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Personal Bankruptcy Attorneys in Seattle, WA

Are you struggling to make ends meet because of the level of debt you have accrued? Whether you made understandable mistakes or experienced substantial misfortune, you may be considering bankruptcy as a way of attaining financial freedom.

At Henry & DeGraaff, we have spent more than three decades assisting individuals and families through personal bankruptcy. Congress created the Bankruptcy Code to allow honest, hardworking debtors to obtain new financial beginnings, and we have the experience and knowledge needed to help you take full advantage of these state and federal laws.

Ready to learn more? Call our personal bankruptcy attorneys in Seattle, WA at (206) 483-0505 or contact us online today.

What Is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

In Chapter 7 bankruptcy (also known as liquid or straight bankruptcy), the trustee accounts for any exemptions you are entitled to before determining which assets, if any, should be auctioned off to pay your creditors.

Exemptions are assets (or certain levels of equity) you can elect to protect from the liquidation process. Whether you can claim a certain exemption depends on applicable state and federal laws.

Exemption law allow you to keep certain assets deemed necessary to lead a normal life, such as:

  • Clothing
  • Household goods and furnishings
  • Motor vehicles
  • Retirement funds
  • And other similar items

In some cases, exemptions can even allow you to avoid foreclosure on your home. If all your assets are exempt, your creditors will receive nothing from you. The court will then discharge any unsecured debt that was not covered by the liquidation process.

If debt is discharged, you are no longer liable, and your creditors are no longer permitted to pursue collection actions, such as:

  • Calls
  • Lawsuits
  • Wage garnishments
  • And more

The entire Chapter 7 process may take up to 6 months.

Qualifying for Chapter 7

To qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you generally must make less than your state’s median income. This is called the means test. Chapter 7 is typically best for those with a low income and minimal assets.

What Is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

Unlike Chapter 7, Chapter 13 involves debt reorganization. Rather than undergo asset liquidation, you will propose a plan to fully or partially repay your creditors over time, subject to the approval of the bankruptcy trustee.

While Chapter 7 bankruptcies take place immediately, bankruptcies under Chapter 13 last from 3-5 years, during which you will make regular payments to the trustee using all your disposable income. Individuals typically choose Chapter 13 for a few reasons.

They may not qualify for Chapter 7 because they don’t pass the means test. Alternatively, they may qualify for Chapter 7, but they don’t want to risk losing high-value assets. Many people use Chapter 13, in fact, to save their homes from foreclosure. Ultimately, Chapter 13 is best for individuals with a steady income and more assets than they could protect through exemption claims.

What Is Chapter 11 Bankruptcy?

Like Chapter 13, Chapter 11 bankruptcy involves reorganization rather than liquidation. Although Chapter 11 is primarily used by businesses, some high-income or high-asset individuals may file Chapter 11 because they don’t qualify for Chapter 13 and don’t want to lose property through Chapter 7.

Through Chapter 11, you are allowed to develop your own plan for reorganization and partial or full repayment of creditors, subject to the approval of the trustee. Chapter 11 plans usually involve a portion of earnings going directly to creditors for a period of time after the filing, as determined by the details of the plan.

Need help deciding which type of bankruptcy is right for you? Contact us at (206) 483-0505 today to schedule a consultation with a bankruptcy attorney in Seattle, WA.

How Does Personal Bankruptcy Work in Washington?

No matter which chapter you choose, bankruptcy provides powerful legal and financial tools you can use to take control of your finances and keep creditors at bay.

The following is a general overview of the bankruptcy process, and our attorneys at Henry & DeGraaff can help you understand how this process may change depending on your unique situation.

Preparing to File for Bankruptcy

Before filing your bankruptcy petition, you will need to complete Consumer Credit Counseling. As of October 17, 2005, all consumers must complete and obtain a certificate from an approved credit counselor before filing for bankruptcy.

We can help you find an approved credit counselor and provide any additional information you will need to prepare.

Like most legal proceedings, bankruptcy comes with its share of paperwork, including:

  • The bankruptcy petition
  • Schedules
  • A Statement of Financial Affairs
  • The bankruptcy plan

Our office helps you compile and review all documents so you can feel comfortable signing them under penalty of perjury. Once we file your case, you will be assigned a case number, and this commences your case.

The Henry & DeGraaff Difference

  • Experienced, Creative & Sophisticated

    With years of experience between our attorneys, our goal is to deliver a higher level of service, only taking cases where we can add value.

  • Personalized Attention

    We understand that no two cases are ever the same. We provide tailored solutions for every client and strategize in order to provide optimal results.

  • Comprehensive Service

    As a law firm that focuses on creative and collaborative solutions, we always seek opportunities that go even beyond the law to help provide the results you deserve.

  • Groundbreaking Results

    Our ability to tackle complex issues has allowed us to win appellate decisions and push the law in our clients' favor. We pursue compensation arrangements that reward success.

