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Madison Office

Madison Wisconsin Bankruptcy Attorney - Madison Lawyers Office

10 E. Doty St., Suite 800
Madison, WI 53703    map
Phone: 608.441.5199

Janesville Office

Janesville Bankruptcy Lawyers Office

20 E. Milwaukee, Suite 302
Janesville, WI 53545    map
Phone: 608.758.4080

 

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Proud to Serve Wisconsin!

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Firm clients live or work in Dane, Rock, Green, Sauk, Columbia, Richland, Iowa, Lafayette, Grant, Jefferson, Walworth, Dodge, Marquette, Adams or any adjacent county

Frequently Asked Questions

Answers from an Experienced Madison Wisconsin Bankruptcy Attorney

What is Chapter 7 bankruptcy?
What is Chapter 13 bankruptcy?
Will I lose everything if I file for bankruptcy?
Won't bankruptcy ruin my credit rating?
Which debts are erased?
Can I file bankruptcy more than once?
What were the recent changes in the federal bankruptcy law?
Do I have to go to credit counseling?
Can creditors sue me if I file for bankruptcy?
How much does it cost to hire a bankruptcy lawyer?
What happens when I meet with the bankruptcy attorney?
What happens if I decide I want to file bankruptcy?
What happens after my bankruptcy case is filed?
What happens after the meeting of creditors?
Will I have to do anything else besides go to the meeting of creditors?
What do I need to know about the credit counseling and personal financial management classes?
How do I know when everything is done?
Will the bankruptcy automatically "clear up" my credit report?

 

What is Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

In a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, a person's debts, those that are dischargeable that is, are completely "discharged" or eliminated. Individuals are generally able to keep their houses, cars and all other property as part of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

What is Chapter 13 bankruptcy?

In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a person works out a plan to repay a portion of his or her debts over period of 3 to 5 years. The most common circumstances for a Chapter 13 are where a person makes too much money and therefore does not qualify to file under Chapter 7 or where a person is behind on home mortgage or car payments. A Chapter 13 oftentimes allows the person to keep the house or car and get caught up on the payments over the 3 to 5 year period.

Will I lose everything if I file for bankruptcy?

Many people are concerned about losing their homes, cars or other property as part of a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Under the bankruptcy code, certain property is considered "exempt" or protected as part of the bankruptcy. The average person finds that most of his or her property is "exempt" or protected. Therefore, many if not most, individuals who file bankruptcy do not lose any of their property. Also, in a Chapter 7, if a person has a home or car that is subject to a loan, the person can generally "reaffirm" that debt and keep the property. Essentially, the person continues to pay for and therefore keep the house and car. Of course, exceptions exist so it is essential to speak with a bankruptcy attorney before concluding that a specific item is "exempt" or not.

Won't bankruptcy ruin my credit rating?

If you are considering bankruptcy, your credit rating has probably been damaged already due to late or missed payments. Many people find that after a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, they are able to obtain car loans, mortgages and credit cards relatively soon. A credit counselor will advise you on ways to achieve a good credit rating after bankruptcy. Also see our additional resources.

Which debts are erased?

The following are the most common debts that are "discharged" (erased) in bankruptcy: credit card bills, medical bills, utility bills, judgments, and monies owed for a house or car that has been returned to the lender. Child support, domestic support obligations, certain taxes and student loans are examples of debts that are not dischargeable. There are others. You should speak with a bankruptcy attorney to determine if a specific debt is dischargeable or not.

Can I file bankruptcy more than once?

Generally, an individual who has obtained a Chapter 7 discharge must wait 8 years before filing another Chapter 7. However, a person who has obtained a Chapter 7 discharge may be able to proceed under Chapter 13 and vice versa. There are specific rules that can best be explained by an attorney who has been made fully aware of your unique situation.

What were the recent changes in the federal bankruptcy law?

There were many, many changes. One significant change involves the use of a "means test" to determine if a person qualifies to file a Chapter 7 case. Essentially, if a person makes too much money to file a Chapter 7, that person then must file a Chapter 13 instead. What amounts to "too much money?" The standards are based on government figures. The figures are different for households of one person, two persons, three persons and so on. Another change involves the requirement of credit counseling before a person can file, and the completion of a personal financial management course before the person can obtain a discharge. These are just examples of the many changes.

Do I have to go to credit counseling?

The new laws require basic credit counseling before filing for bankruptcy. This takes about 20 minutes and can be done by phone or Internet. Most clients find it helpful to have a budget and a plan for staying out of financial trouble. A bankruptcy attorney can refer you to a credit counselingprogram that is convenient, easy and flexible.

