Monitoring Your Credit Report
Also, it’s essential to examine your credit report for mistakes after your discharge. If you notice an error, correct it promptly so that it doesn’t derail your efforts to rebuild your credit. You can check your credit report for free using annualcreditreport.com . You’re entitled to one free copy per year from each of the three reporting agencies. Requesting a report from one of the three agencies every four months is an excellent way to keep track of changes. Also, all of the three reporting agencies allow you to file a dispute online.
What Only Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Can Do
Chapter 7 and 13 each offer unique solutions to debt problems. The two bankruptcy types work very differently. For instance, how quickly your debt will get wiped out will depend on the chapter you file:
- Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This chapter takes an average of three to four months to complete. Learn more about erasing your debt in Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
- Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you file for Chapter 13 rather than Chapter 7, you’ll likely have to pay back some portion of your unsecured debts through a three- to five-year repayment plan. However, any unsecured debt balance that remains after completing your repayment plan will be discharged. Find out how to pay off or discharge your debts in Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Chapter 7 is primarily for low-income filers, and therefore, it won’t help you keep property if you’re behind on payments. But, if you have enough income to pay at least something to creditors, then you’ll be able to take advantage of the additional benefits offered by Chapter 13.
Here are some of the things that Chapter 13 can do.
Stop a mortgage foreclosure. Filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy will stop a foreclosure and force the lender to accept a plan that will allow you to make up the missed payments over time. To make this plan work, you must demonstrate that you have enough income to pay back payments and remain current on future payments. Learn more about your home and mortgage in Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
What Is Lien Avoidance
Some judgment liens can be eliminated, or avoided in legal lingo, in the course of a bankruptcy. A judgment lien is avoided if it applies to property you claim as exempt from liquidation or forfeiture in your bankruptcy.
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the debtor’s primary vehicle is exempt from liquidation or forfeiture if it’s worth less than your state’s exemption limit. Any judgment lien against an exempted vehicle you own free and clear can be wiped out through bankruptcy.
Note that this is distinct from any claim to the vehicle retained by the issuer of the loan used to purchase it. If you are still paying off a loan on the vehicle, bankruptcy may eliminate your obligation to cover delinquent payments on that loan, but the lender’s right to repossess the vehiclea form of lien that’s not dependent on a court orderstill stands, and you may still lose the vehicle.
In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it’s possible to avoid judgment liens against certain real estate holdings by claiming the real estate as exempt from consideration in the bankruptcy process. Doing so can be tricky, however, because it also eliminates any protection you may have against repaying outstanding debt owed on any mortgage on that property. Because of the potential complexity of claiming exemptions under Chapter 13, it’s wise to consult with your lawyer, and perhaps a real estate professional, when considering your options.
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Buying A Car Or House After Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Many people are surprised to learn that filing bankruptcy won’t derail a car purchase or homeownership for long. If the bankruptcy helps clean up your credit faster than you’d be able to do on your ownas it does for many without the means to pay off outstanding debtsyour dream might be closer than you imagine. Specifically, if you take steps to rebuild your credit, it’s possible to get relatively reasonable interest rates when buying a new car within one to two years after bankruptcy. Securing a home loan within four years is well within reachand some people start the home purchasing process in as few as two.
Here’s How Bankruptcies Impact Your Credit Score
While bankruptcies on your credit report will always get factored into your credit score for as long as they are on there, the impact on your score lessens with each year that passes. So, you may see a dramatic drop in your score in the first month immediately following your bankruptcy filing, but by the end of the first year it could have less weight, and certainly less in later years compared to year one.
Your own credit profile will also play a part in how much your credit score is affected when you declare bankruptcy. Similar to how having a higher credit score can ding your more points if you miss a credit card payment, so, too, is the case if you file for bankruptcy. According to FICO, someone with good credit may experience a bigger drop in their score when a bankruptcy appears on their report than someone with an already poor credit score.
Estimates we found online from places like Debt.org show how people with different credit scores would be impacted by a bankruptcy filing. Someone with a credit score of 780 or above would be dinged between 200 and 240 points, while someone with a 680 score would lose 130 to 150 points.
Whatever the case, no one really benefits from filing for bankruptcy. It’s an option of last resort that sometimes even those with good credit find themselves making.
