Frequently Asked QuestionsYork City Arial

Answers you need to know now - so you can get some sleep

 The Short Version:  

Bankruptcy stops almost every single kind of adverse financial action against you, for good in many cases, and at least temporarily in others. Bankruptcy will stop a foreclosure, a wage attachment, a bank garnishment, frozen bank accounts, a lawsuit, a divorce action, a tax sale, an IRS levy, a non-IRS levy, a sheriff sale, and of course those annoying creditor phone calls.  

Bankruptcy will NOT stop a child or spousal support or enforcement action or a criminal matter.  Bankruptcy will not immediately stop automatic withdrawals from your checking account to a credit management/negotiation firm or to a creditor with whom you have set up a payment plan.  It is a good idea to call and cancel these directly.  Student loans and most taxes are usually not dischargeable, but sometimes they are (see more below).

Almost all people can keep all of their property, including their house and their car, and their 401(k), pension or another retirement. In some instances, you can reduce the amount you owe on your car, or even get rid of a second mortgage, and still keep your car or house.  It is extremely rare to lose property solely because you are filing bankruptcy.A Chapter 13 can be used to help a debtor catch up on a past due mortgage, past due car payments, past due IRS or other tax obligations, or past due student loans.  You can file bankruptcy one second prior to a sheriff sale on your house or other property, and the sale cannot proceed.  And even if the sale goes through, as long as you can show that you filed bankruptcy before it happened, the sale gets canceled, and the property is returned to you.  (But PLEASE do NOT to wait until the last minute!)

Property that has been garnished can sometimes be recovered if you file bankruptcy within 90 days of the property being garnished. We can also file a motion to avoid a lien if a bank account has been garnished.  Note that this can take several weeks before your bank account freeze is released so if you have a judgment against, you, you should be aware that a creditor can freeze your bank account at any time.

Your bankruptcy, while a public record, is NOT published in the paper, nor is it easily available on Google.  To access the bankruptcy court's records online, you need to set up an account with PACER and pay for each page you want to view.

For more detailed information, see the questions and answers below:

Will I be able to keep my property?

Will I have to pay some or all of my creditors?

Do I really need an attorney?

What is the Median Test and the Means Test?

If I pass the Median and Means Tests, can I definitely file a Chapter 7?

Should I liquidate my IRA or 401(k) to pay my debts if I think it will prevent me from filing bankruptcy?

What is the Automatic Stay and how long does it last?

Can I discharge taxes or student loans?

Does my spouse have to file bankruptcy with me?

If I am being sued, and I know I will eventually file bankruptcy, does it matter if I have a judgment against me?

What is a Sheriff Levy and Sheriff Sale?

My house is in foreclosure, and I am trying to save it! What should I do first?

Is there any way to get rid of my second mortgage or reduce the amount of my car loan, and still keep my house and my car?

What is a 341 Meeting of the Creditors and where is it held?

Can my wages be attached or garnished?

How often can I file bankruptcy?


Will I be able to keep my property?

In almost all cases, people who file bankruptcy can keep all of their personal property, their car, and their house. Pennsylvania uses the Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions, and the amount of exempt property you can keep is outlined below. Congress increases the exemption amounts to adjust for inflation.  The amounts were just increased in 2022. If spouses file together, the exemptions are doubled.  The federal exemptions are:

Your Homesterad Exemption: Up to $27,900 of equity in the home in which you live. 11 USC § 522(d)(1)

Your Car: $4,450 for your motor vehicle. (11 USC § 522(d)(2)

Your Jewelry: $1,875 for jewelry. (§ 522(d)(4)

Your personal property: $700 per individual item with a $14,875 aggregate value on household goods, furnishings, appliances, clothes, books, animals, crops, musical instruments. (11 USC § 522(d)(3)

Your Tools of the Trade: $2,800 for tools of the trade, including implements and books health aids. (11 USC § 522(d)(6)

Your whole life insurance: $14,875 in whole life insurance. (11 USC § 522(d)(8)

Your support: Past due child support or spousal support owed to you are fully exempt, regardless of the amount, as well as all kinds of social safey net payments like unemployment compensation, disability, social security, VA benefits and Workers Comp.

