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Indiana Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Information Center

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Determination of Eligibility to File Chapter 7

Under the Bankruptcy Code, a person who is eligible to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 can be an individual, partnership, corporation or other business entity.

A person’s eligibility to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is determined by the “Means Test”. The means test requires a two step analysis. First, the debtor’s “current monthly income” must be calculated. Current monthly income is based on the debtor’s average monthly gross income from all sources (except social security), received over the six month period preceding the bankruptcy filing. Income includes a spouse’s income, whether or not the spouse is also filing for bankruptcy (unless the debtor and spouse are living in separate households).

Additionally, any contributions to household expenses made by other persons (usually other adult family members) are included in calculating the debtor’s current monthly income. However, current monthly income does not include payments from social security. If the debtor’s “annualized” current monthly income is less than the median income for Indiana State, then the debtor is eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The following is the median income in Indianapolis (as of October 18, 2019), based on family size, according to the U.S. Census Bureau:

  • One Person in Household, $49,421

  • Two People in Household, $61,929

  • Three People in Household, $72,826

  • Four People in Household, $87,453

  • For households exceeding four people, add $9,000 for each individual in excess of four

If the debtor’s current monthly income is over the median income for their area, then the second step of the analysis must be performed. In this second step, various deductions are taken off of the current monthly income to arrive at the debtor’s “monthly disposable income”. Some of the deductions are based on Internal Revenue standards. Other deductions are specific to the debtor’s actual expenses.

If the debtor’s monthly disposable income is less than the limits set by the bankruptcy code, then the debtor qualifies for Chapter 7. If the debtor’s monthly disposable income exceeds the limits set by the bankruptcy code, then a “presumption of abuse” applies. In that event, the Chapter 7 case would be subject to dismissal and the only alternative would most likely be for the debtor to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Note that the means test does not apply if:

  • The debtor is a disabled veteran whose indebtedness occurred primarily during a period in which the debtor was on active duty or while performing a homeland defense activity.

  • The debts incurred by the debtor are not primarily consumer debts (i.e. over 50% of the debts are business related debts).

  • The debtor is a member of the Armed Forces Reserves or National Guard who was on active duty or homeland defense for at least 90 days during the 540 days preceding the bankruptcy filing.

A person is not eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy if:

  • He or she had been a debtor in a bankruptcy case pending at any time in the preceding 180 days and the case was dismissed by the court for willful failure of the debtor to abide by orders of the court, or to appear before the court in prosecution of the case, 

  • Or the debtor voluntarily dismissed the bankruptcy proceeding following a request by a creditor for relief from the automatic stay

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How Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Works 

After a debtor has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court will enter an automatic stay order, barring any of your creditors from taking any further collections or legal action against you without the permission of the court.  The court will assign you a Chapter 7 Trustee and you can expect to attend a bankruptcy conference with your assigned Chapter 7 Trustee. This meeting normally lasts five to ten minutes. It is not in a courtroom or in front of a bankruptcy Judge.  You must attend this meeting with your attorney and answer questions under oath by the trustee and any creditors who appear. The questions asked at the meeting are about your financial affairs, including your property, past earnings, and the schedules you have filed.

If the debtor owns any non-exempt assets, the trustee may sell those assets and distribute the proceeds to the debtor’s creditors. However, persons filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Indiana are afforded property exemptions. Property that is exempt is retained by the debtor in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In most Indianapolis Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases, there is little or no property left over in the debtor’s estate after the debtor keeps his or her exempt property. In these situations, which are known as no-asset cases, there is no actual liquidation of the debtor’s assets and creditors are not paid anything.

If there are non-exempt assets that are to be collected and sold, the bankruptcy trustee will make distributions to creditors from the proceeds of the sale of the assets. Creditors that have secured claims in the property to be sold are paid first. Read more about secured debts in Chapter 7. Most unsecured creditors will then be paid on a pro rata basis. However, certain unsecured creditors have priority over other creditors and will be paid in full before other non-priority creditors receive anything. For instance, debts owed for domestic support obligations (e.g. child support and spousal maintenance) have priority over other unsecured debts.

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Secured Debts vs. Unsecured Debts in Chapter 7 

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the distinction between secured and unsecured debts is very important. A secured creditor retains an interest (called a “lien” or “security interest”) in certain property, known as “collateral”. Usually, the creditor has extended credit to the debtor specifically for the purchase of the particular property. The most common example is a loan for the purchase of a motor vehicle. Another example is a mortgage in real property, whether for a purchase, refinancing or home equity loan. If the borrower fails to make the required payments, the collateral can be repossessed (as with a motor vehicle) or foreclosed on (as with real property).

