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Mistakes to avoid in Chapter 13 bankruptcies

A Chapter 13 bankruptcy, offers debtors the opportunity to escape insurmountable debts through a tightly-controlled debt-repayment plan over several years.

Some consumers won't realize any benefit from filing for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead of filing for a Chapter 7. However, if you have a lot of equity in your home, car and other assets, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy often makes the most sense because you can usually retain those things.

If you're thinking about filing soon, just be sure that you avoid these all-too-common mistakes:

1. Don't pay back your friends and family members.

While you may feel a strong moral obligation to repay the debts you owe to friends and family members, the law doesn't make any distinction between your best friend that loaned you money and a credit card company that extended you credit. Every creditor has to be treated equally. The court can exert its power and actually claw back whatever you paid to friends or family so that it can be redistributed fairly.

2. Don't cash in your pension fund to repay your debts.

Cashing out a pension funds and 401(k) plans early to try to pay off mounting debts usually only buys a consumer a little time, rather than ward off bankruptcy for good. If you end up filing anyhow, you'll be out money for your retirement that you could have saved through the Chapter 13 process.

3. Don't forget to time your bankruptcy carefully.

If you're facing a foreclosure, repossessions and wage garnishment, it's probably past time to file for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. On the other hand, if you're expecting some major changes in your financial circumstances, are still going through significant medical treatment for a serious illness, or expect to receive a large sum of money for some reason (like an inheritance), you may want to delay filing. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can help you assess your options and understand what steps you should take.

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