What is a chapter 11 bankruptcy and how do they work?

A chapter 11 bankruptcy is designed to first protect and then help a business survive and succeed.  If a business is struggling under the weight of a tremendous debt then a chapter 11 can be filed to preserve the business.  Public policy says that a business is a going concern that employs people and thus should be saved from breakup and destruction.

A chapter 11 can also be filed by an individual instead of a business if that individual has debt that exceeds the debt limits of a chapter 13.  This is less common than business chapter 11s but it gives individuals with a great amount of debt an opportunity to file a payback type of bankruptcy if they can’t file a chapter 7.

A chapter 11 business filing will theoretically give a business time to reorganize and develop a plan to pay back the creditors at least partially.  The problem is that though many are filed most chapter 11 bankruptcies for small businesses do not work.

If a business is failing then it is unlikely that a suspension of the collection efforts of creditors will save it.  There is usually insufficient income generated by the business to pay much of its debts.  If the business reaches this point where it needs a chapter 11 then the business model is probably unworkable.  Most attorneys will advise their clients to at least consider the possibility of closing the business.  In the end most chapter 11s are converted to chapter 7s or they are dismissed.

In addition chapter 11s are very expensive to file.  The filing fees are over $1000 and in addition there are administration fees charged by the court.  There is a tremendous amount of work for the attorneys to do too and thus large attorney fees are also required.  There are also numerous legal documents and motions that must be filed on the first day and then more of these within the next 7 days.

There are also numerous trips to court.  Court appearances are necessary to ask the judge for permission to do many things like pay your attorneys.  The business becomes the “debtor in possession” after the filing but the business must take out all new bank accounts after the filing is done and it must close all of the old bank accounts.  On each account it must be stated that this business is in chapter 11.  The debtor in possession can run the business though during the chapter 11.

Then there are the reports.  Profit/loss statements must be filed along with balance sheets and monthly operating reports.  Keeping business accounts in a chapter 11 is very difficult and must be done correctly.   The court must be specially petitioned for permission to pay an accountant and other experts to do this kind of work.

All of this is why chapter 11s work better for a large business than a small one.  Most law firms will charge $20,000 at least to do one and the court fees, accountants, and business specialists must be paid are in addition to these fees.  Large law firms handling large businesses are the norm in workable chapter 11s.

There is also the problem of the creditors committee that must be set up with a chapter 11.  The creditors of the business must be gotten together to approve of the reorganization plan for the business and the reorganization plan must be carefully produced.  The reorganization plan is a plan that the business comes up with to both run the business and pay back part of the debts.  This plan must then be approved by the creditors committee.

With a small business the formality of a creditors committee may be waived but if there is one or two large creditors they are definitely have something to say.  They may be foreclosing on property or want their other assets back or they may want to break up the business.  Creditors can even demand that the management of the business be turned over to someone else (instead of the business owner) resulting in you losing control of the day-to-day operations of the business.

There are advantages to a chapter 11 like it does not have a five-year limitation to paying back creditors like a chapter 13.  Also you may be forced into one if you have more debt than is allowed in a chapter 13.  (And remember that individuals can file a chapter 11 bankruptcy in cases where their debt exceeds 13 limits and where a chapter 7 will not work).

But remember the purpose of the 11 is to turn around a business and make it work.  If the judge thinks you are using it for another purpose like stalling the paying of creditors or for stalling a foreclosure then he could move for sanctions, move to dismiss the case, and even lift the automatic stay.

In a SARE cases (single asset real estate) it is common that the debtor/business filed when a foreclosure was pending.  The creditor/mortgage holder will then move to lift the stay and sell the property unless the debtor makes payments or files a “workable” plan.  Both of these things the debtor may not be able to do.  Therefore in these cases the lifting of the stay is often allowed and the property is then sold at foreclosure.

You can see from this short blog on chapter 11s that they are expensive, time-consuming, extremely complicated, and prone to dismissal or failure.  The good news it that there are alternatives to these 11s.  Contact a competent bankruptcy attorney to discuss your options if you are considering filing a chapter 11 bankruptcy.

