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Are you over your head in debt, perhaps from having been out of work or from being sick and unable to work? Are things looking up for you financially, but you still find that you're struggling to pay off those old bills or get current on your mortgage? A Chapter 13 bankruptcy might just be what you need to get your finances--and your life--back on track.

What is Chapter 13 bankruptcy?

Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows debtors to reorganize their finances and repay their creditors over a period of up to 60 months. With this type of bankruptcy, very little debt (if any) is discharged. You create a budget and a repayment plan and make payments to the court trustee. For a fee that's included in the plan, the trustee will disperse your funds to the creditors.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy offers some distinct advantages. Like other forms of bankruptcy, filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy provides an automatic stay of any collection activity, including foreclosure sales and repossessions. It also allows you to keep all of your property and possessions, even things that aren't protected under Chapter 7 bankruptcy like boats, RVs and rental property.

Filing fees and lawyer fees associated with filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy are not cheap. They are much more expensive than the fees associated with a Chapter 7 case. However, these fees can be rolled into the repayment plan so you won't have to come up with a huge fee all at once.

Why you need a Chapter 13 bankruptcy lawyer

The filing procedures for Chapter 13 bankruptcy are complicated. Do the paperwork incorrectly and your case could be thrown out of court. At the very least, you'll have to start over and re-file. A skilled chapter 13 bankruptcy lawyer can help you avoid the filing pitfalls. He or she can also let you know what to expect at your creditors' meeting and let you know upfront whether your case is realistic or now.

Your bankruptcy lawyer will also be available as an advocate along the 60 months that you are in bankruptcy. If you have an unforeseen expense and have to be late on your trustee payment, your lawyer can help to present your situation to the trustee and the court.

Debtors are generally prohibited from acquiring any additional debt while they are in bankruptcy. This means you can't buy property, finance a car or buy a computer or furniture on time. However, a lot can happen in 60 months. Your bankruptcy lawyer can help to convince the court to make an exception, if necessary. For example, if you need a new car to be able to get to work or you need a new computer for your home business, your lawyer can present your situation to the court.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy isn't right for every debtor. However, for individuals and families who have suffered a loss of income, but are now on the rebound, this type of bankruptcy can help you get a new start.

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