New Orleans Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Lawyers
Caring help for people in New Orleans and Slidell who can’t pay their bills
People in South Louisiana may need to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy if they have too much credit card debt, lose their job, have health emergencies that aren’t compensated by insurance, get into an accident, or have difficulty starting over after a divorce. Sometimes a bad economy can cause people to get behind in their bills. The pandemic was another reason for late payments and defaults.
At the Law Office of James A. Graham, our bankruptcy lawyers are here to help when the debt collectors come calling, send letters, and start legal action. We’re skilled at reviewing your total financial situation including your income, debts, and assets. We’ll explore negotiating alternatives to bankruptcy when possible. If you have mostly unsecured debts (debts that aren’t secured by collateral), we’ll explain how Chapter 7 bankruptcy can give you a fresh start and is a way to discharge your unsecured debts. Most Chapter 7 bankruptcies take about four to six months. Our New Orleans bankruptcy attorneys can explain more.
How can we help?
- When should I consider a Chapter 7 bankruptcy?
- What is an “automatic stay”?
- Am I eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Orleans?
- What are the requirements for filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Orleans?
- What happens after my Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition is filed?
- What income and property can I save?
- Do you have a Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer near me?
When should I consider a Chapter 7 bankruptcy?
Debtors use Chapter 7 when they fall behind on their unsecured debts. Unsecured debts are debts that are not secured by property like a home or a vehicle. Common unsecured debts include credit card bills, medical bills, and utility bills. With Chapter 7, the bankruptcy court will examine your assets. There are many assets you can protect or exempt, and the court will sell any non-exempt assets to pay off debt.
For most people who don’t own a home and don’t have large bank accounts, Chapter 7 is a viable way of discharging your debts. If you own a home or have valuable assets, you will likely need to consider a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you own a car, you may be able to keep your car if a reaffirmation agreement can be reached with any company that has a security interest in your car.
Most people consider contacting our New Orleans Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyers when the creditors or collections companies start to call. You should know that many people file for bankruptcy. In fact, the right to file bankruptcy is in the US Constitution. There’s no reason to feel bad about filing for financial protection through a Chapter 7.
What is an “automatic stay”?
As soon as you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the court will give notice to all the creditors you list on your petition. As of the date of the filing, all collection actions are required to stop. The creditors cannot call you, send letters, file lawsuits, or seek to enforce any judgements.
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the court appoints a trustee who handles all the claims of the creditors. In rare cases, a creditor may seek relief from the bankruptcy court to continue their claim.
Am I eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Orleans?
As of 2005, the bankruptcy court uses a “means test” to determine if you can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you have too much income, you will instead need to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
There are preset yearly limits based on your family size and the New Orleans region. If your income is below those limits, you can file for Chapter 7. The limits are basically the median of what people earn in the New Orleans region for a specific family size.
The median family income for Louisiana as of 2022 is:
- 1 Member Household - $49,719
- 2 Member Household - $61,042
If these numbers are higher, there is essentially a second review of your income which examines some of your expenses. If your net income is below the appropriate limits, after this second review, you can file for Chapter 7. Otherwise, you’ll need to file for Chapter 13.
If you own a home with a mortgage, have other secured debts, or have assets that are worth more than the Chapter 7 exemptions, then you will need to consider a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
What are the requirements for filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Orleans?
Before a debtor can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the debtor must take an approved credit counseling course. Courses are offered online, by telephone, and in-person. They usually don’t take too much time.
The debtor must file a formal petition that includes:
- A detailed summary of the debtor’s income.
- A detailed summary of the debtor’s assets, identifying the assets, the value, and any outstanding loans.
- A list of creditors, including the amount due and any monthly payment requirements.
At the Law Office of James A. Graham, we’ll give you a full checklist of items to complete. We’ll use that information and our discussion with you to prepare the petition. Our New Orleans Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyers will then file the petition in the US Bankruptcy Court.
The Court will then notify the creditors that your Chapter 7 petition has been filed.
What happens after my Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition is filed?
Creditors will be given time to file any claims for amounts that are due.
A trustee will be appointed to handle your bankruptcy and the claims of the creditors. You’ll be given notice that the trustee will hold a creditors’ meeting. We’ll prepare you for the trustee’s creditors' meeting. Normally, just you, your lawyer, and the trustee are present at the creditor’s meeting. The creditors can be present, but most creditors let the trustee speak for them. The trustee will ask you several questions about your finances.
We’ll review the questions that are likely to be asked. It’s not as nerve-wracking as is might sound, and the questions are usually pretty straightforward. The meeting usually takes about 15 minutes.
After the creditor’s meeting, if there are no contested issues (there usually aren’t), the trustee will recommend that the bankruptcy Judge approve your debt discharge. Shortly thereafter the Judge should send us and you a notice that your bankruptcy is approved, and your unsecured debts are discharged.
After your discharge, creditors cannot take any action to collect on the debts that are discharged. The bankruptcy will appear on your credit report for about 10 years. You won’t be able to file again for bankruptcy until a significant number of years have passed.
We’ll explain what steps you can take after to improve your credit.
What income and property can I save?
Some of your income can’t be touched by the bankruptcy court. For example, your Social Security retirement income is not counted as income for the means test. The trustee should not be able to ask you to use any Social Security income to pay any of your debts. We’ll explain what other income might be protected.
Some property, such as a car, can be saved if you enter into a reaffirmation agreement with the creditor to pay the balance of the car loan.
Federal bankruptcy law authorizes specific exemptions. These exemptions permit debtors to save many of their assets including some home equity, cars, furniture, clothing, tools of a trade, jewelry, some cash, and other property. We’ll explain the exact amounts that can be used. Louisiana also has its own set of exemptions.
Do you have a Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer near me?
The Law Office of James A. Graham is located in New Orleans and serves all of South Louisiana.
For clients who are unable to travel, we can schedule phone or video conferences when needed.
Contact our experienced New Orleans Chapter 7 lawyers today
We understand that changes in life happen that make it hard or impossible to pay your bills. At the Law Office of James A. Graham, we’ll review all your options, including filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Most debtors are able to get a fresh start. We’ll answer your questions and guide you through the Chapter 7 process. You can stop those harassing creditor calls now. Call us or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation with our experienced bankruptcy lawyers in New Orleans.