I am a San Diego bankruptcy attorney.  For further questions please visit my websites at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call my office for a free consultation about a chapter 11 bankruptcy or for any other advice about bankruptcy or debt at (619) 702-5015.  Call now for free credit report and analysis!  For a free e-book on “13 things to do to prepare for your bankruptcy filing” please e-mail me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.

Can I still go to debtor’s prison if I owe money? Look out Charles Dickens, in some states unfortunately it appears that it is happening now!

(My most recent debtors prison blog is found here: http://bit.ly/I2qMO2 .

There are numerous articles posted online that describe cases where people appear to have been put in jail in some states for merely owing  monetary debts.  This can happen to debtors who either owe money to the court or to private parties.  And this has happened in spite of the fact that debtor’s prisons were outlawed federally in 1833.  Most of the states followed suit after 1833 and included clauses in their constitutions prohibiting imprisonment for owing money to someone.

In spite of these prohibitions debtor’s prisons seem to be making a comeback.  There are states where it’s possible to put someone in jail for failure to pay a debt.  I am surprised that lawyers in these states have not put together constitutional challenges to someone who was thrown in jail for such a monetary debt.

According to blog I found online people are languishing in Illinois jails, in Champagne and other counties, for owing unpaid traffic tickets.  A law professor from Notre Dame Law School quoted in the article says that we do have “de-facto” debtor’s prisons because of this practice of jailing debtor’s for merely owing money in spite of constitutional prohibitions even if the money is owed to the state.   According to this law professor this creates a situation where debtors are scrambling to come up with money by any means just to stay out of jail.

An article in the Saint Petersburg Times points out that it costs the jails $53 per day (in Florida) to incarcerate these people who often don’t owe much money.  So the taxpayers pay for the jailing, the judge, and the whole judicial system that wastes time and money trying to collect from these destitute people.  In Florida they have an ominous sounding “Collections Court” that handles these cases and about a third of Florida counties have these courts.  Even in the counties without these courts people are still being jailed for owing money.

According to the Times article it costs the system $62,085 to bring in $80,450 in debt.  Those languishing in jail for these unpaid tickets are certainly poor and often minority but anyone without means can get caught up in this travesty of justice.  How is it still a possibility that you could go to jail for owing money?  Were debtors prisons not outlawed in the 1800s?  Didn’t Charles Dickens inform us 200 years ago about the foolishness of this practice?

The Times article points out that you can be jailed for violating a court order or for failing to make court ordered payments.  So technically they are not being jailed for owing money but it amounts to the same thing.  Jail time is usually given to people who owe spousal and child support but legal experts argue that it is all illegal.

Now there is more and more disturbing chatter on the internet about debtors being jailed for owing a purely private company money.  There are horror stories emerging about arrests made and persons jailed for owing money to private parties.  On such woman was arrested one day, handcuffed, put in a very cold police car, brought to jail and no one told her why for some time while the contents of her purse were unceremoniously dumped in a plastic bag.  She spent a cold night in jail keeping her hands under her armpits for warmth until 16 hours later when she was informed that she missed a court hearing concerning some private debt.

In that case she had missed a court hearing but in Indiana a man faced jail for just failing to pay a purely private debt.  His incarceration had nothing to do with violating a court order.   According to an online article in the Minnesota StarTibune a lawyer challenged the constitutionality of a debtor being threatened with jail for owing a debt.  The appellate judges agreed with the lawyer and he won the case because debtor’s prisons were made illegal in Indiana in the 1850s.

The article in the Star Tribune points out that there is an inconsistency with who is locked up when, and for how much debt, and that all of these things vary from state to state and county to county.  It also makes mention that no one knows how often this happens as no statistics are kept of these incidents.  One man in Illinois was locked up by a judge “indefinitely” for owing $300 to a lumber yard.

Now it seems that the collection agents are influencing the legal system more and more to be more creditor friendly.   Some would say that the collectors are subverting the legal system and using the threat of jail and jail time extract money from people who cannot afford to pay anything towards these privately held debts.