The Automatic Stay

One of bankruptcy’s most powerful benefits comes right when you file.

An automatic stay is an injunction that takes effect immediately after filing a bankruptcy case, effectively freezing all debt collection attempts by creditors, including:

  • Repossessions
  • Garnishments
  • Foreclosure actions
  • And more

As long as the stay is in effect, creditors cannot continue a lawsuit or even call you on the phone to demand payment.

The Meeting of Creditors

This mandatory meeting is often colloquially called a 341 meeting. You and your attorney will meet with the bankruptcy trustee, an independent person who is automatically appointed when the case is filed.

The trustee works for the United States Trustee Program (an administrative branch of the U.S. Department of Justice) and is charged with administering a bankruptcy estate, accounting for your non-exempt property, and safeguarding the interests of all parties according to the law.

This is generally a routine hearing where you will provide evidence of your identification, such as your Social Security card, and testify that you reviewed, signed, and understand the documents you filed with the court.

There may be additional questions about your asset valuations, non-exempt assets, plan of reorganization, or any property you sold within the two years before the bankruptcy filing.

Our Seattle consumer bankruptcy lawyers are here to help. Give our firm a call at (206) 483-0505 or contact us online today.

Objection Periods

After the 341 meeting, the trustee will have 30 days to file an objection to any exemptions you have claimed. This is rare, and we will work with you to minimize the chances of this happening. Additionally, your creditors will have until 60 days after the date of your meeting with the trustee to file a motion objecting to the discharge of your debt.

Here are a few examples of potential grounds for objection:

  • Lying on a credit application
  • Committing willful or malicious injury to a person or their property
  • Committing other types of fraud (e.g. incurring a debt you did not intend to repay or did not have a reasonable ability to pay at the time)

Usually, no one files an objection, and you can proceed with your case. If a creditor does file an objection, a trial is scheduled, and you must decide whether to offer a defense, negotiate a settlement, or choose not to contest the complaint. We can help you decide which is the best option to take.

Financial Management Course

One of the new requirements imposed in 2005 is that bankruptcy filers must complete a financial management course before receiving a discharge.

The course is offered through a number of institutions. It takes about 2 hours to complete, typically costs around $25–50, and can be done over the phone, on the internet, or in person.

We can help you get the course scheduled and ensure the court receives your certificate of completion within the period of time required.

  • It is my belief that we came out way ahead of the game but we owe the success to Jacob.

    “Jacob very clearly explained the course of action we should take and held our hand through the very scary process of the bankruptcy nightmare.”

    - Kim & Mike
  • 5 stars are not enough.

    “She knows the ins and outs of all types of bankruptcy, listens to your personal situation, and lays out the options for you.”

    - Joe
  • Jacob successfully took over our Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.

    “His professional attitude and calm and efficient demeanor guided us through what could have been a much more agonizing process. He and his staff worked out a settlement which was actually better than my most optimistic expectation.”

    - Jerry
  • Jacob was always focused on our needs and desires concerning our real estate.

    “He is not an income-driven attorney, but an attorney that gives great value and caring as his greatest assets. He works hard to get his clients the best result possible!”

    - Previous Client
  • If you need their services don't hesitate to give them a call.

    “They offer a no-nonsense/no-hustle approach to financial counseling and bankruptcy. I witnessed a dear friend go through the process, and Henry & DeGraaff was great to them.”

    - Reese H.

Discharging Debt

If you complete all requirements and no one objects to your discharge, you will receive a Notice of Discharge in the mail, signifying that you are clear of all dischargeable debts accounted for in the bankruptcy process. Depending on the nature of your case, the bankruptcy trustee may continue to work with your estate for some time after you receive your notice.

Some debts (e.g. child support, alimony, certain taxes, and some student loans) are not dischargeable. We can help you figure out what non-dischargeable debts you have and develop a plan for resolving them.

Additionally, bankruptcy does not discharge any debts owed to creditors who did not receive notice of your filing. If such a creditor later learns of your case, they may be able to reopen the case and challenge your discharge. Working with our team at Henry & DeGraaff can help you avoid these types of issues.

Let Us Help You With Your Chapter 11 Case

Call (206) 483-0505

If your situation is particularly urgent (e.g. you are facing foreclosure), preparation is the most powerful tool you can use to expedite the bankruptcy process. The sooner you can gather your paperwork and organize your financial information, the faster we can help you avoid the most drastic consequences of overwhelming debt.

Founded in 2012 by a team with 30+ years of combined experience, Henry & DeGraaff knows the ins and outs of the Bankruptcy Code. More importantly, we know exactly how to help you take full advantage of this debt-relief solution. If you are looking for a way out of unmanageable debt, let us help you file bankruptcy as efficiently and effectively as possible.

119 First Avenue South,
Suite 500
Seattle, WA 98104
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Contact Us 206-483-0505

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