Negotiations with creditors have failed. Repossession is imminent and foreclosure proceedings have begun. Your income is simply not sufficient to pay your bills, no matter how low the payments are. It may be time to consider bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy law evolved as a reaction to the abuses surrounding debtors prison. Before the nineteenth century a prison system existed for those who didn’t pay their bills. If a merchant filed a claim, the debtor was incarcerated until his debts were paid. (Women were not found in debtor’s prison, not because of chivalry but because they did riot have the ability to borrow). The lender was legally responsible for the expenses of the prison stay, including food, but seldom paid. After all, a debtor would have to sue in order to enforce this law, and it was rather difficult to sue when in prison. As a result, many borrowers languished in prison for years, surviving on what their family could bring to them or, in many cases, simply starving to death. Although some lenders would doubtless not object to the renewal of debtor’s prison, fortunately we live in more enlightened times. Bankruptcy was created to provide a second chance (or third, or fourth) to those hopelessly in debt It provides a mechanism to wipe the slate clean and begin anew. As times have changed, though, so has the bankruptcy code. Not all debts can be wiped out. The proceedings can be easily disqualified in the event of improper procedures. There are many things a debtor should know before resorting to bankruptcy.
The Bankruptcy Decision
There are two kinds of individual bankruptcy: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Chapter 7 bankruptcy, named for the chapter number in the bankruptcy code, requires a full liquidation of all debts and cancels all no-exempt debts. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is essentially a court-mandated payment plan that sets up affordable monthly payments to your creditors,
The decision to declare bankruptcy is not an easy one. Unfortunately, many bankruptcy attorneys recommend bankruptcy to just about anyone they consult with. All too often frightened consumers are advised to declare bankruptcy just to avoid a few debts. This is a mistake. Bankruptcy should truly be a last resort as the legal system meant it to be. A bankruptcy appears on your credit for ten years, and although lending criteria are slowly changing, many lenders will not even consider an applicant who has had a bankruptcy. What’s more, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy can cost you most of your property. Before making a decision to declare bankruptcy, estimate how bad your situation really is. On a piece of paper, make a list of all your assets and the approximate value they could be sold for. On the other side, add up all of your debts. If the debts exceed the assets by a large percentage, you may wish to consider bankruptcy. On the other hand, if it seems that your situation may improve (you may get a new job or a second income), or if your assets are of greater value or close in value to your debts, a different approach may be appropriate.