What Are The Alternatives to Filing Bankruptcy?
Debtors who have faced obstacles to paying off their debts when due have no doubt received more than their fair share of demanding letters and phone calls, and the thought of filing bankruptcy and getting rid of their debts, and thus the constant demands, can be quite appealing. Before making a decision to pursue that route, which can have long-term effects on credit rating and the ability to make large purchases, debtors may wish to consider other, less drastic alternatives.
Informal Methods of Debt Resolution
If the debtor's financial problems are only temporary, he or she may want to ask creditors to accept lower payments or to schedule payments over a longer period of time. Creditors may be receptive to these ideas if the debtor has been a prompt payer in the past, or if the specter of bankruptcy is raised, since creditors know that once a bankruptcy proceeding is initiated they will probably collect only a portion of what is owed. In addition, creditors may wish to avoid the difficulties of a court proceeding to collect on the debt, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
Consumer credit counselors can also help creditors work out a repayment plan. Some so-called "credit counselors," however, prey on overwhelmed consumers, promising "a clean slate," often for a flat, up-front fee. They may promise to contact creditors and convince them to accept lower payments or to charge lower fees and interest rates. In many cases, unfortunately, the only ones who end up in better financial shape as a result of these "efforts" (or the lack thereof) are the counseling organizations themselves, while the consumers are left with even fewer resources as a result of high fees and more delinquent debts.
Beware of Scams
Although reputable credit-counseling agencies that actually provide valuable services to financially overwhelmed consumers do exist, vulnerable debtors often fall prey to less scrupulous services. Tips that can help consumers avoid the scams include:
Confirm payments with creditors. Some debt repayment services require the consumer to periodically send it a lump-sum check that it divides among the creditors. Debtors who enter into these types of arrangements should verify with their creditors that the payments are actually being made.
If a debtor's financial troubles are long term or if his or her creditors will not informally agree to an alternative payment plan, bankruptcy may be the best way for the debtor to get out from under an insurmountable debt load. Although it is not without its adverse consequences, bankruptcy can be the right option to enable debtors to make a fresh start. Talking through these options with an experienced bankruptcy attorney at our firm can help make sense out of the myriad complex and confusing choices that must be made at an already stressful time.
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