Unsecured debts, on the other hand, do not have any collateral attached to the debt. The most common types of unsecured debts are credit cards, personal loans, and debts for services performed (e.g. medical debts). Generally, these types of debts are discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, secured creditors generally retain their liens in the debtor’s property, and the debtor will continue to make regular payments to the secured creditor. It is important to note that the debtor’s personal obligation to pay the debt is discharged in the bankruptcy proceeding, unless a reaffirmation agreement is filed with the court. If a reaffirmation agreement is not filed with the court, and the debtor then fails to make the payments, the creditor’s only recourse is to repossess or foreclose on the property. That is, the creditor cannot sue the debtor for failure to pay the debt.

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Right of Redemption 

Section 722 of the Bankruptcy Code allows a Chapter 7 debtor to remove a lien on personal property by paying the secured creditor the market value of the property. For instance, if the debtor owes $10,000 on a car worth $5,000, the debtor can pay the creditor $5,000, thereby eliminating the creditor’s security interest.

This may be a viable option for debtors who have sufficient cash (that the debtor has exempted). Also, debtors may be able to obtain financing that is specifically offered for redemption purposes. While the interest rate for these loans is extremely high, the lower principal amount can result in substantial savings to the debtor.

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Reaffirmation Agreements 

When a debtor signs a reaffirmation agreement for a secured debt, the debtor remains liable for the debt, and must continue to pay the balance due to the creditor. If the debtor fails to do so, then the collateral can be repossessed and the debtor will be liable for any deficiency owed. A deficiency is the difference between the balance due on the loan and what the secured creditor receives for the collateral at auction. Certain creditors have been known to repossess vehicles if the debtor does not sign a reaffirmation agreement, even if the debtor remains current on the loan (the bankruptcy code permits creditors to do so).

Whether or not a debtor should sign a reaffirmation agreement is an important decision and will depend on many factors, most importantly the debtor’s ability to repay the loan. Every Chapter 7 client of Steven P. Taylor is provided a thorough explanation of the pros and cons of signing a reaffirmation agreement.

A person who decides to reaffirm a debt is required to do so before the court enters the discharge. The reaffirmation agreement must be in writing and filed with the court.  For a reaffirmation agreement to be enforceable, the debtor must also receive the disclosures required by 11 U.S.C. § 524(k) before signing the agreement. These disclosures are:

  • A written disclosure statement with the amount of the reaffirmed debt and the annual percentage rate

  • The reaffirmation agreement

  • A declaration of certification by the debtor’s attorney

  • A signed statement by the debtor in support of the reaffirmation agreement,

  • A motion for the court’s approval (only if no certification by debtor’s attorney)

  • The court’s order approving the reaffirmation agreement.

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What Happens After the Chapter 7 Discharge in Indiana 

After the court grants the debtor a discharge under Chapter 7, the debtor is no longer liable for most debts that were incurred prior to the filing of the bankruptcy proceeding. This means that a debtor’s creditors cannot pursue any new or continued legal action against the debtor to collect these debts. However, there are certain debts that are not discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Read more about non-dischargeable debts in Chapter 7.

A debtor’s discharge may be denied by the court for a number of reasons, including:

  • The debtor failed to keep or produce sufficient financial records.

  • The debtor failed to adequately explain any loss of assets.

  • The debtor committed a crime associated with bankruptcy, i.e. perjury.

  • The debtor failed to follow an order of the bankruptcy court.

  • The debtor fraudulently transferred concealed or destroyed property that would have been property of the debtor’s estate.

  • The debtor failed to complete an approved post-filing financial management course.

The bankruptcy court may revoke a Chapter 7 discharge upon the request of a trustee or creditor if the discharge was obtained fraudulently, the debtor acquired property and failed to report the property or surrender the property to the trustee, the debtor made an important misstatement of fact, or the debtor failed to provide documents or other information related to the debtor’s financial situation.

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Steven P. Taylor, P.C. | Kokomo and Indianapolis Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Lawyer

Contact the law firm of Steven P. Taylor, P.C. today in his Indianapolis Bankruptcy office at (317) 271-1111 or in his Kokomo Bankruptcy office at (765) 868-0807  for a free consultation about whether you should file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Indiana or email us your questions.  Steven P. Taylor will assist you in determining whether Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the best path for you, and will guide you through the bankruptcy process.


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