The good news is though that bankruptcy can remove most debts from your balance sheet.  After a bankruptcy discharge you legally no longer owe the debts anymore so no creditor can try to collect on them or try to get you put in jail if you don’t.  Your legal obligation to pay these debts is eliminated.  With debt collectors gaining in power and money and influence this is a very good thing.

In California I know that the courts can threaten jail if you do not attend the court ordered “debtor’s exam”.  This is where a creditor can ask you all sorts of personal questions about your assets and your financial situation.  The courts cannot jail you if you do not pay the creditor in California but they threaten to jail you if you don’t show up for the court ordered exam.

I filed a case for a client the day before his debtor’s exam and he brought his bankruptcy case number to the debtor’s exam.  The other attorney did not know what to do but the judge threw the whole case out right there and told her to go to bankruptcy court for any money.  My client had nothing and the creditor had no reason to declare his debts non-dischargeable so that is the last we ever saw of the creditor.  My client got his discharge without a problem.  Bankruptcy is indeed a powerful mechanism to defeat over-zealous creditors.

You almost always don’t have to argue whether you owe a debt after bankruptcy and you don’t have to argue whether any punishment is constitutional.  I wrote another blog about debtor’s prisons here: http://bit.ly/JmsMFt .

I am a bankruptcy lawyer practicing bankruptcy law in San Diego California.   For more information related to debt, bankruptcy, or debtor’s prison please visit my websites at www.farquharlaw.com and www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call me directly for a free consultation at (619) 702-5015.  Call now for free credit report and analysis!  For a free e-book: “13 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO TO PREPARE FOR YOUR BANKRUPTCY FILING” please send a request by e-mail to: farquharesq@yahoo.com.

Bankruptcy Good News! Because of bankruptcy exemptions you can usually keep all of your possessions after filing for bankruptcy!

Most people are afraid to file bankruptcy because they wrongly believe that they will have to surrender some or all of their possessions once they go bankrupt.  This is not true and has not been true for hundreds of years.  You will usually not have to surrender any possessions after filing bankruptcy in the vast majority of cases.  This is all because of the magic of bankruptcy exemptions and these exemptions have an interesting history.

When you file for bankruptcy a bankruptcy estate is automatically created which includes all of a debtor’s possessions.  These possessions could be sold by a bankruptcy trustee if it were not for the magical exemptions.  Exemptions allow debtors to take their property outside of the bankruptcy estate and keep it for themselves.  A Trustee cannot touch any properly exempted property.  This is what makes bankruptcy so attractive to you when your debt load gets excessively high.

Long ago it was true in England that a debtor had to give up all of his possessions to file for bankruptcy.  This included literally the shirt on his back.  In those days bankruptcy laws required a debtor to turn over all of his clothes to his creditors.  This resulted in public breaches of the peace.  A judge in old England responded with the very first bankruptcy exemption.

This was an exemption for the debtor’s one suit of clothes.  It allowed the debtor to keep his clothes so he would not be forced to break the public nudity laws.  Judges could simply not allow a situation where a person exercised their legal right to file for bankruptcy but in doing so were forced to break another law which was the law against public nudity.

That old decision started the ball rolling and bankruptcy exemptions have been expanding ever since.  Cooking implements were added and then furniture.  Homes were later included in exemptions so people could have a place to live and not forced to be homeless by bankruptcy.  Vehicles were added so debtors could get to work as were tools of the trade,  jewelry, as well as a few others.  In addition to these exemptions at some point in America we added a blanket “wild card” exemption into which a debtor can fit property of any kind.

Currently this wild card exemption is over $23,000.  In it you can protect cash, stocks, bonds, jewelry, collectibles, or any kind of property you see fit.  This is a very generous exemption and it is why most people can keep most of their property in a bankruptcy.  Most of my clients historically do not have assets in excess of this amount and therefore they can file bankruptcy and get rid of most of their debts and they can usually keep all of their assets.

