The Average Cost of a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

By Phil M. Fowler

Chapter 11 bankruptcy is easily the most expensive form of bankruptcy, at least on average. Costs can vary widely depending on the fee arrangement with the attorney, the number of creditors who file disputes, and the complexity of the filing debtor's financial situation.

Generally

Most individuals should not file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy because, even though they are legally eligible, the cost is prohibitive. Even most small businesses should look to Chapter 11 as a last resort because of the excessive cost.

Considerations

The reason a Chapter 11 bankruptcy is so expensive is because it involves two separate elements: a reorganization plan and a debt repayment plan. The reorganization plan has to convince the court and your creditors that you can turn a profit fairly soon. This plan must be detailed and supported by reliable research. Then, you have to show a type of budget where you outline how you can repay your creditors over the next several years. Undoubtedly, you will have to negotiate terms of the plan with the court and with your creditors.

Guidelines

At a minimum, if you have inexpensive attorneys and no disputes over your reorganization plan, you will probably pay at least $15,000 in total fees. However, it is much more likely that total costs and attorney fees for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy will exceed $100,000. Again, this amount can vary greatly depending on the attorney's hourly rate and the number of disputes filed by creditors.

Minimizing the Cost

There is an approach you can try in an effort to minimize the cost of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but it doesn't work in most cases. You can try working with an attorney on an "unbundled" fee agreement, which basically means that you do most of the paperwork preparation, planning and filing, and you simply pay your attorney to act as a sort of legal coach whenever you have questions or need forms. Many attorneys will not accept this type of payment arrangement because of the complexity of Chapter 11 plans. The malpractice risk is too great for attorneys to not be intimately and regularly involved in the case.

Warning

The success rate in Chapter 11 bankruptcies is extremely low, meaning that a very low percentage of reorganization plans actually obtain court approval. Without court approval, your plan is worthless. There is a high chance that you will spend a lot of money putting together a plan, negotiating with creditors, and attempting to persuade the court, but fail. This means you will probably end up in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which can be a much less expensive form of bankruptcy.

About the Author

The Constitution Guru has worked as a writer and editor for "BYU Law Review" and "BYU Journal of Public Law." He is an experienced attorney with a law degree and a B.A. degree in history with an emphasis on U.S. Constitutional history, both earned at Brigham Young University.

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