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Q: If I file bankruptcy, how can I re-establish credit?

A: Re-establishing credit after having filed a bankruptcy can be a slow and careful process, usually done one loan at a time. Making prompt payments on any remaining debts, rent, utility bills, car loans or house payments can help you to build up a history of payment.

Q: What are my next steps?

A: Put together a list of your creditors, complete with addresses and account numbers, and an approximate amount owed. Put together a rough monthly budget, jotting down income for the month and normal monthly expenses (i.e., rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries, day care, etc.). Find your most recent Tax Return!

Q: Is bankruptcy the only alternative available to me?

A: You might consider doing nothing. If you are not working or do not have substantial property, it may not be necessary to file bankruptcy. Considerations to protect property from creditors should be discussed with an attorney. You might negotiate an out-of-court arrangement with creditors to reschedule and/or refinance debts.

You might contact a non-profit credit counseling agency such as Consumer Credit Counseling [1-800-355-2227] or Clearpoint Financial [1-877-422-9044]. STAY AWAY FROM ANY ORGANIZATION THAT YOU SEE ADVERTISED ON TV. ALMOST ALL OF THOSE ON TV ARE SCAMS.

Q: What is the "automatic stay"?

A: Upon the filing of a bankruptcy, a "stay" goes into effect which prohibits creditors from taking or continuing most actions to collect money or property from a debtor. This includes telephone contact, letters, lawsuits, etc. A creditor wanting to proceed with actions against the debtor or their property must obtain permission from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, or face a potential claim for damages, and other remedies. Creditors should seek legal advice when notified of a bankruptcy proceeding.

Q: What property can I protect in a bankruptcy?

A: A debtor may be allowed to retain, free from the claims of creditors who do not have liens, property or value in property. State law allows a debtor to exempt property from the claims of unsecured creditors and creditors with judgment liens. The Federal Bankruptcy Code also lists broad exemptions, which may be selected in lieu of State exemptions. The exemption statutes are very complicated, and a debtor should consult with an attorney to ensure that appropriate exemptions are claimed.

Within certain dollar amounts, a debtor is allowed generally to keep equity in personal effects, household goods, a car, a house, and similar necessities. Decisions may need to be made as to whether to give back or to keep and pay for property secured by a lien, such as a car loan, and the appropriate documents concerning those intentions must be filed with the Court.

Q: What debts may not be discharged in bankruptcy?

A: Some debts are not affected by an Order of Discharge, and are non-dischargeable. For example: certain taxes, claims of creditors who are not notified, spousal maintenance, child support, fines, most student loans, damages caused by drunken driving, abuses of cash advances, and credit card usage just prior to a bankruptcy filing. Creditors of debts created by fraud or misrepresentation, theft, and intentional and malicious injuries must obtain a court judgment declaring such debts non-dischargeable before the debts will survive bankruptcy. Consult with an attorney prior to filing a bankruptcy to determine how you will be affected by entry of an Order of Discharge

Contact Snodgrass & Warren, Inc., P.S., to schedule a consultation with an attorney. You will be able to talk to the attorney, ask as many questions as you'd like. The attorney will answer your questions, assess your financial situation, and let you know if bankruptcy is something for you to consider or not. If it is not, the attorney will make some recommendations of things you can do. If bankruptcy is an option, they'll let you know the best type of bankruptcy for you, whether it is something you will be able to handle on your own, and what our fee would be if we were to represent you.