by Chip Parker, Jacksonville Bankruptcy Attorney on October 25, 2009 · Posted in Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
In my 17 years of practicing bankruptcy law, I have never been as excited by anything as the development of the individual Chapter 11 case.
Traditionally, Chapter 13 has been used for personal reorganizations while Chapter 11 has been reserved for more complex corporate reorganizations.� However, a small handful of sophisticated bankruptcy lawyers, like Brett Mearkle of Jacksonville, Florida and BLN contributors Brett Weiss and Kurt O�Keefe, are taking advantage of the debtor-friendly rules of Chapter 11, to provide more meaningful debt restructuring for individual consumers.
Before 2005, individual Chapter 11 cases were virtually non-existent. However, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, which has generally been horrible for individual debtors, changed a critical rule in Chapter 11 that has made it the choice for bankruptcy lawyers seeking the best restructuring options for many middle-class Americans.� That rule, known as the Absolute Priority Rule, no longer applies to individuals filing under Chapter 11.� The result is that, unlike corporate debtors, an individual (or married couple) filing under Chapter 11 does not have to repay 100% of his unsecured debts.� Rather, the individual need only pay his �disposable income� over a 5 year period, just like in Chapter 13 cases.
The challenge for bankruptcy lawyers is streamlining the Chapter 11 case for consumers to bring the overall cost of filing down.� Currently, my firm has managed to bring down the cost of a typical Chapter 11, but even so, the individual Chapter 11 case costs $10,000 to $30,000, depending on the facts.� However, in as many as half of all consumer reorganizations, these increased fees and costs are far outweighed by the savings and convenience of Chapter 11.
These savings, like �cram down� of automobiles and elimination of the trustee�s administrative fee, will be discussed in more detail in my upcoming articles.
The change to the Absolute Priority Rule has gone widely unnoticed by consumer bankruptcy lawyers, largely because so few understand Chapter 11.� However, we are starting to realize the power of Chapter 11 for consumers, and a concerted effort is being made by many to understand this complicated area of bankruptcy law.� I’ll be in Tucson next week, attending a three day seminar conducted by The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys to learn how to identify which consumers will benefit from Chapter 11 and how to file these types of bankruptcies.� Of course a three-day seminar is really the beginning of an education in Chapter 11, and I predict there will be more advanced seminars to follow.
Be on the lookout for more articles and videos by me and other BLNers on the advantages and nuances of the individual Chapter 11.