Submitted by Jen Jones on Fri, 01/08/2010 - 10:27am
It is a good idea to seek out alternatives to bankruptcy when such alternatives are in fact available. As you may have discovered, though, that can be a big "if" to overcome. So what kinds of alternatives are worth the trouble…and what alternatives are not all they are cracked up to be?
Budgeting your money, restructuring your debt, seeking better loans to replace your existing debt and selling valuable assets are all alternatives to consider if they are available to you...but that can be a big "if." Budgeting your money may be impossible if even basic survival expenses are beyond your means; budgeting is an essential financial skill to master, but in some cases it may be too little, too slow or too late. Restructuring debt by refinancing or other options can also allow you to reap benefits, but you may not have the credit rating or the kind of debt that will allow you to refinance to your benefit. In addition, refinancing savings can sometimes be lost to third party fees and commissions, so that all you are doing in the end is renaming your loan, replacing the lender and not the principal. Finally, selling assets can help you get out of trouble, but you may not have such assets if you are seeking bankruptcy protection. In addition, if you sell an asset and end up having to file for bankruptcy protection anyway, certain sales and transfers could land you in hot water with the bankruptcy court or cause other complications in your filing. (So before you do it, check with a bankruptcy attorney!)
But what about other alternatives? Are any of them worth the trouble? Unfortunately, many debtors have learned the hard way that some of the non-bankruptcy solutions out there are not all they're cracked up to be. A lot of them may not work at all; some may get you in bigger financial trouble, or cause you to be ripped off. And to add insult to injury, while you waste time with ineffective solutions, you may be delaying filing for bankruptcy protection to the detriment of your case.
You definitely want to think twice before opting to forgo bankruptcy in favor of "credit counseling" or debt consolidation. Government consumer watchdogs and other debtor advocates have been warning the public for a long time that outfits claiming to be able to get rid of your debt by consolidation are often not worth tangling with. Unfortunately, even organizations claiming to be nonprofits may not have your best interest for their priorities; keep in mind that many have cast their lots with the creditors. Already, from the beginning, they are not on your side!
As you tackle financial problems, it's better not to mess with your retirement. Reverse mortgages schemes target older folks who are cash-strapped and may make for nasty surprises for the heirs of the estate, as well as taking advantage of retirees to rack up fees and other forfeitures. Younger people may put their retirements at risk if they opt to address debt problems by dipping into their retirement funds, which are normally protected from bankruptcy proceedings. Dipping into retirement funds can also result in increased tax liability.
And speaking of increased taxes, keep in mind that any debts that are forgiven by creditors of all stripes are considered income by the IRS. According to the Tax Code, only debts that are discharged in official bankruptcy proceedings will not be considered income, so even if you catch a break negotiating with creditors, you may pay the price in increased tax liability. Remember also that often taxes are not dischargeable in bankruptcy, so if you end up having to file anyway, a debt forgiven by an unsecured creditor could saddle you with a more permanent type of debt.
Alternatives to bankruptcy are available, and you shouldn't be totally discouraged just because each of these solutions carries some drawbacks and warnings; the point is merely that ALL viable solutions to serious debt issues carry drawbacks. Much like you shouldn't be discouraged to attempt the alternatives because they have drawbacks, don't be discouraged from looking into bankruptcy protection if that could be the solution for you.
In North Carolina, you may want to check with the Law Offices if John T. Orcutt, a bankruptcy law firm offering a FREE initial consultation and offices in Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville and Wilson. Just call toll free to +1-919-646-2654 or visit their website at www.billsbills.com .
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