Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Pennsylvania: 3 Things You Need to Know

You are considering filing bankruptcy in Pennsylvania, specifically Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Although this decision can feel overwhelming, I am here to break it down for you in 3 main parts.
Information in this article does not constitute legal advice, it is for informational purposes only, and may not constitute the most up-to-date information. Readers should contact their attorney for advice on any particular legal matter.
  1. You need first to determine if you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and find out how much it'll cost you to file.
  2. Next, exploring alternative options to Chapter 7 bankruptcy is essential to ensure you make the most informed decision.
  3. Lastly, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the specifics of Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Pennsylvania. Knowing the specific exemptions Pennsylvania offers, their income limits, etc.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy happens to be the most common type of bankruptcy in the United States. It wouldn't surprise me if most of the 11,829 bankruptcies filed in Pennsylvania in the year ending June 30th, 2021, were Chapter 7 bankruptcies.

If you're more of a visual person, you can check out the Pennsylvania Chapter 7 Calculator below to get an estimate of your qualifications and cost:

1) How Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Works in Pennsylvania

The two most top-of-mind questions we often hear when discussing debt relief options are;

  1. How quickly can I take care of my debt?
  2. How much will it cost to get out of my debt?

How Fast Do You Get Relief in A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Pennsylvania

Your bankruptcy discharge could take just about 3-4 months from filing. When discussing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge, we discuss wiping out your debts and getting a fresh start. In Pennsylvania, it could be rapid and easy if you have a no-asset case, meaning you don't own a home or any other assets that exceed the state's bankruptcy exemptions.

It is always a good idea to consult with a bankruptcy attorney to navigate the ins and outs of the process, as they can legally advise and inform you of Pennsylvania's specific laws. Everyone's situation looks completely different; bankruptcy is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

How Much Does It Cost To File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Pennsylvania

Chapter 7 bankruptcy can Cost between $1-2.5k+ nationwide. Prices will vary depending on where you file and your area in Pennsylvania. You might qualify for a filing fee waiver if you cannot afford the fees attached to bankruptcy.

So, How Do I Qualify For Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Pennsylvania?

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a tool in place for people who are looking for a financial fresh start. To see if you could qualify, you must pass the Pennsylvania bankruptcy means test. To see Pennsylvania's state income limits, refer to Pennsylvania's Chapter 7 Bankruptcy income limit. If you qualify for Chapter 7, your unsecured debt could be discharged within a few months of filing.

Unsecured debts are those that aren't tied to any collateral. We're talking about medical bills, personal loans, old income tax debt, utility bills, credit card debts, and subjective judgments. It's a way to wipe out those unsecured debts and start fresh. Just remember, you may have to pass that means test first.

What about secured debts in Chapter 7?

If you want to eliminate secured debts, such as car loans and mortgages, Chapter 7 might be the way to go. However, there is a condition that you should be aware of: You might have to surrender the asset. This may be necessary if you either have more value towards it than what Pennsylvania's limits allow, are not in good standing with the payment, or can no longer afford it. After turning in the asset, there is a chance you may be able to discharge what is still owed.

IMPORTANT: Chapter 7 Qualification via Pennsylvania Means Test

The Bankruptcy Means Test is crucial when it comes to seeking bankruptcy relief. It calculates your average monthly and yearly income. This test also compares your income to the median income of other households in the state of Pennsylvania.

You may qualify if your average annual income or median income falls below the Pennsylvania median income. To gauge your eligibility, you can use the free Pennsylvania Means Test Calculator below.

Help! My Income Exceeded The Chapter 7 Means Test Allowable in Pennsylvania

If you're making more money than the average person in your state, you might have to dig deeper into the means test. It's not a simple pass-or-fail situation. The means test is divided into two parts. So even if you "fail" the first part, there's still a chance to "pass" the second part and qualify.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Pennsylvania Income Limits

Pennsylvania's means test figures are adjusted periodically based on IRS and Census Bureau data. For those curious, here's a table that breaks down the Pennsylvania median income based on the number of people in your household.

Will I lose my belongings if I file Chapter 7 bankruptcy? Understand Pennsylvania bankruptcy exemptions.

Let's talk about bankruptcy exemptions and how they can protect your property in a bankruptcy case. These exemptions are available to protect the equity in your assets. But here's the thing: if these exemptions don't cover your property, it might be sold in a Chapter 7 liquidation case. An attorney should be able to let you know if this is likely before proceeding with the filing.

The homestead exemption is a crucial one to consider. There may be different exemptions depending on if you are under or over the age of 65 and if you are married or single. For Pennsylvania, it looks like, regardless, the exemption is noted as "none." It states, "Property held as tenancy by the entirety may be exempt against debts owed by only one spouse." This means that if you and your spouse jointly own property, it may be protected from debts owed by one of you.

