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automatic stay

court procedure that prevents creditors from seeking independent repayment of debts incurred before the petition was filed


court process by which a debtor, which can be an individual or a business entity, seeks protection from its creditors

bankruptcy estate

debtor's property rights and interests once a bankruptcy petition is filed

bankruptcy trustee

person appointed to make payments to creditors and oversee the ownership of the debtor's property for the benefit of the creditors

Chapter 11

restructuring bankruptcy chapter for business entities; involves an agreed-upon repayment plan by the debtor and creditors

Chapter 13

restructuring bankruptcy chapter for individuals; involves an agreed-upon repayment plan by the debtor and creditors

Chapter 7

most common form of bankruptcy; used for individuals and businesses


property used to secure a loan with the understanding its owner will forfeit it in the event of default of the loan


release of a debtor from the amount owed to a creditor to avoid personal liability

dischargeable debt

certain debt that is considered an option for complete release from creditors

Dodd-Frank Act

2010 federal law put into effect after the 2008 financial crisis; it puts restrictions on financial institutions to protect consumers

exempt asset

property or asset that the debtor can keep during and after bankruptcy proceedings, as approved by the court


legal process a creditor uses to secure outstanding debt by forcing the sale of an asset—typically, real estate


order issued and mandated by a court, directing a third party to seize money or property for payment of debts; typically used with wages


security interest granted for an asset or property on behalf of a creditor by a debtor


process of converting assets into cash to pay off creditors

nondischargeable debt

debt that cannot be settled through bankruptcy, such as federal loans, taxes, child support, and other federal or state debts


official form to file to seek relief from creditors under federal law; includes voluntary and involuntary bankruptcy


order in which claims are paid in a bankruptcy proceeding, with higher-priority claims paid first

proof of claim

document filed with a court by a creditor to confirm and verify the amount owed


act of a creditor seizing an asset of a debtor, which was used as collateral to secure a loan, when the loan has defaulted

secured debt

debt that has collateral to be used in the event of default or used to secure the creditor's interest

unsecured debt

loan or debt without collateral, such as credit card debt