So that is good news for you if you are considering filing for bankruptcy.  Don’t worry about your property.  Just contact a bankruptcy lawyer before you file to get your property properly exempted and you can move on debt free after your bankruptcy discharges.

I am a San Diego bankruptcy attorney.  Please visit my website for more information at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call my office for a free consultation at (619) 702-5015.

For a free e-book: “13 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO TO PREPARE FOR YOUR BANKRUPTCY FILING” please send a request by e-mail to: farquharesq@yahoo.com.

Go ahead and file bankruptcy! What are you waiting for? Those debts don’t get any better with age!

Debts are not like wine.  They get much worse with age.  All sorts of fees, penalties, attorney costs, and other costs get added to them including interest.  The total amount owed can double or even triple in size.  As time goes on even more and more money is owed to these creditors.

The creditors will not go away either.  This is something that I continually warn my clients about.  They will continue to sell you debt and increase it as it goes.  Debt collection is one of the biggest industries in this country because it is so profitable.  It is also the one that is complained about the most to government agencies because of alleged abusive practices.

Collection agents are not nice people as you may have experiences first hand.  They don’t care what you problems or limitations are.  You may be on your death-bed or so disabled that you are completely unable to work.  When you tell the collectors that they will not care in the least and they will just demand that you pay them unreasonably high payments.  They will tell you to go borrow the money.  They have told disabled clients of mine just to pay immediately or they will sue them.

If one agency gives up on you then they will sell it to another and another.  They will never go away and always come after you.  They will ring you phone hundreds of times a day.  They will fill your mailbox with bills.

Eventually they will sue you in court.  You probably will not go to court or answer (most people don’t) and they will get a default judgment against you.  Now they can collect anytime they want.  They can lien homes, garnish wages, take your bank accounts or even get you into court for a debtor’s exam.  All of these things are bad, unpleasant and to be avoided.

Bankruptcy can end all this nonsense though and it is the only way I know to get out of these debts short of paying these people.  If you don’t have the money then paying is out of the question and that only leaves bankruptcy.  It may be time to admit this fact and begin to look into filing.  Bankruptcy will stop all collection efforts and stop these collectors from calling or suing or garnishing or liening or taking any other action to collect your debt.  (See here for additional reasons for why you should file for bankruptcy).

After your discharge you no longer owe the debt.  It’s a wonderful happy feeling on that day.  So think about it, call a bankruptcy attorney, and begin considering the real possibility of escaping your debts before they drown you.

Please visit my website for more blogs and really good bankruptcy information at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com.   Or call my office for a free consultation at (619) 702-5015.  For my e-book, 13 things you should do to prepare for bankruptcy, e-mail me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.

Where can I get my credit report and how much will it cost?

Good news!  It’s free!  But don’t go anywhere that say “free credit report” and expect a free report with no strings attached.  The proper place to go is annualcreditreport.com.  This is the site that the credit reporting agencies were forced to set up by law so that you as a citizen can get your own credit report free of charge.

This is a great idea I believe as this information is crucial to you and determines how much you will pay for credit.  You have a right to see this information about yourself without paying a fee for it and you cannot suffer any change in your credit score for looking up our own credit.  This is important because when you attempt to get credit your score is lowered every time a creditor checks your score.  Those who passed this law wanted to make sure that this did not happen to people checking their own scores.

On annualcreditreport.com you will get to choose which credit reporting agency you want to go to.  The three agencies are Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.  You get one report from each agency each year.  You could therefore check your credit for free every four months from one of these agencies.  Checking the credit will show you if you have any mistakes on your credit.  You will not be able to see your credit score for free but you will see which creditors are listed and what the amount of the debts are to see if there are any mistakes.

This is especially important after a bankruptcy to see if these debts are being reported correctly as “discharged in bankruptcy”.  If you did not do a bankruptcy then you still would want to check the accuracy of the information listed there.  If you find any mistakes then you can challenge them with the credit reporting agencies.  Just go to their sites and the will have phone numbers, addresses, and e-mail for you to send the challenges.

