Practice Areas Overview

The Law Offices of Bruce R. Epstein helps consumers and small businesses in Youngstown, Warren, and throughout the Mahoning Valley obtain bankruptcy protection, stop creditor harassment, and find welcome debt relief through the procedures available in a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

What is Chapter 7?

Chapter 7 is the "straight bankruptcy" option, where your debts are discharged by the Bankruptcy Court, and you emerge from bankruptcy with a lighter debt load, or completely debt-free in some cases.

In a Chapter 7, your non-exempt assets are collected and sold, with the proceeds going to pay off your creditors in order of statutory preferences. Once these funds have been distributed, any remaining debts are discharged, meaning that you are no longer obligated to pay them. Thanks to numerous statutory exemptions, many Chapter 7s are "no-asset" bankruptcies, where individuals receive a discharge of their debt without having to sell any of their property.

Not all debt is dischargeable in a Chapter 7. You may still be left with certain tax debt or student loans, or obligated to repay loans secured by property which you are retaining. Also, in order to qualify for a Chapter 7, your income must be below the state median income for your type of household, or you must pass a means test which determines whether you have disposable income at the end of the month. Chapter 7 is usually most attractive to individuals with large amounts of unsecured debt, such as credit cards or medical bills. If Chapter 7 is not right for you, or if you are not eligible to file, you may still find relief under Chapter 13.

What is Chapter 13?

Chapter 13 is frequently referred to as a reorganization or "wage earner's plan." Rather than receiving a discharge of debt after selling non-exempt assets, a Chapter 13 involves creating a plan to pay off current debt over a three or five-year period. Some obligations may be lessened or discharged as part of this process, but the main thrust is a restructuring of the individual's income and expenses, with a portion of disposable income each month going toward the Chapter 13 plan.

One of the most attractive features of a Chapter 13 is that you do not have to sell or lose any property. This includes a house in default and facing foreclosure, or a car or other property at risk of repossession. With Chapter 13, you can catch up any missed payments by rolling them into the plan, allowing you to stay in your home and keep your vehicle and other possessions. Also, a Chapter 13 stays on your credit report for less time than a Chapter 7, although in either case, you will be able to begin rebuilding credit almost immediately after your discharge.

What is Chapter 11?

Although rarely filed by consumers, Chapter 11 may be the bankruptcy term you are most familiar with, because large corporations that file for bankruptcy often file Chapter 11, and these bankruptcies often make the news. For individual consumers, Chapter 11 is usually only filed if you are ineligible for Chapter 7 and also have large amounts of debt which exceed the limits for Chapter 13 eligibility. We can help you determine if Chapter 11 is right for you.

Consumers, Small Businesses, Trust Bankruptcy Attorney Bruce R. Epstein

Businesses may also file under Chapter 7, enabling small business owners to make a fresh start in business without being burdened by unrelenting debt. Chapter 13 is restricted to consumers, although some businesses operating as unincorporated associations or sole proprietorships may be eligible for Chapter 13 protection.

No matter what type of bankruptcy you file, the court will issue an automatic stay, which puts creditors on notice about the bankruptcy and requires them to immediately cease any efforts at debt collection - including home foreclosure proceedings - unless they petition the court for relief from the stay. The automatic stay gives you the breathing room to develop a clear plan for debt relief without the constant stress and pressure from bill collectors.

At the Law Offices of Bruce R. Epstein, we use our decades of experience and expertise in bankruptcy to analyze your situation and help you decide which bankruptcy option is best for you. We will be with you every step of the way, from filing your petition to receiving your discharge, providing high-quality personal service. In northeastern Ohio, contact the Law Offices of Bruce R. Epstein for a free consultation regarding your bankruptcy case.