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Bankruptcy Glossary

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2004 exam A court-ordered examination of a party to a bankruptcy case outside the normal hearing process. Taken under oath. Similar to a deposition in a civil case. 

341 meeting The meeting of creditors required by section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code at which the debtor is questioned under oath by creditors, a trustee, examiner, or the U.S. trustee about his/her financial affairs. Also called creditors' meeting.

707(b) A section of Chapter 7 bankruptcy law relating to dismissal of bankruptcy cases for "abuse" typically because the debtor is considered to have sufficient disposable income to repay some portion of unsecured debt in a Chapter 13 plan instead of wiping it all out. 


abuse In a Chapter 7 proceeding, it is typically being projected to have even a relatively small amount of income left over each month that could be used to repay unsecured creditors. Sometimes, it relates to other financial circumstances which indicate the debtor is not acting in "good faith" in seeking bankruptcy relief.  

adequate protection A stream of payments or equity, or both, available to a secured creditor in order to allow a debtor to continue to retain and use collateral. Also normally includes insurance on the collateral.

administrative expense The costs of a bankruptcy estate. Typically these consist of bankruptcy trustee commission, trustee attorney fees, court costs, auditor or examiner fees, liquidator's costs, and sometimes the debtor's attorney fees. 

adversary proceeding A lawsuit arising in or related to a bankruptcy case that is commenced by filing a complaint with the court. A nonexclusive list of adversary proceedings is set forth in Fed. R. Bankr. P. 7001.

arrearage The amount due but not yet paid on a debt. In consumer bankruptcy cases, it is most commonly referring to the amount owed on a mortgage to bring the loan "current" under the mortgage contract.

assets The amount due but not yet paid on a debt. In consumer bankruptcy cases, it is most commonly referring to the amount owed on a mortgage to bring the loan "current" under the mortgage contract.

assume An agreement to continue performing duties under a contract or lease.

automatic stay An injunction that automatically stops lawsuits, foreclosures, garnishments, and all collection activity against the debtor the moment a bankruptcy petition is filed.

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BAPCPA The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, also known as the 2005 amendments. The most significant changes to bankruptcy law since 1978.

bankruptcy A legal procedure for dealing with debt problems of individuals and businesses; specifically, a case filed under one of the chapters of title 11 of the United States Code (the Bankruptcy Code).

bankruptcy administrator An officer of the judiciary serving in the judicial districts of Alabama and North Carolina who, like the U.S. trustee, is responsible for supervising the administration of bankruptcy cases, estates, and trustees; monitoring plans and disclosure statements; monitoring creditors' committees; monitoring fee applications; and performing other statutory duties. Compare U.S. trustee. Bankruptcy Code The informal name for title 11 of the United States Code (11 U.S.C. §§ 101-1330), the federal bankruptcy law.

bankruptcy court The bankruptcy judges in regular active service in each district; a unit of the district court. bankruptcy estate All legal or equitable interests of the debtor in property at the time of the bankruptcy filing. (The estate includes all property in which the debtor has an interest, even if it is owned or held by another person.)

bakruptcy estate The property owned by a debtor upon filing bankruptcy, plus certain property acquired or earned during the case, and certain inheritances received during the 6-monthe period after filing. The estate can also recover certain property that may have been given or taken away during specific time periods prior to the beginning of the case. The estate is also limited to property to non-exempt assets and property not excluded from the estate by law (e.g. 401(k) plans), or removed from the estate by operation of law or by motion and order of the court.

bankruptcy judge A judicial officer of the United States district court who is the court official with decision-making power over federal bankruptcy cases.

bankruptcy petition The document filed by the debtor (in a voluntary case) or by creditors (in an involuntary case) by which opens the bankruptcy case. (There are official forms for bankruptcy petitions.)

budget A debtor's actual or projected income and expenses, typically measured on a monthly basis. Sometimes the term is used as a reference to specific forms, Schedules I and J, filed in the bankruptcy case.

