Bankruptcy is often a counter-intuitive process. Some things that seem innocuous or insignificant may be anything but. In particular, there are some common mistakes that people make in perfectly good faith. If you’re thinking of filing for bankruptcy in New York, here are a few things to be aware of.
1. Don’t withdraw your retirement money. It’s natural to think you’re going to need more cash on hand if you’re getting ready to file for bankruptcy. However, retirement plans such as IRAs and your 401(k) are actually protected from creditors. That is, unless you take the cash out, in which case it becomes part of the debtor’s estate. Additionally, you’ll have to pay taxes on the money you take out. In other words, the government meant what it said when it told you to put the money away for retirement.
2. Don’t disregard lawsuits against you. If you’re familiar with the automatic stay, then maybe you’re thinking that you’ll be protected from lawsuits in the same way you’re protected against creditors. However, while creditors are limited primarily to threatening phone calls, lawsuits can have serious consequences that can be implemented before you file. As a result, make sure you (or your lawyer) respond to any legal filings against you.
3. Don’t try to re-pay family and friends in anticipation of your bankruptcy filing. A trustee in a bankruptcy case can reach back one year prior to your bankruptcy filing and undo any such transfers or transactions. This is intended to prevent debtors from favoring some creditors over other creditrs by transferring assets to a third party and then claiming they have nothing left. Of course, if you’re unaware of this concept, it might seem perfectly reasonable and morally just to pay back a sibling who helped you out during a rough patch.
4. Don’t hide the ball from your lawyer. Always be honest with your lawyer about your assets and your transactions. Your lawyer is on your side. Yes, it can feel awkward or even embarrassing to have to disclose certain details. But remember it’s your lawyer’s job to make sure you get the full benefit of the bankruptcy laws. And they can’t do that unless they have all the information available. On top of that, if it comes to light during the case or even after your discharge that you’ve withheld information or hidden assets, you’ll not only lose the assets you hid, but the entire discharge can be undone. This means all past bankruptcy protections are removed and creditors can once again come at you full force.
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 attorney Brooklyn NY will help you successfully navigate the bankruptcy process and help ensure that you avoid all of the potential pitfalls.
Please feel free to contact me for more information and for a free initial consultation.