Filing for bankruptcy is a decision individuals and businesses might consider when facing overwhelming financial challenges. It’s a legal process that can provide relief from debt burdens but also comes with its own set of consequences and implications.
Bankruptcy can provide a fresh start for debtors, but it is a complex decision that may not be the ideal solution for every situation. This article will discuss what to think about before deciding to file for bankruptcy and list the pros and cons to consider before making your final decision.
How to Decide if You Should File
Bankruptcy may be a good decision if you are overwhelmed with debt or are underwater on your mortgage and have exhausted all other avenues to rectify the situation. However, it’s important to remember that the relief you receive from bankruptcy depends on many factors.
Here are a couple of factors you should consider:
- Amount and Type of Debt — Not all debts can be discharged in bankruptcy. Secured debts like mortgages might still require payments, and debts such as child support, alimony, student loans, tax debts, wages owed to workers, damages for personal injury due to driving under the influence, and fines and penalties owed to government agencies are not eligible to be discharged.
- Long-Term Financial Goals — Consider long-term implications and the impact on future financial decisions, like buying a house or starting a business.
There may also be alternative solutions to your financial woes that can help you recover without facing the consequences of filing for bankruptcy. Here are some alternative solutions that could benefit you.
- Debt Negotiation — Exploring debt negotiation or settlement options might be preferable before opting for bankruptcy.
- Credit Counseling — A credit counselor can review your current financial situation and help determine if bankruptcy is right for you. Even if you decide to file for bankruptcy, you will likely be required to meet with a credit counselor before your bankruptcy is discharged.
- Consult Legal and Financial Advisors — Seek guidance from financial advisors or attorneys specializing in bankruptcy to understand the implications based on individual circumstances.
You should also review the different types of bankruptcy chapters. Each bankruptcy chapter (7, 11, 13) caters to different needs. Understanding the eligibility and implications of each chapter is crucial.
Pros of Filing for Bankruptcy
- Debt Relief and Fresh Start — Bankruptcy can discharge various unsecured debts, giving individuals a fresh start financially. It also provides protection from creditors. Filing for bankruptcy initiates an automatic stay, halting creditor actions like wage garnishment or foreclosure.
- Reorganization for Businesses — Chapter 11 allows businesses to reorganize, renegotiate debts, and continue operations under court supervision, potentially leading to survival and restructuring.
- Asset Protection — Bankruptcy laws often include exemptions that protect certain assets like homes, cars, and essential personal property from liquidation.
- Financial Education — Most bankruptcy processes mandate credit counseling, offering individuals financial management skills to prevent future financial crises.
- Protect Future Wages — Wages earned after you file bankruptcy are not considered property of the bankruptcy estate. This means creditors cannot garnish future wages to repay discharged debt. Remember, this does not apply to undischarged debts (back child support, earnings committed in a Chapter 13 payment plan).
- Start Rebuilding Your Credit Immediately — As soon as your debts are discharged, you can start working to rebuild your credit. Remember that you may face some challenges during this process due to the effects on your credit.
- Potential to Increase Your Credit Score — While bankruptcy can hurt your credit score, you could see an increase after your debts are discharged. Eliminating this debt can help lower your credit utilization ratio, which is a factor in determining your credit score.
- Emotional Relief — Financial stress can significantly impact your family and your health. Bankruptcy offers a clean slate and room to breathe.
Cons of Filing for Bankruptcy
- Credit Impact — Bankruptcy can significantly lower credit scores, making it challenging to secure loans or credit in the future. And even if you are granted credit, it might come with high interest rates. It also remains on credit reports for several years, affecting creditworthiness.
- Public Record — Bankruptcy filings are public records, potentially affecting an individual’s or business’s reputation.
- Asset Liquidation — In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, non-exempt assets may be sold to repay creditors. This can lead to the loss of valuable possessions.
- Employment and Housing Impact — Some employers check credit history, which could impact job opportunities after bankruptcy. Also, renting a home might be challenging due to your credit history post-bankruptcy.
- It Can Be Expensive — Between filing fees for bankruptcy and attorney fees, bankruptcy can be pricey.
- Joint Accountholders are Affected — Even if your bankruptcy is discharged, creditors can still demand payment from the person not filing bankruptcy.
- Dishonesty Could Lead to Criminal Charges — The information provided when you file bankruptcy will be highly scrutinized. Providing false information could lead to criminal charges. Ensure that you are completely honest when disclosing income and assets.
- Bankruptcy Can Take Awhile — Filing Chapter 7 usually moves quickly and can be discharged within months. However, Chapter 13 takes much longer as you must complete a three to five-year payment plan before your case is discharged.
Looking for the Best Bakersfield Bankruptcy Lawyers? Turn to The Gorski Firm
Filing for bankruptcy is a complex decision that requires careful consideration of its advantages and disadvantages. While it can offer relief from overwhelming debt and a chance for a fresh financial start, it also comes with significant consequences. Individuals and businesses should weigh these factors and consider alternatives before proceeding with bankruptcy, seeking professional advice to navigate the complexities of this legal process.
The Gorski Firm is experienced in representing debtors and creditors in bankruptcy cases. The experience we’ve gained from representing both sides of bankruptcy cases allows us to deliver practical experience and firsthand knowledge regarding issues that may arise on either side of the case.
Seeking legal counsel from a qualified bankruptcy attorney before filing bankruptcy is essential. Vincent Gorski, our founder, is a State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization Certified Bankruptcy Specialist.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation with a knowledgeable California bankruptcy attorney.