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chapter 7 The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code providing for "liquidation,"(i.e., the sale of a debtor's nonexempt property and the distribution of the proceeds to creditors.)

chapter 11 The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code providing (generally) for reorganization, usually involving a corporation or partnership. (A chapter 11 debtor usually proposes a plan of reorganization to keep its business alive and pay creditors over time. People in business or individuals can also seek relief in chapter 11.)

chapter 12 The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code providing for adjustment of debts of a "family farmer," or a "family fisherman" as those terms are defined in the Bankruptcy Code.

chapter 13 The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code providing for adjustment of debts of an individual with regular income. (Chapter 13 allows a debtor to keep property and pay debts over time, usually three to five years.)

chapter 15 The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code dealing with cases of cross-border insolvency. claim A creditor's assertion of a right to payment from the debtor or the debtor's property. confirmation Bankruptcy judges's approval of a plan of reorganization or liquidation in chapter 11, or payment plan in chapter 12 or 13.

chapter 20 A nickname given by bankruptcy practitioners to a two-step process, typically using Chapter 7 followed by Chapter 13, to eliminate or reorganize more debt or save property which might otherwise be lost in a single-step proceeding.

collateral A nickname given by bankruptcy practitioners to a two-step process, typically using Chapter 7 followed by Chapter 13, to eliminate or reorganize more debt or save property which might otherwise be lost in a single-step proceeding.

collateral estoppel A legal principle which prevents a party to a legal proceeding from re-arguing issues already decided by a court. Similar to "res judicata."

confirmation A bankruptcy proceeding which approves a reorganization plan under Chapter 11, 12, or 13. A 'confirmed' plan binds all parties to it including the debtor and creditors, whether or not they consent. Disobeying an order confirming a plan can result in a contempt of court proceeding.

consumer debtor A debtor whose debts are primarily consumer debts. consumer debts Debts incurred for personal, as opposed to business, needs.

contested matter Those matters, other than objections to claims, that are disputed but are not within the definition of adversary proceeding contained in Rule 7001.

contingent claim A claim that may be owed by the debtor under certain circumstances, e.g., where the debtor is a cosigner on another person's loan and that person fails to pay.

conversion A bankruptcy proceeding which approves a reorganization plan under Chapter 11, 12, or 13. A 'confirmed' plan binds all parties to it including the debtor and creditors, whether or not they consent. Disobeying an order confirming a plan can result in a contempt of court proceeding.

cramdown In consumer bankruptcy cases, the process of reducing the payment to which a secured creditor is entitled, typically to the fair market value of its collateral.

creditor One to whom the debtor owes money or who claims to be owed money by the debtor.

credit report A compilation of information about a consumer about their use of consumer credit to be used typically by those considering the extension of credit to the consumer, or a few other approved uses (i.e. employment and collection purposes). Reports are maintained by credit reporting agencies, the best known being Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and the "checking account" credit reporting agency, Chex Systems. A free copy of your credit report must be provided on demand to a consumer once per year, for example through the Annual Credit Report website.

credit counseling Generally refers to two events in individual bankruptcy cases: (1) the "individual or group briefing" from a nonprofit budget and credit counseling agency that individual debtors must attend prior to filing under any chapter of the Bankruptcy Code; and (2) the "instructional course in personal financial management" in chapters 7 and 13 that an individual debtor must complete before a discharge is entered. There are exceptions to both requirements for certain categories of debtors, exigent circumstances, or if the U.S. trustee or bankruptcy administrator have determined that there are insufficient approved credit counseling agencies available to provide the necessary counseling.

creditors' meeting see 341 meeting

current monthly income The average monthly income received by the debtor over the six calendar months before commencement of the bankruptcy case, including regular contributions to household expenses from nondebtors and income from the debtor's spouse if the petition is a joint petition, but not including social security income and certain other payments made because the debtor is the victim of certain crimes. 11 U.S.C. § 101(10A).

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debtor A person who has filed a petition for relief under the Bankruptcy Code.

debtor in possesion A debtor in a Chapter 11 proceeding who remains in control of the property of the estate, so long as the bankruptcy court has not appointed a trustee. A debtor-in-possession has many of the powers and obligations of a trustee, most importantly to put the interests of creditors ahead of those who run or invested in the debtor.

debtor education see credit counseling

default Sometimes called a "breach of contract," a default is a failure to perform an obligation under a contract. A default under a contract does not have to be intentional. Federal and state law sometimes limit the rights of another party to declare the other party in "default" and the contracts themselves sometimes provide for methods and costs of curing a default once it has occured.

defendant An individual (or business) against whom a lawsuit is filed.

