Bankruptcy Basics: How to File for Chapter 7

Bankruptcy lets you get your overwhelming debt forgiven or restructured under the protection of a federal court. Chapter 7 (liquidation): The quickest, simplest and most common type. Most unsecured debts, such as credit cards, medical debt and personal loans, are discharged, or forgiven. You may have to give up some assets, like an expensive car or jewelry, but the vast majority of filers do not.

Bankruptcy isn't easy or cheap, and it likely will crimp your access to new credit for seven to 10 years. But it may be the best way to salvage your finances. Here's a look at what bankruptcy is, whether it's right for you, how to file, and what to watch out for along the way.

You and your attorney will work to prove your eligibility for a debt discharge or reorganization to a bankruptcy trustee, who administers the proceedings.
Bankruptcy will leave a serious mark on your credit reports, and you'll likely find it harder to borrow money for years to come. Even so, you'll probably see your credit scores start to improve once you take this step to resolve your debts.

"Bankruptcy gives you a chance for a fresh start," says Dan LaBert, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys. "It's not political; it could happen to anyone. I think when people feel that overwhelming pressure from financial stress - and they're seeing that pressure stretch out and impact those around them - bankruptcy is a very legitimate option for them."

The cost of dying intestate

My Dad passed away in May last year; a clever, funny man who had only just celebrated his 71st birthday. It was a horrible shock for the whole family and, within a couple of days, we were all together at his bungalow in Kent trying to come to terms with the fact that he was gone.

Luckily, we are a close family and quickly agreed how we were going to handle his affairs. He had died without a will so we hired a solicitor to sort out probate, and my brother and I were going to act as administrators. We knew we could knock about $2,000 off the legal bill if we contacted all his banks and utility companies ourselves, so I volunteered to do this.

And, I must say, the quality of customer service you get when you are newly bereaved is something of a revelation. I bypassed the recorded voices and infuriating phone menus and spoke to real people almost straight away, all of who were falling over themselves to offer condolences and make the process of settling accounts easy and painless. Why can't customer service always be that good?

But, as the months went by, much of this gold-standard service lost its shine. Dad's energy company was first to drop the pretence of caring, threatening to go to court so it could forcibly enter his house and install payment meters. This had been automatically triggered by the number of final demands sent to the now empty bungalow. Apparently the firm wasn't able to turn off the demands because they were generated by a central computer, and you know computers, they just won't be told. Exasperated, and genuinely concerned at the possible damage the company might do to Dad's house, I scraped together the money about $150 - and to our relief the court case was dropped.

Within days we had a new demand for more money - an estimated bill for the next three months...More

Legal separation

Almost every week at the Legal Assistance Divorce & Separation Briefing, we receive the question, "If I am legally separated and start dating, can I get in trouble in the military for adultery?" Since the formal legal process of divorce can last months (or sometimes years), this question raises an important concern for anyone in uniform who is pending a divorce. The answer to this straightforward question can be anything but simple.

The first step in answering this question requires an understanding of the military's prohibition on adultery. Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice makes criminal the act of adultery when certain legal criteria, known as "elements," have all been met. There are three distinct elements to the crime of adultery under the UCMJ: first, a Soldier must have had sexual intercourse with someone; second, the Soldier or their sexual partner was married to someone else at the time; and third, that under the circumstances, the conduct of the Soldier was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.

The first two elements of adultery under the UCMJ are fairly straightforward and shouldn't require further explanation. The third and final element is where our simple question starts to become complicated. The "explanation" portion...More

Respect of the client, honesty and

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