Your Chapter 13 Repayment Plan

April 13, 2011

The central feature of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is the repayment plan. The Chapter 13 plan is a proposal by the debtor to repay certain debts in installments over three to five years. A plan must be filed within 14 days after the bankruptcy petition is filed, and a copy or summary of the plan is mailed to all creditors. Creditors or the bankruptcy trustee may object to the debtor’s plan which may require modification. Ultimately the repayment plan must be “confirmed” by the bankruptcy court.

Many Chapter 13 plans make no payments to unsecured creditors. The amount paid to unsecured creditors is largely guided by the outcome of the bankruptcy means test, which makes an initial presumption of the debtor’s ability to pay unsecured creditors over three to five years. The Chapter 13 Plan must provide payment of at least as much for unsecured creditors as they would have received had the debtor filed a Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy. Any priority claims must be paid in full and include a plan for paying secured debts during the plan term. Long term debts, like a mortgage payment or student loans, do not need to be paid off during the plan term, but the plan may provide for the cure of a defaulted note.

Plan payments are made to the Chapter 13 Trustee, who receives a fee for distributing the debtor’s monthly payment to creditors. The debtor’s first plan payment is due 30 days after the case is filed, however the Chapter 13 Plan may not be confirmed by the bankruptcy court until a later date. If a debtor fails to commence making plan payments to the trustee, a motion to dismiss the case will be filed. In most cases is recommended that the debtor execute a voluntary wage withholding to pay the Chapter 13 Trustee, although there is no requirement to do so.

If you are considering a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it is important to discuss your repayment plan with your attorney. While it is possible to amend a repayment plan when your financial circumstances change, you and your attorney should propose a Chapter 13 plan that is both affordable and realistic. The success of your Chapter 13 case depends upon your ability to follow through with your plan. 

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