Afraid to File Bankruptcy?

Fear and misinformation keep people trapped in debt for years.

I spend a lot of my time helping people understand what does, and more importantly, what does not happen after they file a bankruptcy. Most folks I talk to have more than a little fear about the process of filing a bankruptcy. Often, they have been told all kinds of stories by friends and family and creditors that simply aren’t true. Or, information that was once true is assumed to be correct today, but often is not.

Many people are embarrassed even to think about having to file a bankruptcy. However, when I ask them if they know anyone who has filed, invariably the answer is, “Oh yes, I know of several people, in fact some of my friends have filed bankruptcy.” Then I ask them if they think any less of these others who have filed bankruptcy. The response is always, “Oh, no! Of course not! If they had to file bankruptcy then that’s what they should have done. I certainly don’t think any less of them for having to file bankruptcy.”

When I point out to them that they’re applying a double standard, one that is compassionate and understanding towards others, while one that is unforgiving and judgmental against themselves, they actually seem surprised! But, they have to admit that it’s true. They are being much harder on themselves than they are on others.

There is nothing to fear from filing a bankruptcy. The bankruptcy filings for individual consumers are not printed in local newspapers. The only newspaper in which these bankruptcies are reported is the court reporter which no one in the general public seems to read. Bankruptcy filings cannot be found on the Internet unless you have a government issued password to get into the court computer system.

Many people are afraid that they will never be able to buy a house, a car, or get credit again. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in many cases the quickest way to be able to qualify for a mortgage loan for a house is to file a bankruptcy. I have a number of banks and real estate agents actually send me clients so that they can file bankruptcy, wipe out their debt, and immediately begin to rebuild credit. This way, they’re able to qualify for a loan to buy a house or car in much shorter time than they ever could by attempting to pay off an impossible debt load.

Many people are afraid they will not be able to rent a house or apartment after filing bankruptcy. I have been filing bankruptcies for nearly twenty years, having helped thousands and thousands of people through the bankruptcy process. I have never seen anyone refused a rental on the basis of having filed a bankruptcy case. In fact, it is illegal to discriminate against anyone for filing a bankruptcy.

Often, people are afraid that they will lose their home, car, or personal property when they file bankruptcy. The opposite is often true. Most of my clients reaffirm their houses, cars and keep all of their furniture. In Chapter 13 cases, it is the bankruptcy that allows many of my clients to keep their property by catching up on the missed mortgage payments enabling them to keep their house and cars.

Creditors and bill collectors often tell people that if they file a bankruptcy they will never get credit again. This is one that always makes me laugh. Most folks continue to receive unsolicited credit card applications in the mail, pre-approved. These do not stop coming when you file for bankruptcy. If you think about it, it makes sense for a credit card company to issue a card to someone who has recently filed for bankruptcy. Generally speaking, you no longer owe much or any debt, you cannot file another Chapter 7 bankruptcy for eight years, and you have more disposable income now than before you filed. All of this adds up to one thing: You are a better credit risk after filing bankruptcy than before filing bankruptcy. I tell my clients with confidence that they will soon be able to obtain another credit card and immediately begin to reestablish their credit.

There are lots of other myths and misunderstandings that I come across in my daily practice. As part of my free consultation, I am able to answer all your questions and dispel the myths and misinformation that may have caused you to fear exploring your options through a bankruptcy.