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Bankruptcy Can Protect Your Vehicle

February 4, 2011

Once a bankruptcy case is filed, a creditor is prohibited from repossessing the debtor’s vehicle. The process for a creditor to repossess a vehicle during a bankruptcy case is both lengthy and costly. First the creditor must ask permission from the court to repossess through a formal motion. The court then gives the debtor time to respond to the motion and an opportunity to oppose the motion at a hearing. The bankruptcy laws also provide several options for retaining a vehicle during bankruptcy, even when you are significantly behind on your car payments. In many cases your monthly payments can be reduced by the bankruptcy court.

If your vehicle has been recently repossessed, the bankruptcy laws can force the creditor to return your vehicle. Section 542(a) of the Bankruptcy Code states that the estate of the debtor includes "all legal and equitable interests of the debtor in property, wherever located or by whomever held, as of the commencement of the case," with a few exceptions. The United States Supreme Court has held that the scope of section 541 is broad and estate property includes a repossessed vehicle that is still in the possession of the creditor. United States v. Whiting Pools, 103 S.Ct. 2309 (1983). The Court in Whiting Pools stated that section 542(a) does not require that the debtor have the property in his possession at the commencement of the case.

State laws vary, but most are governed by the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). The UCC gives the vehicle’s owner an opportunity to pay for the vehicle and have it returned prior its sale or transfer. Therefore, even after the vehicle is repossessed, the debtor still has property rights in the vehicle which become part of a debtor’s bankruptcy estate. If the creditor refuses to return the vehicle, the bankruptcy court may impose sanctions. Once your vehicle is returned you must provide “adequate protection” to the creditor to assure that the property will be safeguarded (insured) and that the creditor will be adequately compensated. These requirements are generally met by submitting a Chapter 13 plan of repayment to the bankruptcy court.

Filing a bankruptcy case will stop the repossession of your vehicle. If your vehicle has already been repossessed, it is important to speak to an experienced bankruptcy attorney quickly to determine your rights. You will lose your rights in the vehicle once it is sold or transferred, so time is of the essence. Call today and learn how the federal bankruptcy laws can protect your property.

Fears & Nachawati Bankruptcy Law Offices

4925 Greenville Ave Suite 715, Dallas, TX 75206 (214) 890-0711
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