Bankruptcy Can Help You Move Forward

The prospect of filing bankruptcy can be scary and overwhelming. It can be difficult to even know how to get started.

The bankruptcy attorneys at Dorothy Bartholomew LLC can walk you through the process and help clear debts so you can get a fresh start.

So why should you consider filing for bankruptcy?

Gavel and papers reading

Filing for Bankruptcy Can Offer an Opportunity to Rebuild Your Life

Start Restoring Your Credit

While declaring bankruptcy does affect your credit score, it does give you the ability to erase debt and start the process of rebuilding your credit more quickly.

Stop Aggressive Collection Action

Filing for bankruptcy puts a stop to harassing phone calls, repossessions, and other aggressive debt collection actions, giving you space to breathe again.

Delay or Prevent Foreclosure

When you file for Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the court issues an order for relief which directs your creditors to stop their collection attempts. This also postpones the foreclosure process, allowing you to keep your house for at least a few more months.

Can bankruptcy really help me get a fresh start?

Filing for bankruptcy can sound stressful but getting started can lift a huge weight from your shoulders.

Thousands of Individuals  File for Bankruptcy Each Year

How do I know if I can file bankruptcy?

Finding the Right Solution for Your Unique Needs

There is no minimum debt requirement for filing bankruptcy, meaning almost anyone can do so. However, there are different requirements depending on the chapter you want to file under. Dorothy Bartholomew and our team commonly handle Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases.

Chapter 7

To determine if you qualify for Chapter 7, the court will look at your average income for the last six months and compare it to the median income for Washington. If you fall below the median, you may choose Chapter 7.

Chapter 13

Also known as a wage earner plan, you can file for Chapter 13 if you have a steady income and you meet the debt requirements set by the U.S. courts.

How do I choose between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13?

Knowing Your Options Can Help You Make an Informed Decision

The main difference between Chapter 7 and 13 is how your debts are handled. Chapter 7 is considered liquidation bankruptcy, while Chapter 13 is called reorganization bankruptcy. 

Chapter 7 Chapter 13
Who Can File? Individuals and businesses Individuals only
Eligibility Income below state median Secure income and debts below set limits
Length of Process Three to six months Three to five years
What Happens to Property? Trustee can sell all nonexempt property to pay debts You can potentially keep all property
Benefits Quickly discharge debts and start over Keep your property and catch up on missed payments
Drawbacks Difficult to avoid foreclosure and repossession Monthly payments for three to five years

I'm not even sure where to start...

Get Relief from Crippling Debts with Help from Our Compassionate Attorneys

At our debt relief agency, we focus on providing personalized legal services in a stress-free atmosphere. Our compassionate bankruptcy attorneys, Dorothy Bartholomew and Jada Wood, understand what you are going through and can help you every step of the way.

Our team has been helping Fife residents rebuild their lives for over 25 years. With over 8,500 past cases and six puppy helpers in our office, you can feel secure in our ability to help you through this difficult and stressful time.

Team at Dorothy Bartholomew PLLC
The team at Dorothy Bartholomew PLLC

Understanding Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is generally the simplest and quickest form of bankruptcy. It is, therefore, the most frequently selected.

Chapter 7 is designed for individuals, corporations, and partnerships in financial difficulty that lack the ability to pay their existing debts. Under chapter 7, a trustee is authorized to:

  • Take possession of all your non­exempt property
  • Liquidate it for cash
  • Use the proceeds to pay creditors

If your case is typical of most consumer cases, however, all your assets will be exempt; and, the trustee will never take physical possession of any of your property.

How to Get Started

The case is begun by filing the official petition, schedules, and a statement of financial affairs. Those forms list all your assets and all your debts, along with some recent financial history. Filing this petition triggers the “automatic stay,” which means your creditors must cease all attempts to collect.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is generally the simplest and quickest form of bankruptcy.

You must attend one meeting, called a “341 Meeting.” At this meeting, the trustee will place you under oath and can ask you questions about assets and liabilities. The trustee will also give creditors the opportunity to question you on these subjects. But creditors rarely appear at these meetings.

What Happens after the 341 Meeting?

After your “341 meeting,” your only responsibility will be to cooperate with the trustee in providing any information he or she requests. Creditors and the trustee have a 60­day period after the 341 meeting in which to challenge your right to a discharge or the dischargeability of a particular debt. Such actions are relatively rare; which means that, in most cases, the court issues a discharge shortly after this 60­day period.

Your discharge means that no creditor can hold you personally liable for any debt you owed on the day you filed bankruptcy. It does not, however, prevent a secured creditor from picking up its collateral if you fall behind on the payments.

