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Liquidation Under the Bankruptcy Code
The potential chapter 7 debtor should understand that a straight bankruptcy case does not involve the filing of a plan of repayment as in chapter 13, but rather envisions the bankruptcy trustee's gathering and sale of the debtor's nonexempt assets, from which holders of claims (creditors) will receive distributions in accordance with the provisions of the Bankruptcy Code. Part of the debtor's property may be subject to liens and mortgages that pledge the property to other creditors. In addition, under chapter 7, the individual debtor is permitted to retain certain "exempt" property. The debtor's remaining assets are liquidated by a trustee. Accordingly, potential debtors should realize that the filing of a petition under chapter 7 may result in the loss of property.
In order to qualify for relief under chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code,
the debtor must be an individual, a partnership, or a corporation. 11
One of the primary purposes of bankruptcy is to discharge certain debts to give an honest individual debtor a "fresh start." The discharge has the effect of extinguishing the debtor's personal liability on dischargeable debts. In a chapter 7 case, however, a discharge is available to individual debtors only, not to partnerships or corporations. 11 U.S.C. § 727(a)(1). Although the filing of an individual chapter 7 petition usually results in a discharge of debts, an individual's right to a discharge is not absolute, and some types of debts are not discharged. Moreover, a bankruptcy discharge does not extinguish a lien on property.