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Five Things Bankruptcy Can Do (And Two That It Can’t)

May 21, 2010

Bankruptcy is a powerful tool for eliminating personal debt. It is important to know what bankruptcy can do for you, and what it cannot.

What Bankruptcy Can Do:

Bankruptcy can eliminate your personal obligation on many unsecured debts. For many debtors this is the most important benefit of bankruptcy. Most credit cards and medical bills can be discharged during bankruptcy and you will never worry about them again.

Bankruptcy can stop creditor collection activities and harassment. When a bankruptcy is filed, all collection activity must stop. After a debt is discharged at the end of your bankruptcy case, the creditor is prohibited from contacting you to collect on that debt.

Bankruptcy can stop a foreclosure or repossession. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy the debtor is given time to negotiate an agreement with the creditor, or prepare to walk-away from the debt and surrender a home or vehicle. In a Chapter 13, the debtor can also surrender property back to the creditor, or force the creditor to accept payments to cure an arrearage and resume monthly payments.

Bankruptcy can protect personal assets. Ordinary household goods, certain equity in vehicles or a family home, and retirement accounts are all protected during a bankruptcy. Statistically only 1 in 20 debtors lose anything, and your bankruptcy attorney can advise you of any property that is at risk in advance of the filing.

Bankruptcy can strip away certain liens. Many loans that are secured with an item you previously owned (called a Non-Purchase-Money Security Interest) can be stripped away during bankruptcy. Under certain circumstances a second mortgage can be stripped and made an unsecured debt (and eligible for discharged).

What Bankruptcy Cannot Do:

Bankruptcy cannot allow you to keep secured property without payment. While there are exceptions, generally if you do not pay for a secured property (e.g. car or house), the property must be returned to the secured creditor.

Bankruptcy cannot eliminate certain types of debts. The Bankruptcy Code lists debts that cannot be discharged such as student loans, certain taxes, and child support obligations. However, every situation is different and many of these “non-dischargeable debts” can be discharged under certain circumstances. Your bankruptcy attorney can discuss your individual situation and options for eliminating your debts.

The goal of the federal bankruptcy laws is to give the debtor a fresh start on a new financial future. There are many powerful legal options available in bankruptcy to eliminate or reduce overwhelming debt. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can explain your options and guide you to your fresh start.


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