The federal bankruptcy exemptions are detailed in 11 U.S. Code §522. The National Consumer Law Center also keeps a handy list of federal bankruptcy exemptions on its website. Good news for Pennsylvanians: you can use these federal exemptions! One last thing: always make sure you're using the most up-to-date information when analyzing bankruptcy exemptions.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Pennsylvania Pros and Cons

There are pros and cons to consider:

Pros

  1. Overall, Chapter 7 may be the most affordable option to get out of debt.
  2. I am being discharged from your debt in just 3-4 months.
  3. Potentially keep your home and belongings.
  4. Stop debt collection lawsuits.
  5. We are eliminating deficiencies.
  6. It can hit the refresh button on your finances and start with a clean slate.

Cons

  1. You may not qualify if your income exceeds the state exemption or if you have had a recent filing.
  2. You are potentially having your asset(s) liquidated.
  3. An initial hit to your credit score stays on your credit report for ten years. This can make it harder to secure loans or credit in the future.
  4. You may have non-dischargeable debt, such as student loans or tax obligations, which this process cannot eliminate.
  5. Preventing foreclosure can be an uphill battle with Chapter 7 bankruptcy. While it may provide temporary relief, it doesn't guarantee a long-term solution to save your home.

2) Alternatives to Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Pennsylvania

Maybe you don't qualify for Chapter 7, have a lot of assets, or don't want to go down that road. Whatever the reason, we've got you covered! Let's dive into some alternatives to Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Pennsylvania.

a) Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Pennsylvania

For a Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Pennsylvania, you can restructure your debts into a more manageable monthly plan. It can also help when it comes to stopping foreclosures, repossessions, and wage garnishments in Pennsylvania. Plus, it allows you to catch up on past-due mortgage and car payments over three or five years. Pennsylvania even lets you reduce unpaid child support and alimony through Chapter 13.

Some debtors can potentially lower their car loan payments and even wipe out second mortgages under a Chapter 13 plan. Of course, there are specific requirements to meet, but it may be worth exploring. It's a chance to restructure your debts, protect your assets, and get back on track.

Can you afford Chapter 13 bankruptcy?

Let's say you don't meet the Pennsylvania Chapter 7 bankruptcy requirements. You're probably wondering if you should consider a Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead. I know it might sound strange to ask if you can afford bankruptcy. However, it's a crucial question to consider.

b) Pennsylvania Debt Relief/Debt Settlement

If you're considering debt settlement, there are some things you should consider. First, it can have a medium to high impact on your credit. For debt settlement, you fall behind on your accounts for about 3-4 months to negotiate with the creditors on what you owe them. It's crucial to avoid any Debt Settlement companies that raise red flags.

c) Pennsylvania Debt Management

Debt management focuses on getting you lower interest rates. These programs usually last around 3 to 5 years. But here's the thing: debt management can be a bit pricier than debt settlement. Plus, not all creditors, like personal loan lenders, are willing to work with debt management companies. Oh, and don't forget, there might be some credit score implications too. If you've got a bunch of high-interest credit card debt, then debt management might be the way to go. Imagine going down from a 22-30% interest rate to a 10% or lower interest rate.

d) Pennsylvania Debt Payoff Planning

Debt payoff planning is about finding where to reduce your expenses and put some extra cash toward your debts. The goal is to avoid drowning in interest and get out of debt as fast as possible.

You are introducing the Savvy debt payoff planner. It's like having a financial guru in your pocket, guiding you towards debt freedom. This nifty app helps you prioritize your debts to tackle them head-on, utilizing snowball and avalanche methods to pay off your debt quicker.

3) Specific Pennsylvania Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Information:

One major perk of Chapter 7 bankruptcy is that it may provide immediate relief from creditors. Once you file, an "automatic stay" goes into effect, which means that creditors are legally prohibited from taking any action to collect their debts. Another advantage is that Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows you to discharge most, if not all, of your unsecured debts. This includes credit card bills, medical expenses, and personal loans.

But hold on, there are a few challenges you need to be aware of beforehand. First off, not everyone is eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You'll have to pass a means test to determine if your income falls below a certain threshold. If you make too much money, you may be required to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead. Another thing to keep in mind is that filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy will have a significant impact on your credit score. So, if you plan to apply for a loan or a mortgage soon, this could pose a challenge.

Now that you know more about filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Pennsylvania, you can make a more informed decision. It's essential to weigh the benefits and challenges carefully and consult a qualified bankruptcy attorney who can guide you.

Pennsylvania Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Credit Counseling and Debtor Education Courses

You need to complete a couple of courses to receive a bankruptcy discharge. It's like going to school but for bankruptcy. The first course is a credit counseling course you must take before filing your bankruptcy case. This course helps you better understand your financial situation and explore possible bankruptcy alternatives. It's like getting some expert advice to help you make the best decision for your situation.

