What are the different "chapters" in a bankruptcy?

Chapter 7 is the liquidation chapter of the Bankruptcy Code. Chapter 7 cases may be filed by an individual, corporation, or a partnership. Under chapter 7, a trustee is appointed to collect and sell all property that is not exempt and to use any proceeds to pay creditors. In the case of an individual, the debtor is allowed to claim certain property as exempt. In exchange for this, the debtor gets a discharge, which means that the debtor does not have to pay certain types of debts. Corporations and partnerships do not receive discharges. Consequently, any individuals legally liable for the partnership's or corporation's debts will remain liable. Therefore, individual bankruptcies may be required as well as the corporation or partnership bankruptcy.

Chapter 12 offers bankruptcy relief to those who qualify as family farmers. There are debt limitations for chapter 12, and a certain portion of the debtor's income must come from the operation of a farming business. Family farmers must propose a plan to repay their creditors over a period of time from future income, and the plan must be approved by the court. Plan payments are made through a chapter 12 trustee who also monitors the debtor's farming operations while the case is pending.

Chapter 13 is the debt repayment chapter for individuals with regular income whose debts do not exceed certain limits, including individuals who operate businesses as sole proprietorships. It is not available to corporations or partnerships. Chapter 13 generally permits individuals to keep their property repaying creditors out of their future income for three to five years. Each chapter 13 debtor proposes a repayment plan which must be approved by the court. Attorney fees may be paid through the plan. The amounts set forth in the plan must be paid to the chapter 13 trustee who distributes the funds for a fee. Many debts that cannot be discharged can still be paid over time in a chapter 13 plan. After completion of payments under the plan, chapter 13 debtors receive a discharge of most debts.