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How Do You File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
You can probably complete the process within six months. You’ll have to follow several steps.
You must complete pre-file bankruptcy counseling from a qualified nonprofit credit counseling agency within 180 days before filing.
Find an attorney:Before diving into the various forms required to file Chapter 7, find a qualified bankruptcy attorney to help. Its hard to find money for a lawyer when you need debt relief, but this is not a DIY situation. Missing or improperly completed paperwork can lead to your case being thrown out or not having some debts dismissed.
File paperwork: Your attorney will help with filing your petition and other paperwork. But its on you to gather all relevant documentation of your assets, income and debts. An automatic stay goes into effect at this point, meaning that most creditors cannot sue you, garnish your wages or contact you for payment.
Trustee takes over: Once your petition is filed, a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee will begin managing the process.
Meeting of creditors: The trustee will arrange a meeting between you, your lawyer and your creditors. Youll have to answer questions from the trustee and creditors about your bankruptcy forms and finances.
Your eligibility is determined: After reviewing your paperwork, the trustee will confirm whether youre eligible for Chapter 7.
Education course: Before your case is discharged, youll have to take a financial education course from a qualified nonprofit credit counseling agency.
How Do You File Your Taxes After A Chapter 7 Discharge
Once your bankruptcy case is closed, you can have a fresh start and that still includes filing taxes after Chapter 7 discharge. You are required to report an IRS Form 982 for the tax year when you got your bankruptcy discharge so you can make sure that you dont pay taxes on any forgiven debt during bankruptcy. It will also help in properly allocating any tax attributes.
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Are There Credit Card Debts That You Cant Erase During Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
In a few cases, a debtor may not be able to discharge credit card debt. A creditor may file an objection to the debtorâs discharge in some circumstances. The objection is an adversary proceeding, which is a lawsuit within the bankruptcy case.
Two reasons why credit card debt may not be dischargeable are:
If you use your credit cards to charge $675 or more in âluxuryâ goods or services within 90 days of filing your Chapter 7 petition, the court may find that the credit card debt is non-dischargeable.
Luxury goods and services can include more than just really expensive items or property that you own. âLuxuryâ can mean anything that you donât necessarily need to stay on your feet or support your dependents. Therefore, if you have charged $675 or more in credit card debt recently, you may want to wait at least 90 days from the last credit card charge to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case.
If you used the credit card to pay for debts that you could not typically get rid of in a bankruptcy case, that debt wonât likely get erased. For instance, if you use your credit card to pay child support, alimony, back taxes, or student loans, the credit card company may object to your discharge.
Get Help Filing A Chapter 7 Case Without Paying An Attorney Fee
Although it can seem complicated, many people who file for Chapter 7 have a pretty straightforward cases. In these easier cases, it usually makes sense to file on your own but just get help with the paperwork.
Donât know where to start? A nonprofit like âUpsolveâ might be all you need. This free legal aid nonprofit can help you do your own paperwork and give you guidance on what to expect throughout the process.
Donât forget â Upsolve is free! The only costs you have to cover are the ones required by the court. Take their screener here to see if you qualify for their assistance!
Our unique bankruptcy software walks you through the process of filing a Chapter 7 case step-by-step. You can confidently complete your bankruptcy forms, file the forms with the bankruptcy court, and attend your bankruptcy hearing without an attorney.
In most cases, debtors receive their bankruptcy discharge within four to six months after filing their Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition.
You are required to pay the filing fee to the bankruptcy court and pay the fee for your bankruptcy courses. The filing fee is a standard fee, but you can typically locate a company that provides the bankruptcy courses online for $10 to $15 per course .