Can creditors sue me if I file for bankruptcy?

Generally no. The filing of a bankruptcy petition results in what is called an 'automatic stay." This "stay" prevents creditors from taking action against you. Unless your creditors obtain a "relief from stay," they should not be able to sue you or engage in other collection efforts.

How much does it cost to hire a bankruptcy lawyer?

Fees depend on the type of bankruptcy that best serves your personal situation, whether that is a Chapter 7 or 13. The fees charged are fair and competitive. Mr. Zaleski can discuss fees when you call for your free initial consultation. Also, in a Chapter 13 case, it is oftentimes possible to pay the fees as part of the plan. This allows you to pay the fees over a 36 to 60 month period.

What happens when I meet with the bankruptcy attorney?

Attorney Zaleski will personally meet with you to discuss your situation and explain the bankruptcy process. The meeting usually takes about 30-45 minutes. There is no charge for this free consultation.

What documents do I need to bring?

Attorney Zaleski will need the following items to analyze your situation:

  • The names, addresses, account numbers, and account balances for every debt that you have including cars, houses, credit cards, medicals bills, etc. If you wish to simply bring in the statements, that's fine too
  • Tax returns for the past two years;
  • A recent pay stub showing a typical pay check for you and your spouse, if married;
  • A copy of the title to any vehicle that has a lien on it;
  • Click here to get started now!

What happens if I decide I want to file bankruptcy?

Attorney Zaleski will collect all the documentation that you bring in, review it, and then go over a worksheet with you that collects even more information about your income, expenses, assets and debts.

Attorney Zaleski then drafts the bankruptcy paperwork which essentially consists of a document that ends up being about 30-40 pages long. Attorney Zaleski will also refer you to one of the approved credit counseling services. You will have to complete the credit counseling course before Attorney Zaleski can file your case. Usually clients take care of the credit counseling in the time frame that Attorney Zaleski prepares their paperwork. This usually takes a week or so. Once the paperwork is completed, you come back into the office to review and sign off on it. Attorney Zaleski then files the paperwork with the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Wisconsin which is in Madison.

What happens after my bankruptcy case is filed?

Once Attorney Zaleski files your case for you, he receives a "case number" for you. This is the number that you will want to give to all your creditors when they call. Having this case number proves that you have filed your case and that you now have the protection of the bankruptcy laws.

Within about 30-40 days after filing, there will be what is called a "meeting of creditors." At this meeting you and Attorney Zaleski meet with the Trustee from the bankruptcy court to answer some very basic questions concerning your bankruptcy paperwork. Your creditors have the right to appear and ask questions but they rarely do so. The meeting usually lasts around 10 minutes. Attorney Zaleski makes sure you are properly prepared and know what types of questions that will be asked. Most people walk out of the meeting thinking, "wow, that was easy" or "all that worrying for nothing."

What happens after the meeting of creditors?

The next step after the meeting is to simply wait for the bankruptcy court to issue what is called the "discharge order." This is the official document from the bankruptcy court indicating that the bankruptcy has been successfully completed and that the debts have been discharged. This usually takes a couple of months.

Will I have to do anything else besides go to the meeting of creditors?

Generally speaking, in a simple bankruptcy proceeding, you will only need to attend the meeting of creditors and do your credit counseling classes. In most bankruptcy cases, the client never "goes to court."

What do I need to know about the credit counseling and personal financial management classes?

Under the bankruptcy code, each person who files bankruptcy must first participate in a credit counseling class offered by an approved credit counseling service. Attorney Zaleski can give you the list of these services and make a referral for you. The credit counseling requirement is really quite simple; many providers offer the class over the internet or the telephone in addition to in person. The class generally takes less than one hour. In addition to this "credit counseling" class, before the Court will issue the discharge order, you must complete a second, similar class on personal financial management. This second class is typically taken from the credit counseling service. Like the first class, it is generally quite simple and takes in the ballpark of one hour or so. It can be done in person, on line, or sometimes over the telephone, depending on the service providers.

How do I know when everything is done?

Attorney Zaleski will send you a letter informing you that the process has been completed and reminding you to save all of your paperwork for future reference.

Will the bankruptcy automatically "clear up" my credit report?

No, the bankruptcy will not magically clean up your credit report. Oftentimes, clients who have filed bankruptcy discover things appearing their credit reports that were "part of the bankruptcy." This is common. The credit reporting agencies are then contacted and requested to make the proper changes.