precisely that. Filing for a Petition for Bankruptcy is a complex process, and you'll want a skilled attorney at the helm to assist you.

Who is eligible for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

The other critical component is whether you’d be eligible to file for Chapter 7 at all. If a petitioner’s income is less than the state’s median income for a household of a given size, they are eligible to file for Chapter 7 per the Bankruptcy Code. But, if the petitioner earns more than the state's median income, the Code then requires that a complicated calculation, known as a “Means Test,” must be completed to determine continued Chapter 7 eligibility.

Thousands in Debt Saved for Our Clients at WPH Law

No case is too challenging for our experienced bankruptcy attorneys at WPH Law. Our bankruptcy lawyers have helped countless clients across Pennsylvania reclaim their financial well-being and restore their lives. As our client, you are more than a number to us. We vow to put you first and treat your bankruptcy case like we would our own, helping erase your debt and protect your most important assets.

What protection does Chapter 7 bankruptcy provide?

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy can stop almost all creditors in their tracks. This is due to the “Automatic Stay” that begins the moment you file your petition. Essentially, when you file for Bankruptcy, a creditor must immediately cease all attempts to collect money from you. This includes calling your phone, filing a lawsuit, continuing a lawsuit already filed or executing on a judgment. It can even stop a foreclosure or a vehicle repossession, at least temporarily.

If you are seriously in debt and you feel creditors closing in, don’t wait to call. We can put you on the path to a fresh start.

Save or Protect
  • Residence
  • Vehicles
  • Job Wages
  • Furniture
  • Retirement
Stop or Eliminate
  • Debt Collectors
  • Home Foreclosures
  • Car Repossessions
  • Property Seizures
  • Garnishments
  • Lawsuits

How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in PA

Filing for bankruptcy can be a complex legal process. If you're considering filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Pennsylvania, it's essential to understand the steps involved.

  1. Evaluate Your eligibility. Determine if you meet the eligibility requirements for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Pennsylvania. This includes passing the means test, which evaluates your income level compared to the median income in Pennsylvania.
  2. Complete credit counseling. Before filing for bankruptcy, you must complete a credit counseling course from an approved provider. This course helps you understand your financial situation and explore alternatives to bankruptcy.
  3. Gather financial documents. Collect all necessary financial documents, including bank statements, tax returns, pay stubs, and records of debts and assets. These documents will be essential for completing your bankruptcy forms accurately.
  4. Complete bankruptcy forms. Obtain the required bankruptcy forms and complete them accurately, providing detailed information about your financial situation.
  5. File bankruptcy forms. Once your forms are completed, file them with the bankruptcy court in Pennsylvania. You'll need to pay a filing fee unless you qualify for a fee waiver based on your income level.
  6. Attend the meeting of creditors. After filing for bankruptcy, you'll need to attend a meeting of creditors, also known as a 341 meeting. During this meeting, you'll answer questions about your financial affairs under oath, with a bankruptcy trustee overseeing the process.
  7. Complete financial management course. After the creditors meet, you must complete a financial management course with an approved provider. This course aims to help you manage your finances better in the future.
  8. Receive discharge of debts. If everything proceeds smoothly and there are no objections, you'll receive a discharge of your qualifying debts. You are no longer legally obligated to repay those debts, providing a fresh financial start.
  9. Rebuild your credit. After receiving your discharge, focus on rebuilding your credit. This may involve obtaining secured credit cards, making timely payments, and monitoring your credit report for accuracy.
  10. Seek legal advice. While it's possible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy without an attorney, seeking legal advice from a bankruptcy lawyer can help you understand your rights and responsibilities.

Remember, bankruptcy laws can be complex, so it's essential to approach the process with care and diligence. Speak for free with a well-versed attorney in Chapter 7 bankruptcy at WPH Law today.

Erase your debt and protect your assets

We have been able to erase hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt for our clients, all while protecting every penny of their assets. Even when a client's car had already been repossessed, we were able to get it back within days by filing an emergency Bankruptcy petition. We then were able to use our petition to eliminate all of the client's remaining debt.
William P. Harrington, Jr., ESQ. Bankruptcy Attorney
William P. Harrington, Jr., ESQ.

