The steps for working your way through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy are pretty much the same in steps one through eight explained in a previous post. A Chapter 13 filing requires that you propose a plan to repay creditors over a period of 3 to 5 years. The trustee will oversee compliance with that plan. You must have a plan in place within 15 days after you file your petition and your first plan payment is due within 30 days of the petition filing.
The 341 Meeting
The 341 meeting for a Chapter 13 is very similar as in the case of the chapter 7, but the standing trustee will be more concerned with your income and expenses to see if your plan can reasonably be expected to succeed. The trustee and creditors may raise any questions, concerns or objections after submitting your plan to the court.
You and your lawyer may attempt to justify your plan and satisfy the questions. If you cannot satisfy the standing trustee or your creditors, you will have the opportunity to modify your plan and to schedule another hearing to have it approved. Occasionally, problems will be so severe or cannot be negotiated away that the court may consider the problem so serious they could dismiss your Chapter 13 bankruptcy case altogether. This is rare.
One of the places that tend to be stumbling blocks is the valuation that you place on assets that might be different from your creditor’s estimates. One of the issues that usually come up has to do with real property and the liens against it. Your attorney will probably attempt to strip off liens, depending upon the valuations of your real properties.
Lien stripping and lien strip downs are an important component of the Chapter 13 process. Many Chapter 13 debtors have a residence or a rental house that they are attempting to strip off any junior liens, and in the case of a rental house, strip down the value of the lien to the value of the collateral rental house. Lien stripping would be as follows:
The debtor has a homestead residence which they own and reside in. The residence is worth $100,000.00, but it has a first trust deed obligation of $125,000.00 and the second trust deed obligation of $75,000.00. In this instance, the Debtor has the potential for filing a Chapter 13 Plan for 5 years where the second trust deed obligation would be stripped off the debtor’s residence, assuming the debtor completes its 5 year Plan of Reorganization and timely makes the payments.
Again, assuming the debtor’s homesteaded residence is worth $100,000.00, if the Debtor has a first trust deed obligation of $95,000.00, and second trust deed of $75,000.00, in this instance, the Debtor would not be able strip off the second trust deed, since there is potentially $5,000.00 equity that inures to the benefit of the second trust deed holder. Translated, any equity in a residence that the second trust deed holder may possess would prevent that lien from being stripped off by the debtor in a Chapter 13 Plan. In the case of rental houses, not only can the debtor do a lien stripping, but it can also do a lien strip down.
An example of this would be a debtor owns a rental house worth a $100,000.00, with a first trust deed obligation of $50,000.00 and a second trust deed obligation of $150,000.00. In this example, the debtor can propose upon a Chapter 13 Plan where the second trust deed obligation is reduced from $150,000.00 to $50,000.00, which reflects that amount of equity after the first trust deed obligation is subtracted from the valuation of the house that inures to the benefit of the second trust deed obligation. Therefore, after the debtor successfully completes the 5 year plan payment period, the second trust deed holder would be mandated to reduce its lien and would have a $50,000.00 of the lien paid off, and the remaining $100,000.00 would be discharged.
2. An example of lien stripping or lien strip downs are as follows: debtor resides in his homesteaded house that he owns, which house has a first trust deed against it for $100,000 and a second trust deed against it for a $200,000. If the house is worth $90,000, then the debtor is able to strip off the $200,000 second because there is no equity in favor of the second, thereby allowing the debtor in a Chapter 11 or Chapter 13 to strip off the entire amount owing on the second.
If you are using the same debtor in the same homesteaded house that the debtor resides in, the house is worth $125,000, the debtor owes a first trust deed of $100,000 and the second trust deed of the $200,000, then the debtor would not be able to strip off any of the $200,000 second trust deed, because of reported $25,000 equity above and beyond what is owed to the first. An important thing to remember in this situation is that the debtor is residing in the house and claims it as a homestead.
Using the same lien values of $100,000 for the first trust deed and $200,000 for the second trust deed, and a house valued $125,000, if the debtor is not residing in the house and rents the house to third parties, then the debtor could strip down the value of the second lien from $200,000 to $25,000, by reason of the $25,000 equity in the rental above, beyond $100,000 owed on the first lien.
In an extreme situation using a rental house, a debtor could have a house worth $125,000, owe $100,000 on the first, $200,000 on the second and $100,000 on the third. In this factual situation, the debtor could reaffirm the $100,000 first lien, strip down the $200,000 second lien to $25,000, conditioned on paying that $25,000 residence value for a five-year period in equally amortized monthly payments, unless the secured creditor consents otherwise, and to strip off the entire $100,000 third lien obligation.
If your lawyer is unable to negotiate the differences, then the bankruptcy judge will decide.
Repayment to Creditors
The other major difference between Chapter 13 and Chapter 7 cases is that Chapter 13 cases involve repayment to creditors, and the standing trustee may want to keep tabs on how you are doing. Each year you must file a statement with the court regarding your income and expenses for the past year. These reports will continue until the plan is fulfilled. You and your lawyer should set up the process for completing those reports annually. Also, you must file a copy of all tax returns that become due while your bankruptcy case is open. Potentially if your annual income significantly increases, then your plan payments may increase.
Since several creditors may be receiving payments from your Chapter 13 plan, you want to be sure that the money you pay will go toward satisfying those debts. The document called a proof of claim should be filed by the creditors up to 90 days after the 341 meeting. This ensures that they will receive the money that you are paying toward your plan. If the creditor does not file the proof of claim, you should file same on their behalf, with one exception.
That one exception is government agencies. They have up 280 days to file a proof of claim which are called priority debts. These debts would not normally be discharged in Chapter 13, but if they fail to file a proof of claim they could be discharged. Hopefully, their claim may fall through the cracks and you might be lucky indeed.
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