Bankruptcy Attorneys in Ohio
Ohio Bankruptcy Lawyer
The term “bankruptcy” may sound frightening to some people, but it’s often the first step toward renewed financial health. When you and your family can no longer afford your debts, bankruptcy may be a favorable option.
Bankruptcy allows you to lessen the crushing weight of debt. Bankruptcy can give you and your family a fresh start.
Bankruptcy is often considered a drastic step to get your finances under control. But the process for filing for bankruptcy is complex. That’s why you should have an experienced and compassionate attorney on your side:
- An attorney can help you explore whether bankruptcy is your best option.
- An attorney can ensure that your bankruptcy petition proceeds as smoothly as possible.
Contact Amourgis & Associates, Attorneys at Law, today to speak to one of our Ohio bankruptcy lawyers about your rights and options. We offer a free initial consultation. You can learn more about how our firm can help you resolve your debts and financial difficulties.
Types of Bankruptcies in Ohio
Individuals generally have two types of bankruptcy that they can choose from: Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Chapter 7 is known as a “liquidation” bankruptcy. In this bankruptcy process, the debtor’s non-exempt property is sold off. The proceeds are distributed to the debtor’s creditors under a plan that is set up by a bankruptcy trustee and approved by the court.
A debtor seeking Chapter 7 bankruptcy is usually insolvent. Creditors typically receive less than the full amount of the debt they’re owed. At the conclusion of the bankruptcy, all remaining dischargeable debts are discharged by the bankruptcy court. The debtor can keep certain exempt assets. Those assets include a primary residence, household goods, a vehicle (up to a certain value) and retirement accounts.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is known as a “reorganization.” A debtor in Chapter 13 bankruptcy prepares a repayment plan that must be approved by the court. Under that plan, the debtor proposes to use any disposable income and assets to pay off all or a portion of debt over a three to five-year period.
The payments are made to the bankruptcy trustee. The trustee then distributes those funds to creditors. After the debtor complies with the repayment plan, the court discharges any remaining dischargeable debts at the end of the plan period.
How to File Bankruptcy in Ohio
Filing for bankruptcy in Ohio involves multiple steps. That is one reason to have an experienced lawyer on your side.
Document Your Income
Before you file anything in court, you must collect the financial records that document your income, your assets and your debts. These documents may include:
- Your pay stubs for at least the last two months
- Income statements from businesses you operate
- Your state and federal income tax returns for at least the last two years.
Document Your Assets
You’ll also need to produce documents for your assets. Those documents may include:
- Bank statements
- Brokerage account statements
- The deed to your home
- Titles to vehicles, boats or airplanes
- Any financial instruments you own, such as annuities or life insurance policies.
Document Your Creditors
Finally, you’ll need to put together a list of all your creditors and how much you owe each creditor. These debts may include:
- Car loans
- Student loans
- Personal loans
- Unpaid medical bills
- Credit card debt
Credit Counseling Course
After you have a full picture of your financial situation, Ohio bankruptcy law requires you to complete a mandatory credit counseling course. The course, which is taken prior to filing for bankruptcy, helps you avoid more serious financial problems in the future.
After you complete credit counseling, you can file for bankruptcy using the petition forms provided by the bankruptcy court. Each local bankruptcy court in Ohio has its own required forms in addition to the standard petition forms. Make sure you use the correct forms for the court you are using. Filing a bankruptcy petition also carries a filing fee. You must pay that fee unless your income is less than 150 percent of the federal poverty line.
Once your petition is filed with the court, your case will be assigned to a bankruptcy trustee who will oversee your case. The trustee may request additional financial documents and information from you. Ohio bankruptcy law also requires you to take a second credit and bankruptcy counseling course after your petition is filed but before your bankruptcy hearing.
Your bankruptcy case will include at least one hearing, also known as a meeting of creditors. At this hearing, the trustee will confirm the information in your petition. The trustee may identify errors in the petition and ask you to submit an amended petition to correct those errors. Your creditors may attend the hearing and object to having their debts discharged by your bankruptcy.
Discharge of Debt
Once any objections to your bankruptcy are satisfied, if you filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your assets will be liquidated, and the proceeds used to pay your creditors. Ultimately, the bankruptcy court will issue an order discharging your remaining debt.
If you filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the court will approve a repayment plan. If you successfully complete the plan, the court will discharge any remaining debt at its conclusion.
Debts That Can Be Eliminated
Many people are unclear about the types of debt that can be eliminated in bankruptcy. The types of debt that can be discharged in bankruptcy include:
- Most lawsuits & garnishments
- Credit card debts
- Medical bills
- Utility bills
- Loans (including “payday” loans)
- Driver’s license suspensions and reinstatement fees
- Mortgages and mortgage loan deficiencies
- Tax debts
- Judgments and liens
Certain types of debt, such as student loan debt or child support arrears, cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy Myths and Facts
Many people are unaware that bankruptcy is a right given to every U.S. resident through the United States Constitution. If you are considering bankruptcy, it is essential that you have the knowledge that helps you make informed decisions about your financial future.
- Myth: A bankruptcy filing will ruin my credit for good.
Fact: After filing bankruptcy, you will wipe out most if not all of your debts. That may make you a better candidate to obtain credit from future lenders and creditors. They will know you can make the payments on your new debts.
- Myth: Bankruptcy law changed a few years ago, and I am no longer eligible for that
Fact: Almost all of the provisions that were available through bankruptcy before 2005 survive in today’s Bankruptcy Code.
- Myth: You can’t file bankruptcy if you have a job.
Fact: Bankruptcy relief is available to the employed AND unemployed. In fact, if you’re employed, bankruptcy can often stop wage garnishments.
