• Bankruptcy is a federal court process designed to help consumers and businesses eliminate their debts or repay them under the protection of the bankruptcy court. Bankruptcies can generally be described as "liquidations" or "reorganizations."

    Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the liquidation variety -- property is sold (liquidated) to pay off as much of your debt as possible, while leaving you with enough property to make a fresh start. Chapter 13 is the most common type of "reorganization" bankruptcy for consumers -- you repay your debts over three to five years.
    Both kinds of bankruptcy have numerous rules -- and exceptions to those rules -- about what kinds of debts are covered, who can file, and what property you can and cannot keep. Bankruptcies, of any kind, stay on your credit report for 10 years. All decisions regarding bankruptcy should be considered very carefully and not taken lightly.