Your Retirement: Retirement accounts like 401(k), or 403(b), or IRAs. There is a limit of approximately 1.5 million for IRAs.

Everything else: "Wildcard" Federal Bankruptcy Exemption
You can apply the federal wildcard exemption to any property you own. Currently, $1,475 plus $13,950 of any unused portion of your homestead exemption is available to exempt any property of your choosing. 11 USC § 522(d)(5)

Pennsylvania does have its own exemptions but they are rarely helpful because they are so limited.  The amount of property you can keep is ridiculously low ($300 in personal property for example).  But there is one scenerio where the PA exemptions are helpful:  If you are married, and you own your property jointly with your spouse as tenants by the entirities, and you purchased that property after you were married (or had it put in joint name after you were married) and your debt is NOT joint, the PA exemptions might help you because under those exemptions 100% of all properly jointly owned by married people is considered "entirities property" and is fully exempt for debt that isn't joint.  Here is an exemple to make that make sense:  You and your spouse own your house and you purchased it together while you were married OR you put it in joint name after you were married.  Your house is worth $200,000 and has no mortgage.  Under the Federal exeemptions the most you could exeempt would be  $27,900 each, plus the $1475 wildcard each.  That isn't going to be enough to protect your house but under the PA exemptions the house is fully exempt.  However, the debt you have with your spouse can't be joint.  So if you and your spouse have $50,000 in debt and none of it is joint, you could protect your house under the PA exemptions.  The PA exemptions are complicated and it is important to speak with an attorney about whether they are an option in your case.  NOTE:  Don't got changing the deed to your house without speaking with an attorney first.  Transfers of property before you file bankruptcy can create big problems in your bankruptcy case.

Will I have to pay some or all of my creditors?

Most people will be able to discharge all unsecured debts in their bankruptcy and may even be able to modify secured debts. Some kinds of debts are generally not dischargeable except under exceptional circumstances, such as some taxes, student loans, employee wages, and trust fund taxes (payroll taxes).

It is also possible under the guidelines set out in the new bankruptcy law that you may be required to make some payments to your creditors. However, these payments are often substantially less than the payments you are currently trying to make, or unable to make. If you are required to make payments, it means that you do not qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but instead have to file a Chapter 13. The payments are made monthly, to the bankruptcy trustee, for three to five years, and except for secured debts and some priority debts, the payments do not include interest.  Depending on your income, you can pay back as little as 1% (or even less) of your debt, or as much as 100%.  However, even if your payment is so high that you are in what is called a "100% plan," you will actually pay off all of the debt at the end of your bankruptcy.  If you were not in bankruptcy but were paying the same amount of money to your creditors that your plan called for, you would most likely not pay off all of your debt because of late fees and interest.  As a result, sometimes bankruptcy is still the best option even if the plan payment is high.  However, you should come and see us first to determine what your plan payment would be, if anything, before making the decision to file bankruptcy.  We ALWAYS discuss non-bankruptcy options with our clients.


Do I really need an attorney?

Yes. We are not just saying this because we are attorneys. An experienced attorney can help you determine what kind of bankruptcy is appropriate and to draft your petition and schedules correctly, so as to protect your right to a discharge. Unlike some other areas of the law, amending or "fixing" an incorrect bankruptcy petition is not always easy - and not always allowed. If you do it wrong, you may not be given the chance to correct the error and your discharge may be put in jeopardy or your petition may be dismissed.

Even the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts recommends that people who are considering bankruptcy hire an experienced bankruptcy attorney:

"It is very important that a bankruptcy case be filed and handled correctly. The rules are very technical, and a misstep may affect a debtor's rights. For example, a debtor whose case is dismissed for failure to file a required document, such as a credit counseling certificate, may lose the right to file another case or lose protections in a later case, including the benefit of the automatic stay. Bankruptcy has long-term financial and legal consequences — hiring a competent attorney is strongly recommended."


Should I liquidate my 401(k) or IRA if I think it will prevent me from having to file bankruptcy?

Be careful here. First, in bankruptcy, a 401(k) and IRA and other qualified retirement accounts are completely exempt. What this means is that the Bankruptcy Court cannot touch that property.  Once you convert it to cash (as opposed to retirement savings), if you still have some of that cash in your account at the time you file bankruptcy, you will be limited to the amount of cash a debtor is permitted to have in bankruptcy. 

