A chapter 7 bankruptcy case is often referred to as a “liquidation case” and is available to individuals, married couples, and businesses. Filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy does not usually mean that you will lose everything that you own. In most cases you get to keep all of your property. You are allowed to keep property that is not worth more than the limits set by the State of Georgia (this property is considered “exempt,” and is out of reach of your creditors). If you have property that is worth more than those limits, a “trustee” will take possession of that property and sell it in order to make a payment to your creditors. Once your case is complete, the bankruptcy court will grant you a “discharge” of your remaining debts, meaning those debts are wiped out!
Not everyone is eligible to file a chapter 7 case. In some cases, if you have too much income (based on a “means test”) you may have to file a chapter 13 case and pay your debts over time through a “chapter 13 plan.” If you are eligible, there are no ongoing payments in a chapter 7 case. You can also choose (subject to court approval) to keep making payments on existing debts (such as car loans) in order to avoid having to give up the property. This is called “reaffirmation.” Reaffirming a debt is not always the best option, especially if you would have difficulty making the payments.
Chapter 7 cases usually have higher upfront costs than chapter 13 cases because most attorneys require their fees to be paid up front, rather than over time as in almost all chapter 13 cases.