Bankruptcy in Oregon
Millions of people around the world have glimpsed the beauty of the Oregon through the blockbuster movie, Twilight. All Americans would likely benefit from visiting Oregon to absorb the Columbia River Gorge, Vista House, Viewpoint Inn, Ecola State Park, Willamette Falls, and St. Helen's as shown in the movies. Hollywood has brought an influx of money and tourism to Oregon, but times are still tough.
Just as many of the Twilight stars went from virtually unknowns to overnight sensations unexpectedly, financially tough times can seem to appear out of nowhere. Perhaps, you or a loved one has suffered medical crisis, business failure, unemployment, divorce, or some other tragedy that sparked financial distress. You are not alone. About 1.5 million bankruptcy filings were made last year.
In this article, we'll show you how Oregon bankruptcy law, like it's beauty, is unique; discuss whether you should file bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13; guide you in selecting and working with a bankruptcy lawyer.
How Oregon Bankruptcy Law is Unique
Federal law outlines the legal procedures of bankruptcy; so, it's the same in Oregon and every other state. On the other hand, both federal and state law property dictate exemptions. This means that the amount of property you can protect during bankruptcy may be different from state to state.
In Oregon, bankruptcy filers do not have access to federal bankruptcy exemptions, though federal law does protect retirement accounts for all Americans.
- Oregon bankruptcy exemptions offer homestead protection in the amount of $40,000 and $50,000 for joint owners.
- $3,000/$6,000 of equity in a motor vehicle for individuals and married couples filing jointly, respectively, is protected.
- $1,800/$3,600 for clothing, jewelry, and personal items.
- $3,000/$6,000 for household items.
- $7,500/$15,000 bank deposits.
- $7,500/$15,000 529 Plan savings.
There are additional protections that protect insurances, wages, guns, burial plots, alimony, child support, etc. Your attorney will help you make the most of them.
Your Choices in Filing Bankruptcy in Oregon: Chapter 7 or Chapter 13
The numbers, "7" and "13" refer to chapters (i.e. sections) of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. When you file for bankruptcy protection, there is a choice between filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Both end creditor harassment and provide a fresh start.
- If your income falls below the Oregon median income or you meet the "means test" in some other way, you're qualified to file under Chapter 7, which discharges many unsecured debts and gets it all over with in about 6 months.
- The median income for a single person is $42,877 and it increases significantly as your family size increases.
- Chapter 13 is the most often selected alternative to Chapter 7 and there is no qualification test. While some debts are discharged, others are reorganized so you can more easily pay debts due (over a 3 to 5 year plan).
How to Select a Bankruptcy Attorney
Here's your "I love my bankruptcy attorney" checklist:
- Keep in mind, it is likely in your best interest to work with a lawyer who has experience, focuses on bankruptcy law, and is licensed in Oregon.
- If you're comfortable asking loved ones or professional advisors for referrals to attorneys who they've worked with successfully, that's the best way to go.
- If not, ask for a referral from your local bar association or do an Internet search for "Find an Oregon Bankruptcy Attorney".
- Then, have a conversation with the prospective attorneys; ask about policies, fees, and what you can expect (and anything else that's on your mind).
- Select the attorney with whom you'd most like to work.
How to Prepare to Work with a Bankruptcy Lawyer
Like a doctor needs to know what hurts or your mechanic needs to know what's happening with your car, your bankruptcy attorney will only be able to successfully guide you through your bankruptcy proceeding if he or she has all of your financial information.
Collect bank statements, investment account statements, retirement account statements, monthly bills, credit card statements, personal loan documentation, car loan contracts, mortgage contracts, medical bills, all other debts, a list of assets and their approximate values, and debts repaid.