While bankruptcy appears to be a straight forward process, there are many pitfalls for the unwary. Some actions taken by the debtor before filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in New York, may result in serious consequences. Here are some areas where mistakes are commonly made
1. Debts owed to family and friends. I would strongly recommend that you don’t try to pay back the debts owed to family and friends in anticipation of your bankruptcy filing. A trustee in a bankruptcy case can reach back and undo any such transactions that took place within one year prior to your bankruptcy filing. The concept is known as preference. It is intended to prevent debtors from favoring some creditors over other creditors by transferring assets to a third party and then claiming they have nothing left. While you may not be aware of preference, and your actions are responsible and just, they are likely to be undone by the bankruptcy trustee.
2. Disclose your financial affairs to your bankruptcy lawyer. Always be honest with your lawyer about your assets and your financial transactions. I am on your side and am able to help you, but I need to know everything that has taken place in order to take full benefit of the bankruptcy law. I can’t do that unless I have all the information available. Also, if I am not aware of certain facts, and if they come to light during the case or even after your discharge that you’ve withheld information or hid assets, you’ll not only lose the assets that were hidden, but the entire discharge can be undone. This means all of the bankruptcy protection created by your bankruptcy is lost and creditors can once again pursue you.
3. Don’t withdraw your retirement money. Sometimes, this is the easy route out of financial difficulties since the debtor may think that he or she may need more cash on hand if you’re getting ready to file for bankruptcy. However, since retirement plans such as IRAs and your 401(k) are actually protected from creditors by bankruptcy exemptions in New York. If you take the cash out and try to keep it, it will become part of the debtor’s estate. Additionally, you’ll owe pay taxes on the money you withdraw.
4. Don’t disregard pending lawsuits against you. While the automatic stay will protect you from any pending actions, once the bankruptcy is filed, any lawsuits pending prior to the filing should not be allowed to go into default. Lawsuits, if permitted to go into default have consequences and may result in adverse finding that may be difficult to undo during the bankruptcy. Do not treat law suits the same way as creditors. While the creditors will primarily call you and send you letters, lawsuits can have serious consequences that can be implemented before you file. Therefore, make sure that you, or your attorney, respond to any pending actions.
Of course, the most important step in all of this is to make sure you’re working with a knowledgeable, experienced and trustworthy bankruptcy lawyer. A good bankruptcy lawyer will help you successfully navigate the bankruptcy process and help ensure that you avoid all of the potential problems.
If you are dealing with debt problems in Western New York, including Rochester, Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation with a New York bankruptcy lawyer.