Among the options for researching and gathering information about bankruptcy, there are some wrong sources of information. Asking your mother, neighbor, or someone in line at the grocery store about bankruptcy law is not a good idea for several reasons. First, the bankruptcy laws change over time and what could have been true at one point could be different later. Second, every individual’s financial circumstances are unique; what conditions of bankruptcy apply to one, may not apply to another. Third, there are so many variables in bankruptcy law that anyone who is not an experienced bankruptcy lawyer could overlook significant details that could seriously affect the outcome of a bankruptcy filing, when someone attempts for file for bankruptcy on their own and without a lawyer. Experienced bankruptcy lawyers hear most if not all of the myths or “old wives’ tales” about divorce. The following is this week’s top 5 list of dispelled bankruptcy myths.
Joseph Wrobel, Ltd. Top 5 Bankruptcy Myths: Setting the Record Straight:
- Your financial future will forever be ruined and you’ll never be able to finance anything again.
Wrong! Many people are able to obtain credit cards, home and auto loans within a few years of a bankruptcy filing. Lenders look at your ability to make payments. If you owe everyone under the sun the chances are higher that you may default on your obligations. If however, you went through a bankruptcy and were able to reorganize or wipe out your regularly serviced debts, you may have more money to pay bills, which makes you a better candidate to be given credit to finance house hold items, cars and homes.
- The bankruptcy trustee is going to come to your house and take everything and the kitchen sink.
Wrong again! Every state has exemption laws that allow you to keep a certain amount of personal property, vehicles and even equity in your home. In Illinois, for example, you may keep money you receive in child support or alimony. You may also keep any money ordered to you in restitution for being a crime victim. Home equity may also be kept, up to $15,000, so if you owe more than your home is worth or do not have more than $15,000 you may be able to keep your home. Of course there are differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings, but in many cases people are able to keep their cars, homes and personal property, up to a certain dollar value. So you will not have to run out and beg on the streets for shirts and pants because you file for bankruptcy.
- You will be better off if you suck it up and pay off the debts you owe; until the day you die.
Nope, incorrect. The financial emergencies, whether sudden or developing slowly over a period of time, could put you so far behind the starting line that you will never be able to get ahead. Imagine you earn $50,000 a year and have a debt from a lawsuit judgement or medical emergency and owe $500,000 or more. You could make minimum payments of $1,000 for the rest of your life and never pay off more than a small fraction of that debt. This is exactly why we have insurance and bankruptcy laws. Even if your debt is $50-100,000, your ability to save for retirement may be greatly diminished or extinguished by outstanding debt. Taking advantage of the bankruptcy laws can give you a fresh start.
- Bankruptcy will wipe away all your debts including taxes, student loans and court obligations.
Don’t believe the hype. While Chapter 7 may help you eliminate most debts, assuming you qualify financially, Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be your better or only option to reorganize your debt and get caught up on a monthly payment plan for several years. First, forget about discharging your student loan debt. It is virtually impossible to prove the hardship necessary as a matter of law, and on the bright side, even if they garnish your wages, they can only take a certain limited amount and not the majority of your paycheck. Child support and certain court orders in family law are non-dischargeable, as opposed to civil money judgments which may be eliminated in bankruptcy. Taxes, utilities and other debts may or may not be dischargeable depending on their age and whether they meet certain conditions, which an experienced bankruptcy lawyer can explain.
- If you file for bankruptcy, you have to admit you are a failure and are personally flawed.
Do not be silly. Just about any situation can occur, such as a car accident rendering you incapacitated for six months or more; that would wipe almost anyone out financially. If you cannot work to pay your bills and spend down your savings you may have a bankruptcy in your future. Face it, bad things happen to good people, and that is another reason the bankruptcy laws exist, to help us with a fresh start when we need it the most. Furthermore, do not feel that you are going to be in big trouble with the court if you discharge a money judgement against you in bankruptcy. The bankruptcy laws are bigger than the court order to pay off a money judgement against you in most civil cases.
This list is hardly a complete account of all the misinformation and misunderstandings about State and Federal bankruptcy laws, and if you have any questions, even if you think they are “dumb” questions, do not hesitate to reach out and ask us. We’ll set you on the better track.
Joseph Wrobel, Ltd., works with clients to find out if they qualify for Chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy, and their options and rights under the law. The firm will also advise and assist clients with best credit repair options.
Joseph Wrobel, Ltd. helps people get control of their finances and a fresh start at financial freedom. The firm’s website contains informative videos about financial issues as well as bankruptcy protection for families who want a fresh start.