More importantly, however, is that you be honest with yourself about whether or not liquidating those funds will really make a difference and prevent bankruptcy.  Consider if those funds offer just temporary relief, you could be causing problems for yourself in the future.  If a bankruptcy is inevitable, you will have spent your retirement and still have to file bankruptcy.  Why not save your retirement for when you retire?  Your future you will be really glad you did!  Also, remember you will have to pay taxes and a penalty on those funds.  Depending on what your income was for the year (perhaps earlier in the year your income was better), you might have difficulty coming up with the taxes owed because the tax amount will be based on your income tax bracket for the entire year - not just what it was at the time you took out the funds.  Of course, you can very often work out a payment plan with the IRS, but just make sure you think about the tax implications before you take the money out. 



What is the Median Test and the Means Test?

Under the 2005 bankruptcy law, a debtor's income must be below a certain threshold to initially qualify for a Chapter 7. The income level is determined using the income a person has earned for the six months right before filing bankruptcy and data from the IRS and the Census Bureau. This initial "test" is in two parts: Median Income Test and Means Test. If a debtor's gross annual income is under this amount, the debtor passes the Median Income Test and does not have to take the Means Test. Everyone filing bankruptcy still has to take a third income test: Projected income/expense test, using not the income you earned in the six months before you filed, but your projected income over the next year and your projected expenses.  It is possibe to be under median, but still have to file a Chapter 13 because right before you file bankruptcy you are making a lot more money.

The Means Test is much more complicated than the Median Income Test.  This requires the debtor to compare his or her expenses with the average expenses for the area in which the debtor lives. For example, debtors in York County, Pennsylvania are held to the average expenses that the IRS and the Census Bureau have determined are the average for Pennsylvania. There is a form that we use for the Means Test, but there are several unwritten rules about certain aspects of the Test. The bankruptcy law is always changing, so let us help you in determining whether or not you can pass the Median and Means Tests and whether your projected income test puts you in a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.  Sometimes we want to wait to file, or may need to file right away, depending on the income you have had in the last six months.

The Means Test does not use your projected income, but, like the Median Income Test, it uses the income you have made for the last six months and then doubles it.  As a result, sometimes it is better to wait to file bankruptcy to let a three-paycheck month pass outside the six-month window; or in the case of people who work on commission, allow a higher than average commission payment to pass outside the six month window.  We can advise you as to whether or not you should wait. 

If you are under median, but fail the projected income test, you are in a Chapter 13 for three years.   If you are over median you are in a Chapter 13 for five years.  More is explained in the next paragraph.   

If I pass the Median and Means Tests, can I definitely file a Chapter 7?

Not necessarily. Below are the three most common reasons why you may still have to file a Chapter 13 even if you pass both the Median and Means Tests:

1. The debtor's actual projected income (that third income test mentioned in the paragraph above) is higher than the debtor's reasonable expenses. Instead of using the income you earned for the six months right before you filed bankruptcy, this tests looks at your actual, projected income. This test also examines your actual expenses, not the expenses that are the average for your region, as used in the Means Test. Depending on how high this number is, the monthly income that is over and above the debtor's monthly expenses must be paid into the Court every month for three years (but the payments can sometimes be spread out over five years).  An experienced bankruptcy attorney can assist you in determining what your actual and reasonable expenses are and whether you want to spread out your payments over five years to lower the payment.

2. The debtor has a property that is valued higher than the allowed exemptions. In this case, the debtor can take up to 3 to 5 years to pay the trustee the amount the trustee would get if he or she sold the property if the debtor wishes to keep it.  For example, if you have a car worth $10,000, and it has no loan, and you can exempt only $6000 (using the vehicle exemption and some of your wildcard exemption), then you have $4000 in equity that is not exempt.  Therefore, you would pay the trustee the $4000 over the three or five year period, and you would get to keep the car.  Please keep in mind that it is extremely rare for consumer debtors to lose property in bankruptcy because of this option to keep the asset by paying for it over time, or because sometimes the value is not enough for the trustee to be interested in the property.  For example, let's say instead of $4000 non-exempt equity in that car, you had $500.  If that was the only non-exempt asset the trustee isn't going to be interested in it.