- Myth: You’ll never be able to purchase a car if you file for bankruptcy.
Fact: Many clients are able to finance and purchase vehicles immediately after filing. Many dealerships now look for people who filed for bankruptcy since they know those people can afford to pay them.
- Myth: I’ll lose all my property in bankruptcy.
Fact: Most of your possessions are protected from bankruptcy liquidation. That includes your home, your car and your household goods. Many bankruptcy cases are “no asset” cases. That means the debtor keeps everything.
- Myth: Credit cards can’t be discharged in bankruptcy.
Fact: Almost all unsecured debts such as credit cards, personal loans and medical bills can be discharged in bankruptcy.
- Myth: My credit won’t improve for 8-10 years.
Fact: People who file bankruptcy often see a dramatic increase in their credit score. The reason: they no longer have any debt. It is more troubling to creditors when they see lawsuits or debts in collections on your report. Those creditors know you must repay those debts before you can pay a new creditor.
Famous Bankruptcy Filers
What do Mark Twain, Willie Nelson and Henry Ford have in common? When they faced financial hardship due to medical issues, unemployment or a bad economy, they all used bankruptcy law to protect themselves from overzealous creditors. Bankruptcy is as old as our country, and it can be used by any of us for financial protection.
Political and business leaders, including Abraham Lincoln and Walt Disney, have filed for protection under the Bankruptcy Code. Other famous bankruptcy filers include:
- Benedict Arnold
- Kim Bassinger
- George Clinton
- Zsa Zsa Gabor
- Marvin Gaye
- Ulysses S. Grant
- MC Hammer
- Milton Snavely Hershey
- Larry King
- Jerry Lee Lewis
- Abraham Lincoln
- Meat Loaf
- Willie Nelson
- Wayne Newton
- Tom Petty
- Burt Reynolds
- Lawrence Taylor
- Mike Tyson
- Henry John Heinz
- Henry Ford
Frequently Asked Questions
The primary difference between a Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy involves how a debtor’s debts are paid off during the bankruptcy process.
In Chapter 7, the debtor’s estate is largely liquidated. The money from the liquidation is used to pay off as much of the debt as is owed to creditors.
In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the debtor usually does not liquidate large portions of the estate. Instead, the debtor comes up with a plan to pay off all or a substantial portion of debts within a three to five-year period. Ultimately, filers for Chapter 13 bankruptcy get to keep more of their property. Creditors recover more money on the debts they’re owed.
Under Ohio law, you may exempt the following property from bankruptcy:
- Up to $145,425 in home equity.
- Up to $4,000 of value in a motor vehicle.
- Up to $500 of cash on hand or on deposit.
- Household items worth less than $625, up to an aggregate total of goods worth
- Up to $1,700 in jewelry.
- Up to $2,550 in property used for your job or business.
- Up to $25,175 in personal injury lawsuit compensation.
- Up to 75 percent of your wages.
- The full amount of your life insurance policy.
- The full value of your burial plot.
- The full amount of your workers’ compensation benefits.
- The full amount of unemployment benefits.
- The full value of your retirement plans or accounts.
- Up to $1,325 of value in any property you choose. The amount can be added on to other exemptions or used to protect property that is not otherwise exempt.
The Ohio bankruptcy means test determines your eligibility to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy when your annual household income exceeds the median income for a household of similar size in Ohio. The means test allows you to prove to the court that your disposable income cannot satisfy a repayment plan under Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Under the means test, you add up all your sources of income, including wages, business
income, interest and dividends, pension, retirement benefits, alimony, child support, workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits. You then subtract allowable expenses from your average monthly income, such as housing costs, transportation costs, food, utilities, health insurance, and out-of-pocket medical costs.
If your monthly income for the next 60 months will not exceed $7,475, you pass the means test. If it exceeds $12,475, you fail the means test. If your monthly income falls between these amounts, you’ll need to calculate whether you have sufficient income to pay at least 25 percent of your unsecured debts over the next five years.
Although you’re not required to hire an attorney to file for bankruptcy, it is not recommended that you proceed to bankruptcy without legal assistance. A bankruptcy attorney can help you explore alternatives to bankruptcy that may have a less drastic impact on your personal finances.
If bankruptcy proves to be your best option, an attorney can make sure that your petition and court filings are filled out correctly and filed on time. Making a mistake in your bankruptcy filings can lead to the dismissal of your case, the loss of important rights and bankruptcy protections, or the imposition of fines and fees.
How an Ohio Bankruptcy Attorney Can Help You
If you and your family are dealing with debts that you can no longer afford, you may be considering the prospect of bankruptcy. An Ohio bankruptcy attorney from Amourgis & Associates, Attorneys at Law, can help you by:
- Exploring alternatives to bankruptcy, such as credit and personal financial counseling, loan modification and debt consolidation.
- Helping you determine what types of bankruptcy you qualify for and which type may best suit your financial circumstances.
- Assisting you with gathering the financial documents and information you will need to prepare your bankruptcy petitions.
- Connecting you to the required bankruptcy and credit counseling courses you must take in conjunction with your bankruptcy petition.
- Ensuring that your bankruptcy petition and other court filings are correctly prepared and properly filed with the court.
- Representing you and advocating for your interests before the bankruptcy trustee and the court and representing you at court hearings, including responding to any objections from creditors.
If you are considering a bankruptcy in Ohio, schedule a free, confidential, no obligation consultation today with an Ohio bankruptcy attorney from Amourgis & Associates, Attorneys at Law. We have six convenient office locations to serve you in Akron, Cincinnati, Independence (Cleveland), Columbus, Beavercreek, and Canfield. Let us help you understand your rights. We can help you move on with your life without the weight of unnecessary debt.