Don’t be afraid to do this as this information is extremely important to you.  Most credit reports have inaccuracies on them so go ahead and check and correct them.

I am a bankruptcy attorney in San Diego, CA.  Please visit my websites at www.farquharlaw.com and www.freshstartsandiego.com. .  If you are considering bankruptcy then get my Free e-book; “13 Things You Should Do T o Prepare For Your Bankruptcy Filing” by e-mailing me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.

Has a creditor threatened you with jail if you don’t pay them? FDCPA says this is illegal!

Has a creditor threatened you with jail for non-payment of a monetary debt?  This is most probably illegal according to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).  Collectors often harass and threaten debtors with all sorts of things that they have no right to threaten.  They will often threaten jailing you if you don’t pay today!  A person just contacted me with this problem and the client was threatened by a creditor to have police show up at their work and arrest them if they did not pay today!  And this creditor did not even file a lawsuit yet!

This is clearly illegal!  With no lawsuit filed there is no judgment and with no judgment no legal right to collect on this debt.  This creditor would have to first obtain this judgment which would give them the right to collect but in California there is no going to jail for owing strictly monetary debts.  And to threaten that police will show up at someone’s work and arrest them when they cannot is a violation of FDCPA section 807(4).

In that section it clearly states that an implication that non-payment will result in arrest or imprisonment unless that action is legal and intended by the party is a violation of this law.  In my client’s case there is no arresting or jailing someone for owning monetary debts so this threat was a violation of the law.  If my client could prove it then we could win damages against this collector.  I told this person to tell the collector that they were recording the call next time and see how fast he hangs up.

Section 807(5) restates this and says that any threat to take any action that is not legal or intended is a violation of the FDCPA.  So this collector violated this section too.  My question is can we get this guy to say this clearly into the microphone so we can replay it for the judge?

So don’t take any crap off of these creditors.  I hate to hear these stories and I answer these e-mails immediately.  We live in a great country where we pride ourselves in our freedom but if these collectors can violate the law with impunity then it threatens all of us.

In a previous blog I discussed how these collectors by far receive the greatest number of complaints to the Federal Trade Commission.  They routinely harass, threaten, bother and annoy people and they are now routinely violating the law I believe.  So know your rights and don’t allow them to bamboozle you.

I am an attorney who practices bankruptcy law in California.  For more information please visit my websites at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com .  Or call my office for a free consultation at (619) 702-5015.  Call now for free credit report and analysis! 

If you or someone you know needs to file bankruptcy please get my FREE E-BOOK; 13 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO TO PREPARE FOR YOUR BANKRUPTCY FILING” by e-mailing me at: farquharesq@yahoo.com.

Local San Diego restaurant goes bankrupt! Say Goodbye To Pat and Oscar’s.

Apparently another victim of the economic crisis that seems to still be gripping America, Pat and Oscars filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in September with the last three corporate stores closing on 9/27/11.  A chapter 7 means that they will be liquidating the company and not reorganizing it as they would in a chapter 11.  This could mean the end of Pat and Oscars but possibly it will survive in some form as it was alluded to in an article the “Restaurant News”.

According to that article there are numerous franchised stores out there that are not operated by the corporation but are in fact operated by individuals.  Many of these people undoubtably want to continue with the operation of their restaurants as they have families to feed and bills to pay.  But the question becomes how do they do this when the corporation goes bankrupt?

The company did everything it could in the past to keep the brand alive including cutting costs and creating a new proto-type store.  None of this worked though to save the company as sagging sales and a bad economy has claimed another restaurant victim.  People do tend to eat at home more in a down economy as they have far less disposable income.  I usually tell my clients to eat at home more to cut their expenses after filing a personal bankruptcy.

So nobody blames Pat an Oscars for filing but the individual franchise owners could be left in the lurch.  But according to the article there is possibly a way out for them.  The company itself has been around since 1991 when it was founded by Pay and Oscar Sarkisian.  Sizzler bought it in 2000 for $16 million and Sizzler became Worldwide Restaurant Concepts which was then acquired by Pacific Equity Partners in 2005.  In the bankruptcy the parent company was listed as “FFPE LLC”.