Moreover, there are some exceptions to this broad discharge provision such as:

  • Taxes
  • Student loans
  • Court fines
  • Traffic tickets
  • DWI damages
  • Child or spousal support

If these non­-dischargeable debts are significant, you might consider filing under Chapter 13.

What Is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is useful for those who earn more than the state median income, have assets that they want to keep but would have to give up in Chapter 7, or want to get back a repossessed vehicle.

A Chapter 13 can:

  • Save your home from foreclosure
  • Discharge debts that would not otherwise be dischargeable in Chapter 7
  • Can reinstate your driver’s license

There are other reasons to file Chapter 13, but those are the most common.

What Happens during a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

In a Chapter 13 you will make regular payments to creditors over a period of between three and five years. The size of your payments will depend upon the facts of your case. You need not repay all of your debt.

To qualify for Chapter 13 you must have sufficient income to pay all your necessary monthly living expenses and have some money left over to make Chapter 13 payments.

If you cannot afford to repay all creditors completely, you will propose a plan to pay amounts due on debts that are secured by the collateral (such as your home or vehicles) that you want to keep and other debts that would not be discharged in a Chapter 7, such as:

  • Taxes
  • Student loans
  • Back child support
  • Traffic infraction fines

No matter how little you pay to your unsecured creditors, at the end of your plan your debts will be discharged.

Chapter 13 can do many things that Chapter 7 cannot do. But to qualify for Chapter 13 you must have sufficient income to pay all your necessary monthly living expenses and have some money left over to make Chapter 13 payments.

Six Common Mistakes to Avoid Before Filing for Bankruptcy

If you are contemplating filing bankruptcy, don’t torpedo your fresh start by making the following mistakes:

1. Don't Run Up Your Credit Cards

Once you have decided to file bankruptcy, stop using your credit cards. If you charge more than $600.00 in luxury goods or services on any single credit card within the 90 days before you file bankruptcy, the court may order you to pay off those charges after you file.

The Court may also order you to pay back cash advances that total more than $900.00 if you take those advances during the 70 days prior to filing. Don’t jeopardize your “fresh start” by running up your credit cards.

2.  Don't Repay Family Members

If you pay a family member more than $1,000.00 during the year before you file bankruptcy, the bankruptcy trustee will be able to sue that family member for a like amount of money. The more you pay your family member, the more likely it is that the trustee will sue.

The Trustee will, after taking a commission, distribute the money equally amongst your other creditors. Don’t jeopardize your “fresh start” by angering your family members.

3. Don't Withdraw Money from Your Retirement Account

Retirement accounts are generally protected from your creditors’ claims. When you file bankruptcy you can usually keep all the money that you have in your retirement account up to a million dollars.

Once you withdraw the money from your account, however, it is no longer protected from your creditors’ claims. You may have to turn over that money to the trustee who will distribute it equally amongst your unsecured creditors. Don’t jeopardize your “fresh start” by depleting your retirement savings.

4. Don't Transfer Property Out of Your Name

A bankruptcy trustee can undo transfers of real estate or personal property made within four years of the day you file bankruptcy if you transferred the property with the intent to hinder, delay, or defraud your creditors. The trustee can also undo transfers if you did not receive a fair price for the property.

5. Don't Mortgage Your Home to Pay Off Debt

Do not take a loan against your real estate in an effort to reduce your debt without first seeking the advice of a bankruptcy attorney. A bankruptcy attorney will be able to tell you whether you can keep your home when you file bankruptcy.

In most cases, debtors are able to keep their homes. If you can keep your home, you will be better served to get rid of your debt in bankruptcy than to burden yourself with a second mortgage that you may be unable to pay.

6. Don't Hide Anything from Your Attorney

An attorney will give you advice based upon the information you disclose to your attorney. Your attorney is there to protect your interests. If you do not answer your attorney’s questions truthfully, you could lose assets, be denied a bankruptcy discharge, or even go to prison.

"Words cannot even begin to describe the feeling when you enter the Law Offices of Dorothy Bartholomew. You are welcomed with friendly smiles and a warm environment. I am more than happy with my experience of filing bankruptcy, even if it was the last thing that I wanted to do... Would definitely recommend! Thank you again ladies” 
Karla K.

Five Critical Questions to Ask Your Bankruptcy Attorney

When a Tacoma resident finds themselves facing bankruptcy, there are a number of considerations that need to be made and an attorney is not always one of them. However, those who are willing to allow themselves to rely on the assistance of a Tacoma bankruptcy attorney are typically able to receive a far more favorable outcome to their case.

Why is that? It is because these Tacoma residents have taken the time to meet with a bankruptcy attorney in their area that has their best interests at heart. In order to find an attorney that is well equipped to handle our concerns, we will need to ask the following critical questions.