3. The debtor is behind in the payments on a mortgage or car loan for a house or a car. The debtor will be given up to 5 years to pay the past due balance, provided that the debtor can also make the current payments as well. This works well for a debtor who fell behind in payments due to an extended illness or loss of a job, but who now is working to his or her full capacity and just needs to be able to catch up on past mortgage payments.

Regardless of the reason a person files a Chapter 13, all unsecured debts (credit cards, etc...) that would have been discharged in a Chapter 7 are still discharged in a Chapter 13. Any payments in the plan that are paid to those creditors do not change the fact that the balances still owed to them when the Chapter 13 is over will be discharged.  Also, in a Chapter 13 some debts that are not dischargeable in a Chapter 7 ARE able to be discharged in a Chapter 13, including some requirements under a divorce settlement agreement.


What is the Automatic Stay and how long does it last?

The Automatic Stay prevents your creditors from contacting you or attempting to collect a debt during the automatic stay. The automatic stay lasts the entire time that your bankruptcy is pending (anywhere from 6 months to 5 years, if you have filed a Chapter 13). However, creditors can sometimes petition the Court to lift the automatic stay. For example, if your house is in foreclosure, and you have no intention of keeping your house, but wish only to discharge the debt and eventually move out, your bank may request permission to move forward with the foreclosure because you intend to leave the house anyway.

In a Chapter 13, if you do not maintain your payments for secured debts, such as making your payments to catch up with your past due balance on your mortgage, the bank can request to move forward with the foreclosure by asking to have the automatic stay lifted. However, the automatic stay cannot be lifted without giving you notice and an opportunity to object. Also, in a Chapter 13, if your spouse did not file bankruptcy with you but is a co-signer on any debts you are paying in your Chapter 13 Plan, he or she is also entitled to the Automatic Stay. This way, if you have, for example, filed Chapter 13 to catch up on your mortgage, but only you filed for bankruptcy, the mortgage company cannot harass your spouse while you are in a 13.


Can I discharge taxes or student loans?

Student loans are generally not dischargeable. However, there is a new program that was passed by Congress and President Obama to make student loan payments more affordable. Go here for more information about this program.  You can file an "adversary action" in bankruptcy court, and attempt to have your student loans discharged.  It is very difficult to meet the burden necessary to have student loans discharged, and if you wanted to try and do so there is an additional fee; the cost is not part of our flat fee for our bankruptcy.

Taxes are actually dischargeable to some extent in bankruptcy, even though there is this general belief that they are not.

The basics about discharging taxes in bankruptcy:

1. What Kind of Tax is it?

Only federal income tax can be discharged. Taxes that are "trust fund" taxes, (taxes that you, as an employer, were required to withhold from your income or the income of your employees), sales taxes, fuel taxes, estate taxes, gift taxes and taxes that are as a result of tax fraud are all not dischargeable.

2. Who owes the Tax?

Only individuals can discharges taxes; businesses cannot.

3. Is the Tax "Secured"?

If the IRS files a tax lien against you, then you cannot discharge that lien in bankruptcy, and it remains against your property. This is why it is very important to talk to us before a tax lien is filed against you.

4. Secured, Priority or Unsecured?

Ordinarily, taxes are considered priority unsecured debts. They are not dischargeable in a Chapter 7, and they must be paid in full in a Chapter 13. However, if certain conditions are met (see below), your taxes can be considered general (non-priority), unsecured debts - just like a credit card. They will be dischargeable in a Chapter 7 and considered unsecured non-priority debts in a Chapter 13. If you are making a payment in the Chapter 13 plan, a pro rata share of the payment you are making will be applied toward your taxes, just like that payment is applied toward all your other unsecured creditors. But any amount still due at the end of your Chapter 13 plan will be discharged like all your other unsecured debt.