They got a new chief executive in 2008 and they tried to grow the restaurant and that didn’t work.  When they filed bankruptcy there were 14 locations of which 9 were owned by franchisees.  These franchisees could get liquidated too if they are not careful but there is an alternative.  In the article they say they will have to “go to court”.  That is true if they want to save the brand and operate it themselves.

The problem is that they are now part of a bankrupt corporation.  That bankrupt corporation will have debts.  It is the job of the Trustee in any chapter 7 bankruptcy to liquidate any assets the corporation may have to pay creditors.  It is possible though that in the franchise agreement for Pat and Oscars the franchisees are owners of all of the property in their restaurants and they just have some contractual agreement to purchase supplies from the mother corp.  Then their individual store assets would fall outside of the bankrupt estate.

That still leaves the name of Pat and Oscar’s.  That is surely owned by the corp. and the trustee would probably be duty bound to sell the name as that is an asset of the estate.  But according to an article in “Sign on San Diego” the parent company is listing assets of $331,459 and liabilities of $4.1 million so we know that there are considerable debts owed to creditors who will want to get paid from any asset that the Trustee can discover.

But also the article quotes a “consultant” who says that the franchisees will have to first form an association and then petition the court to use the name.  This is possible I believe as they will have to form a new business as the old one is defunct.  It is also possible that the trustee will allow the use of the name if he determines that it has no value to the estate.  It is unlikely that anyone would buy it so the franchisees would at most have to pay a nominal fee for its use and they could possibly use it for free is the trustee abandons the name.

Then they would take this new business and operate their restaurants and they could even change the name to something similar if they can’t get the name or if they don’t want to pay for the name.  This is not unprecedented according to the “Restaurant News” article as “Ground Round” franchisees in Boston operated their 24 restaurants after their parent company went bankrupt.  80 units of “Bennigans Steak and Ale” were similarly operated under a new franchisee owned business after their parent company went bankrupt.

Therefore it is possible that we will see more of Pat and Oscars as it is certainly okay from a bankruptcy perspective to operate a new franchisee owned restaurant chain after a parent company bankrupts.  The question though is if the restaurants can operate profitably in this down economy.  We shall see.

So you still may be able to take the family to Pat and Oscars in the future.

I am a bankruptcy attorney practicing bankruptcy law in San Diego, CA.  Please visit my websites for further information at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call my office for a free consultation at (619) 702-5015.  Call now for a free credit report and analysis!

If you or someone you know needs to file a bankruptcy please get my FREE E-BOOK: “13 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO TO PREPARE FOR YOUR BANKRUPTCY FILING” by e-mailing me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.

Do I need an attorney to file for bankruptcy?

The short answer is yes!  Don’t try to file a bankruptcy without one!

Your attorney will know the law first and foremost.  The attorney will know if you have too much property or income for instance as he will do a means test calculation for you as is required by the law.  I recently came in on a bankruptcy case where a bankruptcy filer should never have filed a case because this person had non-exempt income or assets.

The trustee just claimed all of those assets for the creditors as they will do when there are assets available to seize.  If an experienced bankruptcy attorney would have been consulted in the beginning then they could have advised the client not to file for bankruptcy at all in that case.

The client could have saved the filing fee, attorney’s fees, administrative fees and they could have worked out a deal to pay the debts back.  As it turned out the client had to surrender assets necessary to pay all of these costs and he had to pay the debts back in full.  It would have been much cheaper not to file bankruptcy in the first place and to make matters worse the clients assets were tied up for over a year.

Secondly you need an attorney because the attorney will know the bankruptcy procedures.  Filing for bankruptcy requires many procedural steps which are difficult for the novice to comply with.  An attorney will file the case electronically with special bankruptcy software that automatically complies with the procedural requirements of the court.  I have seen many filers in 341 hearings who didn’t know what they were doing so they made serious errors.  These errors usually result in delays and continuances and sometimes in dismissals of the bankruptcy case.