Deciding Whether Filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is Right for You

Chapter 7 bankruptcy may be suitable for individuals under certain circumstances. Before deciding whether filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy is right for you, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I judgment proof - in other words, are creditors legally unable to seize my property or income? If so, filing for Chapter 7 may not be necessary. 
  • Will filing Chapter 7 discharge enough of my debt to make it worthwhile? If your primary debts are dischargeable, it could be a beneficial option. However, if a significant portion of your debt is non-dischargeable, consulting with a bankruptcy attorney is crucial to understand the potential consequences. 
  • Will I have to give up property I want to keep? Considering the type and value of your property is vital. While certain assets may be exempt from seizure, you may need to surrender others. In cases where the dischargeable debt outweighs the value of the nonexempt property, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy could lead to a better financial outcome, especially if facing wage garnishment or lawsuits.

Deciding whether to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a significant decision that requires careful consideration of your financial situation and what you’re willing to give up to pay your debts. Certain kinds of property are exempt in almost every state, while others are rarely exempt. The following are items you can typically keep (exempt property) when filing for bankruptcy:

  • Motor vehicles, up to a specific value
  • Reasonably necessary clothing
  • Reasonably needed household furnishings and goods
  • Household appliances
  • Part of the equity in your home
  • Tools of your trade or profession, up to a specific value
  • Jewelry, up to a particular value
  • Personal effects
  • Life insurance (cash or loan value or the proceeds of life insurance), up to a specific value
  • Pensions
  • A portion of unpaid but earned wages
  • Public benefits (welfare, Social Security, unemployment compensation) accumulated in a bank account

Items you must typically give up (nonexempt property) include:

  • Family heirlooms
  • Expensive musical instruments (unless you're a professional musician)
  • A second or vacation home
  • Stamp, coin, and other collections
  • Cash, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, and other investments
  • A second car or truck

About the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Process

Navigating Chapter 7 Bankruptcy involves a series of critical steps that are vital to understand for a smooth process:

  1. Drafting the petition. This initial phase demands meticulous attention to detail. It involves compiling a comprehensive overview of your financial history, including a thorough list of creditors, all sources of income, and an inventory of assets. Transparency is paramount here, as any omission or inaccuracy could undermine the entire case. One of the most immediate benefits of filing for Chapter 7 is the automatic stay provision. This legal action promptly halts all creditors' collection activities, providing immediate relief from the constant barrage of lawsuits, harassing calls, and intimidating letters. The automatic stay offers a vital respite, allowing you to breathe and assess your financial situation without the pressure of creditor demands.
  2. Bankruptcy trustee hearing. Following the filing, you'll attend a meeting with your attorney and the Bankruptcy Trustee. During this session, the Trustee will review the contents of your Petition and delve into your financial circumstances. Adequate preparation is essential here to ensure a smooth process. While this meeting may seem daunting, it lasts only briefly, especially with proper guidance and preparation.
  3. Conclusion of Chapter 7. Upon completing the Trustee meeting, a Debtor Education Course is mandatory. This course will give you the financial management skills to navigate post-bankruptcy successfully. Subsequently, once the court enters the discharge order, dischargeable debts are effectively wiped clean, offering a fresh financial start. However, it's important to note that particular obligations, such as back taxes or student loans, may not be dischargeable. An experienced attorney is crucial in guiding you through this process, helping you identify which debts can be discharged and which will persist beyond bankruptcy.

Understanding these fundamental steps and having the guidance of a knowledgeable legal team can significantly alleviate the complexities of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, paving the way for a more stable financial future. Contact the bankruptcy lawyers at WPH Law for help today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Tips for Rebuilding Credit After Filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Lancaster County

Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy can significantly affect your credit. It typically remains on your credit report for up to ten years from the filing date. It can be challenging to obtain new credit during this time, and if you do, it may come with higher interest rates or less favorable terms. However, the impact lessens if you manage your finances responsibly and rebuild your credit history.

