Commonly-Used Bankruptcy Terms
Bankruptcy law, like most other areas of the law, uses many terms that may be unfamiliar to the average citizen. Below is a list of some of the more common terms used in bankruptcy, taken from the US Courts’ bankruptcy website. A more complete list, as well as other useful information, can be found at: http://www.uscourts.gov/FederalCourts/Bankruptcy/BankruptcyBasics.aspx
Of course, at Owens / Pinzelik, P.C., our bankruptcy attorneys understand these terms and can explain them to you in a way that makes sense. Call 503.224.3100 now or contact us online to schedule your FREE no obligation consultation and find out if our bankruptcy attorneys can help you and your family.
adversary proceeding – A lawsuit arising in or related to a bankruptcy case that is commenced by filing a complaint with the court. A nonexclusive list of adversary proceedings is set forth in Fed. R. Bankr. P. 7001.
automatic stay – An injunction that automatically stops lawsuits, foreclosures, garnishments, and all collection activity against the debtor the moment a bankruptcy petition is filed.
bankruptcy estate – All legal or equitable interests of the debtor in property at the time of the bankruptcy filing. (The estate includes all property in which the debtor has an interest, even if it is owned or held by another person.)
bankruptcy petition – The document filed by the debtor (in a voluntary case) or by creditors (in an involuntary case) by which opens the bankruptcy case. (There are official forms for bankruptcy petitions.)
Chapter 13 plan – A debtor’s detailed description of how the debtor proposes to pay creditors’ claims over a fixed period of time.
claim – A creditor’s assertion of a right to payment from the debtor or the debtor’s property.
confirmation – Bankruptcy judges approval of a plan of reorganization or liquidation in chapter 11, or payment plan in chapter 12 or 13.
consumer debtor – A debtor whose debts are primarily consumer debts.
consumer debts – Debts incurred for personal, as opposed to business, needs.
creditor – One to whom the debtor owes money or who claims to be owed money by the debtor.
credit counseling – Generally refers to two events in individual bankruptcy cases: (1) the “individual or group briefing” from a nonprofit budget and credit counseling agency that individual debtors must attend prior to filing under any chapter of the Bankruptcy Code; and (2) the “instructional course in personal financial management” in chapters 7 and 13 that an individual debtor must complete before a discharge is entered. There are exceptions to both requirements for certain categories of debtors, exigent circumstances, or if the U.S. trustee or bankruptcy administrator have determined that there are insufficient approved credit counseling agencies available to provide the necessary counseling.
discharge – A release of a debtor from personal liability for certain dischargeable debts set forth in the Bankruptcy Code. (A discharge releases a debtor from personal liability for certain debts known as dischargeable debts and prevents the creditors owed those debts from taking any action against the debtor to collect the debts. The discharge also prohibits creditors from communicating with the debtor regarding the debt, including telephone calls, letters, and personal contact.)
dischargeable debt – A debt for which the Bankruptcy Code allows the debtor’s personal liability to be eliminated.
equity – The value of a debtor’s interest in property that remains after liens and other creditors’ interests are considered. (Example: If a house valued at $100,000 is subject to a $80,000 mortgage, there is $20,000 of equity.)
joint petition – One bankruptcy petition filed by a husband and wife together.
means test – Section 707(b)(2) of the Bankruptcy Code applies a “means test” to determine whether an individual debtor’s chapter 7 filing is presumed to be an abuse of the Bankruptcy Code requiring dismissal or conversion of the case (generally to chapter 13). Abuse is presumed if the debtor’s aggregate current monthly income (see definition above) over 5 years, net of certain statutorily allowed expenses is more than (i) $10,950, or (ii) 25% of the debtor’s nonpriority unsecured debt, as long as that amount is at least $6,575. The debtor may rebut a presumption of abuse only by a showing of special circumstances that justify additional expenses or adjustments of current monthly income.
motion to lift the automatic stay – A request by a creditor to allow the creditor to take action against the debtor or the debtor’s property that would otherwise be prohibited by the automatic stay.
no-asset case – A chapter 7 case where there are no assets available to satisfy any portion of the creditors’ unsecured claims.
nondischargeable debt – A debt that cannot be eliminated in bankruptcy. Examples include a home mortgage, debts for alimony or child support, certain taxes, debts for most government funded or guaranteed educational loans or benefit overpayments, debts arising from death or personal injury caused by driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, and debts for restitution or a criminal fine included in a sentence on the debtor’s conviction of a crime. Some debts, such as debts for money or property obtained by false pretenses and debts for fraud or defalcation while acting in a fiduciary capacity may be declared nondischargeable only if a creditor timely files and prevails in a nondischargeability action.
preference or preferential debt payment – A debt payment made to a creditor in the 90-day period before a debtor files bankruptcy (or within one year if the creditor was an insider) that gives the creditor more than the creditor would receive in the debtor’s chapter 7 case.
reaffirmation agreement – An agreement by a chapter 7 debtor to continue paying a dischargeable debt (such as an auto loan) after the bankruptcy, usually for the purpose of keeping collateral (i.e. the car) that would otherwise be subject to repossession.
secured creditor – A creditor holding a claim against the debtor who has the right to take and hold or sell certain property of the debtor in satisfaction of some or all of the claim.
secured debt – Debt backed by a mortgage, pledge of collateral, or other lien; debt for which the creditor has the right to pursue specific pledged property upon default. Examples include home mortgages, auto loans and tax liens.
statement of financial affairs – A series of questions the debtor must answer in writing concerning sources of income, transfers of property, lawsuits by creditors, etc. (There is an official form a debtor must use.)
statement of intention – A declaration made by a chapter 7 debtor concerning plans for dealing with consumer debts that are secured by property of the estate.
trustee – The representative of the bankruptcy estate who exercises statutory powers, principally for the benefit of the unsecured creditors, under the general supervision of the court and the direct supervision of the U.S. trustee or bankruptcy administrator. The trustee is a private individual or corporation appointed in all chapter 7, chapter 12, and chapter 13 cases and some chapter 11 cases. The trustee’s responsibilities include reviewing the debtor’s petition and schedules and bringing actions against creditors or the debtor to recover property of the bankruptcy estate. In chapter 7, the trustee liquidates property of the estate, and makes distributions to creditors. Trustees in chapter 12 and 13 have similar duties to a chapter 7 trustee and the additional responsibilities of overseeing the debtor’s plan, receiving payments from debtors, and disbursing plan payments to creditors.
U.S. trustee – An officer of the Justice Department responsible for supervising the administration of bankruptcy cases, estates, and trustees; monitoring plans and disclosure statements; monitoring creditors’ committees; monitoring fee applications; and performing other statutory duties. Compare, bankruptcy administrator.
unsecured claim – A claim or debt for which a creditor holds no special assurance of payment, such as a mortgage or lien; a debt for which credit was extended based solely upon the creditor’s assessment of the debtor’s future ability to pay.
We are a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief under the U.S. Bankruptcy code. These materials have been prepared and are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.