Bankruptcy in Washington
Have you ever wished you were Bill Gates? Melinda Gates? If you're like most people, you have made that wish at some point in your life, especially when facing a financial crisis. You are not alone. If this year is anything like the last few years, about 1.5 million people, will file bankruptcy, and will be wishing their last name were "Gates".
But, we have good news for all the non-Gates of the world! Many very successful people have filed bankruptcy and gone on to do great things.
Have you heard of Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Donald Trump, Milton Hershey, and HJ Heinz? Of course, you have; that was a rhetorical question. They all filed bankruptcy and then went on to build successful businesses. You can too.
How Washington Bankruptcy Law Differs from the Laws of Other States
In Washington, you can choose between the federal and state exemptions to protect your assets during the bankruptcy process. In addition, there are non-bankruptcy exemptions that you can take advantage of such as protection of retirement accounts.
Because of these exemptions, most people filing bankruptcy don't lose any of their assets. For example, the Washington exemptions allow you to protect $125,000 of home equity and $3,250 of equity in a car.
Your attorney will help you to determine which set of exemptions to select and whether to file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Your Choices in Filing Bankruptcy in Washington: Chapter 7 or Chapter 13
Sometimes bankruptcy chapters are referred to as "liquidation" (Chapter 7) and "reorganization" (Chapter 13) bankruptcies.
No worries. It definitely sounds scarier than it really is. Remember we what stated above? "Because of these exemptions, most people filing bankruptcy don't lose any of their assets." It's true.
Both Chapters offer protection from creditors, a fresh start, and eliminate debt.
- Chapter 7 automatically discharges unsecured debts and is over in about 6 months.
- Chapter 13 discharges some unsecured debts, include repayment of some renegotiated debts, and is over in 3 to 5 years.
How to Find a Good Bankruptcy Attorney
The best way to find a good bankruptcy attorney is to be able to identify one when you've found him or her. Here are your options:
- Ask for a referral from a trusted loved one, professional, or the local bar association.
- Check out webpages, blogs, articles, and ebooks for attorneys who focus their practice on bankruptcy.
- Chat with attorneys who catch your eye and decide if you'd be comfortable working with them.
How to Prepare to Work with a Bankruptcy Attorney
To best prepare to work with a bankruptcy lawyer, think "full disclosure". It may be painful, but it will be worth it in the end.
Pull together and organize all those bills, expenses, and income statements. All are important and each plays a different part in keeping you protected and getting you through the bankruptcy process.
For example, your expenses may allow you to qualify for a Chapter 7 filing even if your income is high and above your state median income.
Where to Get Help Filing Bankruptcy
A qualified bankruptcy attorney is the best place to get good advice about your individual situation. We write articles like this one to get you started in the right direction, but then it's up to you to hire an attorney who can give you the specific legal advice you need.