Rebuilding credit after filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lancaster, PA, involves careful planning and responsible financial management. Here are some tips:
  • Understand your credit report. Obtain copies of your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) and review them for accuracy. Dispute any errors promptly.
  • Create a budget. Develop a realistic budget to track your income and expenses. Prioritize essential costs and allocate funds for debt repayment.
  • Start with secured credit cards. Secured credit cards require a cash deposit as collateral, making it easier to obtain them post-bankruptcy. Use them responsibly, making timely payments and keeping balances low.
  • Consider a credit-builder loan. Some credit unions offer credit-builder loans designed to help individuals rebuild credit. These loans typically involve small monthly payments, with the loan amount held in a savings account until fully repaid.
  • Become an authorized user. If you have a trusted friend or family member with good credit, consider becoming an authorized user on one of their accounts. Their positive payment history can help improve your credit score.
  • Pay bills on time. Consistently paying bills on time is crucial for rebuilding credit. Set up automatic payments or reminders to ensure you never miss a due date.
  • Keep credit utilization low. Aim to keep your credit card balances well below their limits. High credit utilization can negatively impact your credit score.
  • Limit new credit applications. While it's essential to establish new credit, avoid applying for multiple accounts in a short period. Each application generates a hard inquiry, which can temporarily lower your score.
  • Monitor your credit score regularly and track your progress. Many credit card companies offer free access to credit scores, or you can use reputable websites like Credit Karma or AnnualCreditReport.com.
Patience and persistence are vital to rebuilding credit. Stay committed to your financial goals, and you'll see improvements in your creditworthiness over time.

Difference Between Chapter 7 and 13 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy are two types of bankruptcy filings available to individuals and businesses in the United States, each with distinct features. Understanding the differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy can help determine which option best suits your financial circumstances.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Also known as "liquidation" bankruptcy, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is typically suitable for individuals or businesses with limited income and substantial unsecured debts. Chapter 7 appoints a bankruptcy trustee to liquidate non-exempt assets to repay creditors. However, many assets are often protected by state or federal law exemptions. Most unsecured debts, such as credit card debt and medical bills, can be discharged (eliminated) through Chapter 7 bankruptcy, giving the debtor a fresh financial start. Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings typically last several months, after which the debtor receives a discharge of eligible debts.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Also known as "reorganization" bankruptcy or "wage earner's plan,” Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is designed for individuals with a regular income who can repay a portion of their debts over time through a court-approved repayment plan. Under Chapter 13, the debtor proposes a repayment plan to the court, outlining how they will repay creditors over three to five years. The plan is based on the debtor's income and expenses, with any disposable income allocated towards debt repayment. Unlike Chapter 7, Chapter 13 allows debtors to keep their property and catch up on missed mortgage or car payments through the repayment plan, making it a valuable option for individuals facing foreclosure or repossession. Chapter 13 can also provide relief for debtors with non-dischargeable debts, such as certain tax debts or overdue child support payments, by allowing them to repay these debts over time while maintaining essential assets. Upon successful completion of the repayment plan, remaining eligible debts may be discharged, providing the debtor with a fresh financial start.

In summary, Chapter 7 bankruptcy involves liquidating assets to discharge eligible debts. In contrast, Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows individuals with regular incomes to repay a portion of their debts through a court-approved repayment plan while retaining their assets. The choice between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 depends on the debtor's financial situation, income, and goals for debt resolution.

Contemplating Filing for Bankruptcy? You Are Not Alone.

You are not alone if you're facing financial difficulties and considering bankruptcy. Weekly Reports by LancasterOnline show people just like you in Lancaster County for bankruptcy every week. Remember, there is no shame in accepting the help you need to effectively wipe out debt and get your finances back on track.

Road with farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

Need Help with Debt? Speak With a Lancaster Bankruptcy Lawyer Today.

At WPH Law, we understand that facing financial challenges can be overwhelming, and navigating the complexities of bankruptcy law can feel daunting. That's why our dedicated team is committed to providing comprehensive assistance tailored to your unique situation. Whether you're considering Chapter 7 bankruptcy to obtain a fresh start or need support with a different legal matter impacting your finances, we're here to offer compassionate guidance every step of the way.

Beyond legal representation, we strive to empower individuals and families by providing them with the resources and support they need to make informed decisions about their financial future. We recognize that every situation is different, so we take the time to listen to your concerns, address your questions, and collaborate with you to devise effective solutions that align with your goals.

By choosing WPH Law, you're not just hiring a legal team—you're gaining a trusted partner dedicated to advocating for your interests and guiding you toward a brighter financial future. Take the first step today by contacting us to schedule a consultation. Let us help you navigate the path ahead with confidence and peace of mind.

If you need a Lancaster Attorney, contact The Law Offices of William P. Harrington, Jr., ESQ and talk for free!

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