Filing for bankruptcy is a big decision. It should be the last resort for you or your business. A bankruptcy will show up on your credit report and make future financing difficult. Yet, bankruptcy can allow you to repay debts, reorganize your business and eliminate many debts.
Here's a list of the top ten things to consider when it looks like bankruptcy is your only way out of debt.
1. Try to avoid bankruptcy
- Talk to your creditors and work out a repayment plan
- Try credit counseling, but watch out for scams
- Check on mortgage help
2. Types of bankruptcy
3. Bankruptcy expenses
- Court filing fees run $299 for Chapter 7, $1,039 for Chapter 11 and $274 for Chapter 13
- Required credit counseling and debtor education costs about $50 to $100
- Attorney fees depend upon your case and situation
- Other costs include legal research, copying, postage and delivery charges
4. Select a bankruptcy attorney
- Get a list of bankruptcy attorneys in your area
- Check references with family, friends, co-workers and bar associations
- Compare attorneys' qualifications, experience and estimated fees
5. Required credit counseling
- You must attend credit counseling before you file and complete a debtor education course after you file, and before the court discharges your debts
- Counseling must be with an agency approved by the bankruptcy court
- Counseling sessions last one or two hours and cost around $50 to $100
6. Gather records
- Most recent federal income tax statement
- Statements for all bank and investment accounts
- Pay stubs or earning statements
- Deeds, mortgages, home loan information
- Bills from creditors
7. List assets
- Prepare a list of all real estate, vehicles, machinery, furniture, household items and other property you own
- List legal claims you have against anyone and other debts owed to you
- List property you've sold within the past several months
8. Creditors' meeting
- You must attend a "341 meeting of creditors" to answer questions under oath about your finances, assets and debts
- Meeting is conducted by the bankruptcy court trustee
- Bring a government issued picture ID (driver's license) and proof of your social security number
9. Bankruptcy fraud
- Don't try to give away or hide your property or assets
- Don't lie under oath or make false written statements
- Punishment for bankruptcy fraud includes fines, imprisonment and denial of debt elimination
10. Consider the consequences
- Bankruptcy can be embarrassing and hurt your professional reputation
- A bankruptcy may show up on your credit report for 10 years
- It may be very difficult to get loans for a home, car or school for some time
Make no mistake about it. The bankruptcy process takes time, requires work from you, and may stress you and your family. On the other hand, filing for bankruptcy could ease your debts and give you a fresh financial start. Talk with a bankruptcy attorney to find out if bankruptcy is the best option for you.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Do you offer a free initial consultation or a flat rate fee on bankruptcy cases?
- How long does the bankruptcy process take?
- Will filing for bankruptcy stop a foreclosure on my home?