deficiency The amount still owed on a loan after application of the proceeds from the sale of any collateral that originally secured the loan.

discharge A release of a debtor from personal liability for certain dischargeable debts set forth in the Bankruptcy Code. (A discharge releases a debtor from personal liability for certain debts known as dischargeable debts and prevents the creditors owed those debts from taking any action against the debtor to collect the debts. The discharge also prohibits creditors from communicating with the debtor regarding the debt, including telephone calls, letters, and personal contact.)

dischargeable debt A debt for which the Bankruptcy Code allows the debtor's personal liability to be eliminated.

disclosure statement A written document prepared by the chapter 11 debtor or other plan proponent that is designed to provide "adequate information" to creditors to enable them to evaluate the chapter 11 plan of reorganization.

dimissal The termination of a case. In a banrkuptcy case, this is normally without benefit of a discharge to the debtor.

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effective date The day on which a reorganization plan becomes binding upon all parties, including the debtor and creditors as well as the day on which certain assets may be valued by the court to determine the amount of some secured claims.

equity The value of a debtor's interest in property that remains after liens and other creditors' interests are considered. (Example: If a house valued at $100,000 is subject to a $80,000 mortgage, there is $20,000 of equity.)

executory contract or lease Generally includes contracts or leases under which both parties to the agreement have duties remaining to be performed. (If a contract or lease is executory, a debtor may assume it or reject it.) exemptions,

exempt property Certain property owned by an individual debtor that the Bankruptcy Code or applicable state law permits the debtor to keep from unsecured creditors. For example, in some states the debtor may be able to exempt all or a portion of the equity in the debtor's primary residence (homestead exemption), or some or all "tools of the trade" used by the debtor to make a living (i.e., auto tools for an auto mechanic or dental tools for a dentist). The availability and amount of property the debtor may exempt depends on the state the debtor lives in.

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FICO score FICO Fair Issac Corporation. A "FICO Score" is the most commonly-recognized credit rating, a number calculated using a secret formula based on a consumer's credit reports used by potential lenders to determine the degree of risk associated with lending to a particular consumer.

fiduciary a person to whom property or power is entrusted for the benefit of another.

foreclosure The legal process by which a mortgagee, or other lien holder, usually a lender, obtains a termination of a mortgagor's equitable right of redemption, either by court order or by operation of law (after following a specific statutory procedure).

fraud The deliberate use of misleading or false information or tactics to obtain another's property or money.

fraudulent transfer Typically, the transaction involving the giving of property to another without receiving reasonably equivalent value in return while insolvent or nearly so, rendering the debtor less able to repay debts.


garnishment A judicial process for seizing another's financial property, like wages or bank accounts, to pay a creditor's judgment or, in some cases, child support or tax obligations.


homestead The exemption provided, if any, to equity in a person's home, most commonly the physical structure and real estate associated with it but sometimes refers to a mobile home or lease interest in property.

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insider (of individual debtor) Any relative of the debtor or of a general partner of the debtor; partnership in which the debtor is a general partner; general partner of the debtor; or a corporation of which the debtor is a director, officer, or person in control.

insider (of corporate debtor) A director, officer, or person in control of the debtor; a partnership in which the debtor is a general partner; a general partner of the debtor; or a relative of a general partner, director, officer, or person in control of the debtor.

involuntary bankruptcy A rarely used proceeding where creditors of a debtor join together to petition the bankruptcy court to determing the debtor is not paying its debts as they come due in order to allow the court to take control of the debtor's property for the benefit of creditors.

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joint administration A court-approved mechanism under which two or more cases can be administered together. (Assuming no conflicts of interest, these separate businesses or individuals can pool their resources, hire the same professionals, etc.)

joint petition One bankruptcy petition filed by a husband and wife together.

judgement A court order determining an issue, most commonly determining if one party owes another a sum of money, any interest, or costs associated with the debt.

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lien The right to take and hold or sell the property of a debtor as security or payment for a debt or duty.

liquidation A sale of a debtor's property with the proceeds to be used for the benefit of creditors.

liquidated claim A creditor's claim for a fixed amount of money.

