The term bankruptcy itself is defined as being financially unable to pay one’s debts as they become due, or to have more debts than assets. The word derives from a medieval term meaning broken table . In towns where merchants sold their wares on tables, the table of a non-paying or defaulting merchant would be broken by those with whom he did business.
Bankruptcy is also the statutory procedure under federal law by which a person, known as the debtor under goes a judicially-supervised liquidation or reorganization for the benefit of those who are owed money, known as creditors , where the debtor is usually relieved of most of his debts through what is called discharge . The debtor’s property becomes what is called the bankruptcy estate . This federal law is commonly known as the Bankruptcy Code . Bankruptcy filings are all done in federal court, thus ensuring uniformity throughout the United States. Certain variations do occur from state to state relating to what assets an individual debtor is allowed to keep ( exemptions ), and as to the nature and extent of a debtor’s property interests and other matters. Therefore, debtors should consult a local bankruptcy attorney to ensure the best representation.
The vast majority of cases are filed voluntarily by the debtor. However, creditors are permitted to file involuntary bankruptcy cases against a debtor who is generally not paying his debts as they become due. These types of cases are much rarer. They require 3 or more petitioning creditors who are owed a total of at least $10,000.00; if there are less than 12 creditors in total, then the involuntary petition may be filed by one creditor who is owed at least $10,000.00.
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Written byHenry Rendler. Attorney at Law in California