How Does Bankruptcy Work and is it Right for you?
Bankruptcy is seen by some as an easy way out, a way to wipe the slate clean and start afresh, but as is so often the case, it’s rarely this straightforward. It may be that bankruptcy really is the answer to all of your problems, it may be that it is the biggest mistake you have ever made.
In this guide we’ll take a closer look at your situation to see if bankruptcy is right for you or not.
Do You Need Bankruptcy?
It’s an obvious question, but one that needs to be asked nonetheless. Bankruptcy should be seen as a last resort, because it can be stressful and it can be financially crippling, leaving a mark on your credit score that remains for 10 years. If you have other options then you should take those first, turning to bankruptcy only when they fail and you really don’t have any other option.
One of the best solutions for anyone looking at bankruptcy is debt settlement. This is something that can be undertaken at any stage of debt, but something that may be at its most effective when the debtor is on the brink of bankruptcy. In such cases creditors will get whiff of the issues and they will factor this into the negotiation, during which point they may be open to accepting a lesser amount.
Are You in Over Your Head?
- Being sued;
- Facing repossession or foreclosure;
- or, buried in debt that you can’t even begin to pay off?
If so then bankruptcy may be the best option. It may be the only option. If you have legal issues relating to your debt then bankruptcy can delay them. It an also delay a repossession.
Do You Understand the Ramifications?
Finally, you need to make sure that you actually understand how damaging bankruptcy can be. If you do, your debts are unsecured and you are in over your head, then go ahead and consider it. If not, then read on to learn more about bankruptcy and its implications.
What is Bankruptcy?
There are several different types of bankruptcy, but as an individual who finds themselves in debt the options are limited to Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Both of these require a filing fee and there are also legal costs, so they are not free, nor are they quick.
There are a number of differences between them, but they can be summarized as:
Chapter 7: Often referred to as a “complete” bankruptcy, this takes all that you own (but for a few exceptions) liquidates it and then uses the cash to pay creditors. Your debts will then be wiped out completely and you will be offered the chance to start again from scratch, except for the fact that you will have a red mark on your credit report that remains for a decade.
Chapter 13: This option allows the debtor to keep more of their assets, but they must also clear more of their debts. They agree to pay off their debts within 3 to 5 years after creating an agreement with their creditors. This is a good option for debtors with assets worth more than the size of their debt, as well as those who have debts that are not included in Chapter 7 claims.
How Can I Afford Bankruptcy?
It’s best to hire a bankruptcy lawyer, as they can make the process considerably easier and should save you a lot more in the long run. The problem is, when you factor this cost into the $300+ that you pay to file for bankruptcy, it can get very expensive very fast.
There can be other expenses as well. You may be asked to attend counseling sessions or debt management groups, which can cost upwards of $100. It may seem absurd that there could be such a large expense for something that people undertake because they have no money, but that’s the way it is.
If you are unable to pay everything in one go, legal fees included, then you may be allowed to pay in installments. However, for this to be the case you will need to prove that you cannot pay in full.
How Often Can I File?
Bankruptcy is not something you can turn to whenever you feel like it. There is a waiting period of at least 4 years (if filing a Chapter 7 and then a Chapter 13) all the way up to 8 years (Chapter 7 to Chapter 7).
Bankruptcy and Taxes
In the majority of cases you will not be able to clear your tax debt by filing for bankruptcy. If you opt for Chapter 7 then the debt will remain after everything else has been cleared. If you opt for Chapter 13 then they will be included in the payment plan.
On the plus side, in the first instance you will be in a better position financially than you were and this should make it easier to pay your debts. And where Chapter 13 is concerned the payment plan should help to make them more manageable.
There are extreme circumstances in which tax debt can be written off following a Chapter 7, but the debt must meet a range of criteria and there is no guarantee even then.
There are many other debts that bankruptcy cannot help, including:
- Student Loans
- Child Support
- Legal Bills