Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 11: What’s the Difference?

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Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 11 bankruptcy are both common options for businesses in declaring bankruptcy. The key differences essentially amount to liquidation vs. a reorganization and restructuring of debt.

A business may liquidate through the bankruptcy process by filing a petition under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 11. But the primary purpose of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is to liquidate the debtor’s non-exempt assets, make a distribution to creditors, and for the debtor to receive a discharge from prepetition debts, giving the debtor a fresh start. Chapter 7 cases are typically only filed voluntarily by the debtor.

The primary purpose of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy is to give business entities and individuals with large amounts of debt an opportunity to reorganize their financial affairs. The debtor in Chapter 11 ordinarily files a plan of reorganization to be voted on by its various classes of creditors. The plan may provide for restructuring of the debtor’s debts. Alternatively, the debtor can conduct a company sale under 11 U.S.C. § 363 followed by a liquidating plan that distributes the sale proceeds to creditors.

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