Thursday, July 5, 2012

How To File Bankruptcy: A Debtor's Guide

If you are struggling to pay your bills and wondering what the future holds, you may also be considering how to file bankruptcy, wondering what it protects, and what are the risks, and what is really involved. It may just be a vague idea at this time, or perhaps you are actively considering it but are unsure of how to proceed.

Fortunately, the bankruptcy process is relatively simple if you do it right.

The following outlines what going bankrupt entails, learn what it takes, and when finished, you will be able to make a better decision if it is the right path for you.

Have You Done All You Can To Make Good?

The first step in going bankrupt is to get all your financial information together and decide whether this really is the best option for you right now. Sometimes debt can feel overwhelming, but inmany cases a few small lifestyle changes can make paying it down much easier.

However, that is not always the case and bankruptcy may very well be the best option for you right now.

If you are unsure of whether you should proceed with it or not, consider getting credit counseling from a professional. There are many excellent nonprofit credit counseling centers available to help.

These services can help you organize your finances and take advantage of debt relief resources you may not have been aware are available to you.

How To Choose A Bankruptcy Attorney

Once you have decided to file for bankruptcy, you will need to find a lawyer. It is possible to file pro se, without a lawyer, but it is generally not recommended. Bankruptcy can be a complex process and even a small mistake can cause major problems for you, including the loss of assets like your home or car or even a dismissal of your case entirely that otherwise could have been avoided with experienced legal help.

It pays to do it right the first time around with something this serious. Scrape, borrow, negotiate to come up with a reasonable fee for a bankruptcy attorney to manage going bankrupt for you.

To find a lawyer, begin by asking for recommendations from anyone you know who has filed for bankruptcy or might otherwise know of a good one. You want to find someone who specializes in bankruptcy cases as they will know how to file bankruptcy effectively and typically their fees will reflect an understanding that you are in financial distress.

You can also search online for a good bankruptcy attorney. Many sites even have client ratings to help you decide. Pick several attorneys that offer a free initial consultation, and go talk to several of them before making your decision. Do not be intimidated, ask a lot of questions about their experience and expertise, and listen to what they suggest for your case.

After talking with several lawyers, choose the one you feel most comfortable with.

What Going Bankrupt Will Require Of You

Once you have a lawyer, you typically will need to seek credit counseling from a center that is approved by the federal bankruptcy court. This must be done within 180 days of filing and you will need to show proof that you completed the course and intend to comply. This is to help prevent you from finding yourself in the same financial straits that led to bankruptcy in the first place and is an important step that will benefit you in the long run.

Your lawyer will look over your finances and determine whether you should file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy erases all debts that can be discharged, forgiving them, but you may lose some assets in the process and there are also income restrictions. For those with higher income or more assets that they want to keep, Chapter 13 is a safe way to do so.

You may have to pay back some of your creditors but your payments will be structured in an affordable way based on your projected income. Some debts are never able to be discharged, such as federally guaranteed student loans, back child support or alimony and certain court judgments. However, most credit card debt, medical bills and personal loans will be able to be discharged if you qualify for bankruptcy.

Your lawyer will inform you of the paperwork you need to do and the information you need to provide.

Avoid Temptation - Post Bankruptcy Recovery

Although it can be tempting to lie about assets or income in order to secure a more favorable outcome, it is a very bad idea to do so. The court will check into your financial statements and if they discover you are hiding assets your case will likely be dismissed and you may face criminal charges. You also need to be very clear about all your debts, as if you forget to list one in your paperwork it will not be discharged.

Bankruptcy can be a long and stressful process, but it can be worth it in the end. If you are drowning in debt and unable to pay it off, declaring bankruptcy may be the right choice for you. It is a common occurrence and nothing to be ashamed about if you have done everything in your power to make good but are being crushed by your debts.

Instead, look at it as getting a second chance to make smart financial decisions having learned from your missteps . If you are wondering how to file bankruptcy, wonder no more. With a little help you will soon find yourself on the road to your second chance.

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