You’ve decided to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It can be a liberating decision, a release from the stress of warding off creditors and pinching every last penny. But it’s also a detailed and sometimes lengthy process. Don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be.
There are some common and easily avoidable mistakes that we see over and over as bankruptcy attorneys. While experience is certainly the best teacher, learning from others’ experiences is easier, quicker and often less costly in the long run.
Watch your spending.
Remember, in filing for bankruptcy you are essentially granting the court permission to pore over every detail of your financial life. Every dollar will be accounted for, so make sure they aren’t going to places that might jeopardize your case.
First, stop the unnecessary spending. When you put a luxury item or items on your credit card within 90 days of filing, those charges may not be discharged in your proceedings. If you’re already in a precarious financial situation and considering bankruptcy as a solution, you’re really not in a position to run up those charges. You might pay the price, literally.
Also, remember that family members have the same status of any other creditor. If you decide to pay back a personal debt when you’re considering bankruptcy, the trustee will likely recall that debt like he/she would any other.
Protect your Assets.
It’s tempting to pull out all the stops when those debts are piling up. But if you’re considering bankruptcy, there are certain assets that are best left alone.
Don’t liquidate your retirement account to pay your debts in the days leading up to filing. This is a knee-jerk reaction and often backfires. Retirement accounts are often protected, so you may be able to eliminate your debt while still keeping that asset intact. Talk to an attorney for your state’s specific laws, but don’t withdraw that money and pay the penalty without knowing the situation.
You must be accountable to your creditors, even if you’ve decided to file for bankruptcy. Stay in touch, stay honest, and show up to all proceedings related to your debt.
Tell your attorney everything. Everything. We cannot help you unless we know your situation inside and out.
Bankruptcy can be a trying time, but you can take certain steps to minimize the stress. Don’t spend extravagantly, don’t liquidate until you’re legally advised to do so, don’t blow off your legal commitments and be completely upfront with legal counsel. These tips will go a long way in making sure that the process goes as smoothly as possible.