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What Bankruptcy Can Do For You (and What It Can't Do)

Submitted by Martin Martinez | RSS Feed | Add Comment | Bookmark Me! print

While bankruptcy is sometimes the ideal solution for individuals who have buried themselves under excessive debt, it isn’t the answer to all debt problems. Unfortunately, not all debts can be completely erased by a bankruptcy- and in some cases, the debts cannot even be reduced or placed in a repayment plan under a Chapter 13 or through a debt management program designed by credit counselors to get consumers into a better financial position.

If you’re struggling with excessive debt from student loans, child support or alimony- you probably are going to be disappointed to find that bankruptcy isn’t going to be your financial savior. You cannot wipe out debts that are from not paying child support payments, alimony payments or for student loans. In fact, most secured loans are unable to be erased with a bankruptcy as well. If these are the types of debts you are struggling with, you may want to consider other alternatives to bankruptcy.

Debts That Can Be Wiped Out with Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy is excellent for wiping out credit card debt, on the other hand! With the exception of a few “secured” credit cards available, most credit card balances are considered unsecured debts and that means the credit card company that gave you the card does not have a lien on any of your property. If you fail to pay the debt to the creditor of an unsecured credit card, they cannot repossess any items. It is this type of unsecured debt that bankruptcy is designed to remove for creditors who are in financial distress. Other types of unsecured debts can be wiped out with the Chapter 7 variation of bankruptcy as well.

If you file Chapter 13 instead of Chapter 7, you won’t eliminate all of your unsecured debt, however, it will help you manage your debt more effectively with lower payments. Once the repayment plan is completed, all unsecured debts that haven’t been completely paid off are discharged, so the Chapter 13 bankruptcy is still a great option to gain control of your finances once they’ve spiraled out of control.

Other Advantages of Filing Bankruptcy

In addition to helping eliminate or reduce your debts, filing bankruptcy provides consumers with an end to collection phone calls and harassment from creditors. The harassment has probably been taking form of hourly phone calls and letters sent via postal service, but it is amazing how much stress that causes individuals who are struggling financially. When you start the process of filing for bankruptcy, the “automatic stay” kicks in that makes it illegal for creditors to contact you for payment. It also prevents repossession of your car or foreclosure of your mortgage; lawsuits, and sometimes can prevent eviction from an apartment.

Important Considerations of Bankruptcy

Regardless of whether you file for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, there are things to consider carefully before signing the paperwork. Primarily, you must understand that filing for bankruptcy will leave a lasting impression on your credit report. Sometimes, the bankruptcy will help improve your situation so that you can begin rebuilding your credit once your debts have been eliminated- but keep in mind that the bankruptcy will remain on your credit report for 10 years, and can make it very difficult to obtain loans or credit cards in the future. If you’re 30 years old, and hope to buy a home in the next few years, bankruptcy is probably not going to be your best option- and should be used as an absolute last resort. On the other hand, if you’re older, and have no need for credit in the near future, bankruptcy might not be as big of a deal for you. It has to be a personal decision that is made after carefully weighing the pros and cons.

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