5. Requirements to have taxes classified as General Unsecured Debts:

a. Taxes for which a tax return was supposed to be filed within three years (plus extensions) prior to the date of filing bankruptcy. For example, the tax return for 2005 income taxes was due to be filed on April 15, 2006 (plus any extensions), and therefore, these income taxes cannot be discharged by filing bankruptcy on or before April 15, 2009 (plus the time of extensions); OR

b. Taxes assessed by the IRS within 240 days before the filing of bankruptcy. The assessment date is the date that the IRS determines how much you owe, and then the IRS generally sends you a letter telling you the amount you owe. Think of this as your bill from the IRS after you file your tax return; OR

c. Taxes not yet assessed but could still be assessed; OR

d. Taxes for which a tax return was filed late and filed within two years prior to filing bankruptcy; OR

e. Taxes of a debtor who committed fraud related to a tax return or willfully attempted to evade or defeat taxes sought to be discharged.

If you file a Chapter 13, and you have only unsecured priority taxes, you must pay those in full during your Chapter 13 (60 months), but there is no interest. If you have a secured tax lien, that secured portion of the taxes you owe must be paid in full in a Chapter 13, with interest, but there are no penalties.

If you think you might be able to discharge taxes, you should order copies of your tax transcripts from the IRS. They are free but take a few weeks to get, so order them now so you can bring them to us to review with your other documents.

Student Loans:  Learn more about student loan dischargability here - the law changed a little bit and we have a whole article about it.

Does my spouse have to file bankruptcy with me?

No. And you filing bankruptcy does not affect your spouse's credit. However, if your spouse co-signed a loan with you, and you stop making the payments on that loan, your spouse must make the payments or his or her credit will be affected negatively. See the information under the Automatic Stay for more about how filing bankruptcy affects your spouse or co-signor.


If I am being sued, and I know I will eventually file bankruptcy, does it matter if I have a judgment against me?

YES! If you own a home, and you want to keep that home (instead of giving it back to the bank as part of your bankruptcy), you should file bankruptcy before any judgments are entered against you. In Pennsylvania, judgments entered against you in the county where your real estate is located will attach to that real estate as soon as the judgment is entered.  And judgments against you in other counties just need to be filed in your county, and they will attach, too. Even if you later file bankruptcy, when you sell the house, the judgment must be paid for you to pass good title to the new owner. The creditor can no longer seek the money from you, but it is still attached to your home and, therefore, must be paid at the time of closing.  Sometimes in bankruptcy we can get rid of judgments like this, but it depends on how much equity you have in your house.  If you are being sued by any creditor, and you want to keep your house and you think there is any possibility that you have any equity in your house, you should contact us immediately.

Property that is held by husband and wife as tenancy by the entireties may be protected if the judgment is against only one spouse. However, if you are contemplating divorce, and there are judgments against only one spouse, it is very important that the divorce not be finalized until you have spoken with a bankruptcy attorney. Once the divorce is entered, and the property is no longer held by spouses, the tenancy by the entireties is broken. Judgments against only one spouse can now attach to the property and must be paid off before the house can be sold, even if the underlying debt is later discharged in bankruptcy, unless we can remove the judgment as stated in the paragraph above.

It is possible in a bankruptcy to have a lien "avoided" so that it no longer attaches to your house. However, lien avoidance is not always possible and depends on how you hold title to the house, how much equity you have in the house, the kind of judgment, and what other assets you have.  As a result, it is important to speak with a bankruptcy attorney prior to a judgment being entered against you.


What is a Sheriff Levy and Sheriff Sale?

A Sheriff Levy is the next step a creditor may take after obtaining a judgment against you. A judgment from a creditor that is not a mortgage company, such as from a credit card, can result in a sheriff levy and sheriff sale of your personal property (i.e. household goods).  In such a sale, the County Sheriff will come to your house to do the "levy." The levy is a list of all the property in your house. You do NOT have to allow the Sheriff in your house unless they have a "break and enter" order. The sheriff deputies that come out to your house know this.  In York County, the sheriff deputies are respectful and very professional.  This encounter, while stressful for you, will not be confrontational, and the deputies will not attempt to embarrass you.

If the sheriff deputies have a "break and enter" order, you MUST let them in, or they could technically force their way into your house. The Sheriff comes out to your house first without the break and entry order, and you can turn them away, but they can be back in a few days with the break and entry order (the creditor has to petition the court for this order; the Sheriff just follows the order once it has been entered). However, even with the break and entry order for the levy, the levy is not the actual sale.

