What are your options when your debts are on the rise relative to your income and you feel like you’ll never be able to pay them back or need a new plan to get caught up? Filing for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy might be your best bet. But it might not be. In fact, there are a number of situations when bankruptcy is not a good idea. We’ll outline those in this article so you have a better understanding of what you can do about your debts.
Get Advice from a Qualified Bankruptcy Attorney
The first thing we always want to make clear is that while we understand a lot about bankruptcy because of what we do to help customers get bankruptcy car loans, we are not bankruptcy lawyers. The first place to start when you’re wondering if you should file bankruptcy is by seeking the advice of a qualified, reputable bankruptcy attorney. In the San Diego area, we’re happy to recommend several on our attorneys page. And if you want additional guidance, check out our previous article, Choosing a Bankruptcy Lawyer. A qualified bankruptcy attorney can help you understand whether or not filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is the best choice for your specific situation.
Situations Where Bankruptcy is Not a Good Idea
There are a number of situations where bankruptcy isn’t necessarily the best option. In a moment of panic or desperation, you might assume filing bankruptcy is your only option, but first pause, take a deep breath, and consider the following examples of when bankruptcy is not a good idea:
Your Income Substantially Exceeds Your Expenses
The tipping point in favor of filing for bankruptcy is when your necessary monthly expenses (including minimum debt payments) total to more than your monthly net income. This may seem obvious, but it’s not always clear to some people who have mountains of debt but could pay it off if they just stuck to a plan. When it looks like a long road to pay those debts down, some would rather just walk away from the debt. But if you have substantial income left over after paying all necessary expenses, then you don’t need to file for bankruptcy, you just need to buckle down and get pay it off over time. Keep in mind it’s not about amount of debt you have, it’s about your debt relative to your income. $10,000 of debt may seem like very little, but it’s a lot if you have no income and no prospects for getting a job or increasing your income. Another option is to enlist the help of a credit counseling or debt management program—just be sure to do your homework and make sure it’s legitimate and has good reviews from independent sources.
You Have Assets You Want to Protect
In most cases, you can protect certain essential assets from the bankruptcy process, typically including the car you need to drive, the house you need to live in, retirement accounts, household items, and so on (there are very specific laws in each state that govern which assets are protected and which are not). But keep in mind that a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is also called a “liquidation” bankruptcy. The reason for this is because the bankruptcy trustee is going to be looking to see if you have assets that could be sold off to pay off at least some portion of what you owe to creditors. For example, you may own land that has been in your family for generations, but if you don’t live on that land, it’s probably not going to be protected and could be sold off by your bankruptcy trustee to pay creditors. If you don’t have any substantial assets, a Chapter 7 filing might be the way to go, especially if the bulk of your debts are unsecured, such as credit card debt. Again, we strongly recommend you spend time talking to a qualified, reputable bankruptcy attorney with your questions about assets you might run the risk of losing in a bankruptcy case.
You Recently Became Entitled to an Inheritance
This one involves some really tricky timing, so pay close attention. Let’s say you’re under financial stress from too much debt and are considering or preparing to file for bankruptcy. Then let’s say someone dies who leaves you money or other assets in their will or a trust. It’s going to take some time for all that to be processed. This is definitely a situation when bankruptcy is not a good idea! If you file for bankruptcy and then you receive the inheritance, the bankruptcy trustee can take it away from you. In fact, even when you file bankruptcy, if you become eligible for an inheritance with 180 days of filing, that money or those assets can be seized to pay your creditors, but then you’re still stuck with a bankruptcy on your credit history.
Your Debts Are Business Related, Not Personal
Note that if your business is a sole proprietorship, then there’s no difference between business debt and personal debt—they’re considered one and the same. However, if your business has been properly set up as a corporation or limited liability company and none of the business debt has been personally guaranteed by you, the creditors will have to be satisfied with the assets of the business and cannot go after you personally. This opens up the possibility that bankruptcy is not a good idea in this specific situation. Be sure to go over the details of your business and its debts with your bankruptcy attorney before deciding on a course of action!
The Types of Debt You Have Don’t Quality for Bankruptcy
This comes as a surprise to many people who don’t know much if anything about bankruptcy, but not all debts qualify to be included in your bankruptcy case. Read the list below carefully as there are exceptions to some of them. Here are a number of types of debt that typically cannot be included in a bankruptcy filing:
Child Support: If you’ve fallen behind on court-ordered or court-approved child support payments, those are debts you have to make good on. Child support debt cannot be included in a bankruptcy filing.
Alimony: Similar to child support, if you’ve fallen behind on court-ordered or court-approved alimony payments to an ex-spouse, that debt also cannot be included in your bankruptcy case.
Taxes: Most taxes cannot be included in your bankruptcy, especially state and federal income taxes. There are exceptions to this, though rare, so be sure to go over the details of any tax debts you owe with your bankruptcy attorney. Any tax debts from recent years will definitely not be included in a bankruptcy, but it may be possible to include some that are older than three years.
Student Loans: Many people have become burdened by huge amounts of student loan debt in recent years, but those are almost never allowed to be included in a bankruptcy filing. Again, there are rare exceptions, but it involves proving extreme hardship, and the bar has been set very high on exceptions. There are many organizations out there, however, that can help those burdened with loads of student loan debt.
As you can see, the decision to file bankruptcy requires considering the details of your specific situation and making sure it’s the right course of action for you to take because there are all those situations where bankruptcy is not a good idea. This is why it’s so important to find and speak with a reputable bankruptcy attorney who knows how it works and can advise you based on your unique circumstances.
Day One Credit: The Keys to Your Fresh Start
It’s also surprisingly common for people who file for bankruptcy to suddenly find themselves need to replace their car, which can be an added sources of stress they don’t need at a difficult time. Many people just assume that having an open or recently discharged bankruptcy means there is no way they can get financing to make a vehicle purchase. Not true! There are lenders out there who have car loan programs specifically designed to serve bankruptcy customers. Day One Credit has a assembled a whole network of those lenders so we can help you by finding a bankruptcy car loan to fit your situation. Explore how it works on our Why Day One page, get answers to your questions on our Common Questions page, or feel free to call us directly at 855-475-4725 and we’ll be happy to help!
At Day One Credit we are experts at finding the best possible bankruptcy car loans in order to help our customers purchase high-quality used cars. We are not lawyers, we do not give legal advice, and nothing we say should be taken as legal advice. Your first step in anything related to bankruptcy should always be seeking the advice and counsel of a qualified bankruptcy attorney.