1) Are Any of My Assets Non-Exempt?

Many clients are completely unaware of the fact that their assets are able to remain exempt. While this should not be expected of every asset that we own, the best attorney will know exactly which items fall into which categories. If the attorney cannot recite these lists for you with relative ease, this is their way of letting us know that they do not have the experience or know how to handle a case of this nature.

2) What about Preferential Payment Issues?

When we are in debt and we do not have enough cash on hand to pay back all of our creditors, preferential payment plans are established. They are designed to give us the chance to prioritize our monthly payments and get rid of the most glaring debts first. We will need to find out everything that there is to know about potential issues with this common strategy. We could be leaving ourselves at risk of a lawsuit.

3) Have Any Fraudulent Transfers Taken Place Recently?

In an attempt to avoid bankruptcy, we typically come up with various ways to save money. Let's say that the client has decided to have a yard sale in order to raise money. Defraying bills with ideas like these can be smart but is the person who had the yard sale was actually able to receive fair value for the items that are sold? They could be at risk of having fraudulent transfers on their track record.

4) Do We Qualify for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

The attorney should be taking their time to review the income that we have available to us so that we are able to decide whether we qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Some clients may have too high of an income to qualify. Others may have circumstances that are constantly changing from a financial standpoint. Knowing where we stand in the laws before filing is crucial and this is where a Tacoma bankruptcy attorney comes into play.

5) What about Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

A client that does not qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy typically requires a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. There are a few common reasons why a Chapter 13 will be recommended instead:

  • The client could need to save their vehicle from being repossessed.
  • A home may be on the verge of foreclosure.
  • Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings come with an income cap.

The higher the income the client has, the more likely they are to benefit from a Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead. 

"Dorothy and her staff were excellent! I had the best experience working with them and would highly recommend working with Dorothy. Everyone treated me with dignity and professionalism and the rates were very reasonable... They run a well oiled machine and work awesome together. Go see won't be disappointed!"
Laura B.

Why You Need a Bankruptcy Lawyer

Filing for bankruptcy can be a very intimidating and scary process. You might not know what exactly you are getting involved in, and stigma involved in the process might even make you hesitant to seek help. What you need is an advocate and a professional that can guide you through the process and make sure the process is stress-free and resolved easily.

You need a professional Tacoma bankruptcy lawyer to help you through this process. It is quite understandable that you might be uncertain about hiring a bankruptcy lawyer since you already have a strained financial situation.

A professional bankruptcy lawyer can guide you through the entire process and help you achieve a positive solution.

Nevertheless, in this article, you'll find some vital reasons why you need to hire a Tacoma bankruptcy lawyer to walk you through your case. It is the best action you can take in a situation like this, and it will definitely yield a positive solution.

There are a lot of reasons why you need to consult a bankruptcy lawyer before you begin a bankruptcy process. You need the help of a bankruptcy lawyer to confirm your filing and determine the kind of chapter you should file. A professional bankruptcy lawyer can guide you through the entire process and help you achieve a positive solution. Here are some of the major reasons why you need a bankruptcy lawyer.

Know All of Your Options

A bankruptcy lawyer can help in determining whether or not you should file for bankruptcy. While it might be as if you don’t have any other option when seeking a debt solution, and the only option you have left is filing for bankruptcy, then there is a possibility that you can always find another option that will be a better fit for your situation.

If you are probably not aware of all the options you have, it is very important that you consult a bankruptcy lawyer before you make any decision. Sometimes, the bankruptcy lawyer can show you a better path that helps you to manage your debt more efficiently.

If your debt is no longer manageable and you don’t have any income to clear your debts, a bankruptcy lawyer will advise you and guide you through filing for bankruptcy.

Guidance Choosing the Right Chapter

A bankruptcy lawyer can help you in determining the best type of chapter to file for. Once you and the lawyer have made the decision of filing for bankruptcy, the next step determining the chapter of bankruptcy that will be more beneficial and suitable for your situation.

If you don’t have any income and can’t clear your debt, or if you do not have any viable property such as a car or a house, it is recommended you file for chapter 7 bankruptcy. This chapter of bankruptcy involves absolute liquidation of an asset.

For people with steady income and viable properties, the recommended chapter is Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Depending on your situation, your Tacoma bankruptcy lawyer will inform you of the best chapter you need to file for. They will also guide you through the filing process to help you achieve a positive result.

Schedule a Consultation

If you are struggling with debt and want to learn more about filing for bankruptcy, contact our office online or call (253) 922-2016 today.

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Fife Office

5310 12th St. East
Ste C
Fife, WA 98424

Open Today 8:30am - 5:30pm

Saturdays by appointment.