The Levy tells you that in no less than SIX (6) days, the Sheriff will hold a sale and sell all of your personal property to satisfy the debt.  In York County, the sale is generally no sooner than 30 days, but that is not always the case. There is no minimum bid or "reserve" and your neighbors can come and buy your property for a fraction of what it is worth. You can also buy your property back, if you are the highest bidder.

If the Sheriff has levied your property or attempted to levy your property and you turned them away, you should contact us immediately!

A sheriff sale can also be used to sell your home once a foreclosure judgment has been entered against you. A foreclosure in Pennsylvania takes anywhere from 4-6 months to complete. Also, even after the sale takes place, you don't have to leave the house until an action in ejectment is filed against you and a default judgment in that case is entered. However, it is not wise to wait that long; you should start making arrangements to move out of the house before the sheriff sale. NOTE:  Please see the answer to the next question about whether or not you should file bankruptcy BEFORE your house is sold at a Sheriff Sale.

A bankruptcy can stop a sheriff sale of either your house or your personal belongings.


My house is in foreclosure, and I am trying to save it! What should I do first?

If your house is in foreclosure, you should not wait to contact us. If a sheriff sale date has been set, you should take your debtor counseling session now, so that you can file for bankruptcy quickly. A bankruptcy petition can be filed seven days a week, 24 hours a day, but you must first complete your counseling. A sheriff sale can be halted up to one hour before the sale by filing bankruptcy - but remember that you must have a counseling certificate to file bankruptcy.  NOTE:  If you are thinking about or are not sure about whether you will be filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you should file bankruptcy BEFORE your house is sold at a Sheriff Sale.  This could make a huge difference in the amount of money you pay back in your Chapter 13 plan, depending on the amount of debt you have and your income.

Before filing bankruptcy, you may want to consider a loan modification. You should contact your lender to see if you qualify for a loan modification program, such as the Save Our Home Program recently enacted by the Obama Administration. However, if you are in foreclosure, you should be careful about protecting yourself while negotiating with the bank, to make sure a judgment is not entered against you.

You can modify your loan, and still file bankruptcy to discharge other debts, such as credit cards. We used to tell people it was better to attempt a loan modification before you filed bankruptcy, but it seems that banks now are willing to consider loan modifications both before and during a bankruptcy.  Sometimes filing while in bankruptcy streamlines the process because we are now dealing with the bankruptcy department, and the bank's lawyer is involved to some extend as well.

We can assist you with negotiating a loan modification with your lender, and our fees are more reasonable than many of the "modification" companies that have been preying on consumers. If you are interested in learning more about loan modifications, please contact us.

Note that bankruptcy can help you save your home if you are behind in your real estate taxes as well.


Understanding the Timeline for Foreclosure:

The law in Pennsylvania has recently changed - back.  Banks are once again required to give borrowers an Act 91 notice, giving borrowers 33 days to seek assistance from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.  You cannot be sued in foreclosure until you have received this notice, and the 33 days have elapsed.  If you seek assistance from a PHFA counselor, the foreclosure cannot proceed until the application process is complete.  PHFA may be able to provide an emergency loan to assist you in catching up with your mortgage. (


Understanding the time line for Tax Sale:

Generally speaking, tax sales happen only when a property owner is two years behind on his or her property taxes. If you are not escrowing your taxes, you are responsible for paying them yourself. However, very often, if there is a mortgage on the property, but you are paying the taxes directly, the mortgage company will step in and pay the taxes and just assess that cost on to the property owner. This is because a tax sale will wipe out the mortgage company's lien on the property, which is why mortgage companies hire companies that do nothing but check to make sure their borrowers are up to date on their property taxes.


Can I get rid of my second mortgage or reduce my car payment, and still keep my house and my car?

Yes. In a Chapter 13, only you may be able to get rid of (or "strip") your second mortgage IF your house is worth LESS than the balance on your FIRST mortgage. You will need an appraisal. 

If you think your house might be worth less than your first mortgage balance, we are going to need an appraisal.  Reach out to us and we can give you some names of people who do bankruptcy appraisals. 

