Las Vegas Bankruptcy Lawyer & Attorney
Personal Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
Individual Chapter 11 bankruptcy for personal debtors with assets. Debtors are using this chapter to cram down first mortgages on residential rental properties and commercial property resulting in a principal reduction of the mortgage. The cram down resets the mortgage loans to more beneficial terms and sets the rate of interest and the term of the loan along with the principal reduction of the mortgage to achieve an affordable result. When you read below, keep in mind that debtor, business, and entity are synonymous with a personal debtor or any person otherwise eligible to file bankruptcy.
The ability of the debtor to remain in possession and to continue to operate the business or rental properties is a substantial reason to file a Chapter 11. The debtor can continue to do business, rent property, raise and sell crops and livestock, use equipment, and acquire the necessary inputs to continue the business operation.
Although the ultimate goal in any Chapter 11 is the formulation and acceptance of a reorganization plan, rarely does the debtor have a plan developed when the case is filed. There is thus often a period between the filing of the petition and confirmation of a plan during which business will be carried on by the debtor as the debtor in possession.As a debtor in possession, the debtor has all the rights of a bankruptcy trustee. He or she may continue to use assets in the ordinary course of business without court approval.
There are, however, certain restrictions applicable to the use of cash collateral. The debtor in possession cannot use, sell, or lease “cash collateral” unless each creditor with an interest in the collateral consents or unless the court authorizes such use. To obtain court permission to use cash collateral such as proceeds of stored grain, milk proceeds, or the proceeds of livestock sales, the debtor in possession must provide any creditor who holds a lien on such property with adequate protection. In other words, the creditor’s secured position must be protected and not harmed by the use of the creditor’s collateral.
Besides being able to continue to use the business assets, the debtor in possession is authorized to borrow funds. He or she may obtain unsecured credit in the ordinary course of business without court approval, and may obtain secured credit by granting a lien on unencumbered property of the estate or a subordinate lien on encumbered property with court approval. Finally, if the debtor cannot obtain credit on either an unsecured basis or by using previously unencumbered assets, a super-priority lien may be obtained if he or she can establish that any lender who also has a lien on the property will be adequately protected.
A chapter 11 case begins with the filing of a petition with the bankruptcy court serving the area where the debtor has a domicile or residence. A petition may be a voluntary petition, which is filed by the debtor, or it may be an involuntary petition, which is filed by creditors that meet certain requirements. 11 U.S.C. §§ 301, 303. A voluntary petition must adhere to the format of Form 1 of the Official Forms prescribed by the Judicial Conference of the United States. Unless the court orders otherwise, the debtor also must file with the court: (1) schedules of assets and liabilities; (2) a schedule of current income and expenditures; (3) a schedule of executory contracts and unexpired leases; and (4) a statement of financial affairs. Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1007(b). If the debtor is an individual (or husband and wife), there are additional document filing requirements. Such debtors must file: a certificate of credit counseling and a copy of any debt repayment plan developed through credit counseling; evidence of payment from employers, if any, received 60 days before filing; a statement of monthly net income and any anticipated increase in income or expenses after filing; and a record of any interest the debtor has in federal or state qualified education or tuition accounts.11 U.S.C. § 521. A husband and wife may file a joint petition or individual petitions. 11 U.S.C. § 302(a). (The Official Forms are not available from the court, but may be purchased at legal stationery stores or downloaded from the Internet at www.uscourts.gov/bkforms/index.html.)
The courts are required to charge a $1,000 case filing fee and a $46 miscellaneous administrative fee. The fees must be paid to the clerk of the court upon filing or may, with the court’s permission, be paid by individual debtors in installments. 28 U.S.C. § 1930(a); Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1006(b); Bankruptcy Court Miscellaneous Fee Schedule, Item 8. Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1006(b) limits to four the number of installments for the filing fee. The final installment must be paid not later than 120 days after filing the petition. For cause shown, the court may extend the time of any installment, provided that the last installment is paid not later than 180 days after the filing of the petition. Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1006(b). The $46 administrative fee may be paid in installments in the same manner as the filing fee. If a joint petition is filed, only one filing fee and one administrative fee are charged. Debtors should be aware that failure to pay these fees may result in dismissal of the case. 11 U.S.C. § 1112(b)(10).
The voluntary petition will include standard information concerning the debtor’s name(s), social security number or tax identification number, residence, location of principal assets (if a business), the debtor’s plan or intention to file a plan, and a request for relief under the appropriate chapter of the Bankruptcy Code. Upon filing a voluntary petition for relief under chapter 11 or, in an involuntary case, the entry of an order for relief, the debtor automatically assumes an additional identity as the “debtor in possession.” 11 U.S.C. § 1101. The term refers to a debtor that keeps possession and control of its assets while undergoing a reorganization under chapter 11, without the appointment of a case trustee. A debtor will remain a debtor in possession until the debtor’s plan of reorganization is confirmed, the debtor’s case is dismissed or converted to chapter 7, or a chapter 11 trustee is appointed. The appointment or election of a trustee occurs only in a small number of cases. Generally, the debtor, as “debtor in possession,” operates the business and performs many of the functions that a trustee performs in cases under other chapters. 11 U.S.C. § 1107(a).
Generally, a written disclosure statement and a plan of reorganization must be filed with the court. 11 U.S.C. §§ 1121, 1125. The disclosure statement is a document that must contain information concerning the assets, liabilities, and business affairs of the debtor sufficient to enable a creditor to make an informed judgment about the debtor’s plan of reorganization. 11 U.S.C. § 1125. The information required is governed by judicial discretion and the circumstances of the case. In a “small business case” (discussed below) the debtor may not need to file a separate disclosure statement if the court determines that adequate information is contained in the plan. 11 U.S.C. § 1125(f). The contents of the plan must include a classification of claims and must specify how each class of claims will be treated under the plan. 11 U.S.C. § 1123. Creditors whose claims are “impaired,” i.e., those whose contractual rights are to be modified or who will be paid less than the full value of their claims under the plan, vote on the plan by ballot. 11 U.S.C. § 1126. After the disclosure statement is approved by the court and the ballots are collected and tallied, the court will conduct a confirmation hearing to determine whether to confirm the plan. 11 U.S.C. § 1128.
In the case of individuals, chapter 11 bears some similarities to chapter 13. For example, property of the estate for an individual debtor includes the debtor’s earnings and property acquired by the debtor after filing until the case is closed, dismissed or converted; funding of the plan may be from the debtor’s future earnings; and the plan cannot be confirmed over a creditor’s objection without committing all of the debtor’s disposable income over five years unless the plan pays the claim in full, with interest, over a shorter period of time. 11 U.S.C. §§ 1115, 1123(a)(8), 1129(a)(15).
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