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Should You Continue Your Vehicle Lease During Bankruptcy?Protecting your motor vehicle is often a priority during your bankruptcy. In a Chapter 7 case, different rules apply when you are leasing a vehicle. Monthly lease payments may be cheaper than loan payments, but you do not actually own the vehicle. Chapter 7 bankruptcy filers must decide whether they will assume or reject their vehicle lease.

Assuming the Lease

Filing for bankruptcy puts an automatic stay on your vehicle lessor’s attempts to repossess your leased vehicle. The bankruptcy trustee technically has 60 days to claim your lease, but this is rarely done because the trustee would need to find someone else who would be willing to pay more than you to lease the car. You should decide whether you want to assume the lease before that deadline. You can keep the vehicle by assuming the lease, but:

  • You will be responsible for continuing payments under the lease contract;
  • The lessor can reject your request to assume the lease and try to repossess the vehicle (but that rarely happens); and
  • The lessor can repossess the vehicle if you cannot keep up with payments.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy can help you keep your leased vehicle if you are behind on lease payments because you can include the payments in your long-term repayment plan.

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Actions to Avoid Before Filing for BankruptcyThere are several actions you can take to help prepare yourself to file for bankruptcy. However, it is also important to understand what you should not do. Creditors will examine your financial activity leading up to your bankruptcy to spot instances of potentially fraudulent activity, which they can attempt to use to hold you liable for your entire debt. Other actions may be legal but needlessly drain resources that your bankruptcy could have protected. Here are four things you should not do before filing for bankruptcy:

  1. Incurring Large Debts Right Before Filing: It is extremely rare for individuals to run up their credit cards in order to prevent paying by filing bankruptcy. However, it is fraudulent to incur debts that you have no intention of paying. Once you have consulted with a bankruptcy attorney, you should avoid using any credit cards. A creditor may accuse you of fraud if you use credit to purchase luxury goods or services within 90 days of the date of your bankruptcy filing.
  2. Attempting to Hide Assets: Intentionally omitting assets during bankruptcy can cause your case to be dismissed. Selling or transferring assets right before bankruptcy might be fraud, and a bankruptcy court may cancel the transfer or dismiss your case. You should consult with your bankruptcy attorney before you sell any assets.
  3. Repaying Creditors in Advance: Bankruptcy has a process for prioritizing which creditors must be repaid. Paying back an unsecured creditor immediately before bankruptcy is unnecessary and potentially a waste of assets. It is possible that the bankruptcy would not require you to repay that creditor in full. You may have been able to save that money or used it to pay a debt that you cannot discharge (such as your student loan obligation or certain taxes) or your secured obligations that must be paid in order to keep the collateral (such as mortgage and car payments).
  4. Withdrawing from Retirement to Pay Debts: You may feel tempted to borrow money from your retirement account in order to repay creditors without filing for bankruptcy because your debts are a more immediate concern than saving money for your retirement. Not only are you stealing from your future income, but you may pay a penalty for making an early withdrawal from your retirement account and you lose the benefit of compounded interest over time. Bankruptcy exemptions allow you to protect your retirement money. You can clear your debts while keeping your retirement intact.  And this will be critical in your retirement years. 

Contact a Denton County Bankruptcy Attorney

Hiring a bankruptcy attorney is vital towards using the process to best clear your debts. A Frisco, Texas, bankruptcy attorney at The Page Law Firm can guide your decisions leading up to and during your bankruptcy. To schedule a free consultation, call 214-618-2101.

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Senior Can Use Bankruptcy to Protect Assets from CreditorsDebt has become an increasing problem for senior citizens, who do not have the same income stream to keep up with their payments as they did when they were still working. Several factors are contributing to the rise of senior debt, including:

  • Increasing health care costs;
  • Social security no longer being sufficient income to meet daily, necessary expenses; and
  • Retirement accounts depleted by the recent recession.

Your debts can pile up because of your reduced retirement income and increased need for doctor visits and medical treatments. Rather than depleting your retirement savings to pay off your debts, you should see whether filing for bankruptcy may help. Bankruptcy laws protect many of the assets that senior citizens need. 

Social Security

Your Social Security benefits during a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case are protected from your creditors, as long as you keep that money separate from other funds. Social Security money is vulnerable to a bank levy if it is co-mingled with other money in a bank account. This includes mixing it with money you receive from your retirement accounts. The best way to avoid this is to create a separate bank account for your Social Security income. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the Social Security benefits you receive each month are not considered part of your income used to determine your repayment plan.

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Monitoring Proof of Claim Filings After BankruptcyCreditors must file a proof of claim in order to receive payments as part of a bankruptcy case. This practice occurs in Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases and Chapter 7 cases in which there are assets available to be distributed. As of Dec. 1, 2017, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure enacted new rules regarding filing a proof of claim:

  • It clarified that secured creditors are required to file a proof of claim; and
  • It shortened the deadline for a non-governmental creditor to file a proof of claim from 90 days to 70 days.

Both of these changes are meant to favor the debtor in a bankruptcy case. The shortened deadline may allow a Chapter 13 bankruptcy filer to know sooner what claims the creditors have in the case. Debtors must monitor proof of claim filings to determine whether they need to contest a filing.

Reasons to Contest

Debtors can file a written objection to a proof of claim. Reasons for objection may include:

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Why Delaying Bankruptcy Can Be CostlyPeople who are heavily in debt may worry about the cost of filing for bankruptcy, but delaying an inevitable bankruptcy is often costlier. Bankruptcy is neither a sign of failure nor the ruin of your personal finances. Yet, some people let these misconceptions prevent them from filing for bankruptcy when it may be their best option. While there may be some immediate costs to bankruptcy, it is a chance for people to clear their debts and start anew. There are several reasons why waiting to file for bankruptcy can make your situation more difficult:

  1. Quality of Life: The pressure of repaying debts can affect your standard of living and personal health. Some debtors save money by forgoing necessary expenses, such as food and medical treatment. The stress can be harmful to a person’s mental and physical health. Bankruptcy protects the money you need to pay for basic living expenses and gives an eventual resolution to your stress.
  2. Risk of Litigation: You may be content to slowly repay your debts, but your creditors may not display the same patience. By filing a lawsuit against you, your creditor is seeking immediate compensation for the debts you owe through mechanisms such as attaching your bank accounts. You still have time to file for bankruptcy, but the lawsuit puts you on the defensive and requires you to act quickly.
  3. Wasted Assets: Filing for bankruptcy allows you to protect key properties through the various exemptions available. Your home, vehicle and other properties of a certain value can all be exempt from your creditors. However, people who avoid bankruptcy may choose to sell important properties to help with repayment. If they eventually file for bankruptcy, it will be too late to exempt and save properties that have already been sold.
  4. Rising Debt: Some people try to avoid bankruptcy because they believe they can get by with their own repayment plan. However, keeping up with debt payments can be difficult if you lack the financial resources. Making minimum payments may prevent immediate default, but will allow interest rates to accumulate on the debts. If a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is filed, you will be facing a larger debt that may have to be paid in full, depending on your repayment plan.

Deciding on Bankruptcy

It can be difficult to know when is the right time to file for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is an option you should at least consider if you are feeling overwhelmed by your debts and are unsure of how to repay them. A Frisco, Texas, bankruptcy attorney at The Page Law Firm can advise you on how bankruptcy could help your financial situation. To schedule a free consultation, call 214-618-2101.

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National Association of Consumer Bancruptcy Attorneys State Bar of Texas
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