Get Your Bankruptcy Questions Answered

Below are some of the questions our clients frequently ask about bankruptcy:

What are dischargeable debts?

The term "dischargeable debts" means the debts which are no longer your responsibility. This determination is made officially by the Illinois court system in a bankruptcy court order.

Does bankruptcy automatically relieve me of all my debts?

Our short answer is, "No, but don't let that stop you." When handled well, bankruptcy helps relieve people or companies of some debts and restructure others so that the person or company can once again function in society and participate in the economy. Certain debts, such as secured loans, child support obligations, student loans and a few others, cannot be discharged automatically. They can often be restructured, however, to make them less of a month-to-month burden.

There are often many debts, however, that can be discharged — such as unsecured credit card debts, medical bills and others. Once these are discharged and remaining debts are restructured, the hope is that a person who has filed bankruptcy will be able to breathe a moment and then move forward with their financial situation being much more manageable.

What's the difference between secured and unsecured credit?

Unsecured credit debt is debt based purely on your promise to pay it back, usually with interest, as well as your past credit history. This includes most credit cards, medical bills, some retail store loans, payday loans, etc.

Secured credit is based on loans in which you offer property as collateral — your home, your car, bonds, very expensive jewelry, etc. So if you do not pay the debt, the creditor has the right to take that piece of property in exchange. By filing bankruptcy, however, you are usually given a specified amount of time under a restructuring agreement to pay that back before the creditor can take the property.

Do I really need to hire an attorney to file bankruptcy?

In the state of Illinois, you can file bankruptcy and perform many other legal transactions without an attorney. The real question is whether you know every step of the lengthy bankruptcy process well enough to avoid losing assets that you really prefer to hold onto. Nearly every day, we protect our clients' assets to the full extent allowed by today's laws throughout the complex bankruptcy process, helping them get the debt relief they not only need, but genuinely deserve. So, yes, we seriously recommend you let an attorney help you with your bankruptcy, and we sincerely hope you choose The Gunderson Law Firm, LLC.

I've seen commercials by "debt negotiators" who promise to settle my debts cheaply. Isn't that better than bankruptcy?

We hope that at least some of those businesses who advertise that they can consolidate your debts or get you debt settlements that save you a lot of money can be trusted. Sadly, a lot of people desperately seeking an honest way out of debt have found themselves paying big fees to debt negotiation firms without getting the protections from creditors that bankruptcy provides — so they end up in bankruptcy later anyway because these firms misled them. We charge fees, too — all attorneys do — but our actions have the force of law to protect you, and we are held to a higher standard by the state of Illinois than TV credit negotiators are.

Won't bankruptcy destroy my credit and make it impossible to buy a car or a house?

Actually, a well-managed bankruptcy filing can be a fresh financial start, and is often seen that way by credit decision-makers. It's certainly seen as more responsible than simply defaulting on debt obligations, and can clear the way for you to pay certain debts off more effectively once the burden of other escalating debts has been lifted. We will discuss various kinds of bankruptcy with you — Chapter 7, Chapter 13 and others — to assure it is the best path for you, then follow through for and with you, so you never make costly missteps.

At The Gunderson Law Firm, LLC, we will take all steps possible to protect you and your assets immediately and throughout the bankruptcy process, but we can also counsel you on realistic ways to avoid such serious debt issues in the future. Whether you are a business owner, a wage earner, retired or otherwise, we can address your specific situation with strategic plans to help put severe indebtedness behind you so you can enjoy life again.

How do I know if I qualify for bankruptcy? And if I do, what kind of bankruptcy?

The first measure in qualifying for personal bankruptcy is your Household Median Income. That is, if your household income falls below the median income for Illinois households — whether you are a one-person household, a family of six, or something else — you almost always qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. We could list the current Illinois median incomes and start discussing allowable expenses, secured vs. unsecured creditors, the mathematical formulas used for means testing and more, but the best way to know if you qualify is to call us. Yes, that sounds like a sales pitch, but we can get you actual, straightforward answers to your own situation, and your first consultation with us costs you nothing. No need to search for all the variables and hope you don't miss any key detail — just call and we will tell you.

You should also know that today's Bankruptcy Code requires that before noncorporate debtors — regular individuals — can file bankruptcy, they must take a credit counseling course through an approved agency, as well as a financial management course after you have filed. This is to (1) help assure that you understand the bankruptcy process you will be going through, and (2) help get you and your finances on a more sound footing for the move forward.

For Help With Your Debt Decisions

Call The Gunderson Law Firm, LLC at 312-600-5000, or send us an email. Free initial consultation with a Chicago bankruptcy lawyer offered. Spanish-speaking attorneys available.

We are a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code.