7 Tips Before Filing Bankruptcy in Pennsylvania
Bankruptcy can erase your debts, stop creditors from contacting you, and give you opportunities to prevent your car from being repossessed or your home from being foreclosed on. By stabilizing your finances, bankruptcy can also give you more freedom to start building good credit for your future. If you live in Pennsylvania, and you have spent months or years struggling to pay off your debts, filing bankruptcy may be the first step to turning your financial life around.
While bankruptcy can have tremendous benefits when executed carefully, the process can be confusing and difficult, especially if it is your first time filing for bankruptcy in Pennsylvania. The bankruptcy tips contained in this guide can help make the process easier and simpler. Bankruptcy is a major decision with long-term effects, so it is crucial to review your options with an experienced bankruptcy attorney before you file.
To learn more about tips on bankruptcy, the bankruptcy process, the benefits of bankruptcy, or other aspects of bankruptcy law in Pennsylvania, call the Philadelphia bankruptcy lawyers of Sadek and Cooper Law Offices, LLC at (215) 545-0008 for a free and confidential consultation. Proudly serving Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, and Delaware Counties, our attorneys handle Chapter 7 cases, Chapter 13 cases, and can also help you explore various alternatives to bankruptcy.
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What to Do Before Filing Bankruptcy in Pennsylvania
You must make sure you meet four basic requirements before you file bankruptcy in Pennsylvania. These requirements include:
- Residency Requirements – To file bankruptcy in Pennsylvania, you must have been a resident for at least 91 out of the 180 days preceding your filing date. Every bankruptcy court has a “jurisdiction,” which is the authority to handle cases in a certain geographical region. If you live in Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Philadelphia, or Northampton Counties, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has jurisdiction over your case. Residents of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties are served by the Philadelphia Division, while residents of Berks, Lehigh, and Northampton Counties are served by the Reading Division.
- Waiting Period Requirements – There is no waiting period for filing bankruptcy, but there are waiting periods for successive bankruptcy discharges. If you have previously received a bankruptcy discharge, there is generally a waiting period of at least two years before you may receive a second discharge, depending on the circumstances.
- Credit Counseling Requirements – Federal bankruptcy laws require all debtors to undergo pre-bankruptcy credit counseling prior to filing bankruptcy in Pennsylvania or other states. Your credit counseling provider must be approved by the Department of Justice. There is a small fee for credit counseling courses.
- Financial Requirements – The type (“chapter”) of bankruptcy you file is partly determined by how much debt you have. For example, to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Pennsylvania, your secured debts must be under $1,184,200 and your unsecured debts must be under $394,725. If you earn too much income, you may be unable to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Pennsylvania.
Don’t worry if you are unsure as to whether you currently meet these requirements. Our knowledgeable attorneys can determine whether you qualify to file bankruptcy in Pennsylvania when you contact us for your free bankruptcy consultation.
7 Bankruptcy Tips for Chapter 7 and 13
In addition to ensuring that you meet the bankruptcy filing requirements above, there are also some steps you can take before you file to facilitate the bankruptcy process. With guidance from an experienced attorney, following the tips below can make your case proceed in a smoother, easier, more cost-efficient fashion.
- Check your credit report. You may request one free annual copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion). It is recommended that you take advantage of this opportunity, not only to check your credit report for errors or unusual activity, but also to make sure you are aware of all the debts you currently owe.
- Identify your debts. Some debts can be “discharged” (eliminated) in bankruptcy, while others cannot. Make sure your debts, or at least the bulk of them, are dischargeable before filing bankruptcy. Dischargeable debts include debts from medical bills, credit card bills, personal loans, business loans, and more.
- Gather your paperwork. Bankruptcy requires you to disclose detailed information about your debts, assets, income, and other financial activity. You will need to present as many bank statements, pay stubs, tax returns, credit reports, and utility bills as possible, so before you file bankruptcy, get an early start on digging up those old financial records.
- Explore all your options. Before you commit to the Pennsylvania bankruptcy process, confirm that bankruptcy is truly the best way to manage your debt. Our bankruptcy alternatives lawyers can help you understand your full range of options, including mortgage modification and debt consolidation.
- Consider how you’ll file. If you are married, you have a few filing options: you can file individually without your spouse filing, you and your spouse can each file separately, or both of you can file together, which is called filing “jointly.” Regardless of whether you are single or married, you also have options for which chapter of bankruptcy you file. Some of these decisions can be changed later, but making the appropriate choices at the beginning of the process will save you time and money.
- Do not try to hide assets. You may have felt tempted to transfer or sell some of your valuable assets prior to declaring bankruptcy. This is a major mistake you absolutely must avoid. Asset concealment is a form of bankruptcy fraud that can result in dismissal of your case – or even criminal prosecution.
- Work with an experienced bankruptcy attorney in Philadelphia. It is legal but financially risky to file bankruptcy without a lawyer. Bankruptcy regulations are extremely complex, and you will need professional guidance to help you navigate the laws successfully.
Philadelphia Bankruptcy Attorneys Offering Free Consultations
At the Pennsylvania bankruptcy law firm of Sadek and Cooper Law Offices, LLC, our attorneys have already helped thousands of people successfully file Chapter 7, file Chapter 13, or pursue effective alternatives to bankruptcy. Let us bring the same commitment, dedication, and focus to your case.
We have years of experience serving communities throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Center City, West Philadelphia, South Philadelphia, North Philadelphia, Morrisville, Quakertown, Bristol, Croydon, Levittown, Willow Grove, Lansdale, King of Prussia, Pottstown, Norristown, Broomall, Yeadon, Ardmore, Drexel Hill, Chester, and more. To learn more about whether bankruptcy is right for you and how our attorneys can help, call Sadek and Cooper at (215) 545-0008 for a free consultation today.