If the case is dismissed then the debts come back into play and the whole reason for filing is negated.  Now you have lost the filing fee and you will suffer other penalties like losing the automatic stay for a year.

Thirdly you need an attorney because if you hire one you should get an expert who knows the law,and  the procedure but also someone who knows the trustees.  Each bankruptcy trustee is a little different and each has slightly different requirements.  An experienced attorney will know what each one needs and what each one likes to receive in terms of supporting documentation.  This will inevitably help you through the process in the smoothest and quickest fashion.

Lastly with an attorney you get someone to accompany you through the process.  I accompany all of my clients to the 341 meeting of creditors and I am available for any questions that they might have about the process at any time.  This helps people to have fewer fears and worries about something that people naturally are very scared about.

So there are many reasons to hire an experienced bankruptcy attorney to help with your bankruptcy.  Remember too that the attorney is the only one that can represent you in court in the unlikely event that things go badly.  So if you are considering bankruptcy then hire an attorney and don’t do it yourself!

I practice bankruptcy law in San Diego California.  Please visit my website for more information on filing bankruptcy at: www.farquharlaw.com.

Is filing for bankruptcy the “responsible” thing to do?

(See my blog about bankruptcy and the bible).

I would argue that yes it usually is not just smart to file for bankruptcy if your debts have gone beyond your ability to pay but that it is also the responsible thing to do.  That is because bankruptcy gives you and you creditors finality and it puts you on the road to good credit as you can now re-build our credit score and become a more productive person.

Many people ask me this question about responsiblity because they seem to think that filing bankruptcy and discharging your debts is somehow not honoring their promise to pay for the debts that they have incurred.  They feel that they are being irresponsible and dishonorable.

I remind them that debts have a creeping quality that can slowly accumulate and take over all of your available resources until there is nothing left to pay your ongoing bills.  This can happen insidiously without your noticing and with out you intending for it to happen.  It is just a miscalculation on your part but one that can lead to disaster if left unchecked.

Also it is true that your financial situation can change where you income is cut by a job loss or just a loss of hours at work.  There can be divorce, sickness, a new baby, an accident or a business downturn or any of a whole host of reasons why you cannot honor your debts like you originally intended.  These intervening circumstances can cause your financial situation to become critical in a hurry like a nuclear meltdown.  One day you find that you can’t afford to buy groceries but the phone is ringing fifty times a day from some collection agent who is trying to get you to promise to pay money that you don’t have.  It’s not responsible to let this situation continue.

So it is not irresponsibility that usually leads a person to need a bankruptcy.  It is just the facts of life with its ups and downs and twists and turns.   It is also true that we are human and therefore inherently imperfect.  We make mistakes all the time.  We can’t predict the future but we are naturally optimistic about it.  We always expect things to turn out well but that expectation is not always realistic.  When things don’t turn out well some may need bankruptcy.

Now I would argue that if your finances get far out of hand and your ability to pay your debts is not there then it is time to throw in the towel and do the responsible thing.  Admit that you were wrong.  I have done it personally many times in my life.  Once you admit that then you can notify your creditors that you are choosing the legal, moral, right, and responsible thing which is filing bankruptcy.  You are notifying them that you will not be paying their debts back.  The creditors will go away and stop bothering you for debts you cannot pay and they will move on to someone else and use your bad debt as a tax write-off.

Now you can re-build your credit score.  With that you can once again get financed to so you can buy things like a car and a house if you choose to.  Your score will be better on average three years after bankruptcy and a fresh start than if you choose to try to pay those old debts back because on average most people will fail to do so.

So do the responsible thing.  File bankruptcy.

I am a bankruptcy attorney practicing bankruptcy law in San Diego, CA.  Please visit my websites for further information on bankruptcy at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call my office to speak to me about any bankruptcy issue for free at (619) 702-5015.

For a free e-book: “13 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO TO PREPARE FOR YOUR BANKRUPTCY FILING” please send a request by e-mail to: farquharesq@yahoo.com.