Once you've filed your bankruptcy case, it's time for the second debtor education course. This course is designed to educate you on financial management and help you make better financial decisions in the future. It's like giving you the tools and knowledge to rebuild your economic life after bankruptcy.

Now, you might be wondering where to find these courses. Don't worry; the United States Trustee's office covers you. They have approved specific companies in each state to offer these bankruptcy courses. For our friends in Pennsylvania, you can find a list of approved companies on the U.S. Trustee's website.

Pennsylvania Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Court Locations

Discuss 341 creditors' meetings and how they've changed because of the pandemic. These meetings, a crucial part of the bankruptcy process, have mostly shifted to phone or Zoom calls. If you're in Pennsylvania, there might still be some in-person meetings that you need to attend. So, I've got you covered with a list of court locations in Pennsylvania where you can file for bankruptcy based on the bankruptcy district.

Eastern District

  1. James A. Byrne U.S. Courthouse
    601 Market Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19106
  2. Edward N. Cahn U.S. Courthouse
    504 W. Hamilton Street
    Allentown, PA 18101
  3. The Gateway Building
    201 Penn Street
    Reading, PA 19601
  4. Holmes Building
    101 Larry Holmes Drive
    Easton, PA 18042

Middle

  1. William J. Nealon Federal Bldg. & U.S. Courthouse
    235 N. Washington Avenue
    Scranton, PA 18503
  2. Sylvia H. Rambo
    United States Courthouse
    1501 North 6th Street
    Harrisburg, PA 17102
  3. Herman T. Schneebeli Federal Bldg. & U.S. Courthouse
    240 West Third Street
    Suite 218
    Williamsport, PA 17701
  4. Max Rosenn U.S. Courthouse
    197 South Main Street
    Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701

Western

  1. U.S. Courthouse
    17 South Park Row
    Erie, PA 16501
  2. Joseph F. Weis, Jr.
    U.S. Courthouse
    700 Grant Street
    Pittsburgh, PA 15219
  3. U.S. Courthouse
    208 Penn Traffic Building
    319 Washington Street
    Johnstown, PA 15901

Now, most folks opt to work with a bankruptcy attorney for both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13, but did you know there's also the option to file without one? If intrigued, look at this resource on filing bankruptcy without an attorney.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustees Pennsylvania

If you're looking for a list of Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustees in Pennsylvania, you've come to the right place. I've all the details for you, broken down by bankruptcy district. You can also find the complete list right here.

Now, let's dive into the details. Here are the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustees in Pennsylvania, organized by bankruptcy district:

DistrictNamePhone
EasternTerry P. Dershaw(484) 897-0341
EasternLynn E. Feldman(610) 530-9285
EasternBonnie B. Finkel(856) 216-1278
EasternRobert H. Holber(610) 565-5463
EasternGary F. Seitz(215) 238-0011
EasternChristine C. Shubert(609) 938-4191
MiddleSteven M. Carr(717) 843-8968
MiddleMark J. Conway(570) 343-5350
MiddleLawrence G. Frank(717) 234-7455
MiddleLeon P. Haller(717) 234-4178
MiddleJohn J. Martin(570) 253-6899
MiddleWilliam G. Schwab(610) 377-5200
MiddleRobert P. Sheils, Jr.(570) 587-2600
MiddleMarkian R. Slobodian(717) 232-5180
MiddleLawrence V. Young(717) 848-4900
WesternEric E. Bononi(724) 832-2499
WesternNatalie A. Cardiello(412) 276-4043
WesternRosemary C. Crawford(724) 443-4757
WesternJohn C. Melaragno(814) 459-5557
WesternTamera Ochs Rothschild(814) 827-2760
WesternRobert B. Shearer(814) 580-0232
WesternJeffrey J. Sikirica(724) 625-2566
WesternRobert H. Slone(724) 834-2990
WesternJoseph B. Spero(814) 836-1011
WesternLisa M. Swope(814) 472-7151
WesternJames R. Walsh(814) 536-0735
WesternPamela J. Wilson(412) 341-4323
WesternCharles O. Zebley, Jr.(724) 439-9200

Review the local bankruptcy rules in Pennsylvania before filing your bankruptcy case. You know, to be on the safe side. Some of these local rules might differ from the Federal Bankruptcy Rules. Better to stay informed.

Conclusion

So, you've learned quite a bit about Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Pennsylvania. If you're curious to see if you qualify and estimate the cost, you can try out the Chapter 7 bankruptcy means test calculator below. It'll give you a quick rundown of your eligibility and expenses.

Most folks prefer to work with a bankruptcy attorney when dealing with Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. But did you know there's also an option to file without one? If you're curious about how to go about filing bankruptcy without an attorney, you should check out this resource for more information.

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