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Which Tax Debts Qualify For Discharge
Can you file bankruptcy on taxes? Yes. If youre looking to discharge your tax debt, the best option is Chapter 7. Also called straight bankruptcy, Chapter 7 may offer full discharge for eligible debts. Keep in mind that not all back taxes can be eliminated. You need to meet the following conditions:
What Happens When The Bankruptcy Is Over
Once the bankruptcy is over, the IRS can seize many of the assets you owned when you filed for bankruptcy. In most cases, this is not an issue because taxpayers dont tend to have many assets lying around after bankruptcy. Unless you owned real estate or retirement funds, the old tax lien wouldnt affect you all that much. Another point to remember is that bankruptcy law gives debtors exemptions when liquidating their assets in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
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Fresh Start Credit Rebuilding Program
At Hoyes Michalos we want to help you take full advantage of the fresh start you can achieve by filing bankruptcy or a consumer proposal to eliminate your debt. To help, we have developed a comprehensive education and support program for our clients designed to provide you with the skills and resources you need to rebuild your finances and your credit after filing insolvency. The Hoyes Michalos Fresh Start Recovery Program enhances the mandatory credit counselling required when you file insolvency with additional tools, support and special online resources about budgeting, credit repair, dealing with creditor calls and much more. Our goal is to help you achieve a full financial recovery.
Will A High Credit Score Help You During A Bankruptcy
Myth: A clean credit historyone with no late payments or other issuesand a high credit score means youll be less impacted by a bankruptcy.
The truth: Bankruptcy will have a huge negative impact on your credit, and a previously positive payment history doesnt change that. In fact, if you have a higher score, you could stand to lose more than if you already have a low score.
A bankruptcy also temporarily wipes out all the goodwill you might have developed with your timely payments. Some lenders may have rules about offering credit when a recent bankruptcy shows up on your credit historyno matter how good your score used to be.
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How Long Will Bankruptcy Affect My Credit File
Your bankruptcy will appear on your credit report for six years, or until you’re discharged if this takes longer. Lenders look at your credit profile when you apply for credit, so you’ll probably struggle to borrow money while bankrupt. Whatâs more, you must tell lenders about your bankruptcy when applying to borrow over £500. Employers and landlords may ask to look at your credit information before employing you or letting you rent property.
If you do find someone who’ll lend money to you, they may charge you a higher interest rate as they’ll see you as a high-risk customer. Even after your bankruptcy has been cleared from your profile, lenders can ask if youâve ever been bankrupt .
You can see what’s on your credit profile by getting your Experian Credit Report.
Review Your Credit Reports
Monitoring your credit report is a good practice because it can help you catch and fix credit reporting errors. After going through bankruptcy, you should review your credit reports from all three credit bureausExperian, Equifax and Transunion. Due to Covid-19, you can view your credit reports for free weekly through April 20, 2022 by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
While reviewing your reports, check to see if all accounts that were discharged after completing bankruptcy are listed on your account with a zero balance and indicate that theyve been discharged because of it. Also, make sure that each account listed belongs to you and shows the correct payment status and open and closed dates.
If you spot an error while reviewing your credit reports, dispute it with each credit bureau that includes it by sending a dispute letter by mail, filing an online dispute or contacting the reporting agency by phone.
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Equifax And Transunion Credit Reports
Both Equifax and TransUnion maintain a bankruptcy record on your credit report for a period from the date of your discharge or last payment.
For first-time bankrupts, TransUnion maintains the information for the maximum length of time permitted by provincial law , while Equifax retains the information for 6 years for every province.
Save All Paperwork From Your Bankruptcy Case
Though it may not seem like a critical step, save all paperwork from your bankruptcy case. You may be asked for copies of the bankruptcy files in the future, especially when applying for a mortgage, loan, or for other financial products.
If a lender or debt collector contacts you in the future about any of the debt included in your bankruptcy filing, itll be helpful to have your paperwork on hand, says debt attorney Leslie Tayne, founder of Tayne Law Group. In addition, if a debt collector contacts you about a debt you thought was discharged in bankruptcy, you have on-hand proof.
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Contact An Experienced North Carolina Bankruptcy Attorney
If you are dealing with overwhelming debt, schedule a free consultation today with our compassionate consumer bankruptcy attorneys to discuss your options. At Sasser Law, youll work directly with a board-certified bankruptcy attorney. We pride ourselves on giving straightforward and honest legal advice.
The Sasser Law Firm serves individuals and businesses throughout North Carolina, including in Wake, Harnett, Johnston, Durham, Orange, Granville, Vance, Franklin, Warren, Nash, Lee, Chatham, and Moore counties.
This post was originally published in October 2019 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in August 2021.