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LEGAL TERMS

GRACE PERIOD

A period of time during which you are not required to make payments on a debt. For example, most credit cards give you a grace period of 20-30 days before you h... (more...)
A period of time during which you are not required to make payments on a debt. For example, most credit cards give you a grace period of 20-30 days before you have to pay interest on the amount of your purchases. Cash advances, however, usually have no grace period; interest begins to accumulate from the date of the withdrawal, even if you pay your bills on time. Also, some student loans give you a grace period after graduating or dropping out of school. During this time, you are not required to make payments on your loan.

DISCHARGEABLE DEBTS

Debts that can be erased by going through bankruptcy. Most debts incurred prior to declaring bankruptcy are dischargeable, including back rent, credit card bill... (more...)
Debts that can be erased by going through bankruptcy. Most debts incurred prior to declaring bankruptcy are dischargeable, including back rent, credit card bills and medical bills. Compare nondischargeable debts.

PREFERENCE

A payment made by a debtor to a creditor within a defined period prior to filing for bankruptcy -- within three months for arms-length creditors (regular commer... (more...)
A payment made by a debtor to a creditor within a defined period prior to filing for bankruptcy -- within three months for arms-length creditors (regular commercial creditors) and within one year for insider creditors (friends, family members, and business associates). Because a preference gives the creditor who received the payment an edge over other creditors in the bankruptcy case, the trustee can recover the preference (the amount of the payment) and distribute it among all of the creditors.

SETOFF

A claim made by someone who allegedly owes money, that the amount should be reduced because the other person owes him money. This is often raised in a countercl... (more...)
A claim made by someone who allegedly owes money, that the amount should be reduced because the other person owes him money. This is often raised in a counterclaim filed by a defendant in a lawsuit. Banks may try to exercise a setoff by taking money out of a deposit account to satisfy past due payments on a loan or credit card bill. Such an act is illegal under most circumstances.

COSIGNER

A person who signs his or her name to a loan agreement, lease or credit application. If the primary debtor does not pay, the cosigner is fully responsible for t... (more...)
A person who signs his or her name to a loan agreement, lease or credit application. If the primary debtor does not pay, the cosigner is fully responsible for the loan or debt. Many people use cosigners to qualify for a loan or credit card. Landlords may require a cosigner when renting to a student or someone with a poor credit history.

IRS EXPENSES

A table of national and regional expense estimates published by the IRS. Debtors whose current monthly income is more than their state's median family income mu... (more...)
A table of national and regional expense estimates published by the IRS. Debtors whose current monthly income is more than their state's median family income must use the IRS expenses to calculate their average net income in a Chapter 7 case, or their disposable income in a Chapter 13 case.

SECRET WARRANTY PROGRAM

A program under which a car manufacturer will make repairs for free on vehicles with persistent problems, even after the warranty has expired, in order to avoid... (more...)
A program under which a car manufacturer will make repairs for free on vehicles with persistent problems, even after the warranty has expired, in order to avoid a recall and the accompanying bad press. Secret warranties are rarely advertised by the manufacturer, so consumers must pursue the manufacturer to discover and take advantage of them. A few states require manufacturers to notify car buyers when they adopt secret warranty programs.

PRESUMED ABUSE

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, when the debtor's current monthly income exceeds the family median income for his or her state and he or she cannot pass the means te... (more...)
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, when the debtor's current monthly income exceeds the family median income for his or her state and he or she cannot pass the means test, the court will presume that the debtor has sufficient income to fund a Chapter 13 plan. In this situation, the debtor will not be allowed to proceed with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy unless the debtor can prove that he or she is not abusing the Chapter 7 bankruptcy remedy.

MEETING OF CREDITORS

A meeting held with the bankruptcy trustee about a month after you file for bankruptcy. You must attend. The trustee reviews your bankruptcy papers and asks a f... (more...)
A meeting held with the bankruptcy trustee about a month after you file for bankruptcy. You must attend. The trustee reviews your bankruptcy papers and asks a few questions. In a Chapter 7, the meeting of creditors lasts a few minutes and rarely do any creditors show up. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, one or two creditors may attend, especially if they disagree with some provision of your repayment plan.