Also, in a Chapter 13, you may be able to "cram down" the lien on your car down to the Blue Book value of your car. This assumes that your car is worth LESS than the loan.  Your car loan must be Sometimes car lenders will object to this, but often they are willing to negotiate somewhere in the middle, and sometimes they don't object at all. The value of the car, if it is less than the loan, is then spread out of the term of the Chapter 13 plan (3 to 5 years) and you make that payment through the plan. You still have to pay interest on the loan, but we can usually reduce the interest rate to anywhere between 1% - 3%. The remaining balance of the loan, which is higher than the value of the car, gets discharged at the end of your plan. Note that if you purchased your car less than 910 days before filing bankruptcy, we can't do a cram down on the balance, but we can reduce the interest rate and spread the loan payments out over the three or five years of your bankruptcy.


What is a 341 Meeting of the Creditors and where is it held?

The 341 Meeting of the Creditors is not really a meeting and generally no creditors appear and even if they did, it is not going to affect the meeting so don't worry about whether creditors show up or not. The "341" just comes from Section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code, where the requirements of the meeting are listed. During the pandemic, Chapter 7 341s have been by phone but they are going to eventually move to Zoom. Chapter 13 341s are via Zoom.


Can my wages be attached or garnished?

It is difficult for regular civil creditors to attach your wages in Pennsylvania - IF your employer is a PA employer.  If your employer's headquarters are in a state that permits wage attachment, then your wages can be attached.  In Pennsylvania, however, there are only a few limited circumstances where a creditor can attach your wages. The most common reasons are because you owe back child support, or you owe taxes to the IRS. There is also a limited right for landlords to attach your wages for past due rent. However, other than these limited circumstances, there is no wage attachment in Pennsylvania. In addition to child support, in divorce litigation, orders for alimony, alimony pendente lite, and spousal support are also subject to wage attachment. However, even these permitted forms of wage attachment have some limitations. Generally, only up to 55% of your wages can be attached. Not even the IRS can take your entire paycheck.

Also, the only way to have your wages attached is if a judgment is entered against you. So if your creditors are calling you and telling you they are going to attach your wages, if they have not even sued you yet, it can't happen. But again, in Pennsylvania, other than the limited exceptions stated above, there is no wage attachment.

However, your bank accounts CAN be garnished and if you have a bank account with a bank that you also have an overdue credit card or mortgage, chances are very high that the bank will remove your funds. Filing bankruptcy will prevent this from happening, and depending your exemptions, you may be able to recover the funds that were taken once you file bankruptcy.


I owe federal taxes, and IRS has sent me a notice to levy. Can bankruptcy help me?

Yes. Even though taxes are often not dischargeable, you can file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and make the payments over time and receive the protection of the automatic stay, which stops even the IRS.  See above the paragraph above about taxes and when they can actually be discharged in a Chapter 7 or Chapter13.


How often can I file bankruptcy?

The new law changed the timeliness for filing bankruptcy. A Chapter 7 can be filed every eight years, and a Chapter 13 can be filed every two years.  You could not get a discharge in a Chapter 13 if you received a Chapter 7 discharge less than four years prior to filing your Chapter 13 and you have to wait 6 years after a Chapter 7 to get a discharege in a Chapter 13.  But even if you aren't getting a discharge, a bankruptcy can help you work out a payment plan with your creditors.



1701 West Market Street
York, PA 17404
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Phone: 717-304-1841
Text: 717-304-1841  

The Fine Print

This is a law firm after all: This web site is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The law changes often, so please be sure to contact us for questions about your specific situation. You should NOT be making decisions about your financial life based only on the information on this web site or any web site. Seriously - don't do it. The law is complicated and is always in flux. This site is intended only for people who have legal matters in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has adopted the Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions, but not all states have done so. Be sure to contact a licensed attorney in your state, to learn about your state's bankruptcy procedure.

We are a DEBT RELIEF AGENCY under the United States Bankruptcy Code.

Dawn Cutaia, Esquire has been a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania since 1996, currently limiting her practice to bankruptcy, foreclosure and civil defense, and pardons.  Suzanne Smith, has been an attorney licensed in the Commonwealth of Pennslyvania since 1992, currently limiting her practice to criminal defense, pardons/expungements, and bankruptcy.  Dawn Cutaia is the sole member of Fresh Start Law, PLLC, a professional limited liability corporation in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.