Most people never imagine they’ll need the relief of filing bankruptcy, but sometimes debt builds up unexpectedly. A job loss or medical bill may lead to increased credit card debt, and you may only be able to make minimum payments. Other bills rack up, and before you know it, you’re in over your head. There are many benefits to filing bankruptcy, but it’s also important to weigh the consequences of filing before moving forward.
Most people know that bankruptcy can discharge many of their debts, but you’ll need to make some important decisions to get to that point. First, we’ll conduct the Means Test to help us decide which chapter of bankruptcy is best for you. If you pass the Means Test, you’re eligible to file a Chapter 7, which discharges most unsecured debts, including medical bills, credit cards, utility bills, and back rent. If your income is too high or you have assets and property you need to protect, a Chapter 13 is a beneficial option. We’ll propose a repayment plan to the court that will last 3-5 years, and during this time you’ll make reduced payments based on your income. At the end of your repayment period, most remaining unsecured debts are discharged, greatly reducing the total you’ll pay on debts.
When you have debt you can’t pay, you’ll undoubtedly get calls and letters from creditors, which can be extremely stressful. One of the benefits of filing any chapter of bankruptcy is that the automatic stay will go into effect, which means your creditors must stop calling you as soon as you tell them you’ve filed. This gives you some time to focus and get your finances in order.
Things to Consider
While all the positive things about bankruptcy are great, this legal decision is not without consequences. Your credit score will decrease, which can make it more difficult to get credit in the future or even to rent a home. Also, not all debts can be included in bankruptcy. You’ll still be responsible for child support and alimony payments, although you may be able to have the payments modified based on your new situation. Student loans may only be included in bankruptcy under very strict guidelines, but you may be able to work with your lender to find a repayment plan that is a better fit for you. Back taxes also are generally not included in bankruptcy.
If you want to keep your property, such as your car or home, you’ll need to stay up to date on these payments; if you fall behind, your creditor will pursue repossession or foreclosure. It may be to your benefit to give up these items if the payments no longer fit your situation, or you may be able to make these payments more reasonable by discharging other debts through bankruptcy.
Thinking about the benefits of bankruptcy can give you hope for your future, and I can help you make a solid plan to discharge debt while preserving as much of your property as possible. If you aren’t sure how to move forward, please call or email me so we can talk.