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means test Section 707(b)(2) of the Bankruptcy Code applies a "means test" to determine whether an individual debtor's chapter 7 filing is presumed to be an abuse of the Bankruptcy Code requiring dismissal or conversion of the case (generally to chapter 13). Abuse is presumed if the debtor's aggregate current monthly income (see definition above) over 5 years, net of certain statutorily allowed expenses is more than (i) $10,950, or (ii) 25% of the debtor's nonpriority unsecured debt, as long as that amount is at least $6,575. The debtor may rebut a presumption of abuse only by a showing of special circumstances that justify additional expenses or adjustments of current monthly income.

meeting of creditors The initial hearing in a bankruptcy case which is attended by the debtor (and lawyer), any trustee appointed in the case, and creditors who wish to attend. An opportunity for the parties to a case to ask the debtor questions about their financial condition, income, assets, liabilities and past transactions. Also referred to as a 341 Meeting.

motion to lift the automatic stay A request by a creditor to allow the creditor to take action against the debtor or the debtor's property that would otherwise be prohibited by the automatic stay.

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no-asset case A chapter 7 case where there are no assets available to satisfy any portion of the creditors' unsecured claims.

nondischargeable debt A debt that cannot be eliminated in bankruptcy. Examples include a home mortgage, debts for alimony or child support, certain taxes, debts for most government funded or guaranteed educational loans or benefit overpayments, debts arising from death or personal injury caused by driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, and debts for restitution or a criminal fine included in a sentence on the debtor's conviction of a crime. Some debts, such as debts for money or property obtained by false pretenses and debts for fraud or defalcation while acting in a fiduciary capacity may be declared nondischargeable only if a creditor timely files and prevails in a nondischargeability action.

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objection to dischargeability A trustee's or creditor's objection to the debtor being released from personal liability for certain dischargeable debts. Common reasons include allegations that the debt to be discharged was incurred by false pretenses or that debt arose because of the debtor's fraud while acting as a fiduciary.

objection to exemptions A trustee's or creditor's objection to the debtor's attempt to claim certain property as exempt from liquidation by the trustee to creditors.

oversecured A creditor who holds a lien on property which is worth more than the debt they are owed.

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party in interest A party who has standing to be heard by the court in a matter to be decided in the bankruptcy case. The debtor, the U.S. trustee or bankruptcy administrator, the case trustee and creditors are parties in interest for most matters.

perfection The public recording of a lien by a secured creditor, like recording a mortgage with the deed's office or placing a lien on a car title. Perfection puts the public at large on notice of the creditor's rights in property.

personal property A party's non-real estate assets. Also called "personalty." Includes all tangible non-real estate things and sometimes includes intangible rights, like copyrights and patents.

petition preparer A business not authorized to practice law that prepares bankruptcy petitions.

plan A debtor's detailed description of how the debtor proposes to pay creditors' claims over a fixed period of time. plaintiff A person or business that files a formal complaint with the court. postpetition transfer A transfer of the debtor's property made after the commencement of the case.

prebankruptcy planning The arrangement (or rearrangement) of a debtor's property to allow the debtor to take maximum advantage of exemptions. (Prebankruptcy planning typically includes converting nonexempt assets into exempt assets.)

preference or preferential debt payment A debt payment made to a creditor in the 90-day period before a debtor files bankruptcy (or within one year if the creditor was an insider) that gives the creditor more than the creditor would receive in the debtor's chapter 7 case. presumption of abuse see means test priority The Bankruptcy Code's statutory ranking of unsecured claims that determines the order in which unsecured claims will be paid if there is not enough money to pay all unsecured claims in full. For example, under the Bankruptcy Code's priority scheme, money owed to the case trustee or for prepetition alimony and/or child support must be paid in full before any general unsecured debt (i.e. trade debt or credit card debt) is paid.

priority claim An unsecured claim that is entitled to be paid ahead of other unsecured claims that are not entitled to priority status. Priority refers to the order in which these unsecured claims are to be paid.

proof of claim A written statement and verifying documentation filed by a creditor that describes the reason the debtor owes the creditor money. (There is an official form for this purpose.)

property of the estate All legal or equitable interests of the debtor in property as of the commencement of the case.

