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How do I know if a debt is secured, unsecured, priority or administrative?

Generally the following definitions will apply, but if you have any questions about the classification of your debts, you should seek competent legal advice.

Secured debt - A debt that is backed by real or personal property is a “secured” debt. A creditor whose debt is “secured” has a legal right to take the property as full or partial satisfaction of the debt. For example, most homes are burdened by a “secured debt”. This means that the lender has the right to take the home if the borrower fails to make payments on the loan. Most people who buy new cars give the lender a “security interest” in the car. This means that the debt is a “secured debt” and that the lender can take the car if the borrower fails to make payments on the car loan.

Unsecured Debt - If you simply promise to pay someone a sum of money at a particular time, and you have not pledged any real or personal property to collateralize the debt, the debt is unsecured. For example, most debts for services and some credit card debts are “unsecured”.

Priority Debt - A debt entitled to priority payment ahead of most other debts in a bankruptcy case is a “priority” debt. A listing of priority debts is given, in general terms, in §507 of the Bankruptcy Code. Examples of priority debts are some taxes, wage claims of employees, debts related to goods and services provided to a debtor’s estate during the pendency of a bankruptcy case, and domestic support obligations. If you have questions deciding which of your debts are entitled to priority status, you should consult an attorney.

Administrative Debt - This is also a priority debt and is one created when someone provides goods or services to your bankruptcy estate. The best example of an administrative debt is the fees generated by attorneys and other professionals whose employment has been authorized by the court to represent the bankruptcy estate.

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