When Should You Declare Bankruptcy?

There are certain conditions and restrictions for being able to declare bankruptcy no matter how much you think you may need to for your personal or small business reasons.

There are also situations where you don’t even need to file bankruptcy such as not owning real estate, not having a bank account, not having a job, having a job that nets you less than $320 a week, and not having a car worth more than $3,500. Creditors cannot “get blood from a stone”, meaning that they cannot go after you to settle a Judgment if you don’t have assets.

But if you need to stop a foreclosure and be relieved of unsecured debts, repossessions, garnishments, collection hassles, utility shut-offs, and the like, you may have no choice but to file bankruptcy.

If you owe someone money, they cannot usually have you put in jail, cannot attach your wages if your net pay is less than 40 times the minimum wage, and they cannot harass you. They also cannot garnish your Social Security, unemployment, workers’ compensation, veteran’s, pension, IRA, 40l(k), or retirement benefits.

Also protected are the welfare or child support or alimony payments you receive as well as health and disability payments and your clothing and household goods. A regular creditor cannot take your car if it is worth under $3,500, but it can be repossessed if you still owe money on it.

There are situations, however, when it is advisable to file for bankruptcy such as when you are faced with huge medical bills from a major illness or injury. If filing is your decision, there are pamphlets from your courts or Legal Aid outlining what you need to do. Also, the Consumer Law Project for Elders can give those age 60 and over free legal assistance by calling 1-800-296-1467.

Weigh filing bankruptcy against the knowledge that doing so will result on its staying on your credit report for 10 years and will make it difficult or impossible to buy a home, get various loans, and sometimes will even keep you from getting a job.

There are fees associated with filing bankruptcy including court filing fees and an attorney if you cannot do all the cumbersome paperwork yourself and don’t want to take a chance that you’ll fill the forms out incorrectly and have your filing dismissed.

If you don’t have the spare money to pay those fees, you can start saving ahead of time by not paying on your credit cards and medical bills since those will be wiped out if a bankruptcy is granted. Be sure, however, to keep paying your rent or mortgage, your car payment, utility, and other important bills.

Other ideas are to ask what assets you are allowed to sell off when you go to the first free consultation that many bankruptcy attorneys offer.

See if you qualify for a waiver of the filing fees and use that money instead for a good lawyer. The advice and paperwork that the attorney will do on your behalf, as well as going with you to court for the Final Hearing when you will be asked questions from the Judge before he or she makes a decision, is well worth the expenditure.


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