Automatic Stay

This is an injunction granted by a US Bankruptcy Court that operates to stop any creditors from taking action against Debtor(s) or the Debtor’s property during the Bankruptcy proceeding. The Automatic stay generally starts immediately upon the filing of a bankruptcy. It stops lawsuits, foreclosures, repossessions, tax sales, and all other collection actions against Debtor or their property. It even stops creditors from beginning a new lawsuit against Debtor in a Bankruptcy, as long as the debt was incurred on or before the date the Bankruptcy was originally filed. The Automatic stay will not stop criminal proceedings such as actions for bad checks or child support enforcement actions.

There are some limitations on Automatic Stay based on previous bankruptcy that a Debtor may have filed. It is important to disclose any prior bankruptcy filings to your attorney so a proper analysis can be done to determine your eligibility for an Automatic Stay.


Bankruptcy Discharge

A bankruptcy discharge is a release from personal liability for certain types of debts. This means that the debtor(s) is no longer legally required to pay any debts that are discharged. At the successful completion of bankruptcy obligations a permanent order is entered by the Judge prohibiting the creditors from taking any form of collection action on discharged debts. The discharge order not only stops lawsuits or other formal collection attempts like garnishment or bank levy, it stops telephone calls, letters, and any other personal contact.



Is the difference between the current market value of an item (often houses and cars) and the amount that the owner stills owes the finance company. This is an important discussion during bankruptcy preparation, because it can mean the difference between protecting your property and losing it after filing your case.


Bankruptcy Estate

At the time of filing a bankruptcy, all real and personal property owned by the Debtor(s) is property of the bankruptcy estate.  The bankruptcy estate varies slightly based on the type of bankruptcy you file; however, the Trustee generally focuses on the assets you own at the time of filing.



This can occur during a Bankruptcy. This essentially stops all bankruptcy protection. It can often occur at the request of a Trustee, Creditor, and sometimes the request of the Debtor. This means that creditors can begin all collection actions that were halted due to the filing of a bankruptcy. Should a case be dismissed you are still liable for all of your debts. 


Bankruptcy Trustee

This is a person appointed by the United States Trustee, an office of the Department of Justice, to represent the Debtor(s)’ Bankruptcy Estate during a bankruptcy proceeding. This person is often an attorney, and they administer your 341 Hearing and review all of your Bankruptcy Petition and Schedules. The Trustee is charged with evaluating and making recommendations about various debt(s) demands in accordance with the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.


341 Meeting of Creditors/341 Meeting

This is often the only Court hearing a Debtor(s) has to attend. It occurs roughly 30 days after filing. It is basically a meeting between the Debtor and the bankruptcy trustee. There is generally no judge at this hearing.  The Trustee asks the Debtor(s) a series of questions regarding the Petition and Schedules that Debtor filed with the Bankruptcy Court. These questions relate to the assets, creditors, income, and expenses. The hearing generally lasts 15 minutes or less. The Debtor(s) is under oath, and all statements are taken under the Penalty of Perjury.


Civil Judgment

A civil judgment is final order of a Court in a civil lawsuit. This is often what the final ruling is when a party is sued by a credit card company, landlord, or other creditor. It generally involves two parties. This judgment is what often starts a garnishment or bank levy.


Judgment Lien

This is a Court ruling, or Order, that gives a creditor the right to take possession of a Debtor’s real property if the Debtor fails to fulfill his or her obligations to a contract. Often times this occurs after a creditor, such as a credit card, obtains a court judgment in state court and then the judgment is transcribed making it a judgment lien. This means that the Court makes the judgment secured by any and all real estate that the Debtor has or will obtain in the future. 

Should a Debtor have a judgment lien when he or she files bankruptcy it is often dischargeable and the attorney can file a special motion to avoid the lien so that there is no longer a lien on their real property.


Real Property

The term generally refers to real estate, land, lake lots, houses, and vacation time shares. All property in which a party has even a small portion of ownership must be disclosed in the bankruptcy in order to protect it from creditors. 


Personal Property

This term refers to all property other than real estate or real property. In a bankruptcy it includes, all cash, bank accounts, retirement accounts, security deposits, stocks, bonds, automobiles, mobile homes, trailers, tools, household goods, furniture, electronics, some business assets, potential claims or lawsuits that you can bring against others, life insurance accounts, animals, and much more. It is very important that all of these assets are disclosed in a bankruptcy proceeding in order to assure that all of your assets are protected from creditors.


Bankruptcy Household Budget

A bankruptcy household budget is often different than a household budget prior to filing bankruptcy. A Bankruptcy budget often excludes repayment of unsecured dischargeable debt, and other debts for property that a party wishes to surrender to the creditor. A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Budget will also differ from a budget proposed in a Chapter 7 based on the debts being repaid within the Chapter 13 bankruptcy. It is very important to discuss your budget with your attorney.


Reaffirmation Agreement

A reaffirmation agreement is a written contract entered voluntarily between a Chapter 7 Debtor and a creditor. This is often entered into with a mortgage company and auto loans. When a Debtor enters into a Reaffirmation Agreement, he/she agrees to repay all or a portion of the debt owed.  This is essentially stating that while I legally had to include all debts in my bankruptcy, I want the Court to exclude this reaffirmed loan from the bankruptcy discharge. In this agreement, the Debtor agrees to pay payments through the course of the bankruptcy proceeding and to the end of the terms of the loan. It is very important that you speak to an attorney about your option to reaffirm.



In a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, when the debtor obtains legal title to collateral (often times a car, computer, or furniture) by paying the creditor the replacement value of the collateral in a lump sum. This is often another option instead of Reaffirmation Agreement. In the example of a car, a debtor may redeem a car note by paying the lender the amount a retail vendor would charge for the car, considering the age and condition.