Finding a Bankruptcy Alternative

Filing for bankruptcy, either for Chapter 7 or for Chapter 13, is one option available to solve debt problems. Depending on the circumstances, you may also choose a bankruptcy alternative.

What Are the Alternatives To Filing for Bankruptcy?

If you are struggling with debt but don't want to file for bankruptcy, the following can be possible options to pay debt without bankruptcy:

Consolidate Debt

One bankruptcy alternative is to combine debt. Sometimes it is easier to repay debt when only one payment to one creditor is necessary. Here are some different debt consolidation options:

  • Use a debt consolidation loan: Debt consolidation combines separate debts into one loan. A debtor still owes the same amount of debt, but the interest rate and the monthly payment are typically lower than separate payments to separate creditors.
  • Transfer debt to a low-interest credit card: Some credit card companies offer low transfer rates to new customers. When the transfer terms keep the interest rate low until the full repayment of the debt, the debtor will pay less interest over the term of repayment. The advantages are similar to a low-interest loan.
  • Consolidate with a home equity line: When a debtor has equity in their home, a home equity line is a good way to consolidate debt into a low interest and potentially tax-deductible loan. It is important to be cautious when securing a loan against property, though, because if a debtor defaults on the equity line, the lender may have a right to repossess the property. This is an effective option in a strong real estate market.

See also Debt Negotiation Programs and Credit Counseling and Counseling Organizations.

Work With Creditors To Create a Repayment Plan

Another bankruptcy alternative is to ask creditors to agree to a repayment plan. Many creditors will consent when bankruptcy is the only other alternative for the debtor. The possibility of a debtor filing for bankruptcy will motivate some creditors to agree to one of these options:

  • Lower the monthly payment
  • Create a long-term repayment plan
  • Reduce the interest rate or the debt

This is a much better option for the creditor than if the debtor has the debt discharged in Chapter 7 bankruptcy or placed in a court-approved repayment plan in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Create a Debt Management Plan

If it is difficult to negotiate with creditors, a credit-counseling agency can work on your behalf to create a debt management plan. The agency will create a repayment plan based on your income and debts.

If the creditors agree, you will make one monthly payment to the agency. For a fee, the agency will disburse the money among your creditors until full repayment of the debt. A conflict of interest may exist, however, since many debt-counseling agencies receive the majority of their funds from creditors.

A debt management plan does have some disadvantages. If you miss a payment, any creditor can terminate the plan. If, on the other hand, you miss a payment under a Chapter 13 repayment plan, you receive protection from a creditor's collection activities.

Additionally, under Chapter 13, you usually pay only a portion of the debt owed to unsecured creditors, while you must repay the full debt owed in a debt management plan. There is one significant disadvantage to filing for bankruptcy, however: a bankruptcy will stay on your credit record for up to ten years.

Default on the Debt

If you have nothing left that is valuable, such as property or income, another bankruptcy alternative is simply to stop paying creditors. A creditor can attempt to collect the debt, but they must abide by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and applicable state laws.

Under this law creditors may not:

  • Engage in abusive behavior, such as calling numerous times per day
  • Use deceit to collect a debt
  • Call during times prohibited by law

If a creditor's actions violate the law, you may seek monetary damages.

Creditors may also attempt to collect a debt through a court judgment. If you have no assets or only have "exempt property," however, then you are "judgment proof." Exempt property may include:

  • Clothing
  • Furniture
  • Social Security benefits
  • Public assistance benefits

Consequently, a creditor cannot legally collect the debtor's property to fulfill the judgment.

Typically, a creditor will not sue a debtor when it is impossible to collect the debt. Instead, the creditor may choose to write off the debt as a business loss. The default may remain on the defaulter's credit record for up seven years, though.

Learn About Your Bankruptcy Alternatives: Talk To an Attorney Today

Worried about filing for bankruptcy? Not sure if you qualify or if you have any other alternatives? While you may be wondering what the next step is, you should formulate a game plan now, preferably with the advice of a legal expert. Find a local, experienced bankruptcy attorney today.

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