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Frequently Asked Questions
What are exemptions?
In accordance with 11 U.S.C. § 522(b) of the Bankruptcy Code, certain states, including Georgia, allow an individual debtor to exempt real, personal, and intangible property from the property of the debtor’s estate. Exempt assets are protected by state law from liquidation and distribution to creditors. The exemptions allowed under Georgia state law are listed in section 44-13-100 of the Georgia Code. Under bankruptcy law, debtors are entitled to list the assets set forth in section 44-13-100 of the Georgia Code as exempt.
Deciding which assets are exempt and if and how you can protect these assets from your creditors can be one of the more important and difficult aspects of your bankruptcy case.
It is important to note that although you may be discharged from further personal responsibility for certain debt, a creditor will still have a lien or security interest in your secured property after you receive your discharge. Under 11 U.S.C. § 522(f) of the Bankruptcy Code, however, you are allowed to file a motion with the Court for an order avoiding certain kinds of liens or security interests in various property.
What is an automatic stay?
The filing of a voluntary, joint, or involuntary petition under any chapter of the Bankruptcy Code automatically operates as a stay against the commencement or continuation of most judicial, administrative or other proceedings against the debtor or property of the debtor’s estate. The purpose of the stay is to give the Chapter 11 or Chapter 13 debtor “breathing time” for rehabilitation, to give the Chapter 7 Trustee the protection necessary for administering the assets of the estate, and to relieve the Chapter 7 debtor from the pressure of creditor collection efforts. During this time, creditors should not be contacting the debtor about debts or taking action to recover property from the debtor in which they claim a security interest. If contacted by a creditor, the debtor may advise them that they have filed bankruptcy and provide them with the case number.
There are also some new limitations on the automatic stay if the debtor has had a previous case or cases dismissed under certain circumstances within the preceding twelve months. If a second case under these circumstances is filed, the stay as to some property will only be good for 30 days. If a third case is filed, then the automatic stay does not apply at all.
Can Court staff give legal advice?
No. A bankruptcy case is a legal proceeding affecting the rights of debtors, creditors and other parties in interest. Judges’ staff and Clerk’s Office staff cannot engage in the practice of law or provide legal advice. Court staff will not offer any opinion as to the probable disposition of any pending matter before the Court and can only answer procedural questions.
What is the Bankruptcy Code?
Bankruptcy Code is the informal name for Title 11 of the United States Code (11 U.S.C. §§ 101-1330), the federal bankruptcy law. Legislation in Title 11 contains both substantive and procedural law for bankruptcy liquidation and rehabilitation cases. A copy of the Bankruptcy Code is available for review at the Clerk’s Office public counters, at any public library, or at the Court’s website. It can also be ordered from a publisher such as West or Collier’s or may be purchased at most bookstores.
What are the Bankruptcy Rules?
The Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure and accompanying Official Forms govern procedure in cases filed under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The Bankruptcy Rules are available for review at the Clerk’s Office public intake counters, at any public library, or at the Court’s website. They can also be ordered from a publisher such as West or Collier’s or may be purchased at most bookstores.
What are the Local Rules?
The Local Rules are a set of additional procedural rules developed by the judges of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia. They supplement the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure and are construed to be consistent with those Rules. The Local Rules are available for review on the Court’s website, see Local Rules & General Orders.
What is a bankruptcy trustee?
In all Chapter 7, 12, 13 and in some Chapter 11 cases, a case trustee is assigned. In Chapter 7 cases they are called “Panel Trustees.” In Chapter 12 and 13 cases they are called “Standing Trustees.” The Trustee’s job is to administer the bankruptcy estate, to make sure creditors receive as much money as possible, and to preside over the first meeting of creditors. The Trustee either collects and sells non-exempt estate property and distributes the sale proceeds to creditors as in a Chapter 7 case, or collects payments from the debtor and pays out money on a repayment plan, as in Chapter 13 cases. In some Chapter 11 cases, the debtor-in-possession is replaced by a Chapter 11 Trustee who administers the estate. The Trustee is not your attorney.
What is the role of the U.S. Trustee?
The United States Trustee (“U.S. Trustee”) is an officer of the U.S. Justice Department responsible for supervising the administration of bankruptcy cases, estates, and case trustees, monitoring plans and disclosure statements, monitoring Chapter 11 creditors’ committees, monitoring fee applications, and performing other statutory duties. The U.S. Trustee is not a case trustee and does not administer any debtor's estate. For more information, visit www.justice.gov/ust/
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