Bankruptcy is one of those words that cause people to grimace. Nobody likes to talk about it – and there’s definitely a lot of confusion around the topic – but it’s actually a very helpful and strategic option when deployed correctly.
What is Bankruptcy?
The backend of a bankruptcy proceeding can be complicated. However, on the surface, it’s actually a pretty simple financial maneuver that often makes a lot of sense for those who are in financial trouble.
“Bankruptcy is a legal proceeding involving a person or business that is unable to repay their outstanding debts,” Investopedia explains. “The bankruptcy process begins with a petition filed by the debtor, which is most common, or on behalf of creditors, which is less common. All of the debtor’s assets are measured and evaluated, and the assets may be used to repay a portion of outstanding debt.”
In essence, bankruptcy offers individuals and businesses a fresh start – a second chance, if you will. It forgives certain debts that can’t be paid and gives creditors opportunities to obtain some form of repayment based on assets that are available.
There are two major types of bankruptcy for individuals:
- Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Under this form of bankruptcy, you’re required to sell all of your “non-exempt” assets in order to repay as much of your unsecured debt as you can. The rest, with exceptions like federal student loans and taxes, are dissolved. This form of debt is generally known as “liquidation” bankruptcy because it requires the debtor to sell almost everything. However, if you file the right exemption paperwork, there are ways to protect some of these assets.
- Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. This form of bankruptcy is more common for businesses, but can also be utilized by individuals who need relief from creditors without having to unload all of their assets. A plan is created that allows the debtor to negotiate and repay debt. Chapter 11 is the ideal option for both the debtor and the creditors, but it’s simply not practical for most people.
As you can see, each type of bankruptcy has its own nuances. The type of bankruptcy you choose to file (if at all) depends heavily on your circumstances.
“If you’re in a desperate situation where you have a ton of debt that you need to flush away, and no income to speak of, Chapter 7 is your best bet,” bankruptcy attorney Rowdy Williams explains. “But if you have assets that you really need to protect and a fairly substantial income, Chapter 11 is a better option. It can be extremely expensive, but it helps you keep the assets you want to keep.”
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is way more common, but Chapter 11 bankruptcy plays a role. The difference between the two really speaks to the importance of obtaining the right legal counsel and advice prior to making a decision.
Situations Where Bankruptcy Makes Sense
As scary as the idea of bankruptcy is, it’s actually one of the best things you can do if you find yourself suffocating under an insurmountable pile of debt. Here are situations where it makes perfect sense:
- Large amounts of medical debt. Has your family gone through a serious health crisis that’s left you with $100,000 or $200,000 of medical debt that you simply can’t repay?
- You’re being sued. Have you been sued for an extraordinary amount of money that you’ll never be able to repay?
- You’re getting a divorce. Are you in a divorce situation where you’ve obligated yourself to be responsible for the majority of the debt?
- Overwhelming small business debt. Is your small business drowning in debt that’s keeping you from generating any income for your family?
Every situation is different, but if you’re dealing with one or more of these circumstances, bankruptcy may provide the relief you’re looking for.
Making a Smart Choice for Your Family
Nobody wants to go through a bankruptcy proceeding, but it’s often the best outcome for all parties. If you feel like this could be an option for you and your family, be sure to speak with a bankruptcy attorney to learn more about your options. Done properly, bankruptcy could give you a fresh start at a new life.