Often people at the first sign of financial trouble consider bankruptcy as a solution to their debt problems. Sometimes filing for personal bankruptcy is considered as a basic strategy. While personal bankruptcy may be the right choice for some, there are bankruptcy alternatives available that can get you out of debt without declaring a chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy.
What is bankruptcy?
Bankrupcy is a legal way for people who have too much debt to wipe slate clean and start over again. With chapter 7, it's a way to legally "stiff" your creditors and start new. With chapter 13, it's a way to repay your debts, only this time with new terms. These are the 2 most common forms of bankruptcy used for consumer debt.
Each of these types of bankruptcy have their own merits, but each one also comes with consequences that can affect you for many years to come. Bankruptcy may be an alternative for some but before considering filing there are other options available.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Chapter 7 bankruptcy requires you to liquidate all of your non exempt assets to pay off your creditors in order of precedence. This form of bankruptcy is generally used when you lack sufficient income to cover your outstanding debts after taking care of the basic necessities. This is the most popular form of bankruptcy because it allows you to wipe the slate clean and get a fresh start. There are certain obligations that are not dischargeable, for example:
Child Support and Alimony
Student loans and back Taxes
Recent purchases for large amounts
Before considering chapter 7 bankruptcy, you should take an inventory of the types of debt you owe. Chapter 7 bankruptcy should be considered only as an option of last resort after all other avenues have been used. Keep in mind that both chapter 7 and chapter 13 bankruptcy come with some long-term consequences.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Those who have too much income to file chapter 7 or have some assets that they want to protect may want to consider chapter 13 bankruptcy. With chapter 13 bankruptcy, the debtor makes a commitment to repay all or a part of their debt. Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to restructure your payments and set up a new payment plan that is more manageable. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is used when there is property they may want to keep like a mortgage that is about to be foreclosed on or other assets that would be liquidated under chapter 7 bankruptcy. Filing under chapter 13 bankuptcy will halt all collection and foreclosure proceedings and allow you to catch up on your payments.
Your payments would be made to a trustee who would disburse them in a manner called for in the new plan. The trustee would have control over your finances and any debt related matter would have to be cleared through the trustee.
Bankruptcy doesn't come without some trade offs. Filing puts the world on notice about your personal affairs. Since it's a civil proceeding it becomes a matter of public record. In some cases even your employer can be involved because of required deductions from your pay.
Bankruptcy shows up on your credit report for up to 10 years and will effect your ability to get a job, rebuild new credit, get insurance or even a place to live. You will also have to pay court, filing and attorney fees up front. You will lose control over your personal finances since a trustee will be appointed to oversee your filing. In addition filing bankruptcy doesn't necessarily get you out of all your debts, filing bankruptcy is not the solution that it's sometimes portrayed to be.
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