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reaffirmation agreement An agreement by a chapter 7 debtor to continue paying a dischargeable debt (such as an auto loan) after the bankruptcy, usually for the purpose of keeping collateral (i.e. the car) that would otherwise be subject to repossession.

redemption The satisfaction of a secured creditor's lien on the debtor's personal property through a lump sum payment of the fair market value of the collateral in lieu of surrendering the collateral itself to the creditor.

relief from stay Permission granted to a creditor to proceed with an act which might otherwise violate the automatic stay created at the beginning of a bankruptcy case. It is normally granted by the court only upon motion and hearing, upon a showing of good cause based on the bankruptcy law. It is granted automatically after certain time periods elapse or at the conclusion of a case by discharge, dismissal or closing without discharge.


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schedules Detailed lists filed by the debtor along with (or shortly after filing) the petition showing the debtor's assets, liabilities, and other financial information. (There are official forms a debtor must use.)

secured creditor A creditor holding a claim against the debtor who has the right to take and hold or sell certain property of the debtor in satisfaction of some or all of the claim.

secured debt Debt backed by a mortgage, pledge of collateral, or other lien; debt for which the creditor has the right to pursue specific pledged property upon default. Examples include home mortgages, auto loans and tax liens.

security agreement A contract term by which a debtor grants a creditor right to receive payment from the sale of certain collateral and typically giving the creditor the right to take and sell that collateral upon failure to perform some part of the contract.

setoff The act by which a creditor applies any obligation it owes to a debtor on one transaction to satisfy in whole or part an obligation the debtor owes to the creditor in another transaction.

small business case A special type of chapter 11 case in which there is no creditors' committee (or the creditors' committee is deemed inactive by the court) and in which the debtor is subject to more oversight by the U.S. trustee than other chapter 11 debtors. The Bankruptcy Code contains certain provisions designed to reduce the time a small business debtor is in bankruptcy.

statement of financial affairs A series of questions the debtor must answer in writing concerning sources of income, transfers of property, lawsuits by creditors, etc. (There is an official form a debtor must use.) statement of intention A declaration made by a chapter 7 debtor concerning plans for dealing with consumer debts that are secured by property of the estate.

summons A court notice which advises a party that a court proceeding is occuring, a hearing may be scheduled and certain rights of the party may be adjudicated.

subpoena A court order compelling a party to appear and give evidence in a court proceeding and/or produce records or allow them to be examined.

substantive consolidation Putting the assets and liabilities of two or more related debtors into a single pool to pay creditors. (Courts are reluctant to allow substantive consolidation since the action must not only justify the benefit that one set of creditors receives, but also the harm that other creditors suffer as a result.)


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transfer Any mode or means by which a debtor disposes of or parts with his/her property.

trustee The representative of the bankruptcy estate who exercises statutory powers, principally for the benefit of the unsecured creditors, under the general supervision of the court and the direct supervision of the U.S. trustee or bankruptcy administrator. The trustee is a private individual or corporation appointed in all chapter 7, chapter 12, and chapter 13 cases and some chapter 11 cases. The trustee's responsibilities include reviewing the debtor's petition and schedules and bringing actions against creditors or the debtor to recover property of the bankruptcy estate. In chapter 7, the trustee liquidates property of the estate, and makes distributions to creditors. Trustees in chapter 12 and 13 have similar duties to a chapter 7 trustee and the additional responsibilities of overseeing the debtor's plan, receiving payments from debtors, and disbursing plan payments to creditors.

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U.S. trustee An officer of the Justice Department responsible for supervising the administration of bankruptcy cases, estates, and trustees; monitoring plans and disclosure statements; monitoring creditors' committees; monitoring fee applications; and performing other statutory duties. Compare, bankruptcy administrator. undersecured claim A debt secured by property that is worth less than the full amount of the debt.

undersecured A creditor who holds a lien on property which is worth less than the amount owed to the creditor.

undo hardship A burden which is unreasonably harsh under the circumstances, for example resulting in a debtor being unable to maintain a minimal standard of living for which the debtor should not be held responsible.

unliquidated claim A claim for which a specific value has not been determined.

unscheduled debt A debt that should have been listed by the debtor in the schedules filed with the court but was not. (Depending on the circumstances, an unscheduled debt may or may not be discharged.)

unsecured claim A claim or debt for which a creditor holds no special assurance of payment, such as a mortgage or lien; a debt for which credit was extended based solely upon the creditor's assessment of the debtor's future ability to pay.

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Voluntary transfer A transfer of a debtor's property with the debtor's consent.

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